‘The Search for General Tso’ and the Chinese-American Immigrant Experience

'The Search for General Tso' and the Chinese-American Immigrant Experience

“The Search for General Tso” is a new documentary produced by Jennifer 8 Lee and Amanda Murray and directed by Ian Cheney that’s opening nationwide and on demand this month. In a recent interview with NBC Asian America, the producers talk about what they think the film says about the Chinese-American and immigrant experiences in the United States. About the film:

In America, the filmmakers visit both big city Chinese restaurants and tiny, rural eateries all serving the iconic dish. They feature Americans who love the dish and Chinese people who are baffled by it. They go to General Tso’s hometown in Hunan Province and find a celebrated war hero, revered for his role in the Qing Dynasty Taiping Rebellion, but no chicken. They talk to a retired chef in Taiwan who did create a Hunan-style chicken dish once, but is embarrassed by the “crazy nonsense” the dish has become. Along the way, they craft a delightful story about immigrant ingenuity, cultural confusion, and Asian-American adaptation.

“The film uses the ubiquitous spicy sweet chicken dish as a window into the Chinese-American immigrant experience,” said Lee. “In a way, it reflects my own experience growing up Chinese American. Looks exotic on the outside, but in reality, completely native to here.”

Read more and watch the trailer below.

Lauryn Hill Gave Kendrick Lamar Some Great Advice

Lauryn Hill Gave Kendrick Lamar Some Great Advice

Kendrick Lamar is on the cover of this month’s XXL magazine and an accompanying essay from the rapper that describes his struggles with success and fame. The piece is filled with interesting tidbits, including his feelings about being snubbed at the Grammys. But he also opens up about some sage advice he got from Lauryn Hill:

I had a talk with Lauryn Hill and she said, “Try to completely throw away your ego.” How many times can you throw away an ego, you know? It’s tough. It’s something we all battle with. I battle with it all the time and the idea of being in all these places—the big spots, all the events, the lights—it’s all for your ego. It’s all for your own confirmation to be like, okay, I’m somebody. But truthfully, you’ve always been somebody. You don’t need the lights.

Read the rest over at XXL.

Lamar’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” is due out sometime early this year.

Here’s What Zora Neale Hurston Wrote in 1928 About Being ‘Colored’

Here's What Zora Neale Hurston Wrote in 1928 About Being 'Colored'

Today is what would have been Zora Neale Hurston’s 124th birthday. That would be a ridiculously long time for anyone to live, but luckily we’ve still got her words. The famed Harlem Renaissance writer was born in Florida in 1891 and died in relative obscurity in 1960 after a career that’s most notable for her 1937 novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Nearly 10 years before that publication, in 1928, Hurston published an essay in “The World Tomorrow” called “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” It’s equal parts hilarious and profound, and it seems a fitting way to remember what she added to America’s dialogue on race. Here it is, republished by the Fellowship for Reconciliation (FOR):

I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian chief.

I remember the very day that I became colored. Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a colored town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando. The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.

The front porch might seem a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat to me. My favorite place was atop the gate-post.  Proscenium box for a born first-nighter. Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn’t mind the actors knowing that I liked it. I usually spoke to them in passing. I’d wave at them and when they returned my salute, I would say something like this: “Howdy-do-well-I-thank-you-where-you-goin’?” Usually the automobile or the horse paused at this, and after a queer exchange of compliments, I would probably “go a piece of the way” with them, as we say in farthest Florida. If one of my family happened to come to the front in time to see me, of course negotiations would be rudely broken off. But even so, it is clear that I was the first “welcome-to-our-state” Floridian, and I hope the Miami Chamber of Commerce will please take notice.

(Read the rest after the jump)

Phylicia Rashad Defends Bill Cosby: ‘Forget These Women’

Phylicia Rashad Defends Bill Cosby: 'Forget These Women'

After decades of rape allegations against Bill Cosby picked up steam in the past several months, his longtime co-star on “The Cosby Show,” Phylicia Rashad, has come to his defense. The 66-year-old Tony Award-winning actress told Showbiz 411 that she didn’t “want to become part of the public debate,” but then went on to talk about what she believes is a vast conspiracy targeted at his legacy.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Forget these women,” Rashad said of the many women who have made claims in the media. “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

…”Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV,” Rashad continued, referring to people other than the accusers. “And it’s worked. All his contracts have been canceled.” She lamented that the legacy of the Cosby Show, a family-friendly comedy once beloved by millions of viewers, is now “being destroyed.”

When asked why Cosby has chosen to largely remain silent in light of the claims, relying instead on his legal team to deny them, his longtime TV wife said: “If he spoke now, what do you think the media would do with it?”

To date, more than two dozen women have accussed Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over the course of several decades. Here’s a timeline of the abuse allegations from Vulture. Cosby has declined to comment on the record.

Essence Magazine Devotes Entire Issue to ‘Black Lives Matter’

Essence, one of the nation’s leading black women’s magazines, has just unveiled an entire issue dedicated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The issue focuses heavily on black women of the movement with pieces by Angela Davis, Susan L. Taylor, Melissa Harris-Perry, Isabel* Wilkerson, Michelle Alexander, Chirlane McCray and more. 

It’s an especially important move by the magazine given that the #blacklivesmatter hashtag and movement was founded by three black women: organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. 

Vanessa K. De Luca, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, wrote that the issue marks the first time in the magazine’s 45-year history that it hasn’t featured a cover image. 

Pictures are powerful, but so are words. That’s why we’ve invited some of our greatest thought leaders—you included—to help us answer the question on our minds at the moment: Where do we go from here? Beginning this month, inspired by you, we are launching Civil Rights Watch, a new series across our platforms in which we will be chronicling—and calling out—significant gains, losses and solutions in this evolving movement as we all try to find a constructive path forward.

The protests, die-ins, marches and social media campaigns that have been born out of our collective grief have given you an opportunity to express your outrage, show your support for the victims and their families whose lives have been forever changed, and forge alliances with like-minded individuals who also believe that it is time for a change. It gives me hope that so many young people are leading the way, people like Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, the brave and beautiful women behind the BlackLivesMatter movement. When we asked Patrisse for their permission to use their poignant battle cry as the centerpiece for our story, she graciously agreed.

Read more here and check out the issue, which is on newsstands now. 

* Post has been updated since publication to correct, Isabelle.

Laverne Cox to Return as Co-Host of ABC’s ‘The View’

Laverne Cox to Return as Co-Host of ABC's 'The View'

Laverne Cox is starting off the New Year with plenty of momentum. The actress will return as a guest co-host of ABC’s “The View” this Thursday after a successful first appearance last November. She made the announcement this morning on Instagram:

I am returning to co-host @abctheview on Thursday. It’s going to be #Amazing. You have to tune in.

A photo posted by laverne cox (@lavernecox) on

Ava DuVernay on ‘Selma’ Criticism: ‘I Wasn’t Interested in Making a White Savior Movie’

Ava DuVernay on 'Selma' Criticism: 'I Wasn't Interested in Making a White Savior Movie'

Ava DuVernay’s latest film “Selma” has earned plenty of praise for its portrayal of a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, but it’s also earned its share of criticism. That criticism has mostly centered on the film’s depiction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who former cabinet member Joseph A. Califano, Jr. wrote in the Washington Post was falsely protrayed in the film “as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.”

In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea,” Califano, Jr. continued. “He considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, [and] he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted.

DuVernay responded to the criticism this week in an interview with Rolling Stone:

Every filmmaker imbues a movie with their own point of view. The script was the LBJ/King thing, but originally, it was much more slanted to Johnson. I wasn’t interested in making a white-savior movie; I was interested in making a movie centered on the people of Selma. You have to bring in some context for what it was like to live in the racial terrorism that was going on in the deep south at that time. The four little girls have to be there, and then you have to bring in the women. So I started adding women.

This is a dramatization of the events. But what’s important for me as a student of this time in history is to not deify what the president did. Johnson has been hailed as a hero of that time, and he was, but we’re talking about a reluctant hero. He was cajoled and pushed, he was protective of a legacy — he was not doing things out of the goodness of his heart. Does it make it any worse or any better? I don’t think so. History is history and he did do it eventually. But there was some process to it that was important to show.

Read more at Rolling Stone. 

Spike Lee Testifies About D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’

As part of the Afropunk-led rollout of D’Angelo’s surprise album “Black Messiah,”* folks are testifying on Instagram about what the project means to them. Using the hashtag #BLACKMESSIAH, notables like longtime D’Angelo collaborator Questlove and writer Michaela Angela Davis have added their voices to the chorus praising the album’s execution and message.

Here’s Spike Lee, who said the 14 year wait was well-worth it for fans:

TESTIFY! @sheltonjlee Film your own and upload with hashtag #BLACKMESSIAH

A video posted by AFROPUNK (@afropunk) on

Music critic Nelson George, who did a live onstage interview with the singer earlier this year in Brooklyn, said:

TESTIFY! @315nelsongeorge Film your own and upload with hashtag #BLACKMESSIAH

A video posted by AFROPUNK (@afropunk) on

And Questlove, who worked with the singer through some of his toughest private moments and produced parts of the new album:

TESTIFY! @questlove Film your own and upload with hashtag #BLACKMESSIAH

A video posted by AFROPUNK (@afropunk) on

Watch Lauryn Hill Perform ‘Ready or Not’ Live in Ghana

Lauryn Hill performed for the first time in Accra, Ghana, recently. Okayafrica stumbled across this six-minute clip from that show, which was shot by the Sierra Leone-based magazine Swit Salone. The show looks pretty incredible. Watch below.

(h/t Okayafrica)

The Queer Women of Color Video Streaming Service That’s Cheaper Than Netflix

The Queer Women of Color Video Streaming Service That's Cheaper Than Netflix

Tired of searching and searching for more queer women of color representation on Neflix? Well, stop looking there. There’s a new indie effort called Sistah Sinema underway that will offer a wide selection of films by and about queer women of color.

From Elixher:

Sistah Sinema decided to team up with IndieFlix after exploring other platforms. IndieFlix - like Sistah Sinema - focused on indie filmmakers and creating a conversation about cinema. According to Scilla Andreen - IndieFlix’s CEO and one of the few women CEOs in tech - niche marketing and community-brand marketing is key to IndieFlix’s future growth. Partnering with Sistah Sinema is part of a larger effort to showcase cinema that highlights global diversity.

The films include selections like Cheryl Dunye’s important 1997 film “The Watermelon Woman” and Kourtney Ryan Ziegler’s look at black transmen, “Still Black.” Take a look at the films and learn more here. Memberships are only $5 a month.

Ferguson Decision Prompted Early Release of D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’

Ferguson Decision Prompted Early Release of D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah'

D’Angelo surprised the world on Sunday night when he dropped his long-awaited third album without any warning. The album, “Black Messiah,”* has since earned the number-one spot in more than 20 countries. Now, a new story from Joe Coscarelli at the New York Times details just how much the police killings of unarmed black men inspired the often reclusive singer to say something with his music. From the Times:

After a grand jury didn’t indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer last month in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, D’Angelo called his co-manager Kevin Liles. “He said: ‘Do you believe this? Do you believe it?’ ” Mr. Liles said. “And then we just sat there in silence. That is when I knew he wanted to say something.” (D’Angelo declined to be interviewed for this article.)

RCA had planned to release “Black Messiah” in early 2015, but its reclusive singer was done waiting. “The one way I do speak out is through music,” D’Angelo told his tour manager, Alan Leeds. “I want to speak out.”

The story also details how big of a role Afropunk, the creative group that hosts its annual music festival in Brooklyn, played in the album’s art and marketing.

Afropunk’s work on “Black Messiah” often went until 4 a.m., including time spent deciphering the dense, distorted vocals for a lyric booklet. That was still too late to make the CD, but it will be included in the forthcoming vinyl version.

“We were able to put six months’ worth of work into two weeks,” said Jocelyn Cooper, Afropunk’s co-founder and D’Angelo’s music publisher, who signed him as an unknown teenager in 1993. D’Angelo is “a bit of a vampire,” she added. “It’s easier to get ahold of him at 2 a.m.”

It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important albums in years. Read the whole thing at the Times


*Post has been updated since publication to indicte that the album is named “Black Messiah” not “The Black Messiah.”


Watch Kendrick Lamar Debut New Song on ‘The Colbert Report’

Stephen Colbert is getting ready to say goodbye to his alter ego, but not before welcoming Kendrick Lamar onto “The Colbert Report.” Lamar debuted an untitled new song from his upcoming album. Watch it below.

(h/t Pitchfork)

Why America’s Comics Are More Diverse Than Ever

Why America's Comics Are More Diverse Than Ever

Society has changed, and so have its superheroes. Captain America is black, Thor is a woman and Ms. Marvel is Muslim. Jesse Holland tries to explain what it all means over at the Associated Press:

“Roles in society aren’t what they used to be. There’s far more diversity,” said [Alex] Alonso, editor and chief at Marvel Comics, who has also shepherded a gay wedding in the X-Men, a gender change from male to female in Thor and the first mainstream female Muslim hero in Ms. Marvel.

The change to a black Captain America is already having an impact outside of comics.

Even before the publication of the first issue, unauthorized images of the black Captain America were shown at a town hall meeting in St. Louis following the funeral of Michael Brown, who was 18 and unarmed when he was killed by a white police officer. This Captain America had his hands up saying “Don’t Shoot,” a slogan protesters have used to highlight the number of African Americans killed by police.

Read more.

Jean Grae’s New Video Features All of Your Favorite Things

The only thing that’s better than the fact that Jean Grae teamed up with a band called “The Everybody’s Pregnant” for a new EP is the new video for their single “underneathu.” The video for the song is a hilarious ode to public television, featuring award-winning author Adam Mansbach in a bonkers intro and Ms. Grae herself slithering around on stage. This isn’t quite what we’ve come to expect from the longtime MC, but it looks like so much fun.

(h/t Okayplayer)

Lupe Fiasco Dedicates New Song to Mothers in the ‘Hood

Lupe Fiasco is gearing up for the January 20 release of his fifth album, “Tetsuo & Youth.” Here’s one of the first singles from the new album, “Madonna.” It features singer Nikki Jean and looks at just how hard it is to eat in working-class neighborhoods of color.

David Oyelowo to Star Opposite Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Americanah’

David Oyelowo to Star Opposite Lupita Nyong'o in 'Americanah'

The film adaptation of Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel “Americanah” is underway. Last summer, Lupita Nyong’o signed on to play the lead character, and now David Oyelowo is slated to star opposite her as the film’s male lead. From Time:

Brad Pitt is producing through his Plan B production banner along with Nyong’o and Andrea Calderwood. Plan B produced “Selma” and after having such a good experience working with them Oyelowo jumped at the opportunity to board another project they were producing.

The film is now looking to attach a writer and director with no production start date set yet.

(h/t Jezebel)

Cast of ‘Selma’ Wears ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts to NYC Premiere

Just one more reason to love Ava DuVernay and the cast of “Selma:”

Here’s David Oyelowo, E. Roger Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, Omar Dorsey, John Lavelle, Stephan James, Kent Faulcon, Lorraine Toussaint, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson and Colman Domingo standing on the steps of the New York Public Library, wearing shirts that read “I Can’t Breathe.” They held up their arms as a sign for “don’t shoot.”

Read more

Marcus Mariota Becomes First Polynesian Heisman Winner

University of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first person of Polynesian descent to win college football’s most coveted prize. Mariota walked away with the Heisman trophy on Saturday night, the annual award that honors the best players in the college game. 

The Hawaiian-born Mariota gave a heartfelt acceptance speech:

Mariota told Polynesian children to use his Heisman win as motivation and to “strive for greatness.”

Read more at 

D’Angelo Dedicates New Album to Resistance in Ferguson, Occupy Wall Street

It’s been less than 24 hours since D’Angelo dropped his long-awaited new album “D’Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah,” but it’s already a classic. It’s the first project from the singer in nearly 15 years and, as reported in GQ a couple years ago, is the culmination of years of hardship in the singer’s life. During a listening session for the album last Friday, a lyric pamphlet laid out the album’s inspirations:

[“]Black Messiah[“] is a hell of a name for an album. It can be easily misunderstood. Many will think it’s about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I’m calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.

It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them. Not every song is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album “Black Messiah” creates a landscape where these songs can live to the fullest. “Black Messiah” is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader.

You can stream the album below:

Three Takeaways from Remezcla’s Best of 2014 Lists

Three Takeaways from Remezcla's Best of 2014 Lists

Remezcla has published a series of lists illustrating 2014’s best songs, best music videos, best music trends, best Instagram accounts and best breakout artists. That’s a lot of bests—but well worth the look.

The first pick is gonna require an explanation for those of us who don’t speak Spanish or aren’t familiar with the most hilarious of song requests in 2014. The hook to Corona’s 1993 hit song is: “This is the rhythm of the night.” The thing is, those lyrics could easily sound like, “Esas son Reebok o son Nike?” in Spanish, which translates to, “Are those Reeboks or Nikes?” At some point this year, a Spanish-language listener called the song request in to a station—thinking the song was about a pair of sneakers. His misheard lyrics song request was honored with a good chuckle.

“Son Reebok o son Nike?” went on to live a life of its own in music. So Remezcla included it on its list of favorite music trends of the year. Here’s one remix from Los XL:

No Reeboks of Nikes on the best song list—but check out Princess Nokia’s “Bikini Weather Corazón en Afrika” from the list:

And finally, don’t forget muralist Alexis Diaz’s gorgeous Instagram account:

acrilico y tinta china sobre canvas 2x2 metros para #current @arsenalmontreal Montreal, Canada.

A photo posted by Alexis Diaz (@alexis_diaz) on

Check out all of Remezcla’s 2014 lists—which feature nearly 100 songs, videos and artists you should know about—on their site. It’s seriously worth it. 

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