Listen: Kendrick Lamar Raps About Self Love in New Song

Kendrick Lamar released the first track called “i” off of his upcoming album. The project is slated for release later this fall. Here’s more from Ambrosia for Heads:

Based around a not-so-obscure Isley Brothers sample, the song follows Kendrick’s Flaunt magazine interview (as recently reported by Billboard) that the superstar had moved away from listening to Hip-Hop, and purchased the Isleys’ whole catalog for his listening pleasure. “i” arguably veers into Pop music more than anything from K-Dot’s previous releases. However, with its interesting cover art (look closer), specific opening monologue material, and the actual lyrics, it’s seemingly quite brilliant. Kendrick Lamar is still rapping for (and to) Compton (literally and figuratively), but he’s talking about the universal need to love one’s self.

NYC Transit Official on Anti-Islam Ads: ‘Our Hands Are Tied’

NYC Transit Official on Anti-Islam Ads: 'Our Hands Are Tied'

One day after a new batch of anti-Islam advertisements went up on New York City subways and buses, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) officials are responding to Arab and Muslim activists’ outrage, saying there isn’t much they can do about the matter. 

The ads are sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an “active anti-Muslim group.”

MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz addressed the matter in an e-mail to Al Jazeera. “We review every viewpoint ad under the standards, but a series of court rulings have made clear that our hands are largely tied.”

AFDI says that the ads are protected under the First Amendment. But Hoda Elshishtawy, a national policy analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council hopes that the broader public will see the hate behind the messages. “They absolutely have the right to put up this hateful message because of the First Amendment,” she said. “It’s disgusting the way they choose to wrongfully represent a religion. Obviously the group is just out there to promote their own hate and their own twisted view of how they view Islam and Muslims,” Elishishtawy told Al Jazeera.

J. California Cooper: ‘I Was Not Afraid to Talk About God’

J. California Cooper: 'I Was Not Afraid to Talk About God'

African-American playwright and author J. California Cooper passed away this past weekend at the age of 82, according to EBONY. In the 2012 interview posted above, Cooper talks about her lifetime of work and she notes, “In my stories, I was not afraid of or ashamed to talk about God. I wasn’t trying to be too bold, it’s just that I love Him. And I know He said, ‘If you’re not afraid of me, I won’t be ashamed of you.’”

Spirituality was an important part of Cooper’s work as a storyteller. Her work includes the 1984 short story collection “A Piece of Mine” and the 1986 collection “Homeade Love.” 

The University of Minnesota has a more detailed biography and collection of interviews with Cooper. 

Angela Davis Connects Movement to Free Palestine to Black Feminism

Angela Davis Connects Movement to Free Palestine to Black Feminism

Angela Davis spoke with activist and author Frank Barat in a wide-ranging interview recently, portions of which were captured in The Nation. In the lengthier transcript, Davis makes the connection between the movement to free Palestine and the work of black feminists throughout the African diaspora:

FB: How would you define “black feminism”? And what role could this play in today’s societies?

AD: Black feminism emerged as a theoretical and practical effort demonstrating that race, gender, and class are inseparable in the social worlds we inhabit. At the time of its emergence, black women were frequently asked to choose whether the black movement or the women’s movement was most important. The response was that this was the wrong question. The more appropriate question was how to understand the intersections and interconnections between the two movements. We are still faced with the challenge of understanding the complex ways race, class, gender, sexuality, nation and ability are intertwined—but also how we move beyond these categories to understand the interrelationships of ideas and processes that seem to be separate and unrelated. Insisting on the connections between struggles and racism in the US and struggles against the Israeli repression of Palestinians, in this sense, is a feminist process. 

Read the full interview at Jadaaliyah

Listen to Michael Jackson’s Duet With Queen’s Freddie Mercury

Listen to Michael Jackson's Duet With Queen's Freddie Mercury

Before Freddie Mercury released the song, “There Must Be More to Life Than This” on his 1985 album “Mr. Bad Guy,” the Queen lead singer recorded a duet of the track with Michael Jackson. Producer William Orbit recently updated the track and released it to fans. Take a listen. 

(h/t Ambrosia for Heads)

NYT Editors ‘Deeply Regret’ That Readers Took Offense to Shonda Rhimes Article

NYT Editors 'Deeply Regret' That Readers Took Offense to Shonda Rhimes Article

Writing in the New York Times’ opinion pages, public editor Margaret Sullivan sheds more light on the internal reaction to Alessandra Stanley’s much-criticized article that called Shonda Rhimes an “angry black woman” and described Viola Davis as “less classically beautiful” than lighter-skinned black actresses. Sullivan quotes culture editor Danielle Mattoon:

“There was never any intent to offend anyone and I deeply regret that it did,” Ms. Mattoon said. “Alessandra used a rhetorical device to begin her essay, and because the piece was so largely positive, we as editors weren’t sensitive enough to the language being used.”

Ms. Mattoon called the article “a serious piece of criticism,” adding, “I do think there were interesting and important ideas raised that are being swamped” by the protests. She told me that multiple editors — at least three — read the article in advance but that none of them raised any objections or questioned the elements of the article that have been criticized.

“This is a signal to me that we have to constantly remind ourselves as editors of our blind spots, what we don’t know, and of how readers may react.”

Read more

Once Again, Anti-Islam Ads Go Up on New York City Transit

Once Again, Anti-Islam Ads Go Up on New York City Transit

Once again, a major American transit system has become a hotbed of racial hate. On Monday the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a far-right group based in Houston, Texas, that’s led by conservative activist Pamela Geller, launched an ad campaign that uses photos and images to denigrate Islam. Geller pulled a similar stunt earlier this year in Washington, D.C., but this time she’s upped the ante: the ads will include a photo from journalist James Foley’s gruesome beheading.


As Jack Jenkins points out at Think Progress, this isn’t the first time New York City’s subways have been a spectacle of Islamophobia. “In 2012, the group posted ads in Washington, D.C. and NYC that referred to enemies of Israel “savages,” and this summer it put posters on 20 buses in the U.S. capital that included an image of Adolf Hitler sitting next to Muslim leader Haj Amin al-Husseini underneath the caption, “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran.” Read more

NYT Critic Defends Racist Profile of Shonda Rhimes

NYT Critic Defends Racist Profile of Shonda Rhimes

Alessandra Stanley, the television critic for the New York Times, is standing by her profile of Shonda Rhimes even though it’s been soundly (and fairly) criticized for its racism. The profile was published online Thursday and will be in the paper’s Sunday print edition.

The article’s lede is this: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”

And it gets much, much worse.

Talking Points Memo’s Tom Kludt reached out to Stanley for a comment on the piece, and it looks like she’s sticking by it. “The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype.”

Meanwhile, Rhimes is over it:

Octavia Spencer’s ‘Scary Bitch’ Ads Taken Off L.A. Buses

Octavia Spencer's 'Scary Bitch' Ads Taken Off L.A. Buses

One way you probably shouldn’t advertise a new show starring one of Hollywood’s most accomplished black actresses is by pasting her picture up on an ad next to the phrase “scary bitch.” But that’s just what happened with Octavia Spencer*, who’s starring in a new show on FOX called “Red Band Society,” which follows a group of teenagers set in the pediatric wing of a hospital. 

The ads have been up for five weeks and will be removed from 190 Metro buses as soon as possible, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesperson Mark Littman, who told the Los Angeles Times that the ads “denigrate women.”

A few dozen protesters filed into a recent Metro committee meeting where the announcement was made. Jasmyne Cannick, a 36-year-old social media commentator, told the Times: “I don’t know if I find it more offensive because I’m black, or more offensive because I’m a woman.” She added, “I sometimes think our city forgets that there are black people that still live here and call Los Angeles home.”

A Fox spokesperson told the Times, “We sincerely apologize if the copy was offensive to viewers.”

See the add below:


(h/t Los Angeles Times)

State Rep: Muslims Are ‘Cancer That Must Be Cut From American Society’

State Rep: Muslims Are 'Cancer That Must Be Cut From American Society'

Oklahoma state Rep. John Bennett made headlines this week for making some of the vilest anti-Muslim comments on record from an elected American official. Dean Obeidallah recounts what happened:

On Monday, Bennett held a public forum with more than 100 constituents in a Western Sizzlin’ steakhouse in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. There, Bennett provided his supporters with something other than steak — a big helping of hate.

According to the Sequoyah County Times, Bennett told the audiencethat Muslims are a “cancer that must be cut out of the American society.” He added that the goal of Muslims is “the destruction of Western civilization from within.”

But here’s where Bennett’s comments truly become bone chilling. Bennett, a military veteran, issued what some could interpret as a call to arms: “I’m not advocating violence against anyone … but I am not going to stand back and allow them to let Islam take over this nation.”

The worst part? Bennett’s audience responded with a standing ovation. Obeidallah rightly notes that it’s this type of sentiment that will undoubtedly lead to reactionary violence against Muslims in the United States. Read more at CNN.

Scotland Stays, Lockdown in Sierra Leone

Scotland Stays, Lockdown in Sierra Leone

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Queer and Trans Latinos Reclaim Their History for Hispanic Heritage Month

Queer and Trans Latinos Reclaim Their History for Hispanic Heritage Month Play

Sixty eight years before New York City’s Stonewall riots incited America’s gay liberation movement, police in Mexico City made a declaration of their own. On November 17, 1901 they raided a secret gay dance party at a private home and arrested 41 men who they identified as gay, half of whom were reportedly dressed in women’s clothes. To humiliate the partygoers, they paraded the 41 captured people in public, a show of force that helped spark a period of sexual and political repression. 

Since then, the number “41” has been used to shame members of the queer and trans communities in Mexico. But a new projected called Honor 41 is trying to change that.

In its second annual video series launched to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., Honor 41 has released a series of profiles of queer and transgender Latinos who are proud to continue the legacy of those 41 people who were arrested more than a century ago.

In the video below, we meet Camilo Juilián, a transgender immigrant from Mexico who shares his coming-out story. “I know my coming-out story is unique and not representative of all the struggles of our communities, but my hope is to encourage everybody to aspire to a life of authenticity, mutual respect and unity,” Juilián told me by e-mail, “one story at a time.”

For more, visit Honor 41’s website. And watch more profiles on YouTube

Homeboy Industries Has One of L.A.’s Newest Gourmet Food Trucks

Homeboy Industries Has One of L.A.'s Newest Gourmet Food Trucks

Homeboy Industries, the Los Angeles-based organization that helps formerly gang-involved and incarcerated Angelenos start new lives, has one of the area’s newest food gourmet trucks. The truck offers food such as salsa and granola that are produced by Homeboy Industries’ entrepreneurial arm, but their focus is chilaquiles.


“We didn’t want to be just another taco truck, so, we thought, since our chilaquiles are what Homegirl Cafe is well known for, we’d do a twist on it,” truck manager and head chef Stephen Barkulis told Los Angeles magazine.

The truck offers new including Tingaquiles with shredded skirt steak slow cooked in chipotle chile, Molequiles with red mole chicken and habeñero pickled onions. For the vegetarians there’s no-meat Veggiequiles. Check out the menu.

Chef Barkulis and his three-woman crew are all graduates of the Homegirl Industries’ 18-month training program. He sums up the truck’s purpose this way: “We really want to get out there and further our cause,” Barkulis told Los Angeles magazine.”Because at the heart of all that we’re doing is that we want to change lives.”

Homeboy Industries began as a youth program started in 1992 by Father Greg Boyle. In addition to offering formerly incarcerated folks legal assistance, counseling, tattoo removal and work-readiness training, the program has since grown to businesses that include a bakery, cafe, merchandise and a farmer’s market. 

(h/t Los Angeles Magazine)

Watch Imara Jones on ‘Caffeine TV’ Debut

Watch Imara Jones on 'Caffeine TV' Debut Play

Our economic justice columnist, Imara Jones, just launched “Caffeine TV,” a daily video news brief on YouTube where he offers his take on everything from politics to pop culture.  Jones will continue covering race and economic justice for Colorlines. With “Caffeine TV,” you’ll get him every morning!

High School Teachers Remake Chris Brown Song, Make it Awesome [VIDEO]

A new school year is underway, and at San Francisco’s Leadership High School, that’s a very good thing. In this goofy video, teachers and students turn Chris Brown’s problematic summer hit “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” into a catchy, empowerment-driven theme song called “Royal,” which gives props to teachers’ long hours and students’ hard work.

California High School Changes Racist Arab Mascot

California High School Changes Racist Arab Mascot

After facing mounting pressure to change its team name, Coachella Valley High School has decided to change its mascot from the “Arabs” to the “Mighty Arabs.”

See what they did there? No? Here’s a brief explanation from Phillip J. Victor at Al Jazeera:

The Coachella Valley High School Arabs will now be known as the Mighty Arabs, after the school district’s board of trustees voted 5-0 on Tuesday to amend the school’s team name. They also agreed to change CVHS’ Arab mascot to look less barbaric and more distinguished.

The changes followed 10 months of collaboration with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a civil rights group based in Washington, D.C.

ADC had lobbied officials at Coachella Valley Unified School District since November 2013 to amend the school’s team name and drop its mascot — a grimacing face that many Arab-Americans said promoted negative stereotypes.

The new mascot is supposed to be an improvement. Not only did the school’s previous mascot feature all of the worst caricatures of Arabs and Muslims, the school’s representation of Arab culture was equally, if not more, problematic. So-called “Harem girls” marched in band parades and belly dancers performed at halftime during team games. “The mascot is basically an angry ‘Arab’ head — hooknose, long beard, headscarf and all,” Abed Ayoub, ADC’s legal and policy director, said in November when Al Jazeera broke news of the group’s campaign.

The new mascot, according to Ayoub, was chosen with input from the local Arab-American community and was designed by Jesus Olivares and Sergio Espinosa, two of the school’s alums who own nearby INKA Printing and Embroidery. “I saw it as a way to turn something into a positive. Also, because I was an alumni and went to school there, I felt like I had to give it a positive look instead of the image they had before,” Olivares said.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.04.31 AM.png

The new image is meant to be a dignified representation of Arab culture. “This process has been a learning experience for everyone involved,” said ADC President Samer Khalaf. “We have had an opportunity to teach those in Coachella Valley about Arab culture and heritage. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to learn about the history of Coachella Valley and its strong connection to the Arab world.”

Everyone involved took pains to mention that the original mascot wasn’t “intentionally” racist, but that intention doesn’t negate impact, and the choice of a another caricature of Arab culture — particularly at a time when Arab-American activists are being attacked and threatened with beheading in Brooklyn — is questionable to me.

(h/t Al Jazeera America)

Ai-jen Poo, Terrance Hayes and Khaled Mattawa Among MacArthur Geniuses

Ai-jen Poo, the dynamic organizer and leader of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, is among this year’s 21 MacArthur Genius Grant fellows. She’s just one of a handful of people of color on the list, which also includes poets Khaled Mattawa and Terrance Hayes, social psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt, public artist Rick Lowe and jazz composer Steve Coleman. Each winner earned a suprise grant of $625,00 from the MacArthur Foundation, which they’re free to use in service of their craft. 

Here’s more about some of them:

Khaled Mattawa:

Terrance Hayes:

Jennifer L. Eberhardt:

Rick Lowe:

Steve Coleman:

Michel Martin Gets Her Own Live Show With NPR

Michel Martin Gets Her Own Live Show With NPR

Michele Martin, the host of the recently canceled NPR show “Tell Me More,” is getting her own live show, according to a press release sent out on Monday. “Rather than having the subjects of her stories come to her, she’ll be going to them. In a series of live events across the country,” NPR says on its site. She’ll tackle today’s hotly contested racial justice issues, including reproductive justice and voting rights:

NPR’s Michel Martin is taking the studio to the story, she’s going where the nation’s most important conversations are happening. Martin will be telling these stories from their epicenter and in partnership with NPR Member Stations, giving local stories national resonance. NPR Presents Michel Martin, a series of live events across the country, launches Friday Sept. 19 in New York City.


In October, Martin will join WFAE in Charlotte to examine The Voting Rights Divide and in December, Women and Leadership in Washington DC. In January 2015 she will be in Dallas with KERA, tackling Football and Ethics, and Miami in February to explore Children and Immigration with WLRN. Each event topic, dynamic and execution will be specific to the city’s character and flavor. The events will carry through to related stories on NPR’s news magazines and the conversation will continue on social media.

Rather than radio playing out on stage, NPR Presents Michel Martin will hold fresh, dynamic conversations with a live audience and people around the world joining on social media, to explore issues through their narratives and personal experiences. Guests with different perspectives and histories will be connected in civil discourse to share ideas, hopes, frustrations and solutions. The public can take part in the conversation by following @NPRMichel on Twitter and on Facebook at

Seems like a dynamic new direction for NPR’s 27 million listeners. The live events begin this fall. Go to NPR to read more

Watch: Sherman Alexie Wants His Books Banned — Here’s Why

Watch: Sherman Alexie Wants His Books Banned -- Here's Why

It’s banned book week and Indian Country Today caught up with Sherman Alexie to talk about censorship in America. 

(h/t Indian Country Today)

There’s a New Literary Journal for Queer Poets of Color

There's a New Literary Journal for Queer Poets of Color

There’s a new literary journal that’s looking for aspiring Gloria Anzaldúas, Cherríe Moragas, Essex Hemphills and Audre Lordes:

Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color is an intentional community space. Our mission is to nurture, celebrate, and preserve diversity within the queer poetry community. Through this journal, we are attempting to center the lives and experiences of QPOC in contemporary America. Thus, we view the journal (and our reading series) as part of a whole artistic project and not individual fragments of work. We believe that (here) the high lyric must encounter colloquial narrative. Here, we must provide space to celebrate both our similarities and our differences. We are one community with an array of experiences; we write in different formats, in different tones, of different circumstances. Nepantla is not the sort of journal that can project a singular voice (not if we want to reflect the various realities of our community). Nepantla is a journal of multiplicity, of continual reinvention. 

The new journal is supported by the Lambda Literary Foundation. You can read the inaugural issue here

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