Colorlines

How Billie Holiday Was Targeted by America’s Early Drug War

How Billie Holiday Was Targeted by America's Early Drug War

Politico Magazine has a fascinating excerpt from Johann Hari’s new book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” In it, Hari chronicles how Harry Anslinger, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, steered his agency in the years immediately following Prohibition toward prosecuting black American jazz artists, who he said “reek of filth.”

One night, in 1939, Billie Holiday stood on stage in New York City and sang a song that was unlike anything anyone had heard before. ‘Strange Fruit’ was a musical lament against lynching. It imagined black bodies hanging from trees as a dark fruit native to the South. Here was a black woman, before a mixed audience, grieving for the racist murders in the United States. Immediately after, Billie Holiday received her first threat from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.



It’s a fascinating and, in many ways, heartbreaking, story. Read the excerpt in its entirety at Politico Magazine. 

 

Jamaican-American Poet Claudia Rankine Among National Book Critics Circle Nominees

Jamaican-American Poet Claudia Rankine Among National Book Critics Circle Nominees

The nominees for the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced this week, and a few prominent writers of color made the short list. Jamaican-American poet Claudia Rankine was nominated for her collection “Citizen: An American Lyric;” Korean-American novelist Chang-rae Lee was nominated for his latest book, “On Such a Full Sea;” and Guatemalan-American journalist Hector Tobar was nominated for his book, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free.”

Other books of note that earned nominations: Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and Marilynne Robinson’s novel “Lila.”

Take a look at the full list of nominees.

Dan Chiasson of the New Yorker wrote about the importance of Rankine’s “Citizen,” which was also a finalist for a National Book Award late last year. “’Citizen’ is about the grownup ways in which this childhood scene gets replayed, the white cheat always backed by white institutions,” Chiasson wrote. “It is an especially vital book for this moment in time. While the book was in press, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri; as I write this, hundreds of people are marching in protest there, engaging in civil disobedience and offering themselves up for arrest.

A Collection of Stories From Queer and Trans Artist of Color

A Collection of Stories From Queer and Trans Artist of Color

When Oakland-based artist and activist Nia King launched a podcast a few years back, the goal was simple: to capture the stories of queer and trans artists of color. But the stories, which captured a diverse range of voices, from performer and organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha to talk-show host Janet Mock, were so good that King (a former intern at Race Forward, Colorlines’ publisher) decided to turn them into a book. 

The collection, which was successfully funded with crowdsourced money, includes 16 interviews with queer and trans artists who have fused their political and creative work. In a digital world, those printed stories were crucial. As King wrote in the introduction for the book, published last fall, called “Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives:” 

I wanted to create this book so that the work of these amazing artists who have influenced me will not seem like a flash in the pan if they eventually burn out or go broke and have to stop creating. I want there to be a record of their wisdom and their influence and their greatness that will inspire others to create as well. I really do believe that QTPOC art activism saves lives, and this book is just one of my many efforts to show how and why.

King’s work is vital, especially in a moment of supposed victory for LGBT communities. As Autostraddle pointed out:

The voices and experiences of queer and trans people of color (especially queer and trans women of color) are so often erased, silenced or pushed to the background. When our stories are told, they are told by people outside the community who don’t always tell the story the way it really happened. This book proudly stands in direct defiance of these traditions. 

The book is available at indy stores across the country and on Amazon

South Side Residents Open Chicago’s ‘Dream Cafe’ on MLK Day

Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood has been one of the city’s most troubled. In recent years it earned the dubious reputation as the city’s deadliest neighborhood. But residents there are resilient, so much so that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, a group of South Side restauranteurs opened up the Dream Cafe.  It’s the neighborhood’s first farm-to-table cafe. Watch more below.

FOX 32 News Chicago

TAGS: Chicago video

Kevin Hart, SNL Take on Gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Gentrification usually isn’t a laughing matter, but Kevin Hart’s guest-hosting appearance on last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live,” was filled with gems about it. In the clip below, Hart stars in a sketch about three friends — Jay Pharaoh and Keenan Thompson play the other two — who talk about life on the now moneyed streets of Bushwick. Take a look. 

(h/t Salon)

Al Madrigal Takes on His Biracial Identity in ‘Half Like Me’

Al Madrigal Takes on His Biracial Identity in 'Half Like Me'

Al Madrigal, known for his role as the senior Latino correspondent on “The Daily Show,” is set to debut his own one-hour special on biracial identity. The special, called “Half Like Me,” is being billed as a “docu-comedy” and airs on Fusion this Thursday, January 22 at 10:00 p.m., ET. 

“Being half has always been confusing,” Madrigal says in the preview for the special. “White people think you’re Mexican and Latinos give me shit about not being Latino enough.”

From the Huffington Post:

The special follows the star on a quest for identity that many Latinos in the U.S. can identify with. The journey takes him from a family reunion in Tijuana and smoking cigars in Little Havana to some Spanish classes with a group of elementary school kids. He discusses the issue of Latino identity with big names in the community such as Univision’s Jorge Ramos, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and columnist Gustavo Arellano.

Here’s a look at the trailer:

If you’re a Hulu subscriber, you can watch it below:

Jay Smooth Makes Sense of Kendrick Lamar’s Ferguson Comments

Leave it to Jay Smooth to make sense of Kendrick Lamar’s comments on Ferguson, which earned the rapper the ire of plenty of onlookers, including Azealia Banks

(h/t Fusion)

‘Selma’ Star David Oyelowo Lined His Suit With MLK Quotes

If you didn’t already love David Oyelowo because of his performance in “Selma,” you’ll certainly enjoy this. A day after being snubbed for a best actor Oscar nomination, the Oyelowo showed up at the 2015 Critics’ Choice Awards on Thursday worse a suit jacket inscribed with famous quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. 

While on the red carpet, the 38-year-old British actor told reporters how he felt about this year’s Oscars being so white. “The only way to put a dent in the very real fact that there is a disproportionate amount of people who do not look like me doing what I do is something that I’m just going to fight by doing the best I can with the roles I get.



(h/t US Magazine)

2Pac Exhibit to Open at Grammy Museum Next Month

2Pac Exhibit to Open at Grammy Museum Next Month

Hip-hop fans are in for a treat when an exhibit dedicated to rapper Tupac Shakur opens next month at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. They’ll be able to look at handwritten notes, lyrics, poems and even the tape box from the slain star’s first recording session after he was released from prison.

“Tupac Shakur was one of the most original and important of all hip hop artists. His writings are both powerful and provocative,” Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli said in a statement to the “Los Angeles Times.” “It is an honor to be the first music museum to acknowledge Tupac’s legacy and to bring context to what was an incredible career.”

Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, oversees his estate and is celebrating the opening. “It means a lot to me that Bob Santelli and the Grammy Museum have chosen to honor my son with their upcoming exhibit of his works,” she said in the same statement to the Times. “Tupac’s writings are an honest reflection of his passions for, and about life.  His timeless messages have instilled hope for those who have little, and for others, they serve as a catalyst for change. His words continue to motivate and inspire new generations.”

(h/t LA Times)

Head of the Oscars Doesn’t Think It Has a Problem With Diversity

Head of the Oscars Doesn't Think It Has a Problem With Diversity

So far, the story of the Oscars season is about the overwhelming whiteness of the nominees. But one day after the nominations were announced, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s first African-American female leader, went on record to say that she doesn’t think Hollywood’s most celebrated award has a diversity problem. 

“Not at all. Not at all,” Isaacs told Vulture when asked if she thinks diversity is an issue. “The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it’s being discussed, and it’s helpful so much for talent — whether in front of the camera or behind the camera — to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter.”

When asked about “Selma,” which was nominated for best picture, but snubbed in the best actor and director categories, Isaacs said the following:  “Well, it’s a terrific motion picture, and that we can never and should not take away from it, the fact that it is a terrific motion picture,” she said. “There are a lot of terrific motion pictures, it’s a very competitive time, and there’s a lot of great work that has been done. I am very happy that Selma is included in our eight terrific motion-picture [nominations].”

(h/t Vulture)

TAGS: Oscars

12k Sign Petition to Stop Hollywood’s Whitewashing

12k Sign Petition to Stop Hollywood's Whitewashing

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition protesting Scarlett Johanssen’s new role in the American adaptation of the 1995 Japanese sci-fi film “Ghost in the Shell.” The petition’s signees are demanding that DreamWorks, the studio that’s producing the film, recast the role and stop whitewashing Asian characters. 

“What concerns me is the fact that minority actors are so rarely given opportunities in big-budget leading roles,” says Care2 petition author Julie Rodriguez. “It’s a self-defeating cycle: Hollywood insists viewers won’t be drawn unknown minority actors, but they’re never given the chance to break out of a narrow set of background roles to prove themselves. Ghost in the Shell could have been a perfect opportunity to buck this trend, but instead promising actresses are being passed over.”

Recently, more than 25,000 people signed a petition targeted at director Ridley Scott, who decided to cast several white actors to play Biblical Egyptian characters in the recently released film “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

Read the latest petition here. 

Junot Díaz Relives His ‘Surreal’ Immigration Experience to U.S.

Junot Díaz Relives His 'Surreal' Immigration Experience to U.S.

In a recent interview with literary publication Paradoxa , Junot Diaz talked about migrating to the United States as a kid and his experience of race while he’s been here. Here are some highlights.

On immigration:

When as a young person you lose all your bearings, all your reference points, when the gap between where you were and where you are is as vast as the one that yawned between the DR and the US, you’re going to struggle mightily to explain not only what happened but also to explain oneself. I came to the US at six and with a single flight I jumped literally from one world to another, from one Age to another.

And race:

Racism and race are still being viewed as our problem and not the problem of the white mainstream that so benefits from white supremacy’s malign racial hierarchies. We live in a society where default whiteness goes unremarked—no one ever asks it for its passport—but God forbid a person of color should raise her voice against this smug occult system of oppression, points out whiteness, its operations and consequences—well, in two seconds flat that person is the one accused of being obsessed with race.

Unfortunetly, the publication isn’t available online, but you can order the latest issue on the Paradoxa website.

(h/t Paradoxa via Gawker)

Lupe Fiasco Leaves Twitter After Fans Object to ‘F*ck Martin Luther King’ Lyric

Lupe Fiasco Leaves Twitter After Fans Object to 'F*ck Martin Luther King' Lyric

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco is fed up with the public. He’s gearing up to release his new album, “Tetsuo & Youth”, on January 20, but along the way he has gotten into several high profile beefs on Twitter with fellow rappers Kid Cudi and Azealia Banks. Now, after he decided to tweet the lyrics to an upcoming song with Big KRIT called “Lost Generation” with disparaging lyrics about Martin Luther King Jr., he’s decided to leave the social media platform altogether.

From XXL Magazine:

While some fans tweeted the lyrics along with Lupe, many took offense to certain lines, specifically this line “fuck Martin Luther King, n*gga, fuck change.”Lupe replied to many of his responses in an attempt to explain the meaning behind the song’s lyrics and discussed society as a whole. After The Cool MC’s explanations, he announced that he’s quitting Twitter. Just last week (Jan. 9th), Lupe hinted at deleting his account on Jan. 19. Guess he wasn’t joking.

Here’s the lyric in context, from Rap Genius:

My nigga fuck this mic
We should be fucking with MIC
Military industrial complex
And we can get rich, nigga, fuck showing love
They ain’t listening to us
They ain’t playing this bitch in the club
So let’s get paid, turn these motherfuckers into slaves
School is for lames, man, these niggas join gangs
Fuck Martin Luther King, nigga, fuck change
Fuck peace, I want chains
G’s on the internet, bitch like bam
Fuck peace, I want a plane
Fill that bitch with cocaine
And make these bitches move their booties
And help these niggas make their movies
All these niggas into their graves
And talk these hoes out their coochies

Lupe explained his departure on, you guessed it, Twitter:

 

Video: What It’s Like to Get Kicked Out of Your Neighborhood

Video: What It's Like to Get Kicked Out of Your Neighborhood Play

You might remember Kai, the 20-year-old native of San Francisco’s Mission District whose confrontation with white Dropbox employees on a neighborhood soccer field went viral last year. In this video with BuzzFeed, Kai takes us on a tour of the neighborhood and building that he and his family was kicked out of in one of America’s most rapidly gentrifying cities.

Oscars: Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo Snubbed

Oscars: Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo Snubbed

Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and they’re more notable for what they didn’t include than what they did. Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” got the nod for “Best Picture,” but was surprisingly shut out of the “Best Actor” and “Best Director” nominations. Common and John Legend’s song for the film, “Glory,” was also nominated for an Oscar after just having won a Golden Globe.

Other notable nomination: “Big Hero 6” and “The Take of Princess Kaguya” earned nominations for “Best Animated Feature.”

But as Scott Mendleson notes at Time, neither DuVernay nor any actors of color were nominated for individual awards today. And that matters.

To the extent that one can be “angry” about a certain filmmaker not being nominated for a major award that honors the best in filmmaking, I am angry. I am angry both because she deserved a nomination. I am angry because if the legacy of DuVernay’s Selma becomes shaped by its Oscar-season controversy, I fear that it will affect the artistic opportunities afforded to its African-American female director in a manner different than if Selma would have come under fire under the directorial lens of a white male filmmaker.

Read more.

Here’s the full list of nominations:

Best Picture
Boyhood
The Imitation Game 
Birdman
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Whiplash
Selma
American Sniper

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Best Actor
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Best Supporting Actor
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Edward Norton, Birdman
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Robert Duvall, The Judge

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Laura Dern, Wild

Best Director
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Best Adapted Screenplay
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice

Best Original Screenplay
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, Foxcatcher

Best Foreign Film
Ida 
(Poland)
Leviathan 
(Russia)
Tangerines
 (Estonia)
Timbuktu 
(Mauritania)
Wild Tales 
(Argentina)

Best Documentary Feature
Citizenfour
Last Days in Vietnam
Virunga
Finding Vivian Maier
The Salt of the Earth

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Boxtrolls
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Film Editing
American Sniper
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Whiplash

Best Song
Gregg Alexander, Danielle BriseboisNick Lashley, and Nick Southwood, “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
John Legend and Common, “Glory” (Selma)
Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and The Lonely Island, “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)
The-Dream, “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me)

Best Original Score
Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, Ida
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Costume Design
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice

Makeup and Hairstyling
Guardians of the Galaxy
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Production Design
Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts, Mr. Turner
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, Into the Woods
Nathan Crowley, Garry Fettis, and Paul Healy, Interstellar
Maria Djurkovic, The Imitation Game

Sound Editing
American Sniper
Interstellar
Unbroken
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Birdman

Sound Mixing
American Sniper
Birdman
Unbroken
Interstellar
Whiplash

Visual Effects
Interstellar
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X Men: Days of Future Past
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Short Film, Live Action
Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, Aya (Chasis Films)
Michael Lennox, director, and Ronan Blaney, Boogaloo and Graham (Out of Orbit)
Hu Wei and Julien Féret, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) (AMA Productions)
Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger, Parvaneh (Zurich University of Arts)
Mat Kirkby, director and James Lucas, The Phone Call (RSA Films)

Short Film, Animated
Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Bigger Picture (National Film and Television School)
Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper (Tonko House)
Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Feast (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada)
Joris Oprins, A Single Life (Job, Joris & Marieke)

Documentary Short Subject
Perry Films, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Wajda Studio, Joanna
Warsaw Film School, Our Curse
Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, The Reaper (La Parka)
Weary Traveler, White Earth

TAGS: Oscars Selma

Watch Childish Gambino Perform ‘Sober’ on Jimmy Kimmel

Childish Gambino made an appearance on last night’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to perform the song “Sober” from his 2014 project “Kauai.” Check it out:

The official video for the song was released late last week.

Rachel Kaadzi Ghanash Revisits Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios

Rachel Kaadzi Ghanash Revisits Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios

The fantastic writer Rachel Kaadzi Ghanash has a new piece in The Believer about Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios and the role it’s played in contemporary black music:

Hendrix recorded only a handful of songs at Electric Lady before his death, in 1970, including several that appeared on his posthumous album, The Cry of Love, but the list of albums produced at the studio is legend: Stevie Wonder recordedTalking Book there, Led Zeppelin mixed some of Houses of the Holy there, David Bowie did Young Americans, and Patti Smith decided early on that Horses could be made nowhere else.

Tucked into the whirl of Greenwich Village, Electric Lady could have become a priceless real-estate curio. Instead it has continued to be a place where great American music is born. Unlike many historical sites in Manhattan, Electric Lady Studios has a strict but logical door policy: no tours, no strangers. For the most part, the only people admitted are those who have come to make music—the artists and their retinues.

Read more at “The Believer.”

Margaret Cho Isn’t Apologizing for That Golden Globes North Korea Skit

Margaret Cho Isn't Apologizing for That Golden Globes North Korea Skit Play

Margaret Cho isn’t apologizing for her North Korea bit at this year’s Golden Globes. The comedian had a recurring character named Cho Young-Ja, a humorless North Korean Army general with a stereotypically “Asian” accent who was also a contributor to the fictional to Movies Wow! magazine.

E. Alex Young wrote over at Vulture that the bit was plainly racist, and falls in line with a long line of problematic comedy in Cho’s history:

Margaret Cho’s comedy has always relied on utilizing a brand of Orientalism. For instance, in her HBO comedy special from 1994, she does a sketch where she plays a “sponsored child” for Star magazine. She dons a rice paddy hat and “Asian” accent as she shares her weight-loss secret: contracting malaria. On the face of it, this could be just another instance of yellowface, but Cho introduces the sketch with a story of when her brother sent her a clipping from Starmagazine that featured her on the cover with the headline “Chow Like Cho Diet” and a fake interview. “When I was young, I was raised on rice and fish, so when I get heavy I go back to that natural Asian way of eating,” Cho relays. “That’s so racist you can almost hear the choppers overhead.”

But Cho defending her actions on Twitter:

She also spoke to BuzzFeed and added, “I’m of North and South Korean descent, and I do impressions of my family and my work all the time, and this is just another example of that,” she said. “I am from this culture. I am from this tribe. And so I’m able to comment on it.

I can do whatever I want when it comes to Koreans — North Koreans, South Korean. I’m not playing the race card, I’m playing the rice card. I’m the only person in the world, probably, that can make these jokes and not be placed in a labor camp.”

‘Selma’ Wins Golden Globe for Song ‘Glory’

'Selma' Wins Golden Globe for Song 'Glory' Play

Common and John Legend’s song “Glory” won last night’s Golden Globe award for best original song in a motion picture. The award, presented by Prince, was the film’s first, but probably won’t be its last.

“The first day I stepped on the set of ‘Selma’ I began to feel like this was bigger than a movie,” Common said during his acceptance speech. “As I got to know the people of the Civil Rights Movement, I realized I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. ‘Selma’ has awakened my humanity.”

Aziz Ansari Trolls Rupert Murdoch Over Anti-Muslim Tweets

Aziz Ansari Trolls Rupert Murdoch Over Anti-Muslim Tweets

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Rupert Murdoch thinks that all Muslims should be held responsible for what he calls the “growing jihadist cancer.”

Comedian Aziz Ansari thinks that’s ridiculous, and tweeted as much:

Then Ansari started the hashtag #RupertsFault:

(h/t BuzzFeed)

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