In her directorial debut, Glee star Naya Rivera offers a multicultural look at immigration in New York City.
In her directorial debut, Glee star Naya Rivera offers a multicultural look at immigration in New York City.
The breakout star of “Orange is the New Black” talked to the Improper Bostonian about whether she ever considered changing her name. Her response is priceless:
When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”
Jesse David Fox of Vulture on Dave Chappelle’s triumphant return to the stage in New York City and the diversity of his adoring fans:
When I enter, I’m instantly and surprisingly overwhelmed with emotion. With a jazz trio called Supa Lowery Bros at the top of the stairs, playing an instrumental version of Kendrick Lamar’s oddly appropriate “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” I’m taken by how incredibly eclectic and buzzing the crowd is. I’m not exaggerating when I say it is the most diverse room I’ve ever been in. It looks like the streets of New York City were moved inside. It looks like the cast ofOrange Is the New Black if it were half male and everyone were allowed to wear their cutest outfits (and not just because I eventually sat two seats down from Natasha Lyonne). A young Asian guy wearing a hat with the New Yorker logo on it stands in line in front of a white guy in a Twiztid hat, an Indian guy in a suit, an African-American skater in a Obey hat, and a woman in dreads who was talking to a woman with a feather in her hair. This is why Chappelle’s run of ten shows needed to be here, at Radio City. It’s big enough that I could see how wide-reaching his fan base is, but not so big (like Madison Square Garden would’ve been) that we turned into a faceless blob just moving in and out of passageways. With the band now playing a jazzed-up version of a Kanye West song, it is all reminiscent of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, Chappelle’s 2006 concert documentary, which the comedian called the “best day of my career.”
He’s back, Fox writes, and he’s finally in control.
Josh Marks rose to fame on the Food Network reality TV show “MasterChef,” but his downfall, as described by Bryan Smith at Chicago Magazine, is familiar to the many people who struggle with mental illness in America. Marks battled against bipolar disorder and was diagnozed with schizophrenia before he took his own life last summer.
The entire profile is worth a read, but what stands out is the tremendous effort that Marks’ mother, Paulette Mitchell, put into helping her son cope with his illness. Despite the widely held idea that African-Americans are less likely to seek treatment for mental illnesses, there’s evidence that shows how little support is available when they do. I’ve excerpted the part below at length because it spells out just what so many black families are up against when dealing with mental illness and the bureaucracy of America’s broken healthcare system.
[Mitchell’s] first step was to find out what they were dealing with. “I started Googling it,” Mitchell says. “I bought a book for myself, and I bought a book for Joshua.” Everything she read resonated. People with bipolar disorder, for example, experience dramatic swings in mood and activity levels. They can be bursting with ideas and energy one day and nearly paralyzed by depressive thoughts the next. That was Marks lately. His mother also researched psychosis. The condition, she learned, included a number of symptoms—hearing voices, having hallucinations, experiencing paranoid delusions.
The information was helpful, but it led to the far bigger and thornier questions of how and where to get Marks help—and how to afford it. She set off on what would prove to be a confusing and frustrating search for treatment to address the complex set of long-term psychiatric issues that come with such a diagnosis.
Making matters worse was the fact that funding for mental health services had been slashed dramatically. From 2009 to 2012, Illinois cut $187 million, or 32 percent, from its mental health budget. Only three states—South Carolina, Alabama, and Alaska—axed a larger percentage, says the advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness. (Illinois did restore $32 million of those cuts in 2013, blaming an administrative error.) According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Illinois’s per capita spending ranked 36th nationally as of 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available). In Chicago, meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel outraged the city’s mental health advocacy community in 2012 when he abruptly closed fully half of the city’s outpatient facilities.
Read the rest over at Chicago Magazine.
Low Leaf, a Filipino-American musician based in Los Angeles, grew up playing classical music, but didn’t feel like it allowed her to be herself. In the short doc above, exclusive to Colorlines, she describes the path that she took to getting in touch with her cultural roots and the release of her new album, ‘AKASHAALAY.’
This post has been updated.
Somebody free Paula Patton. The actress has been estranged from her husband, Robin Thicke, for months, but that hasn’t stopped Thicke from going on an embarrassing, full-fledged campaign to “get her back.” He’s named his upcoming album “Paula” and this week released a creepy video for the album’s first single called “Get Her Back.” It’s awful. Humiliating. And, as Jessica Valenti writes at the Guardian, creepy:
None of us know the ins and outs of the Patton and Thicke’s relationship outside of what’s public - they were high school sweethearts and they have a child together. But romanticizing the creepy and potentially harassing efforts of a man obsessed with this ex sends a dangerous message to young men about what “romance” really is. Hint: it has nothing to do with haranguing and publicly shaming us back into a relationship.
Syreeta at Feministing points out that stalking can be deadly:
One in six women in the US have experienced stalking in their lifetime. The majority of victims are stalked by someone they know, and 66 percent of female victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
The crappiest part of this
hot messvideo are that the images reinforce the cultural norms that say this kind of harassment is actually romantic.
And as the Belle Jar points out, Thicke’s album tracklist is like “reading an abuser’s check-list. She’s his fantasy. He needs to get her back. He’ll isolate her, maybe refuse to let her leave. He’ll lock the door. He’ll do whatever he wants. Because love can grow back. Because it’s a forever love.”
Over at Fusion, Jorge Rivas paints a compelling portrait of how immigration has shaped American fashion. From Jewish designers like Donna Karen and Calvin Klein, whose parents worked as sewers and tailors in New York City’s garment industry, to new designers like Alexander Wang and Jason Wu, immigrants have long helped shape America’s visual culture.
As Thuy Linh Tu, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU, says in the above video: “There would be no fashion without immigration in this country.” Later, Tu remakrs, “We take a lot of things that are coded as American for granted. We fail to sort of look behind the label to see who’s actually producing these ‘American’ goods.”
Award-winning Broadway director Kenny Leon is talking publicly about his latest production “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” a stage project that’s based on the work of Tupac Shakur. In Leon’s estimation, the work is important because of 2pac’s outsize influence, which he says should be celebrated among the English language’s best:
“He is a great American artist,” Leon told BET. “He belongs in the army of writers with August Wilson and Shakespeare even.”
From her distinction as the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “genius” fellowship to her stint as a potato chip inspector, Open Road Media just posted a list on Buzzfeed Community of 16 things you probably didn’t know about Octavia Butler. Check it out.
Aaron Talley hits the mark over at Mused on why Pride season is fraught for folks of color:
“Pride” season is upon us, and it’s no secret, except perhaps to white people, that gay pride parades are very white, hollow things. They usually take place in “gayborhoods,” which are usually affluent communities predominated by white gay men. Communities that usually contain bars that mostly white gay men frequent, and if you choose to be black and attend these establishments, it is not long before you feel sexualized, objectified, or ignored altogether if not outright discriminated against. And if these neighborhoods are anything like Boystown in Chicago, you might find yourself policed. Therefore, these neighborhoods are usually clear about their message: be gay but don’t be black, or trans*, or disabled, or Other. The living proof of this phenomenon is that mainstream pride parades are often accompanied by smaller prides that create space for other salient marginalized identities. Other prides like “Black pride,” or “trans* pride,” for instance.
Read more over at Mused Magazine.
It’s a common quandary felt throughout progressive communities: How do you hold the racist/sexist/homophobic head of a company accountable for their actions? While appeals to their moral conscience may seem like a worthwhile endeavor, time and again, the answer’s been the same: attack their bottom line.
That proved true recently with Dov Charney’s ouster from American Apparel. As Susan Berfield writes at Bloomberg Businessweek, Charney’s antics were public knowlege for years, but it wasn’t until the company started losing money that they finally terminated him. In Charney’s termination letter, American Apparel’s board wrote:
Your conduct has required the Company to incur significant and unwarranted expenses, including expenses associated with litigation and defense costs, significant settlement payments, substantial severance packages that were granted to employees, and unwarranted business expenses that you incurred for personal reasons. The Company’s employment practices liability insurance retention has grown to $1 million from $350,000. … The resources American Apparel had to dedicate to defend the numerous lawsuits resulting from your conduct, and the loss of critical, qualified Company employees as a result of your misconduct cannot be overlooked.
The board also wrote that “many financing sources have refused to become involved with American Apparel as long as you remain involved with the Company.” Read more.
Like any good community organizer, Fred Ross spent the majority of his life content to live in the background while his protegé, Cesar Chavez, got all the attention. But now, Ross’ son, Fred Ross Jr., is on a mission to make sure that his father’s work is remembered. That work got a big boost with news that Ross will be inducted into California’s Hall of Fame.
Over the last couple of years, Ross Jr. has led a movement to draw attention to his father’s work. Though Ross Jr. was unsuccessful in his campaign last year to get his dad a Presidential Medal of Freedom - the nation’s highest civilian honor, and one that was bestowed upon Chávez and Huerta - he says the Hall of Fame recognition is an important step.
“The effort last year put him on the map,” Ross Jr. said. “The California Hall of Fame award is a significant recognition, the most significant recognition his life and legacy have been given.”
The elder Ross died in 1992 at the age of 82. He’s part of hte 8th class of the California Hall of Fame, which also includes Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Joan Didion and Francis Ford Coppola.
Following the success of “What If Asian People Said the Stuff White People Say,” Buzzfeed released a new video focused on the black folks.
The excitment surrounding the 250 new emojis that will be released next month was tempered a bit this week by the realization that not one is black. Questlove’s tweeted about it, and even Miley Cyrus tweeted that there needs to be an “#emojiethnicityupdate.” There’s also a petition to get Apple to add more diversity to its emoji offering.
MTV Act reached out ot Apple on the matter, and a company representative said that they recognize the problem. “We agree with you,” wrote Apple Corporate Communications VP Katie Cotton. “Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”
News Mic dug a little bit deeper into the controversey and doesn’t buy the company’s explanation. As Zak Cheney-Rice explains:
Apple failed, or possibly didn’t try at all. The Unicode Consortium — which has final say over what becomes an emoji — is a separate entity, but it seems unlikely that a huge corporate partner like Apple would have trouble pushing this through, especially after being so roundly berated by customers.
Either way, it’s game over: Unicode’s 7.0 update is poised to introduce the new emoji set as is, affecting Apple, Google and Microsoft platforms.
J. Period, the Brooklyn-based DJ who’s already produced mixtape tributes to James Brown, Biggie, Nas and Lauryn Hill, is gearing up to release a project based on 2pac called “Holler If Ya Hear Me” on June 24. The mixtape is inspired by the Broadway musical “Holler If Ya Hear Me” starring Saul Williams that’s premiering this summer. Ahead of next week’s release, J.Period dropped his remix of Pac’s classic “Dear Mama” with Sting’s “Shape of My Heart.”
In case you missed it, hip-hop scholar and activist Rosa Clemente talked at length about Afro-Latina identity last month at Cal State Los Angeles. It’s a perspective that’s worth resurfacing given all the recent hoopla about Latinos identifying as white. In it, she talks about placing Afro-Latinos within the black radical tradition. It’s a lengthy discussion (over an hour), but certainly worthwhile.
“Orange is the New Black” had a big night at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
The ladies of Orange Is the New Black walked away big winners tonight at the fourth annual 2014 Critics’ Choice TV Awards snagging Best Comedy Series, along with two more awards for Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Kate Mulgrew) and Guest Performer in a Comedy (Uzo Aduba). Aduba thanked OITNB showrunner Jenji Kohan “for changing my life.”
But if there’s at least one group of critics that the show can’t win over, it’s the formerly incarcerated. Adam Dawson of the Washington City Paper sat down and watched the first four episodes of season two with Sarah K., a white former heroin addict who spent more than four years in a Maryland state prison for armed robbery. Sarah remarks that the show nails the racist imbalance in sentencing laws:
Alex convinces Piper to lie on the witness stand. Alex then tells the truth when it’s her turn to testify. She is then apparently freed.
I’ll totally believe that.
Oh, people turn on each other constantly. All the time. And not even for getting released, you know? They do it for getting their sentence reduced by a few months. Anyone who tells you there’s this honor code, or thinks that their homeboys won’t rat them out is in for a rude awakening. But I’ll tell you the most believable thing about this whole series is the idea that Piper only got 15 months for running dope money.
Why is that believable?
Because she’s white, rich, and blonde.
Does that make a difference?
I’m a white blonde girl who went out and willfully fucked up and committed armed robbery, and I got five years. There were tons of black girls in my prison who were holding onto a bag of dope for a couple of days, and they always seemed to get, like, 10 years. If you ever find yourself in prison and wonder why there’s tension between white and black, shit like that is probably one of the reasons.
That’s incredibly unfair.
It absolutely is. But that didn’t prevent me from moonwalking the fuck out of that place when the time came.
But other things, like the kitchen and the playful banter with guards, are totally unrealistic. You can read more of her review here. And as for cheering for the show, Sarah makes it clear: “Its prison, dude. There’s nothing to cheer about.”
Oakland-based songstress Goapele is getting ready to release a new album called “Strong As Glass.” She released a track that she calls “fun and flirty” called “Hey Boy,” telling Essence, ““[It’s] full of surprises and I hope my fans will enjoy this musical journey with me, I sung my heart out on this project and I got to work with producers & writers that pushed me as an artist.”
Goapele co-wrote the track with British singer Estelle.
Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” a comedy about a racist incident that takes place on a college campus, will open in theaters nationwide on October 17, 2014.
Amanda Blackhorse and Suzan Harjo, two Native activists who have been locked in an intense battle against the Washington, DC NFL team’s racist name, won a hard-earned victory this week. On Wednesday, an appeals board cancelled the team’s trademark and called the name “disparaging to Native Americans.” While the move won’t prevent the organization from using its name, it’s a significant legal blow.
“Some people say it’s just political correctness run amok. But why don’t we deserve political correctness when other groups do?” Blackhorse asked USA Today. “We’re just trying to demand that respect. We’re America’s first people, and we deserve that respect.”
Blackhorse was one of the five Native American plaintiffs in the case filed before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a legal path that was paved more than two decades ago by Harjo. “Suzan has been fighting this since 1992. Native American people have been fighting this since 1972. … The reason it has come up recently is because Suzan has worked really hard to bring this in the public eye,” Blackhorse told Business Insider. “She’s just a tremendous woman. She’s a strong Native American woman, and I’m so happy to have met her and to have been a part of all this because this is what we need to do,” Blackhorse added.
Here’s more from Blackhorse:
“I have an interest in what we call historical trauma, the oppression that Native Americans went through and continue to go through has a tremendous effect on our mental health and our overall well being as people,” Blackhorse said. “So, that is something that is my passion. … We need to work on healing our people and to also educate the public about the oppression that we have experienced and continue to experience, like these mascots.”
Last year, Rob Capriccioso wrote at Indian Country Today about the intergenerational fight against the Washington, DC NFL team’s name. “There does seem to be an offsetting voice now to the fan base of the Washington team,” Harjo told him. “Many understand that you can love the team, but hate the name.”
You can also hear Blackhorse talk about her case in the unfortunately named segment posted above.