Yup, it happened. Way back in 1971.
‘20 Feet From Stardom’ is one of this year’s most talked about documentaries, and from the looks of it, the praise is well deserved. The film looks at the lives and careers of the some of the music industry’s best back-up singers, who are often black women struggling to make it big but considered by many insiders to be the unsung heroes of the music industry. One person to watch out for in the film is 29-year-old former contestant on “The Voice”, Judith Hill. From USA Today:
“She’s the one who is trying to make it,” says 20 Feet From Stardom director Morgan Neville. “She’s heading into a brave new world and she is the whole package. If I was a betting man, I would put money on her.”
It’s a solid bet. Hill is the daughter of professional musicians, wrote her first song at age 4 and went on to become one of the most sought-after background singers in the business, singing with stars such as Rod Stewart, Josh Grobin, Stevie Wonder and Elton John.
Check out the film’s website at 20 Feet From Stardom.
This post has been updated since publication.
Just to be clear: Yes, Paula Deen used the n-word, made racist and sexist jokes, and dreamt about having black slaves at her Southern dinner parties. But she doesn’t tolerate hate, according to her handlers.
Deen’s PR team is in crisis mode after the details of Deen’s comments were made public after the cooking star gave a deposition in a million dollar lawsuit that’s being filed by former employees. Her rep issued a statement to Entertainment Tonight say that Deen may have said and done racist things, but she’s not a racist: “Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable. She is looking forward to her day in court.”
Nonetheless, the #PaulasBestDishes hashtag blew up on Wednesday, and it brilliantly mocks Deen.
The Atlanta Braves re-issued their racist so-called “screaming savage” logo on their batting practice cap in December. Although the team eventually pulled it from players, the caps remain available for those who want to willfully ignore how offensive the imagery is.
Part of the problem with stereotypes about Natives in particular is the perpetual myth that there are no Natives in urban areas. So what happens when an urban Oglala Lakota journalist based in New York City spots a guy from the Bronx sporting the cap on the subway? Well, here’s how it begins:
“What are you wearing?” I asked.
“What?” he responded. He surveyed his chest. “This?” He then gripped a thin gold chain on his neck.
“No. Your hat, man,” I said. “What does it mean?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Nothing,” he responded. “It just matched my shoes.”
“Ah, OK. … Hey, I’m Simon.”
“Are you from New York?” I asked.
“Yeah. Born and raised in the Bronx.”
“Right on,” I said.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“The West. Denver, specifically.”
“Ah, visiting then.”
“No,” I blurted. “I live here now—in Brooklyn.”
“That’s cool,” he said, nodding.
“Hey, you know,” I shouted over the groan of the zipping train, “… I actually do know what your hat means. I was just wondering if you did.”
“Oh yeah? I thought it was just a [dope] hat.”
“Well it’s actually a batting practice cap that was discontinued. It’s called the ‘Screaming Savage;’ it’s an Atlanta Braves hat.”
Read the rest of Simon Moya-Smith’s exchange with the anonymous cap wearer on Indian Country Media Today Network here.
One of the nation’s largest labor unions wants to help you fix your job. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has a new video out aimed at office workers who feel underpaid and overworked (so, everybody).
Brazil is hosting the World Cup next year, as well as the Olympics in 2016—which means that the state is invested in evicting residents to make room for tourists, and divesting from education, transportation, and healthcare. And that means social activists, and students especially, are taking to the streets to demonstrate in the biggest protests the nation has seen in two decades.
The protests originally coincided with anticipated bus fare hikes. But although nearly a dozen cities have lowered their fares, up to a quarter-of-a-million people still took the streets last night. The protests, which have been met with a sometimes-violent response from police, pose a serious image problem for socialist president Dilma Rousseff, who’s said she’s proud of the protests.
Natalia Viana directs the Agencia Pública investigative journalism center, based in São Paulo, and has been digging into eviction and social safety net stories for years. In this Spanish language interview, Viana explains that Brazil has dropped nearly one billion dollars in Rio de Janeiro’s privately owned Maracaná Stadium alone. She adds that nearly 200,000 people stand to lose their homes because of new roads and structures being erected for the twin grand scale sports events. Those who are taking to the streets are also limited by new regulations. They maintain a one-and-a-mile protest exclusion zone—which is unconstitutional in a nation that supposedly values expression.
A popular slogan (among many) for protestors has become, “Call me [the World] Cup, and Invest in Me,” and some politicians are already listening. Porto Alegre’s mayor just announced that he will no longer push to complete construction on any World Cup-related projects in his city. It’s likely that other officials may soon follow—but no word yet on what that means for accommodating first world visitors who are used first world accommodations.
For lots of people in the US, Brazil remains a racial paradise, where people seem to get along despite a violent history of colonization and enslavement—and many World Cup fans are eager to visit next year. Do Brazil’s protests make you think about your role as a spectator in South America? Let us know in the comments!
The Detroit police officer who killed 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in a home raid in 2010 has escaped conviction, for now. This morning Wayne County Judge Cynthia Hathaway set a new date—July 25—for all parties to reconvene for a potential retrial after declaring a mistrial on Tuesday afternoon, MLive.com reported. The jury deciding Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley’s fate could not come to a unanimous decision regarding the involuntary manslaughter charge against Weekley.
Weekley was part of a team that raided Jones’ home during filming of the A&E reality show “The First 48” on May 16, 2010. Seconds after entering the home, Weekley shot Jones, who was asleep on her grandmother’s couch. During the trial Weekley testified that he shot Jones after her grandmother hit his gun from the couch, and he hadn’t realized he’d fired his weapon until after he returned to the room, MLive.com reported.
If the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office so chooses, it could move to stage the entire trial again for a brand new jury.
Update: June 19, 2013 at 10:26pm EST: Serena Williams has apologized.
“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved - that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written - what I supposedly said - is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.
I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields - anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”
Serena Williams got herself in trouble with a recent Rolling Stone interview. The story ostensibly had nothing to do with the high-profile case in which two small-town Ohio high school football players were accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. But that didn’t stop the star tennis player from questioning why the victim decided to drink so much that night and then speak up afterward. From Deadspin:
We watch the news for a while, and the infamous Steubenville rape case flashes on the TV—two high school football players raped a 16-year-old, while other students watched and texted details of the crime. Serena just shakes her head. “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you—don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
No doubt Williams will apologize, but it’s hard to believe she could be so careless in a national interview. To be fair, seems like Serena was wrestling with complex emotions and lost her way in her explanation of them. To read more related to this, read Akiba Solomon’s take from earlier this year.
Well, at least Paula Deen is an honest racist. The cooking show host is currently embroiled in a million dollar lawsuit over racist behavior at her Savannah restaurant. Deen and her brother Bubba allegedly threw around the N-word and told racist and sexist jokes that, so far, she doesn’t deny. But then she said something about wanting to hire black cater waiters to act as slaves at a Southern wedding, and she replied:
“The whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America… after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War… It was not only black men, it was black women… I would say they were slaves.”
Totally honest. Completely crazy. White privilege, y’all.
I stumbled across the documentary ‘Detropia” on Netflix a few weeks ago. In short, it was really disappointing and tough to get through. Why? Andre Seewood nails it at Shadow & Act:
The film, DETROPIA, while trying to put Detroit’s decline in a larger nationwide context of the erosion of manufacturing plants and outsourcing fails to mention or put into perspective the racial tensions that have long defined Detroit, segregated the mostly Black populated city from the mostly White populated surrounding suburbs and severely undermined the Black political power base that used to govern the city.
Seewood gives a pretty exhaustive critique, which you can read in full over at Shadow & Act.
George Zimmerman’s pretrial just inched closer to an actual hearing today when attorneys agreed on 40 jurors who made it through the publicity stage of questions. That means those 40—who attorneys believe have not been tainted by media accounts of Trayvon Martin’s death and the protests that followed—can now move on to the regular line of questioning to determine a final jury pool.
The original pool was racially mixed—and some responses might surprise readers. The Orlando Sentinel reports, for example, that at least one African-American potential juror thought Zimmerman was prosecuted by network news before having his day in court.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin in February 2012. His case will be decided by six Seminole County, Florida jurors—with four alternates as back-ups.
Asad Dandia found out last year that a man he considered a friend was actually an NYPD informant hired to spy on Dandia because he’s Muslim. Today, Dandia joined with other Muslim New Yorkers and civil liberties groups at One Police Plaza in Manhattan to announce a lawsuit against New York City and the NYPD. They allege that the NYPD engaged in unconstitutional practices that singled out Muslims for profiling and surveillance. The plaintiffs say that the program has lasting and damaging effects on the day-to-day lives of Muslims in New York who fear they’re spied on for no reason but their faith.
Dandia, who is 20 and a social work student at Kingsborough Community College, explained at the press conference that he was the co-founder of a charitable group called Muslims Giving Back, and that in March of last year, a man named Shamiur Rahman approached him to say that he’d like to help. Dandia became close to Rahman, inviting him at times to eat meals with his parents and sister at their home in Brooklyn. Then, in October, Rahman went public about his work as an informant. In an Associated Press story, Rahman said he now believes his work for the NYPD was “detrimental to the Constitution.” The AP, which revealed the surveillance program in 2011, reported last year that:
Informants like Rahman are a central component of the NYPD’s wide-ranging programs to monitor life in Muslim neighborhoods since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police officers have eavesdropped inside Muslim businesses, trained video cameras on mosques and collected license plates of worshippers. Informants who trawl the mosques - known informally as “mosque crawlers” - tell police what the imam says at sermons and provide police lists of attendees, even when there’s no evidence they committed a crime.
Today, Dandia struggled to hold back tears as he described the impact of that revelation. “I was afraid for my parents because this guy slept over at my home,” he said, adding that since the informant made his identify public, Muslims Giving Back has struggled to raise money, and the group was asked not to hold meetings or fundraise at a Brooklyn mosque where it had been based.
The suit, filed by the ACLU, New York Civil Liberties Union, and the CLEAR Project, a City University of New York-based legal advocacy group, alleges that the NYPD’s vast program to spy on Muslims in New York and surrounding areas violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause by targeting communities solely on the basis of religion. The groups also claim the program violates the plaintiffs’ freedom of religion. They’re asking the court to enjoin the practices outright and impose an independent, court appointed monitor to enforce the injunction. Other plaintiffs in the case include New York imams and mosques.
The NYPD and City of New York have claimed that the spying program, once called the Demographic Unit, only followed legitimate leads. But a high-ranking NYPD official said in court proceedings in a separate lawsuit that the unit has uncovered no actual plots of violence. Instead, the plaintiffs say, it has struck fear into Muslim communities.
Republicans have wasted no time striking back against yesterday’s US Supreme Court ruling invalidating Arizona’s “proof of citizenship” voter registration ID law. Under the ruling, Arizona cannot reject federal voter registration forms from people who do not provide documented proof of their citizenship — like a driver’s license, passport or birth certificate — along with it. Arizona created its own state voter registration form that did require citizenship documents, but that form can’t replace the federal form, which is authorized by the National Voter Registration Act (“Motor Voter Act”).
Other states have passed similar proof-of-citizenship laws, including Alabama, Georgia and Kansas, and other states have proposed the same. The SCOTUS ruling has established the NVRA-authorized federal voter registration form as the valid “back stop” for people to register with if they don’t want to use state-created registration forms.
Wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority opinion:
“States retain the flexibility to design and use their own registration forms, but the Federal Form provides a backstop: No matter what procedural hurdles a State’s own form imposes, the Federal Form guarantees that a simple means of registering to vote in federal elections will be available.”
But not so fast. Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Louisiana U.S. Senator David Vitter filed an amendment yesterday, tucked into the immigration reform bill, that would amend the Motor Voter Act so that state voter registration forms — including those requesting proof of citizenship documents — would trump the federal form.
Their amendment states: “Nothing in [the Motor Voter Act] shall be construed to preempt any State law requiring evidence of citizenship in order to complete any requirement to register to vote in elections for Federal office.”
The amendment “sounds like sour grapes and hot air,” said Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), to Colorlines. “The amendment will likely fail. Congress considered and rejected a similar amendment when it enacted the NVRA in 1993, concluding that state laws that layer additional documentation requirements onto the federal form would defeat the purpose of the NVRA and uniform postcard registration.”
But perhaps an amendment isn’t needed. In Justice Scalia’s opinion, he agreed that Arizona’s law should be struck, but he also basically gave Arizona — and any other state — a roadmap for passing a proof of citizenship voter ID law despite his ruling. Scalia said that since the federal Election Assistance Commission is the only Motor Voter-authorized body that can request additional information for the federal voter registration form, that Arizona ought to appeal to it to add the requirement.
Arizona did do that in 2005 but EAC executive director Thomas R. Wilkey rejected their request. Wrote Wilkey: “While Arizona may apply Proposition 200 requirements to the use of its state registration form in Federal elections (if the form meets the minimum requirements of the NVRA), the state may not apply the scheme to registrants using the Federal Registration Form. … Arizona may not refuse to register individuals to vote in a Federal election for failing to provide supplemental proof of citizenship, if they have properly completed and timely submitted the Federal Registration Form.”
That wasn’t good enough, so Arizona requested a second opinion from the EAC commissioners board. The board ended up with a 2-2 vote split (due to vacant board seats, the EAC commission has not had enough members for a full quorum vote), which meant the director’s decision stood. But Scalia reminded the public in his opinion yesterday that “Arizona did not challenge that agency action … by seeking an [Administrative Procedure Act] review in federal court.” Scalia believes a federal court may compel the EAC to grant Arizona’s request since the EAC commission can’t give a full vote.
Perales said this would be “very difficult” for Arizona, though, because the EAC director already told them “No,” and for the same reasons SCOTUS said “No” yesterday. But also, Arizona “would have to prove that they need to [include proof of citizenship] and that’s where the facts really foil Arizona’s efforts because they can not point to a single non-resident trying to vote or even registering to vote.”
Writer Mia McKenzie is blowing up my newsfeed. And for good reason: this non-comprehensive list of eight ways not to be an ally is hilariously on point. Check out the snippet below:
1. Assume one act of solidarity makes you an ally forever.
Remember that time your uncle said that fucked-up stuff about “illegal” Mexican immigrants and you were all, “Actually, Uncle, California isMexico, so you need to read your history cuz that’s hella racist!” That shit rocked, bruh. And it totally means that you are an Ally with a capital A for, like, ever! Done and done. Let’s go get a celebratory slurpee. But you know what else? Nope. Being an ally takes waaaay more practice than that. It is a constantly active and evolving thing. I mean, imagine labeling yourself a great lover after you ate pussy once. That would be cray, wouldn’t it?
2. Make everything about your feelings.
The hurt feelings that resulted when you were called out on racism/transphobia/ableism/etc. are totally more important than the impact of the actions you are being called out for in the first place. Really. I’m not even being facetious. Psych! I mean, I know it feels like your feelings are Consideration #1, but they’re not. I have been guilty of this ridiculousness myself in the past. I think everybody is guilty of it sometimes. But that still doesn’t make it okay. Try to remember that people who have been impacted by your racist/transphobic/ableist/etc. words or actions are the ones whose feelings need attention right then. Not yours.
3. Date ‘em all.
Some folks seem to think that the quickest way to lifelong allyship status is to just date all the people who resemble those that one claims to exist in solidarity with. Anti-racist? Date all the POC! And be sure to do so exclusively and with no analysis whatsoever about fetishism, exotification, or the ways your white body might be interrupting POC space! Cuz, hey, you’re an ally and stuff. Right? Ew.
4. Don’t see race/gender/disability/etc.
You know what I love? When people don’t see my race. There is nothing more affirming for me as a person than to have essential parts of myself and my experience completely disregarded. I mean, inside we’re all the same. And there’s only one race: the HUMAN race! Amirite??? Ugh. Listen. If your ability to respect someone’s right to exist requires pretending that they are just like you, that’s a problem. We are not all the same. And things like race, gender, disability, etc. are exactly the kinds of things that shape our lives and our experiences and make us different from one another. Being different is not the problem. The idea that being the same as you is what gives us the right to exist is the problem.
Read more at Black Girl Dangerous.
Yeezus is here. Kanye West’s highly anticipated sixth studio album hits (legal) digital downloads today. A version of the album already leaked late last week, so fans and critics alike have already had time to talk about it. So, is Ye’ really the nucleus? Is this album a testamant to his awesomeness? Will everyone just stop hating on him?
The short answer: no.
But at the very least, the new album shows that, once again, Kanye knows how to sample a wide range of songs from different genres. And this time he went to Bollywood for one of his most narcissistic tracks, “I Am God.”
The Aerogram explains:
The third track on the album, one humbly titled “I Am a God,” is credited as being written by Kanye West, the duo better known as Daft Punk, and — here’s where it gets interesting — Anand Bakshi and Rahul Burman, among others. This is because a sample of “Are Zindagi Hai Khel” is used in the song.
Here’s the thing: people can’t seem to figure out where, exactly.
While I do appreciate the fact that he isn’t wearing a Sherwani and pretending to be something he isn’t like — ahem — some people, it would be nice to, you know, actually be able to recognize the sample being used. Still, Yeezy is known for not only sampling a wide range of songs from different genres, but distorting them in different ways. I must confess, I’ve listened to both songs about a dozen times each at this point and can’t figure out where exactly he hid the R.D. Burman classic.
Want to help solve the mystery? Go see more at the Aerogram.
J. Cole’s new album release is being overshadowed by Kanye’s new “Yeezus”, but that doesn’t mean that the younger rapper’s latest release is without its own controversy. “Born Sinner” is Cole’s second solo album, and its lead single, “Villuminati”, is causing a big stir because of its provocatively homophobic lyrics. The bars in question:
My verbal AK slay faggots/ And I don’t mean no disrespect whenever I say faggot, okay faggot/ Don’t be so sensitive/ If you want to get fucked in the ass/ That’s between you and whoever else’s dick it is/ Pause, maybe that line was too far/ Just a little joke to show how homophobic you are/ And who can blame ya
In an interview last week with the Huffington Post, Cole explained what he was trying to do:
“There will soon come a day when people in general, and rap artists specifically, are going to have to answer for their past usage of the word ‘faggot,’ much like the Grandfathers who are ashamed that they used the word ‘nigger’ as kids. At a time when public acceptance of gay rights is soaring (rightfully), hip-hop culture and general are still battling with homophobia (not excluding myself). Rather than run from it I chose to attack it playfully. Those lyrics are meant to make everyone uncomfortable for the sake of this very conversation.”
But Buzzfeed’s Saeed Jones isn’t buying it. Jones writes that Cole’s song features “perhaps the most homophobic lyrics I’ve heard from a major artist in the last few years.”
Did J. Cole completely miss the mark? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
Data from the Broadway League was released on Monday and showed that the only thing we love more than Motown music is seeing those same records on Broadway. From the Washington Post:
“Motown the Musical” had its best week ever with $1,441,448 and set a new box office record at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
The hit-studded show, which didn’t win a Tony but got valuable screen time with a great Michael Jackson medley, has grossed over $1 million every week since previews began March 11.