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Jamilah King Speaks With Free Speech TV At The National Conference For Media Reform

Jamilah King Speaks With Free Speech TV At The National Conference For Media Reform

Colorlines reporter and editor Jamilah King discusses the importance of independent journalism with Free Speech TV’s Julianna Forlano at the National Conference for Media Reform.

Seattle Police Chief Retires Amidst Scrutiny Over Officers’ Brutality

Seattle Police Chief Retires Amidst Scrutiny Over Officers' Brutality

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is out. After three tumultuous years at the helm of an embattled police department, Diaz announced on Monday that he will retire, the Seattle Times reported. His announcement comes while his department is in the throes of a federally initiated reform process, and has come under renewed scrutiny for its slow pace of improvement.

The Department of Justice entered into a reform agreement with Seattle police last year after finding in an investigation that Seattle police officers used excessive force nearly 20 percent of the time when they used force, and engaged in racially biased policing. The Justice Department initiated its investigation after a rash of public and well-documented incidents of police brutality against men of color, including the shooting death of a Native American man and a videotaped incident of Seattle police officers stomping on a Latino man and hurling racial epithets at him.

Diaz was the first person of color to hold his position. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has named Assistant Chief Jim Pugel the department’s interim head.

Urban Radio Ads Ask African-Americans to Support Immigration

Urban Radio Ads Ask African-Americans to Support Immigration

“It’s Time” is the first urban radio ad in a series from the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) effort to organize for commonsense immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship. The 60-second ad aimed at African-Americans is airing on urban radio stations across the country.

“President Obama is right. We need to fix our broken immigration system so that we all win. It’s time to expand opportunity for all, put more people on the payrolls, and make all of our communities stronger,” says the female voice over in the ad. “It’s time to improve wages and working conditions for all Americans.”

LL Cool J and Brad Paisley’s Awful New Song ‘Accidental Racist’

LL Cool J and Brad Paisley's Awful New Song 'Accidental Racist'

Country singer Brad Paisley’s new song “Accidental Racist” is about how he’s not going to feel bad going to Starbucks wearing his Confederate flag T-shirt, even if a black barista is serving him coffee.

“I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done,” Paisley says at the top of the song but then he goes on to say “it ain’t like you and me can re-write history.” Paisley goes on to deliver an anthem about why he’s not a racist when he wears his Confederate flag t-shirt.

Then LL Cool J comes in with this winning line: “If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains.”

Watch the video at the top of the page at your own risk. And/or read the lyrics below.

Oscar Grant Film ‘Fruitvale’ Now Has a July Release Date

Oscar Grant Film 'Fruitvale' Now Has a July Release Date

“Fruitvale,” the film based on the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant, is set to hit theaters on July 26—three months before its originally scheduled release date.

The San Jose Mercury News offers more details on The Weinstein’s Co.’s decision to bump the film’s release to an earlier date:

The Weinstein Co. is no doubt hoping to replicate the success of “Beasts” — which also earned an Oscar nod for director Benh Zeitlin and actress Quvenzhane Wallis — or other past rare summertime critical darlings like “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Midnight in Paris.”

“We want to take advantage of the counterprogram slot in the summer,” said Erik Lomis, the independent studio’s head of theatrical distribution. “It’s a very powerful movie and it has a chance to catch the zeitgeist in a more effective way. And there are certainly plenty of films that have come out in the summer that have gotten end-of-year accolades.”

The Weinstein Co., purchased “Fruitvale” for $2 million at Sundance earlier this year. The film was written and directed by 26 year-old USC grad Ryan Coogler and stars Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz.

NYPD Has Changed ‘Nothing’ About Muslim Spying Program

NYPD Has Changed 'Nothing' About Muslim Spying Program

The New York Police Department has changed nothing in its controversial program to surveil Muslim communities in New York and surrounding states. That’s according to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday.

Reports the Journal:

Media reports have suggested that his department unfairly monitors the Muslim community—the Associated Press ran a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on that score in 2011. Asked what he has changed about the NYPD’s surveillance methods in the wake of those stories, Mr. Kelly says: “Nothing.”

Nearly two years after the AP broke news that the NYPD sent members of it’s 1000 agent counter-terrorism team to spy on Muslim student groups, pre-schools, mosques and businesses, Muslim New Yorkers have wondered if the program has changed. Kelly says it has not.

The city is currently facing several lawsuits claiming the practices violate constitutional rights and Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2011 that the DOJ planned to look into the program, though that investigation appears to have evaporated, according to Mother Jones.

report released last month by a group of civil rights advocates revealed that the spying program sent waves of fear through Muslim communities and led some to avoid mosques and Muslim student organizations.

The city justifies the program by claiming police only follow legitimate leads, but in recent testimony, an NYPD officer formerly in charge of the spying program admitted it has not uncovered to a single bona fide terrorism plot.

“I never made a lead from the rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said.

Kelly has claimed that the NYPD has helped thwart at least fourteen planned terrorism attacks since 2011, but my reporting and later reporting by ProPublica revealed that the NYPD overstated these achievements. In many cases the city relies on informants to convince vulnerable young men to take part in terrorism plots that did not exist prior to the informant’s involvement. Critics call the tactic entrapment.

In the Journal interview, Kelly suggests the police continue to employ the informant tactics in terrorism investigations.

“There are other investigations of young people like this that are ongoing right now,” Kelly told the Journal, referencing a recent informant-based case.

AP Stylebook Revises Definition of ‘Islamist’

AP Stylebook Revises Definition of 'Islamist'

Last week the Associated Press made national headlines when they announced they would no longer recommend journalists using their Stylebook to identify undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as “illegal immigrants.” But there was another update to the Stylebook that advocates say will help present Muslims in the news in a more positive light.

Earlier this year the Council on American-Islamist Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, urged media outlets to drop the term Islamist because they said the term had become shorthand for “Muslims we don’t like.”

“It is currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context and is often coupled with the term ‘extremist,’ giving it an even more negative slant,” CAIR argued in an op-ed published in January.

Last Thursday the AP moved to disassociate the term “Islamist” from its negative connotations with “Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.”

The Stylebook’s updated entry for “Islamist” now reads as follows:

An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists. Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.”

In a statement, CAIR said the AP’s decision to revise its Stylebook reference to the term “Islamist” was a “step” towards progress.

“We believe this revision is a step in the right direction and will result in fewer negative generalizations in coverage of issues related to Islam and Muslims,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “The key issue with the term ‘Islamist’ is not its continued use; the issue is its use almost exclusively as an ill-defined pejorative.”

Rinku Sen Discusses the Success of ‘Drop the I-Word’ on Democracy Now!

Rinku Sen Discusses the Success of 'Drop the I-Word' on Democracy Now!

Rinku Sen, president and executive director of The Applied Research Center, publisher of Colorlines.com, appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the significance of getting the Associated Press to stop using the term “illegal” in reference to immigrants.

Obama’s Budgetary Dance With the Devil

Obama's Budgetary Dance With the Devil

President Obama may be on a new collision course with those that put him in office. Today’s headline in the New York Times shows why. “Obama Budget to Include Cuts to Programs in Hopes of Deal,” flashed the world’s busiest news site. According to the Times, Obama is set to offer up close to a trillion dollars in new cuts to domestic programs ranging in areas from health to unemployment insurance.

This latest round of reductions would fall hardest on those hit by the recession and demand very little from the few who’ve never had it better. As such, the president would continue an unfortunate pattern on economics of yielding to the power plays of Republicans against the interests of the vast majority of Americans.

But beyond this, the proposal includes two curveballs which might aggravate his base even more.

Another Gloomy Jobs Report, as D.C. Budget Battle Bumbles Along

Another Gloomy Jobs Report, as D.C. Budget Battle Bumbles Along

The March jobs report issued by the Department of Labor this morning showed that the economy added only 88,000 jobs last month. Unemployment for African Americans and Latinos remained virtually unchanged, with nearly one out of seven blacks and one out 10 Latinos out of work.

Sadly the tough news in today’s jobs report doesn’t end there. If you or the people you know continue to face difficult economic times, here’s why.

Less jobs were created in March than at any point since last summer. And the rate at which new jobs are being created would need to nearly double to keep up with new entrants into the labor market, due to population growth.

Even the report’s apparently good news turns sour upon closer inspection. Despite the sluggish employment increase, somehow the overall unemployment number fell to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent. But it dropped only because nearly a half million people gave up looking for work out of frustration. Their exit from the job market makes it appear that more people found work than actually did.

Jay Smooth Discusses Roger Ebert’s Legacy with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

 Jay Smooth Discusses Roger Ebert's Legacy with MSNBC's Chris Hayes

Ill Doctrine and Colorlines.com producer Jay Smooth was a guest on “All in with Chris Hayes” on Thursday night to discuss film critic Roger Ebert’s legacy. Ebert, died Thursday, two days after revealing cancer returned to his body.

“That was one of the things I valued about him as a hip-hop critic, the way he was just as curious and serious about so-called low art and high art and bring down arbitrarary distictions that often carry a lot race baggage, class baggage, and other sorts of baggage with them,” Jay Smooth said on “All in with Chris Hayes” on Thursday night. “He helped model a relationship of popular art and carve out a critical landscape where something like hip-hop culture could be treated with the respect and culture it deserves.”

The Chicago Sun-Times, the base of operations for Ebert’s syndicated reviews, announced Ebert passed away at the age of 70.

3 Things Kamala Harris Should Be Known For That Don’t Involve Her Looks

3 Things Kamala Harris Should Be Known For That Don't Involve Her Looks

President Obama is in a world of trouble today after making comments at a fundraiser about California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ looks. Obama called Harris the “best looking attorney general by far”, inciting widespread anger over another talented woman once again being reduced to her sex appeal. But Harris is a politician to watch — not because of her looks, but because of her political track record. Here are three issues that she’s taken especially strong stances on during her career.

  1. Support of Gay Marriage. Harris was in the news a lot last week when California’s Proposition 8, which bans same sex marriage, was argued before the Supreme Court. The case made to the Supreme Court largely because, as attorney general, Harris refused to defend the ban. “As the daughter of parents who were active in the Civil Rights Movement, I refuse to stand in the doorway of the wedding chapel block same sex couples’ ability to marry,” Harris said on the Rachel Maddow Show. Later, when Harris addressed whether straight couples would be impacted by same sex marriage, Harris went to work: “On the issue of standing we make the very obvious point that if you have nothing at stake in the outcome of this, you need to sit down.”

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  2. Opposition to the death penalty. Throughout her career, Harris has maintained her opposition to the death penalty. When she was elected to office as attorney general, Harris made an oath that she would never seek the death penalty. And so far, she’s kept that promise.

  3. Approach to criminal justice. Before she was California’s Attorney General, Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco. During her tenure, she started a program called “Back on Track”, an initiative designed for non-violent juvenile offenders. In exchange for a guilty plea, young people could enroll in a year-long program go to school and maintain a job, often an internship with a local organization. At a graduation ceremony for the program participants in 2009, Harris said: “We know the power, the beauty and the potential of our young people and we know that sometimes we all make mistakes.” But after being held accountable for those mistakes, Harris told the graduates, “We as a community need to make sure we’re doing all we can to help them reach their potential.”

L.A. Times Considering Changes in Use of ‘Illegal Immigrant’

L.A. Times Considering Changes in Use of 'Illegal Immigrant'

The Los Angeles Times announced Thursday morning they are considering changes in policy regarding their use of the term ‘illegal immigrant.’ Their statement came three days after the Associated Press announced they would no longer recommend journalists identify undocumented immigrants using the i-word.

“The common usage of the i-word has become heavily racialized and targeted at people of color,” Rinku Sen, president of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Colorlines.com, told the L.A. Times. Sen was quoted in the L.A. Times’ story that revealed the paper was reviewing their use of the i-word.

Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times story that explains their use of the term “illegal immigrant” below: 

At the Los Angeles Times, “illegal alien” was the preferred usage from 1979 until the newspaper’s style guide changed in 1995, said Henry Fuhrmann, assistant managing editor in charge of copy desks.

Since then, writers have been directed to use “illegal immigrants” while avoiding “illegal aliens” and “illegals.”

The Times’ Standards and Practices Committee has been considering the issue since last fall and will soon make a recommendation to top editors, Fuhrmann said. Some writers have already been avoiding “illegal immigrant,” Fuhrmann said, just as “illegal alien” had fallen out of favor before the 1995 stylebook update.

“It is much easier to dehumanize and to silence somebody when you’re calling them an illegal,” said Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, in 2010. His organization launched a campaign that year calling on journalists to reevaluate their use of the tern “illegal immigrant” because it dehumanizes people, they argued. 

That same year, Colorlines.com also launched the Drop the I-Word campaign to call on journalists and publications to stop using the i-word. 

The Los Angeles Times is in a unique place because the city of angels is home to the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States. But not only that, the paper also received a large grant last year to improve their coverage of people of color and the issues they care about.

The paper is owned by the Tribune Company and in 2012 they received a $1-million grant from the Ford Foundation to expand their “coverage of key beats, including immigration and ethnic communities in Southern California.”

Seems like the L.A. Times should get with times, right?


Roger Ebert: Don’t Tell Asian-American Directors How to Represent ‘Their People’

Roger Ebert: Don't Tell Asian-American Directors How to Represent 'Their People'

Roger Ebert, writer and film critic, has died. An unparalleled and conscientious figure in the field of film criticism, he’s owed a debt of gratitude by all of us who believe that pop culture is at its best when it’s critiqued and put in context with the society that produced it. He is survived by his wife Chaz Ebert.

Via Kat Chow, here’s Ebert at Sundance 2002, addressing a fellow audience member (and fellow white man)’s complaint that director Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow did an ‘amoral’ job of representing Asian Americans. “What I find very offensive and condescending about your statement is, nobody would say to a bunch of white filmmakers ‘How could you do this to your people?’” yells Ebert. “This film has the right to be about these people, and Asian American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be! They do not have to ‘represent their people’!” (Longer transcript here.)

Ebert is also remembered fondly by Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to win Best Picture at Sundance. As she tweeted today:

North Carolina GOP Unleashes Hardcore Voter ID Package

North Carolina GOP Unleashes Hardcore Voter ID Package

It was no surprise that North Carolina Republican state lawmakers would be introducing voter ID legislation this year, after a Republican governor was elected in November. But they attempted a head fake last month by suggesting they would take a tempered, “slow-walk“-ed approach to fashioning voter ID legislation. Instead, state Republicans in the House and Senate unleashed one of the most extreme voter restriction packages in the nation.

Despite no inkling of voter fraud in the state, Republicans introduced the following bills this week:

  • HB 451 and SB 428: Cut a full week from the early voting period.
  • HB 451 and SB 428: Repeal same-day voter registration during the early voting period.
  • HB 451: Bans all early voting on Sundays.
  • SB 666: Prohibits the child dependency tax deduction ($2,500) for parents if their child registers to vote at a different address, such as the town or city where they attend school.
  • SB 666: Allows poll observers to move about more freely in the polling place, which creates more opportunities to intimidate poll workers and voters.
  • SB 721: Requires strict government-issued photo ID to vote.
  • SB 721: Enforces a 5-year waiting period, after a person convicted of a felony has served their time, before they can get their voting rights back (having their rights restored must also be approved unanimously by their county board of elections).
  • SB 668: Amends the state constitution to disqualify voters deemed “mentally incompetent.”

Arkansas Overrides Governor’s Veto to Pass Voter ID Law

Arkansas Overrides Governor's Veto to Pass Voter ID Law

Add Arkansas to the un-modern family of states with restrictive photo voter ID law. This week, the Republican-controlled general assembly over-rode Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the law, which would require Arkansans to show a driver’s license, passport, college student ID, employee or concealed handgun license.

Gov. Beebe warned last week that a photo voter ID law would be an “unnecessary measure that would negatively impact one of our most precious rights as citizens.” This didn’t phase Republicans, though. State Sen. Bryan King, who sponsored the bill, said “It’s going to become the law of the land here in Arkansas, and that’s a great thing.”

The aggressive trend of states passing restrictive voting laws, which began in earnest in 2010, has not reversed since civil rights groups fought off similar laws last year. Aviva Shen at Think Progress writes:

In the past few years, voter ID laws have surged in popularity among Republican-dominated state legislatures. Though many were struck down in court before the 2012 election, five states — Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and Tennessee — will have strict voter ID requirements in effect for the 2014 midterm elections. Nor does the fad seem to be dying down; a new report from ProjectVote finds that 30 states have introduced vote-suppressing laws in 2013. Of these, 20 introduced voter ID bills.

Virginia’s new voter ID law, much stricter than a different voter ID law they passed last year, still has to be approved by the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, if courts ultimately find a voter ID law in Pennsylvania valid, then it’ll be added to the restrictive voter stew.

This week the Brennan Center for Justice released a report showing that restrictive voter laws are multiplying in 2013:

Since the beginning of 2013,

  • > At least 75 restrictive bills were introduced in 30 states.
  • > Of those, 64 restrictive bills are still pending in 26 states.
  • > Of those, 25 restrictive bills are currently active in 15 states, in that there has been legislative activity beyond introduction and referral to committee (such as hearings or votes).
  • > Two states have already passed 3 restrictive bills this session

The Brennan Center also points to 200 voting reform bills that have been introduced in states that would expand early voting, and modernize the voter registration process.

Why this all matters is that 2014 will be a pivotal year for congressional elections. Civil rights advocates are hoping 2014 won’t bea re-run of the 2010 mid-term elections that led to the Tea Party planting themselves in Congress while Republicans took control of dozens of state legislatures. The consequence of that 2010 takeover was the birth of the restrictive photo voter ID movement.

New York City’s Fast Food Workers Walk Out

New York City's Fast Food Workers Walk Out

Workers from McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and other chain restaurants in New York City went on strike today for the second time in six months. Strike organizers are calling it the largest mass action of fast food workers ever: over 400 employees from 60 restaurants are refusing to work today, according to New York Communities for Change, the group spearheading the strike. They’re demanding benefits, $15 hourly wages—“We can’t survive on $7.25,” workers chanted at rallies in Brooklyn and Manhattan—and say they want a union.

Colorlines.com caught up with some of these striking workers this morning as they rallied in front of a Wendy’s on Fulton St. in downtown Brooklyn. Many held signs like those carried by Memphis sanitation workers in the 1968 strike championed by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I am a woman;” “I am a man.” Today marks 45 years since King was shot and killed while supporting that strike.


fast-food-workers-brooklyn1.jpg

Shalema Simpson, 24 

Brooklyn. Employer: Wendy’s

“I have a three-year-old and I’m not making enough money right now so I’m living with my grandfather and four other people in a one-bedroom apartment. I am supposed to be working inside there right now but I am out here instead. I’ve worked at McDonalds, Hale and Hearty, Shake Shack and they are all bad but right now this is the worst establishment. Sometimes our checks bounce. It’s too much. I don’t know if [the strike] will change anything but at least we’re being heard.”






Hey Grey Lady, ‘Get With the Times’ on the I-Word [VIDEO]

Hey Grey Lady, 'Get With the Times' on the I-Word [VIDEO] Play

On the heels of the Associated Press decision to remove “illegal immigrant” from its Stylebook, the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines, calls on the New York Times to do the same. In October 2012, we published an open letter to the Times that said: Words Matter. And, the i-word is out.

Since we launched the Drop the I-Word campaign almost three years ago, the number of outlets agreeing to stop using the term “illegal” has increased at an accelerating pace. The Times is also considering a change, but has not said how “sweeping” it will be. Writer and comedian Negin Farsad directed a video for Drop the I-Word that encourages the paper of record to “Get With the Times” by dropping the i-word today.

Juan Williams’ Son To Run GOP Outreach To African Americans

Juan Williams' Son To Run GOP Outreach To African Americans

Raffi Williams, the son of Fox News analyst Juan Williams, has been hired by the Republican National Committee to help the party reach out to black voters. News of the twenty-four-year-old new hire comes two weeks after the party published its 90-page blueprint to attract “minority,” gay and young voters.”

“I think it’s a slow process. If you expect us to get a ridiculous amount of African-Americans in the next election, that’s not going to happen probably,” Williams told Buzzfeed. “But we can start to make inroads, and the more inclusive we are as a party, the better optics we get to other demographics as well — not just African-Americans — and that helps us in the long run.”

“So it’s about making those new connections and getting the support I need. People are really enthused about it,” Williams said. “And that’s a nice thing for me. I didn’t know what I was walking into exactly, but from the chairman on down, everyone is so on board with this.”

Michelle Obama Hosts ‘42’ Screening With Jackie Robinson’s Widow

Michelle Obama Hosts '42' Screening With Jackie Robinson's Widow

First Lady Michelle Obama hosted 80 high school and college students from across the country for a screening of “42” at the White House on Monday. “42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play major league baseball.

Alongside the students were guests Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman and Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson.

“Jackie and Rachel Robinson weren’t destined for greatness — they prepared themselves for greatness, which meant that they could make a difference outside of baseball, as well. And that is the only thing that is important for you to understand,” the First Lady told the young crowd. “You can be great in your profession, you can earn a lot of money, you can be famous, but the question is what are you doing for others.”

The students at the screening traveled to the White House from Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, DC; Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, MD; TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA and Amino Jackie Robinson Charter High School in Los Angeles, CA.

The First Lady told the students both she and President Obama found the film was “very powerful” when they watched it over the weekend.

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