Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is Back With a Review of ‘Django,’ Rihanna and da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is Back With a Review of 'Django,' Rihanna and da Vinci's Mona Lisa

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is quickly becoming a prolific reviewer of all sorts of things.

Earlier this month he critiqued HBO’s “Girls” series for including black character to the story line that felt like some “jungle fever lover.” Abdul-Jabbar said the show could’ve skipped that story line and just gotten a black dildo because it would “have sufficed and cost less.”

Last Tuesday he published a review of the film “Django Unchained” in Esquire Magazine. Then Wednesday night he visited Conan O’Brien’s show to review a few other works, including “Silver Linings Playbook,” Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” whole grain fig newtons and last but not least Rihanna’s latest album.

First, we’ll start with the review of “Django Unchained.”

“Basically, Django Unchained is a B movie. A damn fine B movie, but still a B movie. That’s not an insult. I’ve been in B movies, many of my favorite films are B movies, and B movies tend to make a lot more money than A movies,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar in his review.

He goes on to argue “Django Unchained” doesn’t deserve any Oscar nominations:

First, let’s get this straight: I liked Django Unchained and have been recommending it to everyone. It’s gritty and lively and filled with entertaining scenes. It zigs when you think it will zag, and, as with all Quentin Tarantino movies, it has flashes of brilliance. The character of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), the malevolent house slave who is the real brains behind the plantation, is an inspired creation. His smug compulsion to destroy the innocence and humanity that he has lost but sees in others echoes the best of villains from Harry Lime in The Third Man to John Claggart in Billy Budd. (And Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen? He’s no Fifth-Floor Guardian, but he deserves an Oscar. As do Jamie Fox, Christoph Waltz, and Kerry Washington.)

But should Django have been nominated by the Academy for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscars? No. Not unless the Academy starts new categories such as Most Entertaining Movie or Best Kick-Ass Movie or Movie I Most Wish I Was In. Until then, the Academy members have a responsibility to promote films that demonstrate the highest quality on both a technical and literary level.

According to AMPAS’s website, their 6,000 members “reward the previous year’s greatest cinema achievements.” But most people see the awards as an effort at blatant self-promotion in order to shake a few more bucks out of the public’s wary pockets (especially since the suspicious 2009 decision to increase from five to ten possible nominations for Best Motion Picture). Nothing wrong with commerce being part of the motive. It just shouldn’t be the main motive.

Virginia Legislators Approve Voter ID Law, May Kill Chances for Federal Bailout

Earlier this week, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a photo voter ID law that narrows the list of identification voters are required to show on Election Day to vote. The bill, which now sits before Gov. Bob McDonnell to sign or veto, would allow only a driver’s license or U.S. passport to vote. Without either of those, a voter would have to file a provisional ballot, and then bring the required photo ID to the election board by the Friday after Election Day.

If McDonnell signs it, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2014 — when the mid-term congressional elections are held — but it would have to be approved by the federal government first. Since Virginia is a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5, any election law they make has to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Virginia passed a voter ID bill last year that was pre-cleared by the Justice Department. But that law allowed for non-photo ID forms to be used, like a paycheck or utility bill. Also, Gov. McDonnell pledged to send a state-issued voter ID card to everyone in the state who needed one.

As he determines whether to sign this more restrictive photo voter ID law, he may want to consider that Virginia apparently is close to bailing out from Voting Rights Act Section 5 supervision.

In a briefing this morning hosted by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, attorney Debo Adegbile told reporters that Virginia is “very close,” probably “within a year” of being “completely bailed out” from Section 5. In that case, the legislature will not need to pre-clear any election laws with the federal government because they proved they had no Voting Rights Act violations for the previous ten years, a stipulation for bail outs.

However, if Gov. McDonnell signs this law, and then the Justice Department rejects it due to any discriminatory intent or effect found in the law, then the Section 5 clock starts over, and they will continue to be subjected to federal supervision. Voting rights advocates estimate that as many as 870,000 Virginians lack the proper ID or the documents needed for voting purposes under such law.

Adegbile will be one of the attorneys arguing on behalf of the Voting Rights Act next week as it is reviewed before the U.S. Supreme Court. Gov. McDonnell should consider if he wants to make Virginia an example for Adegbile to use in that proceeding.

Kid President Meets the Real President (Plus Some Outtakes)

Kid President Meets the Real President (Plus Some Outtakes)

Remember Kid President? The star of a weekly series on SoulPancake that offered us a good pep talk last month? He’s back.

Kid President was asked by the White House to make a video for their upcoming Easter Egg Roll!

Check it out. His excitement is contagious.

USC Frat Planned a ‘Racist Rager’ Until a Mexican-American Student Put Them on Blast

USC Frat Planned a 'Racist Rager' Until a Mexican-American Student Put Them on Blast

The “racist rager” parties organized across U.S. college campuses shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore.

But a recent “phi-esta” party planned by members of a fraternity at the University of Southern California (USC) caught my eye for two reasons: 

1) It was a Mexican-themed event and the USC campus is literally surrounded by Latinos: the communities that surround USC are all predominantly Latino. The most recent Census data also found Latinos make up 47.7% of the population in Los Angeles, with Mexicans making up the majority of the group. 

2) A Mexican-American USC student saw a flyer for the party and wrote an op-ed in the school newspaper. She shut the party down, got the frat that was throwing the party to apologize and had the members organizing the event expelled from the fraternity.

According to the op-ed written by Melissa Morales the invitation invited party-goers to “bring their ‘sombreros and accentos to a night of classy fun.’”

Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed written Morales, a junior at USC studying political science.

I love a fiesta and a good margarita as much as the next girl, but not when it is just an excuse to make racist jokes and poke fun at a different culture. There is a big difference between celebrating a culture and mocking it.

A few hours after the event was posted, the description was edited to include “what not to expect”: “border patrol, pickpockets, those kids selling you chicle gum, [and] Montezuma’s Revenge.” Classy, indeed.

Is this what Mexican culture has been reduced to? An entire country, an entire people, an entire tradition is recognized solely by negative stereotypes. Is it not possible to hold a party without the predictably offensive costumes and mocking accents? Will it be less of a good time if guests refrain from obvious racism? I highly doubt it.

It is offensive that race is so easily used as a party theme. This is not the first “fiesta” and I am sure that it will not be the last, but I’m not waiting for the party to be over before I speak up. I’m not waiting for the pictures of drawn-on mustaches, illegal immigrants and gardeners to make the rounds on Facebook. I’m not waiting for my heritage to be ridiculed before I start my protest.

This is my protest. This is me speaking up for what I believe in. This is me taking a stand.

Though I find this event to be utterly disrespectful, I mostly just find it disappointing. I refuse to believe that other students on the USC campus — other members of the Trojan family — can be so ignorant and reckless. We live in Southern California with one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country, yet we still face situations like these.

If you read this and think I am overreacting, then I am sorry for you. I am sorry that you do not understand.

Why Didn’t Race Come Up in Beyoncé’s HBO Documentary?

Why Didn't Race Come Up in Beyoncé's HBO Documentary?

Beyoncé’s documercial, “Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream,” attracted 1.8 million viewers to HBO for its Saturday 9 p.m. premiere, Nielsen said Tuesday. Beyoncé served as the film’s star, executive producer, narrator, co-writer and co-director. She’s even in the credits for ‘additional camera’ because much of the film was shot using the webcam on her laptop.

All that is to say: Beyoncé had total control of what we saw in the film. There were a few moments when she got personal, she talked about breaking up her business relationship with her father and what it took for her to become a woman who can demand things from the people she works with. She also spoke about a miscarriage.

But there was one topic she never discussed.

Jody Rosen, over at The New Yorker’s “Culture Desk” asks why “Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream” ignored race.

Still, there’s no question that Beyoncé is a terrible judge of what is interesting about Beyoncé. Consider one topic that never comes up in “Life Is But a Dream”: race. You could make the case that Beyoncé has reached an unprecedented position in American life. She is a black woman who has claimed the mantles of America’s Sweetheart, National Bombshell, and Entertainer-in-Chief. (According to Nielsen, an audience of 1.8 million watched Saturday’s broadcast of “Life Is But a Dream,” a record for an HBO documentary, and three times the average rating for the network’s marquee show, Lena Dunham’s “Girls.”) Beyoncé is one half of an African-American royal couple rivaled only by the duo in the White House. She is by far the “blackest”—musically and aesthetically—of all the post-Madonna pop divas; she represents African-American women’s anger and power like no one in popular culture since Aretha Franklin. Of course, the privilege to ignore race altogether is a sign of Beyoncé’s queenly status, and in “Life Is But a Dream” she avails herself of it. Instead, we get bromides: “We’re all going through these problems,” she says. “We all have the same insecurities.”

The hot air never stops blowing in “Life Is But a Dream.” There’s a funny thing about Beyoncé, though: the dreck that she serves up when seated on the interviewee’s couch, clutching a throw pillow, is transfigured, when she strides the stage, into art. In the film, she talks endlessly, excruciatingly, about money and power and ambition and self-reliance and womanhood and her love for her husband and child and, um, “the journey of my life.” It is a torrent of banalities. But those are the themes of Beyoncé’s music—the very topics that she compresses into the three minutes and thirty-three seconds of “Countdown,” a recording that will be confounding and electrifying musicologists, feminists, African-American studies scholars, and, most importantly, dance-floor revelers long after the last “Life Is But a Dream” DVD has been shot into space, destined for a Martian landfill. Listen to Beyoncé’s songs; watch her cyclonic performances. Everything else is like those cameras: additional, and superfluous.

“Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream” resulted in the the biggest audience for an HBO documentary in a decade. Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” that looked at the devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is the only documentary to come close with 1.7 million viewers.

Mad About Black History Month? Take Some #WhiteHistoryClasses

Mad About Black History Month? Take Some #WhiteHistoryClasses

PostBourgie contributor Tracy Clayton aka Brokey McPoverty (you may know her as the woman behind Little Known Black History Facts took over Twitter yesterday when her #WhiteHistoryClasses started trending. You can guess what kind of person it’s intended to poke fun at.

Check out her Storify archive below of her favorite 70+ #WhiteHistoryClasses tweets by folks all across the internet.

LAX Officials Threaten to Deport Palestinian Filmmaker On His Way to Oscars

LAX Officials Threaten to Deport Palestinian Filmmaker On His Way to Oscars

An Oscar nominated Palestinian filmmaker and his family traveling to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards this Sunday were detained for hours at the Los Angeles International Airport by U.S. Customs officials.

Emad Burnat, whose film “5 Broken Cameras” has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature, was held for an hour and a half for questioning on why he was visiting Los Angeles.

“Although he produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn’t good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine,” said director Michael Moore in a tweet. Moore began relaying text messages he was receiving from Burnat to his 1.4 million followers on Twitter.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Actor Jesse Williams Offers Tips On How To Portray Slavery

'Grey's Anatomy' Actor Jesse Williams Offers Tips On How To Portray Slavery

Actor Jesse Williams, known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy” just published an essay on that juxtaposes the Quentin Tarantino films “Django Unchained” with “Inglorious Basterds,” the 2009 fantasy involving a band of American soldiers taking revenge against the Nazis.

Williams asks why “Django Unchained” included stereotypical and graphic images of black slaves while “Inglorious Basterds” avoided much of that imagery.

An excerpt from Williams’ essay titled “Django, in chains” is below:

“Inglourious” did not walk us through provocative scenes of concentration camp torture, gas chambers and ethnically stereotyped victims. Nor were Jewish characters subjected to the indignities of being torn apart by dogs. And while we have our trusty authenticity card out, did the Jewish people not suffer the repeated verbal onslaught of “kike,” “rats” and other grotesque terms?

Were such words used in “Inglourious Basterds” more than 100 times? How about 70? OK 30? 10? Thankfully, Tarantino knew that he was perfectly able to tell a story without such gimmicks. (He also knew the community he claimed to be avenging wouldn’t stand for it.)

Hey, remember when Tarantino was selling those emaciated Jewish prisoner action figures with the concentration camp tattoos? So funny and ironic and harmless, right? No. That would have been cheap and disgusting. 


 A big reason slavery is avoided in American storytelling is guilt. Unlike the Holocaust, when it comes to slavery, our people were the bad guys. But we’re not German, so we can rail on Hitler and the Nazis all day without thinking critically about our legacy.

For descendants of slaves, and all Americans, our ovens — the slave plantations — are tourist destinations and wedding venues, home to preservation societies and guided tours. The “good ole days,” when faceless black folks with zero potential were merely quiet, collateral damage.

Read Jesse Williams’ essay on

Williams is a Temple University graduate and former public high school teacher that taught “American and African history.” Williams founded the production company, farWord Inc. and is an executive producer of “Question Bridge: Black Males.

Introducing the 2013 ‘Official Portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama’


This morning the White House released the First Lady’s 2013 official portrait.

A poll conducted by CNN found seventy-three percent of Americans approved of the way Michelle Obama was handling her job as first lady, compared to 20% who disapproved.

On February 27, 2013, Mrs. Obama will kick off a two day nation-wide tour celebrating the third anniversary of Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. She launched the program on February 9, 2010 to “unite the country around our kids’ health and create real support for families to live healthier lives.”

Official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama in the Green Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Watch the 2013 State of Indian Nations Address

Watch the 2013 State of Indian Nations Address

Last Thursday, Jefferson Keel , president of the D.C.-based National Congress of American Indian, delivered the annual State of Indian Nations Address.

Beyoncé’s HBO Doc Most Watched Since Katrina Series

Beyoncé's HBO Doc Most Watched Since Katrina Series

Beyoncé Knowles’ autobiographical documentary that premiered last Saturday was the largest audience for an HBO doc since Nielsen amended its method of measuring ratings in 2004, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Beyoncé was the subject of the documentary as well as its executive producer, narrator, co-writer and co-director.

“Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream” attracted about 1.8 million viewers during its initial 9pm broadcast. Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” that looks at the devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is the only documentary to come close with 1.7 million viewers.

Harlem Residents React to ‘Harlem Shake’ Videos

Harlem Residents React to 'Harlem Shake' Videos

Actor and filmmaker Chris McGuire took his camera to Harlem to ask the community what they thought of the current ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze.

McGuire recorded Harlem’s residents watching videos of folks dancing to DJ and producer Baauer’s hit song that has gone viral.

“That’s weird,” said one woman standing on 125th Street.

“I know the Harlem Shake, but that’s not the Harlem Shake,” said another man.

For more historical context on the “Harlem Shake” check out this story we published yesterday: “5 Ways The ‘Harlem Shake’ Meme Is (Slightly) More Complicated Than It Seems.”

Deported Father’s Case Ends As Congress Debates Immigration Changes

Deported Father's Case Ends As Congress Debates Immigration Changes

A deported father’s long, painful legal fight to regain custody of his children came to end today in a small North Carolina county courthouse. Felipe Montes, who lost his three U.S.-citizens sons when he was deported to Mexico in December 2010, stepped out of the court on this cold, rainy Appalachian day with his rights restored. He will now be allowed to take his children with him to Mexico.

“I am happy this part is over, finally,” Montes said. “Now I have to make arrangements to go. But I’m ready to leave with my boys.”

Felipe Montes’ case gained national attention last year after broke the story and the Latino advocacy group launched a petition calling on Allegheny County, North Carolina to reunite the boys with their father. The case has become emblematic of the rippling consequences of deporting parents, an issue that’s gained prominence in ongoing national debates about immigration reform.

“I grant legal and physical custody to the father, Felipe Montes,” Judge Michael Duncan said. “Good luck,” he added, before ending the short hearing.

When Montes was deported following a series of driving violations, he left behind his wife, Marie Montes, to care for their two children. The couple’s third baby was born while Montes was locked inside a Georgia immigration detention facility. Marie Montes, who has long struggled with drug addiction and psychiatric disability, could not care for the children alone, and they were placed with foster parents who hoped to adopt the boys.

But Felipe Montes protested, asking that the boys be placed with him. Until August, that appeared unlikely, but the case changed direction when federal immigration authorities, under pressure from the Mexican consulate, granted Montes a rare temporary immigration parole so he could attend the parental rights hearings.

“When he came back, he was no longer this man in a far away place but a father right in front of them,” said Donna Shumate, Montes’ local court appointed attorney.

In November, Judge Michael Duncan granted Montes custody of his children on a trail basis, and for the last three months, the father has lived with the boys in the basement apartment paid for by the Mexican Consulate for the Carolinas.

Today, Judge said that the child welfare case would be formally closed; that Isaiah, 5, Adrian, 3, and Angel 2 will be fully returned to their father. Judge Duncan said that because the trial placement revealed no concerns with Montes’ ability to care for his kids, the country lacks a legal basis to retain custody of the children.

The child welfare department seemed to anticipate this and told the judge this morning that they recommend the children be reunified with their father.

Montes’ federal immigration parole requires that he leave the country before March 23rd. Montes plans to live with family in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Whether Marie Montes, who is a U.S. citizen, will join the family is unclear. The mother is currently incarcerated for parole violations and is pregnant with another child. The family has not decided where the new baby will live.

Cases like the Montes’ have become increasingly common in recent years as the federal government deports historic numbers of people from the interior of the United States. In December, Colorlines reported that between July 2010 and September 2012, over 205,000 parents of United States citizens were deported from the country. Some of these parents lose custody of their kids entirely. In November 2011, a Colorlines investigation revealed an estimated 5,000 children were stuck in foster care because whose parents were deported.

These separations have migrated toward the center of fledgling congressional debates over immigration. Earlier this month Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat raised the issue during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform.

“Because of the deportations that have taken place over the last few years there are anywhere to [sic] 5 to 6000 children who have been placed in foster care because their parents have been deported—the children were citizens,” Rep. Bass said, referencing the 2011 investigation.

In similar fashion, during a Senate Judiciary Hearing last week, Senator Al Franken, a Democrat, cited data from the December story. He then asked Secretary Napolitano to explain her agency’s practices when deporting parents. Napolitano said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents try to ensure children have other family members to care for children. But she added, “Where the parents need to be deported…in some cases we have to call in whatever the social agency involved in the state appears to be.” requested clarification on the policy from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the agency did not respond in time for publication.

Senator Franken said during the hearing that he plans to introduce legislation to protect families from separation during the deportation process. States have started to move to protect families from going through what the Montes family has. In 2012, California governor Jerry Brown signed the a set of bills to address the needs of parents facing deportation whose children are in foster care. The laws were the first of their kind in the country, and legislators in several other states are considering copying California’s lead.

North Carolina’s legislature is not one of these states, but for Felipe Montes, these changes would have come too late. Though he has now been reunited with his children, the father was separated from his sons for two years and must now leave the country to raise the boys.

North Carolina Issues ‘Deferred Action’ Driver’s Licences

North Carolina Issues 'Deferred Action' Driver's Licences

Reversing a decision made last September, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will soon begin issuing driver’s licenses to young people who have received work permits under the federal Deferred Action program.

But local immigration advocates say the new driver’s licenses violate the holders right to privacy because the identification card includes a ‘No Lawful Status’ and ‘Deferred Action’ label. North Carolina is the only state in the country to issue this type of license, according to The Latin American Coalition, an immigrant rights organization based in Charlotte.

“We are shocked and appalled at the way these licenses are being issued,” read a statement issued by The Coalition and United 4 The Dream. “The format of the license design and class is completely discriminatory and untrue. The alarming pink highlight as well the vertical format- a format usually reserved for minors- can and will cause great difficulties for those who are of age and needing entry to various services and places.”

“The presence of the phrase ‘Deferred Action’ is inconvenient because it reveals a person’s former legal status and violates their right to privacy,” continued the statement from The Coalition. “In the same manner, the use of the term “NO LAWFUL STATUS” on the licenses is completely unnecessary. We are afraid that the presence of these two phrases will lead to discrimination against DACA recipients as well as harassment from law-enforcement authorities.”

north-carolina-driverslicense.png Local Spanish-language news outlet published an image of the revised driver’s license design shortly after it was introduced at a news conference last Thursday. Representatives from the N.C. Department of Transportation have confirmed with The Coalition that is indeed the new DACA driver’s license.

“After weeks of review, study and consultation we’ve found a way to make this right by developing a process that will allow qualified deferred action for childhood arrival applicants to obtain driver licenses, while protecting the rights of all United States citizens,” said DOT Secretary Tony Tata in a statement.

“The driver’s license is designed the way it is so that it allows young people who have DACA status to obtain a NC driver’s license but it does have a look [sic] have some different language and look different so that it can protect the rights that are afforded to citizens, such as the right to vote,” DOT representative Greer Beaty told

DREAMers who will carry the license say the labels are a recipe for harassment in their state.

“Let’s say somebody’s driving, they get pulled over,” DREAMer Ramon Garibaldo told WFAE. “The fact that law enforcement sees ‘No Lawful Status’ right there, will already give that officer almost a reason to harass the person.”

The N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing licenses to those who qualify under DACA on March 25.

5 Ways The ‘Harlem Shake’ Meme Is (Slightly) More Complicated Than It Seems

5 Ways The 'Harlem Shake' Meme Is (Slightly) More Complicated Than It Seems

Depending on if you’ve accessed the internet in the past week, you may not have heard of the Harlem Shake viral-video dance meme that’s racked over 170 million views across 40,000 different Youtube uploads from around the world. And if you have heard it, well, you probably hope its 15 minutes are about up. If so, you’ve got good reason. This 2013 version — basically, one person dances, then everyone dances, then the video ends — is drawing side-eyes from folks who remember the ’80s version (or at least the ’00s version) and who don’t especially want to see the hosts of the Today Show or the animals at SeaWorld microaggressing on yet another of their cultural touchstones.

Unlike recent viral hits “Gangnam Style” or “Call Me Maybe,” this so-called Harlem Shake borrows its name and vocal sample (and nothing else) from an existing thing, a dance that’s been around since the early ’80s. And plenty of folks are understandably disturbed by the sight of countless mobs of white people making asses of themselves in the name of Harlem: ThinkProgress and the Root have both published excellent rigorous takedown/breakdowns of the meme and its potential erasing impact on Harlem history. Even Vice, an outlet defined by its gross disregard for civility, is done — here’s Drew Millard:

I’m not a nerd whose thirst for authenticity causes me to huff, arms crossed with my hands under my armpits whenever anyone co-opts any little thing ever, and I’m not an Oompa-Loompa representing the Buzzkill Guild. Promise. But whenever I look at an Internet full of (mostly) white people doing a bastardized version of a dance that has the same name as another dance (and lest we forget, is named after fucking Harlem), and they’re doing that dance to Trap, a style of EDM that took the name (and some sonic signifiers) of an already-existent style of hip-hop that had a very specific set of sociopolitical implications, and people aren’t finding it at least a little problematic, it makes me feels like I’m taking crazy pills.

“The Harlem Shake” as a meme ruined “Harlem Shake” as a song and it’s threatening to eradicate the actual Harlem Shake from popular memory, or at least make it hard to find on YouTube.

The idea that a dance craze should be criticized for messing up another dance craze’s Google rankings seems specious, especially given the bump in views and comments that every single old-school Harlem Shake video has gotten. (And if the track had been named after its other vocal sample, a woman saying Con los terroristas!, who knows what we’d be looking at right now.) But the pattern in cultural power dynamics, and the effortlessness with which a piece of history is twisted away from its already-underdocumented context and then bleached, is very real and all-too familiar. The internet definitely complicates things, but this definitely isn’t the first that a dance invented by black people has been ‘borrowed’ by white people (and often it’s the same white people who say that hiphop isn’t ‘real music’ since it uses samples).

So what’s the deal? Here’s a few points to consider — we’ll let you make up your own mind.

1. The original Harlem Shake originated in, that’s right, Harlem. Or Ethiopia. Or Egypt?

Consensus is that the Harlem Shake was invented by Harlem local-celebrity Al B, and was originally called “the Albee,” back in the early ’80s. (Al B himself has said that the stiff, pinioned moves are inspired by mummies.) But, as folks have noted, it also looks a heck of a lot like the traditional Ethiopian dance called eskista — observe:

2. This isn’t the first time the Harlem Shake has made a comeback.

Vulture has a roundup of the previous wave of Harlem Shake videos, mostly from ’00s Bad Boy Records signees. G Dep, above, is widely credited with kicking off this batch, though Cam’ron gets points for turning it into a punchline-threat (“Kill you, shoot the funeral up and Harlem Shake at the wake”).

You guys… maybe it’s just me, but I can’t be nostalgic for the zeros just yet. The history is there, though.

‘This American Life’ Takes Uncanny Look Into Chicago High School

'This American Life' Takes Uncanny Look Into Chicago High School

In light of the reporting I’ve done recently on gun violence in Chicago, I want to quickly point folks over to this week’s segment on This American Life. It’s actually a two part series that follows students, faculty and staff at Chicago’s Harper High School as everyone tries to make sense of the city’s escalating gun violence. What’s remarkable, outside of the type of access they reporters were able to get, are the surprising ways in which everyday life is completely turned upside down because of the trauma of violence, and how those rituals become completely normal. I’ll try to avoid giving away any spoilers, but there are poignant scenes in here in which seemingly ordinary things like walking home from school or planning a homecoming dance are made maddeningly difficult because of the threat of violence.

Quvenzhané Wallis On The Moment She Learned About Her Oscar Nod

Quvenzhané Wallis On The Moment She Learned About Her Oscar Nod

Quvenzhané Wallis was a guest on CNN’s “Starting Point” with host Soledad O’Brien this morning. Wallis, the youngest best actress nominee in Oscar history, discussed what it was like when she found out she was nominated for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

“I was half asleep” when the nominations were released, Wallis b. “So nothing reacted on the outside, but in the inside, I was doing cartwheels, back flips, and these are some things I can’t even do.”

San Francisco Jail Inmates Dance to Stop Sexual Violence [Video]

San Francisco Jail Inmates Dance to Stop Sexual Violence [Video]

A global activist movement to end violence against women and girls reached San Francisco jails last week. As part of the One Billion Rising movement a group of choreographers visited San Francisco County jails to make sure inmates were able to participate in the global actions.

According to One Billion Rising organizers women and men in 203 countries came together in what they referred to as the “largest day of mass action ever to stop violence against women and girls, to express their outrage, and to strike, dance and RISE to support an end to violence against women once and for all.”

The YouTube video’s description provides a few more details about the San Francisco V-Day action:

This video is about inmates Rising in San Francisco. Incarcerated Men and Women are joining the global One Billion Rising movement to End Violence and Sexual Oppression as they Break the Chains on Debbie Allen’s Choreography and Tena Clark’s song. A truly moving experience to witness from the jails of San Francisco.

Dance and Video Production by Dancing Without Borders. Edited and Written by Avery Hudson. Produced and Co-Directed by Magalie Bonneau-Marcil and Avery Hudson. Program organized in partnership with the Sheriff’s Department of San Francisco County and readers that have been to our Facing Race Conferences may see a familiar face in the video. One of the dance leaders in the video is Soyinka Rahim, who has conducted the calls to gathering at the beginning of each conference. For more information about her and to read more about the organization she founded visit Our Thing Arts Company.

Obama Pushes for Slow, Steady Progress to Combat Chicago’s Gun Violence

Obama Pushes for Slow, Steady Progress to Combat Chicago's Gun Violence

Obama called for faith and perseverance today in the face of roadblocks and failures to an audience at a school in Hyde Park in Chicago. The president’s visit was the last stop on his national tour to promote his second term agenda, and came after more than 13 months of record-breaking bloodshed on Chicago’s streets.

The president’s speech lasted 26 minutes. In it, he called for financial incentives to keep families together, an expansion of early childhood education, and promoted the growth of “College to Career” programs that he said would act as incentives for business owners to invest in poor black and Latino neighborhoods.

Many organizers in Chicago were hopeful that President Obama’s speech would help put more of a national focus on the city’s battle against gun violence. This week I spoke to allies and members of the Black Youth Project about their hopes for the president’s speech, and they said they wanted to president to offer up a substantive speech that addressed the root causes of violence.

“We may not be able to help everybody, but if we help a few, then that propels progress forward,” the president said today.

Stay tuned for more news and analysis on the President’s speech.

TAGS: Chicago guns

ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas

ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas

A set of e-mails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina show U.S. immigration officials developed strategies to increase the number of deportations so they could surpass the previous year’s record deportation numbers. 

Federal immigration authorities have claimed to target people who pose a threat to public safety but these email show officials targeted immigrants convicted of minor crimes.

 “These recently reported documents suggest that ICE’s ‘targeted’ approach may have less to do with public safety or a focus on serious crimes, and more to do with the agency’s laser focus on meeting deportation levels,” said Seth Freed Wessler,’s investigative reporter.

Wessler says the documents provide evidence to support what advocates have long argued: immigration enforcement as it’s currently practiced looks more like a dragnet than a harpoon.

USA Today analyzed the emails and point to some of the strategies used to increase the number of deportations:

Among those new tactics - detailed in interviews and internal e-mails - were trolling state driver’s license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses. Records show ICE officials in Washington approved some of those steps. 


 In April, officials told field office heads to map plans to increase removals, then instructed at least one field office that supervises enforcement throughout Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to go ahead with efforts to mine DMV records and step up their efforts to deport people who had been booked into county jails, among other measures.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told USA Today in a statement that “ICE does not have quotas.” She said the agency sets “annual performance goals” that “reflect the agency’s commitment to using the limited resources provided by Congress.”

Immigration advocates say this news doesn’t come as a surprise. 

“The revelations about the Obama Administration’s deportation quotas are shocking, but not a suprise” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of “Anyone who knows the hard working people that the Administration is calling ‘criminals,’ who are being jailed by the thousands and deported by the millions, knows that government officials have such internal quotas. Other officials do an injustice to us all when they repeat false claims that there is some sort of legal mandate to deport 400,000 people a year. There’s not. And now everybody can see the ‘bonuses,’ deceit and dirty politics behind the immigrant tragedy.”

Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says the findings are offensive.

“Setting immigration policy by a deportation quota runs counter to every talking point the Obama administration has used in the past five years. It has endangered public safety. It offends both constitutional values and has led to grave civil rights violations,” Newman said.

“It’s the exact reason why the first step in immigration reform must be a suspension of deportations,” Newman went on to say.

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