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NYC Names Chinatown Street for Bullied Pvt. Danny Chen

NYC Names Chinatown Street for Bullied Pvt. Danny Chen

Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Chinese-American solider who was relentlessly bullied and ultimately committed suicide in 2011, has been immortalized in New York City’s Chinatown. City officials unveiled Private Danny Chen Way this week.

New York Magazine detailed the racist bullying that Chen endured:

When he arrived, Chen was at the bottom of the social hierarchy: a newcomer to his unit, a lowly private, still just a teenager, in a combat zone for the first time. And the only Chinese-American in his platoon. In a meeting with Chen’s parents on January 4, Army officials said that his superiors had considered him not fit enough when he arrived, and singled him out for excessive physical exercise: push-ups, flutter-kicks, sit-ups, sprints done while carrying a sandbag. Such punishments resemble the “smokings” that drill sergeants mete out at basic training to correct mistakes. But, in Chen’s case, it wasn’t long before this campaign of “corrective training” escalated into sheer brutality.

The eight men later charged in connection with his death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35; they include one lieutenant, two staff sergeants, three sergeants, and two specialists. Members of this group allegedly harassed and humiliated Chen from almost the day he arrived at The Palace. They belittled him with racial slurs. They forced him to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, refusing to let him swallow or spit any out. And, on September 27, a sergeant allegedly yanked him out of bed and dragged him across about 50 yards of gravel toward a shower trailer as punishment for supposedly breaking the hot-water pump. He endured bruises and cuts on his back. Army officials told Chen’s family that although the leader of his platoon found out about this incident, he never reported it as he was required to.

Chen’s mother was joined by family, friends and community members at the unveiling. 

(Angry Asian Man)

Watch Kara Walker Talk Live About Her Epic Sugar Sculpture

Watch Kara Walker Talk Live About Her Epic Sugar Sculpture

Whether you’ve seen Kara Walker’s new exhibit at Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Factory in person or only heard about it, you know that it’s epic. The work features a 35-foot-tall sugar sphinx that is probably one of the most moving indictments of the historical legacy of sugar production. And while the exhibit — called “A Subtlety” — certainly speaks for itself, it helps to have the artist say a few words about it. 

On Tuesday, May 20 at 7pm Walker will be in conversation with Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad at the New York Public Library. The conversation will be livestreamed so be sure to tune in. Here’s more. 

NPR to End ‘Tell Me More,” Eliminate 28 Positions

NPR to End 'Tell Me More,

NPR is saying goodbye to “Tell Me More” on August 1. According to NPR, it’s the third for programs targeting African-Americans and other people of color. From NPR:

Michel Martin, the host of Tell Me More, will remain at the network, as will the program’s executive editor, Carline Watson. They will be part of an initiative to incorporate the kind of coverage of issues of race, identity, faith, gender and family that appear on the show. Martin will appear on the network’s primary news magazines, online and in public events.

Additionally, NPR maintains two related but separate efforts: the Race Card Project, a multi-platform effort created by host and special correspondent Michele Norris, and Code Switch, a digital vertical that looks at how an increasingly multi-ethnic America understands itself. Lynette Clemetson will oversee all three groups and will hire a handful of other reporters; those who have lost their jobs will be able to reapply for those jobs.

Read more over at NPR

Lupita Nyong’o Teaches Kids How to Laugh on Mexico’s ‘Sesame Street’

Lupita Nyong'o Teaches Kids How to Laugh on Mexico's 'Sesame Street' Play

Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico and is fluent is four languages including Spanish, so it makes sense that she recently appeared on the Mexican version of “Seasame Street” in a short segment that teaches kids how to laugh. It’s adorable!

Here’s the translation:

“Hello, I’m Lupita, today I want us to celebrate smile day,” Nyong’o says in Spanish. “Do you know how laugh? Why don’t we laugh together? Ready, 1, 2, 3!”

(Fusion)

M.I.A.’s Label is Not Happy About Her New Music Video

M.I.A.'s Label is Not Happy About Her New Music Video Play

On Monday, M.I.A. dropped the music video for her track “Double Bubble Trouble.” The politically charged video features 3-D weapons, parrots and lots of neon. It’s also another sign of tension between the musician and her label, Universal Music Group, according to Slate:

After claiming Universal Music Group held the self-directed video for four days, she uploaded it herself this morning on YouTube. But, immediately, UMG blocked the video from being played, citing “copyright grounds.” M.I.A. then retaliated, going on a Twitter rampage in which she re-tweeted disgruntled fans’ demands to see the video. 

Slate’s calling it her best video since 2011’s “Bad Girls.”

 

TAGS: MIA music video

Angela Davis Says We’re in the Middle of an ‘Epidemic of Police Violence’

Angela Davis Says We're in the Middle of an 'Epidemic of Police Violence'

Angela Davis spoke at the Trinity United Church of Christ over the weekend as part of the National Forum on Police Crimes, hosted by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression. “We are experiencing an epidemic of police violence and police shootings,” Davis said. 

Read more at the Chicago Reporter

TAGS: Angela Davis

Sam Greenlee, Author of ‘The Spook Who Sat By the Door,’ Has Died

Sam Greenlee, Author of 'The Spook Who Sat By the Door,' Has Died

Writer and filmmaker Sam Greenlee, best known for his 1969 novel “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” passed away on Monday. He was 83. The novel tells the story of a CIA agent who uses his training to turn a Chicago street gang into a Black guerrilla army was made into a film in 1973. Watch the above interview with Greenlee in which he discusses black filmmaking. 

(EBONY)

TAGS: Sam Greenlee

Eddie Huang on ‘Fresh Off the Boat’: It’s a Phrase ‘Worn With Pride’

Eddie Huang on 'Fresh Off the Boat': It's a Phrase 'Worn With Pride'

Ever since it was announced earlier this month that a sitcom inspired by celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memior “Fresh Off the Boat” got the greenlight for its first season, there have been two big reactions. The first: finally, a sitcom focused on an Asian-American family! And the second: What’s up with the name?

Huang spoke with Buzzfeed about that name, which Huang reportedly chose for the sitcom and has historically been a derogatory phrase used against Asian immigrants. Tanya Chen and Rega Jha call it “a ballsy cultural subversion” that the words “fresh off the boat” are voluntarily entering the most mainstream space in the United States.

A source close to the upcoming comedy series said the title of show was Huang’s choosing (and was one he fought hard for) as a nod to both the way his family was perceived when they arrived in America in the ’90s, and how they saw themselves.

Fresh Off the Boat’s creator and executive producer Nahnatchka Khan, herself a child of immigrant parents from Iran, was happy to support that fight. “The title certainly isn’t meant to be offensive, but Eddie is who he is and he’s not going to apologize for it,” she told BuzzFeed. “We just took his lead.”

Huang, however, disagreed with those targeting [his use of the phrase] on Twitter. “These people are bigots,” he said. “There are people in every race who try to speak for everybody and try to legislate what you can think and what you can’t think, with no understanding of what it means to interpret an experience. It’s ‘fresh off the boat.’ That’s a term that Asians call each other and we claim it and it’s worn with pride.”

Read more over at Buzzfeed

 

Shoppers Can ‘Get the Slave Look’ With ‘12 Years a Slave’ Mannequin

Shoppers Can 'Get the Slave Look' With '12 Years a Slave' Mannequin

If you happen to be shopping at the Oxford branch of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s anytime soon, you might come across a display featuring DVD’s of “12 Years a Slave” — and an accompanying mannequin dressed up like the film’s main character, Solomon Northup:

For reasons unknown, an Oxford branch of the supermarket embellished its DVD and Blu-ray stand for Steve McQueen’s film about the horrors of slavery with a mannequin wearing a similar outfit to that of protagonist Solomon Northup.

Looking defiantly summer-ready, the mannequin wears a loose-fitting, holey beige shirt and black trousers, completing the look with a twig in the front pocket.

Backed by spindly branches and standing next to a plaque that shouts ‘NEW’, it wears a tag around its neck bearing the price of the recently-released DVD, suggesting the clothes themselves aren’t for sale, though the juxtaposition is a strange one nonetheless.

(The Independent)

Maya Rudolph Opens Up About Being a Working Mom

Maya Rudolph Opens Up About Being a Working Mom Play

In the lead up to the Monday-night premiere of her new comedy special, Maya Rudolph, 41, sat down with USA Today to talk about her return to NBC. Rudolph spent seven years as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” before leaving the show in 2007. What’s she been doing in all that time? Mostly being a mom.

Rudolph has four children with her partner Paul Thomas Anderson: Pearl Minnie, 9, Lucille, 5, Jack, 3, and a baby born in the summer of 2013. At least some of Rudolph’s new comedy series will tackle life as a working parent, including a skit about famous parents who voice the Garmin GPS navigation system. 

“I needed to do what I liked doing, workwise, and do what feels right and natural to me. It gets everything else feeling healthy. It (stinks) to be away from your kids, but when you’re working on something that makes you feel good and nourished, that’s good for your kids too,” she told USA Today.

Rudolph is working in New York City while her children and partner are back home in Los Angeles. “This is a luxury,” she says of her time in New York. “I hope to [move back to New York] at some point. You gotta really make it here. It’s a grind. I grew up in Los Angeles with a backyard and a pool, and it has been really (nice) to see my kids enjoying their tire swing and running around naked. I would love to live here again, no question.”

Oh, and if you love her Beyoncé impressions on SNL, you’ll probably also like her renditions of the theme songs from “The Lego Movie” and “Frozen,” which she revealed she has singalongs to with her kids. Sounds like an awesome mom. 

Here she is answering five questions from USA Today: 

SNL Has the Last Word on Solange, Jay Z and Beyoncé Elevator Fight

SNL Has the Last Word on Solange, Jay Z and Beyoncé Elevator Fight

Even though Beyoncé, Jay Z and Solange released a statement late last week that addressed the epic elevator fight that was caught on video and released by TMZ, leave it to “Saturday Night Live” to really have the last word. SNL alum Maya Rudolph, who’s made Beyoncé one of her most beloved characters, returned to the show for a short skit that addressed the matter. It’s as much of a lighthearted take on the situation as you could probably get, and it’s hilarious. 

 

Michael Sam Teams Up With Oprah for Reality TV Show

Michael Sam Teams Up With Oprah for Reality TV Show

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, has agreed to shoot a multi-part documentary series that follows him as he tries to make the final roster cut for the St. Louis Rams.

Sam, of course, made history this year. First, he came out to the New York Times before the NFL draft, and then when the Rams chose him in the seventh round, he and his boyfriend celebrated with the kiss seen ‘round the sports world.

But not everyone’s happy about Sam’s TV plans, according to The Wire:

Now that Sam appears to be parlaying that genuine moment into the very not-genuine world of reality TV, some football watchers are souring on this feel good story. “A few months ago, Sam asked fans to let their guards down and invest in him in a very different way than they do in, say, Johnny Football or RGIII,” Deadspin’s Drew Magary writes. “Now he’s chosen the favored path of every D-list asshole in America.” 

Others, like NFL Network’s Albert Breer, noted that this doesn’t jibe with Sam’s constant exhortations to be treated like any other player and judged on his football skills. 

But Sam has reiterated his desire to be known first and foremost as a football player. “Like every player out there working to make a team right now, my focus is on playing football to the very best of my ability,” said Sam. “I am determined.” 

(The Wire)

Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone Biopic is in Trouble

Zoe Saldana's Nina Simone Biopic is in Trouble

The trouble continues for Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone biopic. First, Simone’s fans questioned Saldana’s casting in the lead role, noting that she looks nothing like the late singer — and photos of Zaldana with darker skin and a prosthetic nose certainly haven’t helped matters. Then, Simone’s daughter, Kelly, spoke out openly against the film’s supposed “love story,” which she says didn’t actually exist in real life.

And now, ahead of the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the film’s director, Cynthia Mort, has filed suit against its British producer Ealing Studios Enterprises Limited, alleging that the essentially company hijacked the film.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

According to the complaint, Mort, who co-wrote the feature film The Brave One and has worked on shows including Will and Grace and Roseanne, optioned Simone’s life story in 2005. That was two years after the singer behind such classics as Feeling Good and Sinner Man died. Mort says she worked for years to get the movie off the ground. It would not only cover Simone’s singing career, but also her role as a dedicated civil rights activist.

“She worked tirelessly to prepare the Film for a wide and successful commercial release,” says the lawsuit. “Yet, throughout the course of the Film’s production and post-production, Defendants consistently acted to frustrate Mort’s involvement in the Film, thereby breaching the Director Agreement. These breaches by the Defendants include, but are not limited to: taking complete control of editing the Film in June 2013 and failing to consult with Mort about subsequent cuts and changes; abandoning Mort’s previous cuts of the Film; failing to disclose the Film’s financials, finishing budget, and financing deals; and failing to keep Mort informed of other crucial creative and budgetary developments and decisions throughout production and post-production of the Film.”

Read more.

Comedian Kristina Wong Opens Up About Mental Illness and Chinese-Americans

Comedian Kristina Wong Opens Up About Mental Illness and Chinese-Americans

Kristina Wong is a funny person — she’s a comedian — but, as she writes at XO Jane, she was unhappy most of the time. Her battle with depression, and the silence surrounding mental illness more generally in the Chinese-American community, inspired her to write a play called “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 2005.

Wong wasn’t alone. Asian-American women are more likely than any other ethnic group to contemplate suicide, according to a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Washington. Wong wrote about touring with her show for seven years and the responses she got:

A curious thing happened when I announced in 2005 that I was “working on a show about depression and suicide.” A lot of women came out of nowhere to tell me that they had been depressed and contemplated suicide. These were total strangers who found me by email — college professors and women I had known as professionals, all telling me things I had not imagined could be shared.

Every time a woman shares her story with me, I think the same: Where were you when I was younger? How would have things been different if we were there for each other?

I’ve toured “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for seven years now. That’s way too long to tour a funny show about something so depressing. It’s been an amazing ride, but I would never wish for anybody to take on what I did. I was not ready for it and what I had to face to make it. For many years I was known as “Kristina Wong who does that depression show.”   

Read more over at XO Jane

That Time Philly Cops Bombed a City Block to Destroy a Black Liberation Group

That Time Philly Cops Bombed a City Block to Destroy a Black Liberation Group

This week marked the 29th anniversary of the Philadelphia police’s deadly confrontation with the black liberation group MOVE. On May 13, 1985, police bombed an entire city block in its attack on the organization, killing 11 people (including five children) and injuring dozens more.

movefire_051614.jpg

The PBS documentary “Let the Fire Burn” is streaming for free online until May 19. It uses archival footage and interviews with survivors to tell the tale. Watch it here

(Afropunk)

San Francisco Teen Wears Tux, Diocese Pulls Yearbook Photo

San Francisco Teen Wears Tux, Diocese Pulls Yearbook Photo

Jessica Urbina is a senior at San Francisco’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, but she won’t get to participate in one of high school’s storied traditions. Urbina wore a tuxedo for senior photos, and that decision has brought down the heavy hand of the San Francisco Archdiocese, which governs the areas Catholic schools and mandates that female students wear dresses in their portraits. The school announced this week that it has pulled Urbina’s photo from the yearbook.

Urbina’s supporters have started the hashtag #JessicasTux in support of the graduating senior, and students at the school have begun wearing bowties to class in protest. Urbina, along with family members, is set to meet with school administrators on Friday.

Read Toni Morrison’s New Short Story for Chipotle

Read Toni Morrison's New Short Story for Chipotle

Chipotle doesn’t just want to advertise to its customers, it wants to entertain them. That’s the thinking behind a new plan called “Cultivated Thought” that the company recently announced, which will feature original short stories by prominent authors on its cups and bags. And the names of the authors who’ve signed up may surprise you: Toni Morrison’s participating, and Malcolm Gladwell is, too.

Author Jonathan Safran Foer came up with the idea and pitched it to company CEO Steve Ellis. I selected the writers, and insofar as there was any editing, I did it,” Foer told “Vanity Fair” about the editorial process. “I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles. I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought provoking.”

The series also includes work by George Saunders and Michael Lewis.

If you’re not going to be at a Chipotle soon, here’s Morrison’s story:

Two-Minute Seduction
By Toni Morrison

I took my heart out and gave it to a writer made heartless by fame, someone who needed it to pump blood into veins desiccated by the suck and roar of crowds slobbering or poisoning or licking up the red froth they mistake for happiness because happiness looks just like a heart painted on a valentine cup or tattooed on an arm that has never held a victim or comforted a hurt friend. I took it out and the space it left in my chest was sutured tight like the skin of a drum.

As my own pulse failed, I fell along with a soft shower of rain typical in this place.

Lying there, collapsed under trees bordering the mansion of the famous one I saw a butterfly broken by the slam of a single raindrop on its wings fold and flutter as it hit a pool of water still fighting for the lift that is its nature. I closed my eyes expecting to dissolve into stars or lava or a brutal sequoia when the famous writer appeared and leaned down over me. Lifting my head he put his lips on mine and breathed into my mouth one word and then another, and another, words upon words then numbers, then notes. I swallowed it all while my mind filled with language, measure, music, knowledge.

These gifts from the famous writer were so seductive, so all encompassing they seemed to make a heart irrelevant.

 

 

Soundtrack to Your Summer: 6 Albums to Watch Out For

Soundtrack to Your Summer: 6 Albums to Watch Out For

Summer’s almost here, which means you can put away those winter clothes and break out the speakers. Whether you’re getting ready to kick it on your stoop or want to get amped up for a trip to the beach, here are a few artists of color with new projects coming out that could be the soundtrack to your summer. 

Big Freedia, “Just Be Free”

  

It’s been a wild year for the Queen of Bounce. Her* signature dance—twerking—blew up, and so did she: Her reality show earned a second season and she was a mainstay in Rolling Stone. But after years of dominating New Orleans’ hip-hop’s fringes, Freedia is finally getting ready to drop her first full-length album, “Just Be Free.” Release date: June 17. 

The Roots, “…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin”

The Roots’ 11th studio album is also their second concept album in a row. The previous, “Undun,” followed the short, tragic life of a 15-year-old character, Redford Stevens. This latest offering will follow a whole cast. As Black Thought told XXL recently: “It’s satire, but in that satire it’s an analysis of some of the stereotypes perpetuated not only in hip-hop, but in the community.” Release date: May 19.

Little Dragon, “Nabuma Rubberband”

This Swedish electronic band admitted to two overriding influences for their fourth studio album: South African Kwaito music and Janet Jackson. It’s that type of range that’s helped build Little Dragon’s appeal to different audiences. “When you put some of Janet’s really slow stuff on you feel like you’re floating,” lead singer Yukimi Nagano told Rolling Stone. “That feeling really influenced me and maybe that’s why there are quite a lot of slow jams on the record.” Release date: May 13. 

 Blu, “Good to be Home”

One of the more prolific rappers in the industry, this is Blu’s love letter to Los Angeles, an album that he describes as “his most defining record ever.” And if Joseph Martinez’s accompanying art is any indication, it’s a nod to the contradictions inherent in any city. Release date: May 19. 

Ben and Ellen Harper, “Childhood Home”

Folk singer Ben Harper doesn’t leave all of his mama love for the second Sunday in May. Instead, he released an entire album with his mom, Ellen Harper, as a tribute to their family’s deep roots in the genre. Harper’s maternal grandparents, Charles and Dorothy Chase, founded the Folk Music Center and Museum in Claremont, Calif., and his mother established herself as a noted folk artist who influenced her son’s early musical ambitions. Release date: May 6, 2014. 

José James, “While You Were Sleeping”

For his fifth studio album, R&B and jazz artist José James reached deep into the music that molded him — much of which might be surprising to fans. “This album is a synthesis of everything I love about music,” James told his label, Blue Note, “from contemporary artists like Frank Ocean, James Blake and Junip to groundbreaking artists I grew up with like Nirvana, Radiohead and Madlib. It’s also a love letter to many late nights spent in East London clubs like Plastic People and Cargo, watching new movements unfold in electronic music. I want people to feel the joy of discovery that I experience night after night onstage, reaching for something new.” Release date: June 10.

*Post has been updated since publication. When in performance mode, Freedia uses feminine prounouns.

Asian-American Sitcom ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ Set to Make History

Asian-American Sitcom 'Fresh Off the Boat' Set to Make History Play

Here’s the trailer for “Fresh Off the Boat,” a new sitcom that was just ordered by ABC. The show is a first of its kind: It follows the misadventures of 12-year-old Eddie and his Taiwanese immigrant family as they move from Washington, D.C. to Florida. It’s based on a memoir by celebrity chef Eddie Huang.

(h/t: Angry Asian Man)

Shonda Rhimes Will Own ABC on Thursday Nights

If you needed any more evidence of Shonda Rhimes’ power in the entertainment industry, just turn on your television on Thursdays this fall, where she’ll own a three-hour block of shows on ABC. Here’s more:

After three stellar seasons at 10 p.m., Scandal is moving to an hour earlier in an effort to launch the new Rhimes drama How to Get Away With Murder [starring Viola Davis]. That means that veteran Grey’s Anatomy, still one of ABC’s most dependable series after 10 seasons, is moving to the troubled 8 p.m. slot. ABC has not been able to launch a show there since the heyday of Ugly Betty.

Rhimes just inked a new four-year deal with ABC Studios. Watch the trailer for “How to Get Away With Murder:”

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