Some “Star Wars” fans weren’t happy to see a black man, John Boyega, featured so prominently in the recently released trailer for “The Force Awakens.”
The actor’s response? Too bad. He posted the following on Instagram:
There have been many responses to writer Daniel Handler’s racist joke about watermelon at this year’s National Book Awards ceremony. Handler, who was emceeing the event, leveled the joke at Jacqueline Woodson, who’d ironically just won the night’s honor for young adult literature for her memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming.” “I told Jackie she was going to win,” Handler said. “And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned about her this summer — which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.”
Though Handler issued an apology on Twitter, the reaction was swift and severe. Nikky Finney, who won the award for poetry in 2011 and added a blistering acceptance speech, wrote on her personal website that Handler’s remarks were just one example of the casual racism that’s endemic in the literary world.
The words Handler spoke were spit and spoken into my face just as they have been spit and spoken into my Black face for most of my life. The truth is: his words were spit and spoken into all of our faces. His racist ‘unfortunate’ words are part of what keeps us where and what we are as a country that refuses to deal with ‘race.’
Now, Woodson herself has responded to Handler’s racism with a moving essay in the New York Times. In it, she talks about how so-called humor is often used to minimize the resilience of black folks.
In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.
“Brown Girl Dreaming” is the story of my family, moving from slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, and ends with me as a child of the ’70s. It is steeped in the history of not only my family but of America. As African-Americans, we were given this history daily as weapons against our stories’ being erased in the world or, even worse, delivered to us offhandedly in the form of humor.
Read more at the New York Times.
In their first game since unrest broke out in Ferguson, Mo., after a grand jury failed to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Mike Brown’s shooting, the St. Louis Rams made a big national statement. During pre-game introductions, several players ran out onto the field with their hands up, the gesture that’s been most associated with civil disobedience since Brown’s death in August. The players were Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt.
Hours after the display of solidarity, the St. Louis Police Officers Association issued a statement condemning the team. The statement read in part:
The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.
Watch video of the team’s players below.
It’s not the first time this season that the protests from Ferguson have reached the football field. Shortly after Brown’s death, members of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team made the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture.
Weeks later, during a Rams home game against the visiting San Francisco 49ers, protestors from the organizing effort Ferguson October made their way into the stadium and unfurled a “Black Lives Matter” on primetime television.
Images from Getty
Emerald Garner is thinking about her father, Eric, this holiday season. But among the many happy memories she has of him, his death isn’t one of them. Eric Garner died this past summer in an NYPD officer’s chokehold, footage of which quickly went viral and put him in a long line of black lives ended prematurely due to state violence.
“I can’t tell him what I want to tell him,” the younger Garner says in a recent video. “I can’t speak to him, I can’t let him know that I love him anymore.”
Her heart-wrenching message was filmed in a video released this week by Blackout for Human Rights, a coalition of activists, artists and concerned citizens that has come together in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Mo. The coalition’s organizers are calling on viewers to stand in solidarity with Emerald this holiday season by boycotting major retailers.
The coalition describes itself as a “network of concerned citizens who commit their energy and resources to immediately address the staggering level of human rights violations against fellow Americans throughout the United States.” Its members include well-known filmmakers like Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) and Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “Middle of Nowhere”), actor Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy”), musician Childish Gambino and advocacy organization Color of Change.
It’s estimated that black buying power will reach $1 trillion by 2015 and organizers hope that this boycott will underscore the economic significance of black people whose lives are routinely threatened by law enforcement. The boycott is the first of several planned actions. You can find more on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook.
Atlanta rapper Killer Mike was performing in St. Louis last night when it was announced that a Ferguson grand jury would not indict Darren Wilson for Michael Brown’s death. He spoke openly to the crowd about his own fears as a black father to two sons. “I knew it was coming and I knew when Eric Holder resigned, I knew it wasn’t going to be good.” the rapper said tearfully. “I have a 20-year-old son and a 12-year-old son and I am so afraid for them.”
More women have come forward with shocking stories of Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual predation, and even one of his former handlers has detailed his role in the whole mess. It was just a matter of time before “Saturday Night Live” took aim at the embattled comic. In a somewhat crude segment, Michael Che draws on Cosby’s own moralizing and admonishes the 77-year-old to “pull your damn pants up!”
Tired of white guys who say, “I’m not racist! I’ve dated an Asian/Latina/Black woman before!”? This video from comedian Kristina Wong shows why he may be onto something. Warning: this video is NSFW—and NSFFWCSTSSPAV (Not Safe for Folks Who Can’t Stand to See Stuffed Penises and Vaginas).
ICYMI: Toni Morrison paid a visit to “The Colbert Report” earlier this week ands schooled the host on racism. Among her many gems is this one: “There’s no such thing as race. Racism is a construct. A social construct.” Watch.
Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. earned his second No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums with his new album “Cadillactica.” As Billboard noted:
[The album moved] 44,000 in first-week sales (his best week ever), according to Nielsen SoundScan. The 28-year old rapper last debuted atop the chart in 2012 with Live From the Underground (41,000 units). The new set includes a host of featured acts, including Raphael Saadiq and Wiz Khalifa. The second single from the set, “Pay Attention” featuring Rico Love, spent a week at No. 24 on the Billboard + Twitter Top Tracks chart in August.
“Cadillactica” is a concept album, which K.R.I.T. explained in an interview with Complex:
“I wanted to tell where the Cadillac came from on the “Live From the Underground” [a previous album] cover. That was very important for me. But “Cadillactica” in itself is literally my sub-conscious. I wanted to make a planet of it and give it a name…and on this planet, life is a little bit obscure. And it’s about the journey in life on Cadillactica, from the beginning of the planet itself to finding life on the planet and how life unfolds on this planet, what people go through on this planet. From being young and rambunctious to find [sic] your purpose in life and being content with what you’ve done. And then ultimately the end. [I was] figuring out a creative way of telling that entire story of a planet nobody’s ever heard of before.”
But even that somewhat vague answer doesn’t do the album justice. Guest appearances also include Raphael Saadiq and E-40 on standout tracks “Soul Food” and “Mind Control.” Each song speaks to a facet of black life in the South. There’s the “Mo Grease Than Beat” skit at the end of the especially strong title track that offers up a drive-thru order that comes with “two sides, some poverty or some famine…and if you don’t want that famine, you can always get some low self-esteem or a biscuit.” There are love songs to speakers (“My Sub, pt. 3”) and cars (“Do You Love Me” ft. Mara Hruby) and K.R.I.T.’s demand for the rest of the world to respect Southern rappers (“Mt. Olympus”). But mostly there’s K.R.I.T. at some of his finest moments lyrically.
“I think it was time to go back,” he explained to Rolling Stone in October. “You get in the point where people tell you, “Man, you know, people need to be able to rap your songs.” And you get caught up in that. So, I wasn’t all that caught up in it this time. I was really on some like, ‘I want you to listen, I pray you get something from it, but I want to tell you something.’”
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album:
Dave Chappelle and Michael Sam grace two of the six covers of GQ’s December 2014 “Men (and Women) of the Year” issue. In an upbeat Q+A available online, Chappelle talks about binge-watching “The Wire,” living off the grid and returning to the stage. Here’s the comedian on his “show business bucket list”:
There’s just certain things that every entertainer always dreamed of doing. When I was 19, I used to walk up Sixth Avenue and look at the marquee of Radio City. I’d see the lines outside. I’d be like, “Man, I just want to… Radio City!” So then, last year, when I started going on the road, it was just because I wanted to be on the road, at first. There’s something cathartic about touring—it feels good to just engage people that way.
Check out Sam’s interview in GQ.
Questlove caught up with Cornel West recently for a wide-ranging interview that broadly touched on what the two know best: politics and music. The interview gets right to the point, starting off with a question about collaborative versus individual leadership in the movement for justice:
QUESTLOVE: So you were teaching your class about the difference in social impact between Marcus Garvey and Du Bois. And what I took away was the question of whether we need a messiah figure to lead society, or can it be truly grassroots? I also wonder what good it will do today. Chuck D taught me a long time ago to aim really small. And everyone now has [Michael] Jordan-itis—everyone wants the star position. So where do you fall, on the question of how we can best move forward as a society, between the Moses-messiah figure, like Martin Luther King Jr. or, say, Occupy Wall Street, which really didn’t have a leader?
CORNEL WEST: I take my fundamental cue from John Coltrane that says there must be a priority of integrity, honesty, decency, and mastery of craft. I take my second cue from [organizer and activist] Ella Baker that says, with that integrity, honesty, decency, master of craft, there must be an attempt to find, among everyday people, vision, voice, and modes of organizing and mobilizing that does not result in the messianic model, in the HNIC, the head negro in charge. This is where Martin King comes in, and the distinction we made in class between conspicuous charisma and service-oriented charisma. It’s possible to be highly charismatic the way John Coltrane was, and still de-center oneself, as he did, to allow for McCoy, and Elvin, and Reggie, and the others [who played with Coltrane] to lift their voices with tremendous power. Martin, at his best, was able to empower others, galvanize others and, through an integrity and humility, recognize he’s just another human being, not a messiah. At his worst, he was the Moses that everybody had to defer to.
Read more at Interview Magazine.
Jay Smooth offers up some valuable hip-hop history for activists ahead of Fusion’s launch of RiseUp!, a new series that celebrates youth activism. Instead of indicting younger activists, which so often is the norm these days, Jay encourages them: “Every critique young people get about their activism right now is what we got about our music and culture back then,” he says. “When a whole bunch of people who never cared what you were doing suddenly notice the work you are doing enough to want tell you you aren’t doing it right, that means you’re probably doing something right.”
As communities across the country wait on pins and needles for a Ferguson grand jury’s decision on whether or not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown, artist Molly Crabapple breaks down at Fusion how the St. Louis suburb has once again made clear the police’s contentious relationship with black communities.
New York City played home to a special screening of Ava DuVernay’s highly anticipated film “Selma” on Monday night and received a standing ovation. The film stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. and centers on the historic 1965 Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama*.
Here’s the trailer:
Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411 was there for the screening and wrote that the film has already made its case for Oscar consideration:
“There’s a lump in your throat at the of ‘Selma,’ a movie that wisely takes a a snapshot of King’s life from the moment he wins the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 through the Selma march in 1965…Cinematographer Bradford Young (who also has ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ and ‘A Most Violent Year’) gives ‘Selma’ a convincing feel in muted colors that blossom toward the end of the movie. The version we saw last night also featured the theme song, written and recorded by Jay Z and John Legend. It’s a winner.”
The film has got plenty of Hollywood heavyweights behind it. Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt are executive producers, and DuVernay picked up the project after director Lee Daniels bowed out in the aftermath of “The Butler.” The film is slated to hit theaters this Christmas.
* Post has been updated since publication to reflect that King’s 1965 march was from Selma to Montgomery not, to Selma.
Solange Knowles broke the Internet over the weekend when she got married to video producer Allen Ferguson. The wedding photos are absolutely incredible, but so were the details: there was her afro, and that pantsuit, the second line parade and the bikes! But this video of Solange dancing with her 10-year-old son, Julez, to the song “No Flex Zone” trumps all.
Kendrick Lamar made his second appearance ever on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend. This time around, he sported all black contact lenses and showed off some dance moves to his latest hit single “i.” It was a soulful performance, backed by a full live band and very reminiscent of James Brown. Watch below.
The performance did plenty to build up even more anticipation for his forthcoming album. According to Rolling Stone:
In a recent interview, Lamar gave some insight into what listeners can expect from the forthcoming new album, promising “aggression and emotion.” “If I can say anything about this record,” he said, “it’s that it will connect again.” He also noted at the time that he hadn’t yet called in any guest MCs for tracks. “I have so much to say!” he says, laughing. “It’s somewhat selfish of me.” But he was happy to share the stage last night.
Along with hundreds of thousands of other people, I’ve become obsessed with Serial, the new podcast from the same team that’s behind “This American Life.” In it, radio producer Sarah Koenig unravels the state of Maryland’s murder case against Adnan Syed, a man who was convicted of killing his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, back in 1999.
The podcast has become a sensation, but it’s also drummed up plenty of questions about the ethics of making a grisly murder and its heartbreaking aftermath mere entertainment for radio enthusiasts. Michelle Dean wrote in the Guardian about some of these moral quandies, including the fact that Redditors have now gotten involved. But most interesting for our purposes it he question posed by Jay Caspian Kang at The Awl: “What happens when a white journalist stomps around in a cold case involving people from two distinctly separate immigrant communities? Does she get it right?” Kang writes:
Koenig does ultimately address Syed’s Muslim faith in Serial, but only to debunk the state’s claim that Syed’s murderous rage came out of cultural factors. The discussion feels remarkably perfunctory—Koenig quickly dispenses with Syed’s race and religion. She seems to want Syed and Lee, by way of her diary, to be, in the words of Ira Glass, “relatable,” which, sadly, in this case, reads “white.” As a result, [Rabia Chaudry, an attorney who’s featured prominently in the begining of the season] believes Koenig has left out an essential part of Syed’s story—that his arrest, his indictment and his conviction were all influenced by his faith and the color of his skin. “You have an urban jury in Baltimore city, mostly African American, maybe people who identify with Jay [an African-American friend of Syed’s who is the state’s seemingly unreliable star witness] more than Adnan, who is represented by a community in headscarves and men in beards,” Chaudry said. “The visuals of the courtroom itself leaves an impression and there’s no escaping the racial implications there.”
“I don’t know to what extent someone who hasn’t grown up in a culture can really understand that culture,” Chaudry added. “I think Sarah tried to get it, but I don’t know if she ever really did. I explained to her that anti-Muslim sentiment was involved in framing the motive in this case, and that Muslims can pick up on it, whereas someone like her, who hasn’t experienced this kind of bigotry doesn’t quite get it. Until you’ve experienced it, you don’t really know it or pick up on it.”
Do you agree with Kang’s take? Disagree? Read more at The Awl.
Long before she earned a reputation as a legendary jazz singer, 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald was called “ungovernable” and unwilling to “obey the just and lawful commands of her mother” by Westchester County judge George W. Smyth. She was sent to the Hudson Reform, the only state juvenile institution that accepted both black and white children.
Russ Immarigeon at Prison Public Memory dug up Fitzgerald’s history with the juvenile justice system to show that it’s long preyed on black and brown children. Today, there are more than 66,000 American youth who are confined in juvenile detention facilities, according to Nell Bernstein, author of “Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison.” The majority of those kids are, like Fitzgerald, sentenced to serve time for non-violence offenses; only one of every four confined youths was locked up based on a Violent Crime Index offense.
Fitzgerald suffered plenty of abuse at the hands of the state before making it big in Harlem. From Immarigeon:
Her biographers appear to agree on this: A fifteen- or sixteen-year-old Ella Fitzgerald returned, in a disheveled and homeless state, to New York City in late 1933 or early 1934. Shortly thereafter, she tried to display her dancing talents at the Apollo on 125th Street before taking its famous stage to sing. Soon, she started singing regularly with drummer Tiny Bradshaw’s band at the less-well-known Harlem Opera House. And, at the age of seventeen, within a year of leaving Hudson, Fitzgerald was singing and recording with the swinging Chick Webb and his Orchestra, where she quickly took her first steps toward being America’s “First Lady of Jazz.”
After her death in 1996, cultural critic Margo Jefferson rembered her life this way:
“That voice never did give us intimations of the stepfather who abused her when her mother was dead; of the aunt who rescued her, then had no time or money to care for her; of Ella herself as a teenage truant who did time in a New York State reformatory for girls, where discipline was instilled though beatings and solitary confinement. When she ran away, she went from wayward girl to urchin, shuffling alone through the streets of Harlem, singing and dancing for small change, sleeping wherever she could find a night’s bed and board.”
Director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan gained acclaim a few years ago with “Fruitvale Station,” the drama based on the last day of Oscar Grant’s life before he was shot and killed by transit cop Johannes Mehserle. Now the two are teaming up again to make “Creed,” a film that follows the grandson of a character in the “Rocky” franchise, Apollo Creed.
More from Shadow and Act:
The story for what will be the 7th film in the “Rocky” franchise will see Michael B. Jordan play the grandson of Apollo Creed, raised in a wealthy home, living off his grandfather’s earnings, but who, despite his family not wanting him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, has the desire to do so, as well as the natural gifts and potential that his grandfather used to become a heavyweight champion… that is until Rocky Balboa took his crown in 1979′s “Rocky II.” Creed’s grandson seeks a mentor to help train him, and, of course, that mentor turns out to be Balboa himself (Stallone), who is no longer interested in the sport, and apparently needs to be convinced to help get Creed’s grandson prepped and ready to get in the ring.
Champion boxer (and, like Coogler, Oakland native) Andre Ward is also in negotiations to join the film’s cast. It’ll start shooting in early 2015. No word yet on a release date.
ICYMI, Isse Rae offers up a close reading of Young Thug’s “Riches, No Bitches” on the latest episode of “Ratchetpiece Theater.”
(h/t For Harriet)