Ava DuVernay Celebrates News of New Hurricane Katrina Film

Pardon the excessive Ava DuVernay love around these parts, but news dropped on Monday that she’s set to write, produce and direct a new film based on Hurricaine Katrina. DuVernay is teaming up yet again with David Oyelowo, the actor who’s already starred in two of her production, “Middle of Nowhere” and “Selma,” and the two are working with Participant Media on the new project. 

August will mark the 10th anniversary that the devestating storm tore through gulf coast and the U.S. government neglected hundreds of thousands of black residents. Participant Media’s Jonathan King, who will serve as executive producer of the film, said that DuVernay is the ideal director to tackle such tragedy. 

“Hurricane Katrina is one of the most important social and environmental stories of our time,” said King. “Ava DuVernay has shown herself to be highly skilled at bringing intimacy and contemporary urgency to epic events. We have been looking for the right way to get back in business with Ava, and with David Oyelowo, and are proud to re-team with them on her original idea, which we believe will be a powerful film.”

DuVernay celebrated the news with a simple Instagram post:

New news! xo

A photo posted by Ava DuVernay (@directher) on

(h/t Variety)

Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez to Play Grieving Mothers in New Action Flick

Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez are teaming up for a new action film that’s being produced by Davis’ own JuVee Productions. The film is titled “Lila and Eve,” and Tambay A. Obensen has the details at Shadow and Act:

The story - described as “‘Thelma & Louise’ meets ‘Fight Club’” - follows 2 distraught mothers who team up to avenge the death of their children, after authorities are unable to find their murderers - a group of drug dealers. It’s a vigilante thriller that will show just how far any mother would go for her child. 

Yolonda Ross  and Aml Ameen are also in the cast, playing a member of a “Mothers of Lost Children” support group, which helps women who have lost children to violence, and Viola Davis’ son, respectively.

The film is making its debut at Sundance and filmmakers are looking for a theatrical distributor. 

In the video below, both actresses talk about the new project:


Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets Unveil NBA’s First Chinese New Year Uniforms

The Golden State Warriors have the NBA’s best record, and arguably the league’s best fans. The team, which is based in Oakland but is set to move across the bay to San Francisco by 2018, offered a symbol of respect to its large contingent of Chinese and Chinese-American fans on Monday by unveiling their first-ever Chinese New Year uniforms. Team forwards Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green showed off the new unis at a press conference in San Francisco alongside that city’s mayor, Ed Lee, and the team’s chief operating officer, Rick Welts.

The team will debut the new uniforms on the court on Friday, February 20 when they match up against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena to tip off Chinese New Year, which begins on February 19. The team will also wear them again  in February 24 at Washington, on March 2 at Brooklyn and March 4 versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

“We have been working with the NBA for two years now on our Chinese New Year uniforms to recognize the tremendous fan base that our Asian community represents,” said Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts. “Connecting with our Asian community is a priority for our organization and we are proud that we are going to be one of two teams in the NBA to debut a Chinese New Year-themed uniform as a way to thank our fans here in the Bay Area and abroad in China.”

The Houston Rockets also announced their Chinese New Year uniforms on Monday, making Golden State and Houston the first two NBA teams to debut such uniforms. The Rockets signed the league’s first Chinese superstar in Yao Ming, and also signed Chinese-American star guard Jeremy Lin in recent years.


(Photo credit: NBA PR) 

Watch Kenan Thompson in Hilarious Spoof of ‘Deflategate’ on SNL

It’s Super Bowl week in Arizona, but the biggest sports story heading into the big game has been the “Deflategate” controversy surrounding the New England Patriots. “Saturday Night Live” took aim at Patriots coach Bill Belicheck and quarterback Tom Brady in a hilarious skit last weekend. Take a look. 

Why It’s Important for White Audiences to See Black Films

Why It's Important for White Audiences to See Black Films

BuzzFeed reporter Kelley L. Carter is reporting from Sundance and made an important observation: “This year’s lineup offers a series of films that capture landmark black experiences and is serving them to a predominantly white audience.”

This year’s crop of Sundance Films include many notable selections that focus on the experiences of black folks. Those include Stanley Nelson’s new documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and a new documentary on Nina Simone called “What Happened, Miss Simone?” There’s also the film “3 ½ Minutes,” which looks at Jordan Davis’ murder in Florida. Carter writes that it’s important for predominately white audiences to see these stories:

I have no illusion that the Sundance Film Festival will become a beacon of blackness overnight. That’s simply not the intention of this mainstream festival — what it does best is highlight emerging filmmakers, some of whom have the potential to tell stories that spark sweeping social change. It’s a place that celebrates an art form with the ability to capture the totality of human experience and puts it before an audience that may very well never encounter strife of any sort.

So why not bring black stories to a white audience? 

Read more at BuzzFeed.



SAG Awards: Viola Davis, ‘Orange is the New Black’ Show Racial Diversity Matters

Racial diversity may be missing from this year’s Oscars, but it was on full display during the television portion of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Viola Davis won the award for outstanding female actor in a drama for her lead role in “How to Get Away With Murder.” In her acceptance speech, Davis called out Hollywood’s lack of diversity:

“When I tell my daughter stories at night, inevitably, a few things happen,” Davis said while accepting the award. “Number one, I use my imagination. I always start with life, and then I build from there. And then the other thing that happens is she always says, ‘Mommy, can you put me in the story?’ And you know, it starts from the top up.”

“Thank you Shonda Rhimes, [producer] Betsy Beers and [creator] Peter Nowalk for thinking of a leading lady who looks like my ‘classic beauty,’” she said, referring to Stanley’s assertion that Davis was “less classically beautiful” than Halle Berry or Kerry Washington. “I’m so proud to be an actor and so happy to do what I do. And I’m so happy that people have accepted me in this role at this stage in my career.”

Watch her full speech here:

Backstage, Davis expounded on her point about racial diversity: “We want to see ourselves. We want to be inspired by that. I sometimes want the fantasy, but more often than not, I want reality. I want to feel less alone when I look at TV.”

But the big surprise of the night was Uzo Aduba’s win for outstanding female actor in a comedy in her role as Crazy Eyes in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” The show also won the award for best comedy ensemble, ending a long streak of wins in that category by “Modern Family.”

In her speech, Aduba thanked Jengi Kohan “for writing a show like this and putting something like this on television. Not just for myself, but for our incredible team of actors to be seen in such a beautiful way.” She also revealed that the days he got the “Orange is the New Black” job was the day she had stopped acting. Watch the full speech below:

(Photo credit: Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images)

That “incredible team of actors” includes Laverne Cox, who pretty much won the unofficial award for best on-stage entrance when she went up to present the award to Viola Davis with co-star Matt McGorry and did this:

lavernecox_012615.jpgOther big awards of then night went to “Birdman,” which won the award for outstanding cast in a motion picture and “Still Alice’s” Julianne Moore, who won the award for best actress in a movie.

Jay Z on NY Policing: ‘Every Single Human Being Matters’

Jay Z on NY Policing: 'Every Single Human Being Matters'

In a rare public statement on a political issue, Jay Z came out in support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to improve relations between police and civilians in the Big Apple. Cuomo made his comments on Wednesday, and in support of them, Jay Z said:

“The criminal justice reform package proposed by Governor Cuomo today is a huge step forward in restoring fairness, protection, sensitivity and accountability for all under our justice system,” Jay Z said in a statement, via Capitol Confidential.

“I commend Governor Cuomo for his bold leadership in taking this issue head on at this critical time. This package presents comprehensive steps to protect and improve relations amongst all citizens. We cannot be divided, as every single human being matters. Together, we can move forward as a community, with mutual respect for each other and continue to make this great state stronger than ever before.”

Interestingly, the rapper’s statement played off of the “black lives matter” refrain that’s become a ralling cry for protestors in the wake of the police killings of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Mike Brown in Ferguson. The fact that Jay Z — one of the most recognizable black cultural figures in the world whose discography is filled with tales of beating the law — stopped short of centering black poeple in a conversation on policing is important, given the history of the phrase. Here’s Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, on why it’s important to put black folks at the forefront:

When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence.  It is an acknowledgment that 1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country-one half of all people in prisons or jails-is an act of state violence.  It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence… And the fact is that the lives of Black people—not ALL people—exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence.

Read more

As Rolling Stone points out, Jay Z, Russell Simmons and Common all met with Cuomo recently to ask him to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Jay Z also distributed “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in support of Garner’s case to NBA players late last year. 

Native Film Stars John Reddy and Jashaun St. John Named Breakout Sundance Stars

Native Film Stars John Reddy and Jashaun St. John Named Breakout Sundance Stars

The Sundance Film Festival is only in its second day, but already there’s a lot of buzz about “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” a film directed by Chinese-American filmmaker Chloé Zhao about life between a brother and sister on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The two stars of the film, John Reddy and Jashaun St. John, were named among 10 breakout stars at this year’s Sundance by The Wrap:

Reddy and St. John may be non-professional actors but Chloe Zhao’s feature debut isn’t a one-off for either of them. The duo play half-siblings who embark on separate paths when the unexpected death of his father complicates his plans to leave the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Like “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” this drama could surprise audiences who go in with an open mind regarding a community rarely seen on the big screen.

The film’s trailer hasn’t been released, but you can keep up with it on Facebook


Watch the Trailer for Stanley Nelson’s New Documentary on the Black Panthers

The Sundance Film Festival kicks off today and one of the many films to look for is Stanley Nelson’s documentary, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.” Nelson’s look at the rise and fall of the party is particularly timely given the resurgence of black protest in America since officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August.

The film will premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 23, and will be followed by encore screenings next week at the festival.

Tambay A. Obenson wrote at Shadow and Act:

The documentary will not only look at the rise and fall of the Party, but also its influence on how African Americans consider themselves today, especially in consideration of recent (and ongoing) collective action within communities nationwide, in response to multiple incidents of police brutality that led to fatalities. A key Panther practice was its monitoring of police officers, and challenges of police brutality.  

Here’s the film’s official synopsis:

Change was coming to America and the fault lines were no longer ignorable—cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution’ is the first feature length documentary to showcase the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. An essential history, ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,’ is a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.”

Take a look at the trailer below:


Laverne Cox, Big Freedia, Angel Haze Among This Year’s GLAAD Media Award Nominees

Laverne Cox, Big Freedia, Angel Haze Among This Year's GLAAD Media Award Nominees

The nominees for the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards were announced on Wednesday and they’re filled with the people and stories that made 2014 such an important year for LGBT communities. ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, while “Modern Family,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” were among the nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Big Freedia’s reality TV show on Logo, “Queen of Bounce,” was nominated for Outstanding Reality Series while “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” was among this year’s nominees for Outstanding Documentary.

Rapper Angel Haze earned a nomination for her debut LP “Dirty Gold,” and Time Magazine’s Katy Steinmetz’s cover article on Laverne Cox titled “The Transgender Tipping Point” was nominated for Outstanding Magazine Article.

The awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on March 21 at the Beverly Hilton and in New York City on May 9 at the Waldorf Astoria New York.

Watch Captain Sikh America in ‘Red, White and Beard’

Remember Captain Sikh America? It was comedian Vishavjit Singh’s way of fighting intolerance in the post-9/11 United States. After walking the streets of New York City dressed as Captain Sikh America, Singh recounted what he learned in an essay at Salon.

If you stereotype people, then you have fallen victim of the malady itself. To all the people who have given me advice to stay away from white Republican places like Jersey, Florida, Texas and the South, let me say this. If I had stereotyped the world the way it may see me in my turban and beard, I would never have  walked out as Captain America.”

In this 11-minute short film viewers get a longer look at at Singh’s work.

Margaret Cho Thinks It’s Radical For Women to Joke About Sex

Margaret Cho Thinks It's Radical For Women to Joke About Sex

Margaret Cho spoke with BuzzFeed’s Ariane Lange about her new show on TLC, “All About Sex.” A few interesting tidbits:

On the AIDS crisis of the 1980s:

You said you learned a lot about sex as a young person from gay men, whom you grew up around in San Francisco. Can you speak about that?

MC: When AIDS came in, there was a lot of fear around sexuality, so you had a whole generation of people learning to have sex without bodily fluids. This is when BDSM [really took hold], where you had sexuality that did not have the same look or trappings of genital sex, which, at the time, after AIDS, was a very scary thing to do. I witnessed a variety of different kinds of sexuality through growing up within the gay community, and then surviving the AIDS crisis.

On the importance of women talking about sex:

Is there a radicalism to joking about enjoying sex as a woman? I was thinking about Joan Rivers, who I love, and I know you love, but one of her recurring jokes throughout her career — two of her recurring jokes — was that she was ugly and also that she didn’t like sex. That’s a joke that you don’t really make, and not something that you put out there.

MC: Yeah, that’s almost like a different generation. Joan’s joke about avoiding sex, or just doing it because you have to, to please your husband… she always had that joke about how she’d be reading a magazine at the same time or something. It was her way of trying to get control over the situation by ignoring the man trying to have sex with her. I always thought what she did was funny, but that’s a definite generational joke. I wouldn’t make the same joke. I think you should really enjoy the sex you have. If you have sex, it should be for you, not for the other person. That joke is assuming that sex is always in service to men, which I think I wanna flip that, and make it all about the woman. Or me.

Read more at BuzzFeed

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)

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