Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Biracial Athlete Hoped to be First Out American Gymnast at Olympics

Biracial Athlete Hoped to be First Out American Gymnast at Olympics

Openly gay gymnast Josh Dixon was not named to the men’s gymnastics team after the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials in San Jose this past weekend. Dixon finished 13th out of 15 competitors and was not named as one of three alternates either.

The 22-year-old gymnast—who is Black and Japanese—publicly came out last month and hoped to become the very “first out American gymnast at the Olympics”.

Below is an excerpt from an interview in which Dixon discusses homophobia in his field of sports with Outsports.com:

In fact, Dixon said he has not had a single negative response “in any way, shape or form.” If anything, the only homophobia he has encountered has been from within himself. He acknowledges he once felt internal pressure about being a gay man in what some label the “gay sport” of gymnastics. He didn’t want to fall into a stereotype. But he’s come to embrace it, and he says his sexual orientation now makes him stand out more at the elite level. While he stands out, he isn’t the only one. Dixon knows of at least three more gay gymnasts still competing in college, and he says he is not the only elite-level American gymnast who is gay.

One concern that remains is the judges. Gymnastics is one of only a handful of Olympic sports hand out medals based on the scores of judges. While some claimed figure skater Johnny Weir’s perceived sexual orientation hurt him with the judges in the 2010 Winter Olympics, it certainly did not play a factor when Matthew Mitcham posted the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history in 2008.

When asked about the timing of this article and how it may affect his performance in the eyes of the judges or Olympic selection committee, Dixon had no fear.

George Zimmerman’s Second Bond Set at $1 Million, Could Walk Free

George Zimmerman's Second Bond Set at $1 Million, Could Walk Free

This morning, a Florida judge set George Zimmerman’s bond at $1 million. It’s unclear how long it will take for Zimmerman to be released from the jail in which he’s been held since his previous bond was revoked amid allegations that he had lied to the court about his finances.

Here’s more from Loop21:

Zimmerman will be free for the duration of his pending trial on a second-degree murder charge for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, which he claims happened in self-defense, is he pays the bond.

After more than two hours of testimony last Friday, [Florida judge Kenneth] Lester adjourned a bond hearing to weigh several pieces of evidence presented by the defense during the proceedings.

Zimmerman, who appeared in court unshackled and dressed in a suit, did not take the stand to explain why he and his wife misled the court about their personal finances, presumably to get a lower bond amount, prosecutors argued.

Frank Ocean’s Mom Calls Son ‘Incredible Human Being’ After Coming Out

Frank Ocean's Mom Calls Son 'Incredible Human Being' After Coming Out

Frank Ocean’s Def Jam debut, “Channel Orange,” won’t be released for another two weeks but the album is already making headlines everywhere. Everyone from the LA Times and the New York Times to hundreds of blogs are discussing the new album because in it Ocean uses pronouns like “him” in lyrics that include references to love.

Rumors that Ocean was bisexual began to circulate this week after a BBC1 writer who listened to an album preview took to her personal blog to point out “you can hear him [Ocean] sing about being in love and there are quite obvious words used like ‘him’ and not ‘her’.”

In a matter of hours the post went viral and Ocean responded through his blog on Tumblr.

“4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide,” Ocean wrote in part of the letter. “Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence … until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless…”

One of the first to back Ocean was fellow Odd Future member Tyler, the Creator, who’s own lyrics include some of those most violently homophobic rhymes in the industry. “My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That,” tweeted Tyler on Wednesday. “Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. I’m A Toilet.”

The Civil Rights Act Celebrates 48th Anniversary

The Civil Rights Act Celebrates 48th Anniversary

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, the landmark Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination and segregation regardless of race or color. It was originally introduced in congress by President John F. Kennedy before he was assassinated in 1963.

mlk-civilrightsact.jpg Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the guests behind him is Martin Luther King, Jr.

President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, with Martin Luther King, Jr., looking on. (Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, courtesy of National Archives and Record Administration, LBJ Library #276-10-64)

Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez? Play ‘Pick Out The Immigrant’ Game Online

Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez? Play 'Pick Out The Immigrant' Game Online

Last week Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) presented a short quiz he called “Pick Out The Immigrant” on the floor of the House of Representatives. 

Now Rep. Gutierrez has taken his game online to his Facebook page asking everyone: Who is Sheriff Joe Arpaio more likely to stop: Drake or Pitbull?

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U.S. Citizen Wrongly Imprisoned Due to Secure Communuties Sues FBI and DHS

U.S. Citizen Wrongly Imprisoned Due to Secure Communuties Sues FBI and DHS

A lawsuit filed by James Makowski on Tuesday claims he was wrongly imprisoned for two months as a result of the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program. The Plaintiff, a U.S. citizen, argues the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated his rights under the Privacy Act.

Insiders say the lawsuit fundamentally messes with the fed’s assertion that Secure Communities is a controlled, systematized program that DHS operates with proper discretion.

“ICE claims that S-COMM avoids racial profiling or other rights abuses—ie. the unlawful detention of US-citizens—because it does not function out on the streets, but rather through mechanized and equal opportunity immigration checks processed through a computer. In fact, as we’ve often reported and as this case demonstrates, Secure Communities is a reckless system that feeds off the (in)discretion of local street cops,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.

“The Privacy Act forbids the government from sharing data regarding U.S. citizens, unless it has some indication that a law is being violated. Since the launch of Secure Communities in 2008, the FBI has indiscriminately distributed the fingerprints of millions of U.S. citizens to DHS, which also stores the fingerprints in its database,” said Mark Fleming, a litigation coordinator at the National Immigrant Justice Center and co-counsel in the case. “Worse, as DHS has aggressively deployed Secure Communities, it has taken woefully inadequate steps to ensure the accuracy of its records or to implement simple measures to prevent U.S. citizens from being caught up in the net of immigration enforcement.”

Watch 8-Year-Old Actress Tell Jay Leno He’s Asking the Wrong Questions

Watch 8-Year-Old Actress Tell Jay Leno He's Asking the Wrong Questions

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” took the top prizes at both Sundance and the Cannes Film Festivals earlier this year. The film’s brilliance is in large part due to director and co-writer of the screenplay Benh Zeitlin but it’s the 6-year-old heroine of the film that made it a cinematic experience.

The film’s star Quvenzhané Wallis was a regular five-year-old school girl in Houma, Louisiana when she auditioned for the role of Hushpuppy in the film. She was six during production and now that she’s out promoting the film she’s eight. (And as you’ll see in the clip above from the “Tonight Show” Wallis isn’t afraid to tell a man seven times older than her how to do his job.)

In the final review in the New York Times, A. O. Scott described Wallis as the “inheritor of a proud literary and artistic tradition, following along a crooked path traveled by Huckleberry Finn, Scout Finch, Eloise (of the Plaza), Elliott (from “E.T.”) and other brave, wild, imaginary children.”

Those are big shoes to fill and Wallis goes above and beyond. There’s a moving long shot in the film in which you see Wallis’ eyes begin to water up and then the tears stream down her cheek. Those were real tears and a pretty incredible scene if you recall Wallis was only six when she shot the film. Not to mention she describes herself as someone who never cries.

At a screening in Hollywood Friday, Wallis explained the director had “a line of people” sit down and tell her sad stories about losing loved ones to help her prepare for the scene.

“Beast of the Southern Wild” is currently playing in Los Angeles and New York. Fox Searchlight plans to open “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in New Orleans on Wednesday, then Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C, Chicago, and Dallas on Friday.

One of NYC’s Last Black-Owned Bookstores is Closing

One of NYC's Last Black-Owned Bookstores is Closing

One of New York City’s last black-owned bookstores, Hue-Man Bookstore and Café, is closing at the end of the month. CEO Marva Allen told Publishers Weekly “we’re going to be around somewhere, somehow,” but the brick-and-mortar store will close July 31st.

In an open letter to the Harlem community, Allen laid out those plans as she explained her decision to close the bricks-and-mortar store. “We all know that there is a season for everything under heaven and the season of ‘traditional book’ selling has come to a close,” wrote Allen. “Closing the existing format of Hue-Man is forward thinking on our part and as we take pause to re-imagine the future of books and how to ensure that their purpose of entertaining, imparting knowledge and honing creativity is preserved, we find no viable alternative but to go back to the drawing board.” With her lease ending, Allen noted that “there is no way to re-imagine the bookstore of the future in our current space.”

Internet Advocates Unveil Declaration of Internet Freedom‎

Internet Advocates Unveil Declaration of Internet Freedom‎

Free Press and a large coalition of over 100 advocacy groups, human rights organizations and technology companies launched the “Declaration of Internet Freedom,” a set of principles providing a positive vision to preserve the Internet as a platform for speech, innovation and creativity.

“Earlier this year, a big-tent, post-partisan coalition came together to fight against SOPA and PIPA, two bills that threatened to cause irreparable harm to the open Internet. Now members of this same group are fighting not just to stop bad legislation, but to secure and protect our universal freedom to connect online,” Free Press Internet Campaign Director Josh Levy said in a statement.

The Declaration has already been signed by organizations around the world, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla and ColorOfChange.org, as well as individual open Internet advocates like Yochai Benkler, danah boyd, Deanna Zandt and Baratunde Thurston, as well as reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

“It’s easy to forget that the Internet is a fairly new platform. Its relative youth has opened the door to innovation and made it possible for communities of color to carve out our own unique spaces where we can represent ourselves and truthfully talk about the issues that matter — think Colorlines.com or ‘Awkward Black Girl.’ But that youth has also made the Internet ripe for corporate intervention,’” said Jamilah King, news editor and media reporter at Colorlines.com. “Companies stand to make a lot of money by offering consumers fewer choices in what they can and can’t do online. This Declaration of Internet Freedom is a crucial step in the fight to keep the Internet a free and creative space.”

You can sign on to declaration by visiting Internetdeclaration.org/freedom.

#NoShameDay and the Fight to Eradicate the Stigma of Mental Illness

#NoShameDay and the Fight to Eradicate the Stigma of Mental Illness

Mental illness is a leading cause of disability, yet nearly two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment and people of color in the U.S. are even less likely to get help, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The Siwe Project, a group that works to promote mental health awareness in the global black community, is organizing the first annual No Shame Day today and giving people around the world a neutral forum to discuss mental health.

The SIWE Project describes No Shame Day: >The Siwe Project, a global non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health awareness throughout the international black community is launching a campaign that focuses on stigma reduction through storytelling and community building. The first annual No Shame Day is an opportunity for people around the world to rally around mental health care. The Siwe Project website will host candid discussions about mental illness stigma, diagnoses, and treatment options. The purpose of No Shame Day is to encourage more people to seek treatment without shame.

Siwe Monsanto, The Siwe Project’s namesake, would have been sixteen on March 8th of this year. Instead, she chose to take her own life on June 29, 2011. It was Siwe’s suicide that prompted Bassey Ikpi, a family friend, to found the non-profit. As a mental health advocate and a noted writer, Ikpi has maintained a transparent look into her own life with Bipolar II Disorder. “The aim is to create community. People with illness forging with those who support or have loved ones with an illness,” says Ikpi. The Siwe Project believes that sharing stories not only fosters individual healing, but community transformation. The Siwe Project strategically uses new media to cultivate safe spaces to share new stories. Additionally, the organization works to widen the public dialogue regarding the experiences of people of African descent living with mental illness.

No Shame Day will be held on July 2, the first Monday of National Minority Mental Health Month. We are asking people to publicly share their mental health journeys or speak as allies for loved ones in their lives. Individuals can log on to The Siwe Project website and participate in the ongoing conversation about self-care and mental health options.”We’re encouraging people to tend to their mental health that day without shame,” Ikpi explains. On No Shame Day people are encouraged to unabashedly seek out community in order to empower their quest for mental health wellness.

For more information visit SIWE Project.

Black Gymnast Gabby Douglas Grabs Top Spot on U.S. Gymnastics Team

Black Gymnast Gabby Douglas Grabs Top Spot on U.S. Gymnastics Team

On Sunday, Gabrielle Douglas earned the guaranteed Olympic women’s gymnastics spot by winning the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials over reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber. Douglas has also earned the nickname “Flying Squirrel” because of her height-defying gymnastics skills.

“Everyone was telling me you have this great potential and you can be on top,” Douglas told ESPN. “I didn’t believe that, but everyone was just telling me to believe in myself. I did and I’m kind of up on top and it’s amazing.”

Douglas is quickly becoming one of this year’s favorite Olympic athletes. Just take a look at how the Associated Press describes the 16-year-old Olympian: “With cover girl looks, a personality that leaps through the TV set and a nickname you won’t soon forget, Douglas has all the makings of the next Mary Lou or Shawn.”

“I could never have imagined this scenario,” Natalie Hawkins, Douglas’ mother told the AP. Douglas has been living away from her mother in Virginia Beach, VA for the past two years so she could train with her coach in Iowa.

“I knew the talent was there because everybody, anybody who came in contact with me, coaches, other gym parents, always told me how talented she was. So I knew that. And I knew if she had the right pieces of the puzzle that she would have the potential. But all of this? No, I never saw that,” Douglas’ mother went on to say.

Douglas is the first African American since Dominique Dawes in 2000 to join the women’s U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team. Douglas hopes to be only the second African American woman (women’s gymnastics) to win an individual medal. Dawes won a floor exercise bronze in 1996.

Cullen Jones to Swim in Three Events at London Olympics

Cullen Jones to Swim in Three Events at London Olympics

After only swimming a relay in the 2008 Summer Olympics, Cullen Jones will be returning to the games in London to compete in the 4x100 relay and individually in the men’s 50 and 100 freestyle. Jones is the third African-American to make the US Olympic swimming team after Anthony Ervin and Maritza Correia.

“I’ve been dreaming of this forever, of qualifying for two individual events in the Olympics,” Jones said at a press conference. “The only thing different is that, in my dream, I’m giving better answers.”

In 2008 Jones became the second African-American in history to win an Olympic Gold medal in swimming.

According to Jones’ biography one of his goals is to shatter stereotypes one lap at a time, eager to spread his message that, “yeah, black kids can swim, too.”

Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin Remembered at BET Awards

Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé were all present at the BET Awards ceremony Sunday but the highlight of the show everyone is talking about today came from Cissy Houston.

The most emotional moment of the evening came as Houston’s mother Cissy Houston sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” as part of a 20-minute tribute to the late singer that included performances by Monica, Brandy and Houston’s brother Gary Houston.

The night also included tributes to other notables that left us in the past year. Chante Moore performed a medley of Donna Summer’s hits and Valerie Simpson sang a song in honor of her husband and writing partner Nick Ashford. Don Cornelius, Dick Clark and Hal Jackson were remembered. Also, right at the end of Kanye West’s performance, he name-dropped Rodney King and Whitney Houston.

Actor Jamie Foxx also wore a red shirt featuring a black-and-white photo of Trayvon Martin to the awards ceremony Sunday.

Jamie Foxx Wears Trayvon Martin T-Shirt to BET Awards

Jamie Foxx Wears Trayvon Martin T-Shirt to BET Awards

Actor Jamie Foxx wore a red shirt featuring a black-and-white photo of Trayvon Martin to the BET Awards on Sunday.

Foxx was one of the first celebrities to show support for Trayvon Martin’s family after the 17-year-old was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in February. On March 23, 2012 Foxx released a picture of him wearing a hoodie in support of Martin. “My hoodie will be on forever,” he wrote on his blog when he shared the picture.

Mitt Romney May Have Just Changed His DREAM Act Position

Mitt Romney May Have Just Changed His DREAM Act Position

Mitt Romney has said dozens of times he would veto the DREAM Act dozens of times but in a recent interview with the conservative site Newsmax on Friday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee suggested he favored a path to permanent status for young undocumented immigrants through higher education.

“For those that are here as the children of those who came here illegally, I want to make sure they have a permanent answer to what their status will be,” Romney told Newsmax.

“I’ve indicated in my view that those who serve in the military and have advanced degrees would certainly qualify for that kind of permanent status,” Romney went on to say.

Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo points out this a major departure from Romney’s previous stance that only military service should be considered as a valid path to permanent status.

Talking Points Memo contacted Romney reps and report the following: 

A spokeswoman for Romney, Andrea Saul and Ryan Williams, referred TPM to Romney’s longtime position that legal immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in the United States should have a green card stapled to their diploma. A second Romney spokesman pointed to the same legal immigration position. But Romney states quite clearly in the latest interview that he’s referring to the children of illegal immigrants — meaning that he either misstated his own position on who should qualify for the DREAM Act, or came up with a new one entirely. They did not immediately respond to follow up questions regarding the apparent inconsistency.

Lauryn Hill Pleads Guilty in Income Tax Case, Could Face Prison Time

Lauryn Hill Pleads Guilty in Income Tax Case, Could Face Prison Time

Lauryn Hill, the Grammy-winning singer, has pleaded guilty in New Jersey to charges that she did not pay income taxes for three years running, The Associated Press reported.

More details, via the Associated Press:

Appearing in U.S. District Court in Newark, Hill admitted failing to file tax returns from 2005 to 2007. She faces a maximum one-year sentence on each of the three counts. She was charged three weeks ago. … After the charges were brought, Hill posted a long statement on her Tumblr page that decried pop culture’s “climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism.” She explained that she hasn’t paid taxes since she withdrew from society to guarantee the safety and well-being of herself and her family.

Hill hinted Friday that she might expand on those comments at her sentencing. When Shipp asked her if anyone had directly or indirectly influenced her decision to plead guilty, she replied, “Indirectly, I’ve been advised my ability to speak out directly is for another time, at sentencing.”

Dwyane Wade Tells Oprah Maturity Helped Him Step Back and let LeBron James Be the Best Player in the World

Dwyane Wade Tells Oprah Maturity Helped Him Step Back and let LeBron James Be the Best Player in the World

Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat’s All-Star shooting guard, says maturity helped him step back and give LeBron James enough space to “move back a little bit and let this guy, who is the best player in the world become the best player in the world.”

Oprah’s full interview with Miami Heat stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh airs Sunday, July 1 on OWN.

House Passes Bill That Will Keep Student Loans Interests From Rising

On Friday the House voted 373 to 52 to approve a $120 billion, 27-month bill to fund highway projects. Attached to that bill was the student loan extension, which prevented rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.

The bill would spend more than $100 billion on highway and transit programs over two years. And it would also prevent a doubling of interest rates on new student loans, which was scheduled to go into effect Sunday, the Washington Post reports.

“Student aid is essential for students of color,” Julianne Hing, Colorlines.com’s education reporter wrote in an archived story that looked at financial aid reform. Below is an excerpt from Hing’s story titled “The Student Aid Reform Victory Is A Win for Students of Color:”

Studies have shown that Blacks and Latinos are especially debt-averse, who will not enter into student loans to pay for school because they are either unwilling or unable to take on more debt. Instead, students of color take time off from school, alternating semesters in school with months away from campus so they can work and save enough to re-register. And students of color are more likely to drop out of school because of the unbearably high costs of college. Sixty-nine percent of Black students who don’t graduate say they left because of high student loan debt, compared to 43 percent of white students.

And even though 86 percent of Latinos say getting a college education is a high priority for them, 49 percent of Latino students delay or don’t attend because of the high cost of student loans. Latino students are more likely to attend a cheaper school, choosing a community college over a state school, or a state university over a private school, for instance, because of the high costs. The findings were ironically released by a study conducted by Sallie Mae.

Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson to Speak at Rodney King’s Funeral

Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson to Speak at Rodney King's Funeral

The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will be attending a public memorial for Rodney King on Saturday, a King family spokeswoman has confirmed with the LA Times.

LA Times reports:

They are expected to speak after a 2 p.m. service and dedication ceremony at the Forest Lawn Hall of Liberty in Hollywood Hills, spokeswoman Kali Bowyer said. King’s family and friends also will make remarks, along with screenwriter and producer Deidra Wayans and radio host Margaret Prescod.

“Rodney’s death creates a great measure of sadness,” Jackson said in a statement after King’s death. “He had become a fixture in our lives through both the tragedy and triumphs of his life.”

Kings’ three daughters have established the Rodney Glen King Memorial Fund through Bank of America in Los Angeles County, and Bowyer said interested donors may contribute by calling or stopping at a branch

Bowyer said the family has “the majority” of funeral costs covered but still seeks donations to help cover flowers, programs, unpaid bills and other costs.

Texas GOP Adopts Platform to Oppose ‘Critical Thinking’ in Schools

Texas GOP Adopts Platform to Oppose 'Critical Thinking' in Schools

First it was the Ethnic Studies ban in Tucson, now the Republican Party of Texas has adopted a 2012 platform that flat out opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” in schools. The party now says it was all a mistake… a mistake they’ll have to live with until the next state convention in 2014.

Below is an excerpt from the “2012 Republican Party of Texas Report of Platform Committee” that describes the danger of critical thinking.

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Talking Points Memo points out the platform stipulates that “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

“[The chairman of the Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included ‘critical thinking skills’ after ‘values clarification,’” Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Communications Director Chris Elam told TPM on Thursday. “And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills.”

Elam said the members of the subcommittee “regret” the oversight, but because the mistake was part of the platform approved by the convention, “it cannot be corrected until the next state convention in 2014.”

In other news, the Texas GOP also appose Early Childhood Development programs, unfortunately, that isn’t a mistake. They are for real.

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