Questlove Urges Artists to Write More Protest Songs

In the aftermath of a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner’s chokehold death, DJ and Roots drummer and bandleader Questlove took to Instagram with a call to action for other artists, urging them to “push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in.” See his full message below:

I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in. I know that many see what happened to Dixie Chicks’ #NatalieMaines @mainesmusic (she bravely expressed her opinion/dismay on the Bush administration declaring war & was unjustly targeted….while in hindsight being CORRECT) suddenly there was an onslaught of radio silence from artists across the board (correction not everyone was silent, but the silence was deafening) although I’m kinda/sorta addressing the hip hop nation I really apply this challenge to ALL artists. We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas. New ideas! But it just doesn’t stop there!! We need outlets (hello #ClearChannel #RadioOne #Vh1) to balance the system. Yeah I’m just as guilty of feeling the high of all that I despise (“Devil’s Pie” D’angelo) but the reason why this nation seems to be moving 3 steps ahead in some areas…..but then 7 steps backwards in every area is a lack of balance. I’m not saying every song gotta be “Fight The Power” but in times like these we need to be more community minded (taking a wild guess that “urban radio’s” format didn’t change much from the pre program stuff (using that word *politely*) we’ve been hearing for years. & when I say challenge I don’t mean breathless race to the finish on who makes the more banging “Fuck Tha Police” sequel. I mean real stories. Real narratives. Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions. Protest songs don’t have to be boring or non danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth. I laugh & have fun w “Bitch You Guessed It” like everyone else. But my soul is aching man. Seriously just ONE or Two songs that change the course. This is something I feel the need and urgency to put out there. #EricGarner #MikeBrown #JusticeForAll #FeedMySoul #HandsUpDontShoot #ICantBreathe

A photo posted by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Shows Up at Art Basel

Artist Hank Willis Thomas, who is best known for “Question Bridge,” posted a shot of his new sculpture, which he showed at Art Basel, on Instagram:

#raiseup #icantbreath #ericgarner #handsupdontshoot #onedaywewillallbefree #peoplegetready

A photo posted by Hank willis Thomas (@hankwillisthomas) on

J. Cole, Azealia Banks Call Out White Appropriation of Black Music

In light of outrage in Ferguson and New York City over the failure to indict white police officers for the killings of unarmed black men, black rappers’ criticism of white artists has taken on new light. In one instance, J. Cole called out Eminem, Iggy Azealia and Justin Timberlake on a leaked version of his upcoming album “2014 Forest Hills Drive.” 

His bars include missives like:

“History repeats itself and that’s just how it goes / same way that these rappers always bite each other’s flows/ same thing that my n***a Elvis did with rock ‘n’ roll / Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore.”


“While silly n****s argue over who gon’ snatch the crown, / look around my n***a, white people have snatched the sound. / This year I’ll probably go to the awards dappered down / Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile.” 

Meanwhile, Azealia Banks—never one to shy away from Twitter beef—called out Iggy Azalea (whom she dubbed “Igloo Australia”)  in a series of tweets. Banks accused the pop star of appropriating black music but failing to stand up for black folks’ civil rights. Banks wrote:

Watch: Spike Lee Predicts Eric Garner Decision and NYC Protests

Watch: Spike Lee Predicts Eric Garner Decision and NYC Protests

Before joining protests in Manhattan on Wednesday night, filmmaker Spike Lee sat down for an interview with Complex to talk about the police killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Lee inserted himself into the conversation around police brutality shortly after Garner’s death last summer when he released a video that edited together the videotaped footage of Garner’s fatal encounter with NYPD officers with a Radio Raheem’s chokehold death in Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.”

(h/t Complex)

Thousands Nationwide March for Eric Garner

Protesters across the country rallied last night for Eric Garner after a New York grand jury failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner’s chokehold death. The decision came a little more than a week after another grand jury in Ferguson declined to indict former Officer Darren Wilson in Mike Brown’s shooting death in August, meaning that emotions were raw and frustrations were at an all-time high. Here’s a brief scan of rallies in various cities calling for an end to the violent killing of unarmed black men by law enforcement. 

New York City:




ericgarner_nyc8.jpgericgarner_nyc2.jpgericgarner_nyc3.jpg(Photo credit: Yana Paskova/ Getty Images) 


ericgarner_oakland1.jpg ericgarner_oakland2.jpg


(Photo credit: Elijah Nouvelage/ Getty Images)

Washington, D.C.:

ericgarner_dc1.jpg ericgarner_dc2.jpg ericgarner_dc3.jpg ericgarner_dc4.jpg(Photo credit: T.J. Kirkpatrick/ Getty Images)

Los Angeles:

ericgarner_la1.jpg ericgarner_la2.jpg(Photo credit: David McNew/ Getty Images)




Charles Barkley Still Thinks Ferguson Protesters Are ‘Scumbags’

NBA Hall of Famer and current TV analyst Charles Barkley never misses an opportunity to beat the black community upside the head with his bootstrap logic. He recently called Ferguson protesters “scumbags,” and in a lengthy interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Tuesday he reiterated his point that he doesn’t believe white police officers shoot people because of racism. 

Some notable quotes:

  • “We as black people, we have a lot of crooks. We can’t just wait until something like (the Brown shooting) happens. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror,” he said of people in black communities.
  • “There is a reason that [cops] racially profile us in the way that they do. Sometimes it is wrong, and sometimes it is right.”
  • “Anybody who walks out peacefully, who protests peacefully, that’s what this country was built on,” he said. “But to be burning people’s property, burning police cars, looting people’s stores, that is 100 percent ridiculous.”

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Janet Mock Raises Nearly $8K (and Counting) in Books for Trans Prisoners

Author and media maker Janet Mock launched her second annual #TransBookDrive this week on Indiegogo and it’s already been a smashing success. The project, which raises money to send books to incarcerated transgender inmates in U.S. jails and prisons, has already raised nearly $8,000 in fewer than two days, already surpassing its goal of $5,000 with 28 days left.

It’s an effort that highlights a significant problem. Nearly one in six transgender people in America has been to prison — and nearly half of all transgender black people, according to Lambda Legal. Once incarcerated, transgender inmates — particularly women locked in men’s facilities — face increased risks of physical and sexual assault behind bars. 

Mock timed this year’s drive to coincide with the paperback release of her memoir, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More.” She partnered with biyuti publishing, Black Girl Dangerous and LGBT Books to Prisoners to fulfill book requests from 200 transgender inmates. The books will be delivered in care packages that include a handwritten letter from each author. Those authors and titles include: Mia McKenzie’s “Black Girl Dangerous Anthology” and “The Summer We Got Free,” “Decolonizing trans/gender” 101 by b. binaohan, “Make Love to Rage” by Morgan Robyn Collado, “Trauma Queen” by Lovemme Corazón and Mock’s “Redefining Realness.” 

Read more about the book drive at Indiegogo

* This post has been updated. 

Toni Morrison’s New Novel Set to Hit Shelves Next Spring

Toni Morrison's New Novel Set to Hit Shelves Next Spring

Good news, Toni Morrison fans. She’s got a new novel coming out in April of 2015 called “God Help the Child.” From BuzzFeed:

Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child is a searing tale about the way childhood trauma shapes and misshapes the life of the adult. At the center: a woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life; but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love until she told a lie that ruined the life of an innocent woman, a lie whose reverberations refuse to diminish…Booker, the man Bride loves and loses, whose core of anger was born in the wake of the childhood murder of his beloved brother…Rain, the mysterious white child, who finds in Bride the only person she can talk to about the abuse she’s suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother… and Sweetness, Bride’s mother, who takes a lifetime to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”

It’ll be her Morrison’s 11th novel and serve as proof that, at 83, she’s still got it.

Grace Lee Boggs, Close to Death, Asks Supporters for Help

Grace Lee Boggs, Close to Death, Asks Supporters for Help

Grace Lee Boggs, the pioneering Asian-American activist who’s helped inspire generations of community organizers, is near death. Boggs is 99 and has been in hospice care since  September, and now those closest to her are urging supporters to donate what they can to help aide her final transition. From a website set up to accept donations:

Grace has always put the needs of others before her own. But now she is in need of your support. In September 2014, Grace went into hospice care. Over the last month she has become stronger, and it seems will be with us for much longer. She has been welcoming old friends and keeping up on world events. Still, she requires 24-hour care.

As you might know, there is very little public support for quality care to keep our elders in their homes. Grace’s resources are nearly depleted and those of us around her are limited in how much financial support we can all provide. Her care costs $8,000 per month. This is frankly more money than we have ever raised.

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Actor John Boyega to ‘Black Stormtrooper’ Critics: ‘Get Used To It’

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:

With love xxx

A photo posted by @jboyega on

Jacqueline Woodson Responds to National Book Awards’ Watermelon Joke

Jacqueline Woodson Responds to National Book Awards' Watermelon Joke

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

St. Louis Cops Condemn NFL Team’s ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Gesture

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

Eric Garner’s Daughter Has a Message for Shoppers This Thanksgiving

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

Rapper Killer Mike in St. Louis: ‘I’m So Afraid’ for My Sons

Rapper Killer Mike in St. Louis: 'I'm So Afraid' for My Sons

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.” 

(h/t Gawker)

“Saturday Night Live” to Bill Cosby: ‘Pull Up Your Damn Pants’

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!”

Kristina Wong: Asian Vaginas Have the Power to End Racism (NSFW)

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).

Or not.

Toni Morrison to Colbert: ‘There’s No Such Thing As Race’

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.  

Big K.R.I.T.’s ‘Cadillactica’ is Rightfully the No.1 Hip-Hop Album in America

Big K.R.I.T.'s 'Cadillactica' is Rightfully the No.1 Hip-Hop Album in America

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 Do GQ

Dave Chappelle and Michael Sam Do GQ

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.




Cornel West and Questlove Talk About Black Revolution and Blues Music

Cornel West and Questlove Talk About Black Revolution and Blues Music

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

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