Michelle Rodriguez came out as bisexual this week and the world collectively shrugged its shoulders and said, “Duh.” In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the 35-year-old Latina actress said:
“I don’t talk about what I do with my vagina, and they’re all intrigued. I’ve never walked the carpet with anyone, so they wonder: What does she do with her vagina? Plus, I play a butchy girl all the time, so they assume I’m a [lesbian]…. Eh, they’re not too far off.” Elaborating, “I’ve gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too … curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks.”
As I’ve said over and over again lately, the rate at which celebrities have been coming out over the past two years is unprecedented and honestly quite thrilling, and M-Rod’s revelation is the cherry on top of the sundae that might actually be an endless sundae bar, if you get my drift. She’s also the latest in a long line of women of color to come out over the past year, like Raven Symone, Brittney Griner, Jasmine Jordan and Charice, bucking the flawed stereotype (often offered as an excuse for whitewashed lesbian media) that women of color just aren’t out.
Angel Haze is out with a new video. The rapper, who isn’t shy about discussing her bisexuality and androgynous style, is still working on her debut album “Dirty Gold,” which doesn’t have a release date yet.
This morning, the Department of Labor issued the following message:
“Due to the lapse in funding, the Employment Situation release which provides data on employment during the month of September, compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, will not be issued as scheduled on Friday, October 4, 2013. An alternative release date has not been scheduled.”
The reason for this is probably that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is working with only three staffers, down from its normal 2,409 employees, according to the department’s memo on the government shutdown.
Of the total 16,304 people who would normally be working right now at Labor, only 2,954 are currently in effect—less than 20 percent of its full capacity. The Office of Workers Compensation seems to be the only program under Labor working with a significant staff—1,328 out of the usual 1,606—with most of them collecting salary from sources other than congressional appropriations. The rest of Labor’s programs are largely depleted of staff right now.
Here’s why this is a problem:OO
Last week, an Administrative Law Judge, an officer of the Labor Department, found Bank of America liable for intentionally discriminating against hiring hundreds of black workers, ordering the company to pay $2.2 million dollars to settle a case that had been open for decades. Good thing that was settled when it did—there are no judges working right now out of the 122 usually on the bench. Not one of the 726 staffers is currently working in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, the body that audited Bank of America and found the racial employment discrimination.
Since 2008, that office has reviewed over 19,000 companies that operate with federal contracts, and won more than $45 million in financial remedies for 84,000 workers who were affected by discrimination. Those reviews are now on pause, thanks to the shutdown.
Unemployment insurance will continue to be administered, and if the shutdown lasts longer than seven days Labor employees will become eligible for unemployment benefits themselves. While the unemployment numbers won’t be made available this week as scheduled, figures on weekly unemployment insurance claims will. Labor in fact reported today that new claims increased to 308,000 last week, up 1,000 from the previous week.
And the Job Corps program, which offers GED, diploma and workforce training to young men and women of low-income backgrounds—and also those who’ve had trouble with the law—will continue to run. Of the 55,031 students enrolled in Job Corps in 2011, 51 percent were African American and 16.4 percent were Latino. The program runs from a separate pot of money, and so its staff and contractors are set at least through November. But there have been problems with Job Corps funding as the Inspector General recently found.
With unemployment among black and Latino youth so high—not to mention with African Americans in general—it’s important that the Labor Department operates at full capacity to help get people paid.
Just in case you missed Big Freedia setting the world record for twerking, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the Queen of Bounce in action. Big Freedia’s new reality TV show debuted Wednesday night on Fuse TV:
The show’s first two episodes reportedly trace the history of bounce music and Freedia’s place in it, along with featuring fellow New Orleans-based artists Sissy Nobby and Ward Buck.
It’s pretty wacky. (Reality shows are supposed to be wacky.) What the show really seems to present, though it’s likely too early to tell, is the world of a gracious, mellow and hardworking performer surrounded by a little bit of crazy, but also - more so - a solid community of friends, family and fans. Will that provide enough drama to sustain a reality show? For the New Orleanians and others who’ve been rooting for Big Freedia since the star began to rise, we can hope.
Von Diaz, Thursday, October 3 2013, 12:43 PM EST
As Colorlines previously reported, the government shutdown—now in its third day—disproportionately affects communities of color. And one particularly under-resourced community is already feeling the effects.
According to an article by the Associated Press, the Crow Tribe in Montana has been seriously affected by the shutdown. Of the 13,000 members of the tribe, 300 have been furloughed, which is about half of its employees. Transportation systems have also been suspended as a result, as has home health care for seniors. And like many other communities nationwide, there are concerns about federally funded nutritional and educational programs that these communities rely on.
Some tribes are able to weather the shutdown by drawing from their reserves, but these temporary cuts remain worrisome since other federal cuts were approved earlier this year.
The Washington Redskins certainly aren’t the only team in American professional sports with a racist name problem. The Cleveland Indians lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild-card game Wednesday night. Some fans, quite predictably, showed up sporting ‘redface.’
This morning, Colorlines hosted a chat with our steadily growing Twitter community about the federal government shutdown and its potential longterm implications. We invited columnist Imara Jones to expound on his continued coverage of the shutdown and invited our followers to pose questions and tweet comments about everything from their predictions on how long the furloughs will last to the Tea Party’s strong belief that, by taking away much needed employment and social services, it has the country’s best interest at heart.
Here’s a Storify feed of our Twitter chat. Read what’s already been said and continue the discussion, using the hashtag #shutdownchat.
Headed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the bill was introduced at a press conference today by Reps. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.). Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is expected to sign on as well.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the government shutdown may not affect the bill’s chances. “[The bill] has strong support from the American public. It has a probability of moving forward,” he said during the press conference.
Despite Rep. Hoyer’s optimism, it seems unlikely any immigration bill could move forward considering current budget disputes in Congress and with such few legislative days left in the calendar.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years since Dave Chappelle walked away from his hit comedy series “Chapelle’s Show.” Essayist Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah has a really thoughtful piece up over at The Believer that looks past the headlines and into the people and places that helped form one of the best comics in recent memory. Though Ghanash explains that Chappelle politely but firmly turned down a request to be interviewed, she does talk to some of those closest to him, including his mother, longtime collaborator and co-creator of “Chapelle’s Show” Neal Brennan, along with comedic legend Dick Gregory.
To tell that story, Ghanash situates herself in Chapelle’s town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, to talk about what the comic’s work means to the discussion of race in America. Here’s a snippet:
Chappelle did such a good job of truth-telling, on every subject, that nobody knew what to do when he just stopped talking. In no way did his quitting conform to our understanding of the comic’s one obligation: to be funny. To talk to us. To entertain us. To make us laugh. We aren’t used to taking no for an answer, to being rejected, especially not by the people who are supposed to make us smile. Especially not by black men who are supposed to make us smile. And yet Chappelle did just that. And so, like everyone, I wondered what had happened. What had happened, and, more so, what had brought Chappelle to—and kept him in—Yellow Springs?At a stand-up appearance in Sacramento in 2004, a frustrated Chappelle lashed out at his hecklers from the stage, yelling, “You people are stupid!” So what was it about this small college town—where hippies slipped me bags of Girl Scout cookies, where Tibetan jewelry stores and fair-trade coffee shops dotted the main street, and where kindly white ladies crossed the street to tell me my wild hair was giving them life—that made it more satisfying than celebrity or fame?
What separated Dave Chappelle not just from Neal Brennan but also his fans is that he was suddenly vaulted into the awkward position of being the world’s most famous interlocutor in a conversation about race—the one conversation no one likes having.
Despite the partial government shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will remain intact in all 50 states through October.
The program, which feeds about 9 million low-income pregnant women, babies and children up to age 4, will be funded through a combination of USDA contingency funds, rebates and money left over due to belt-tightening under sequestration.
Although WIC offices remain open, Rev. Douglass Greenaway, president of the National WIC Association, says the shutdown has already affected recipients. “WIC moms have a level of trust in the program. We’re already seeing moms not showing up for appointments because they think the offices are closed.”
And if the shutdown exceeds a month and state WIC programs run out of money Greenaway predicts serious health concerns for the pregnant women, babies and young children who rely on the food items they obtain using WIC vouchers or checks. “If the program shuts down, we’ll see pregnant women not getting adequate nutrition, placing them at risk for pre-term delivery. We’ll see breastfeeding moms not producing enough milk. And we’ll see some moms diluting infant formula or substituting cow’s milk or water for formula,” he says.
WIC serves 53 percent of infants up to age one in the United States.
You probably remember that hilarious GOP televised debate two years ago, where Texas governor and then-presidential hopeful Rick Perry was trying to name five federal agencies he wanted to close down. He mentioned the departments of commerce and education, but then he stumbled, having forgot the other three.
At first Perry agreed, saying, “EPA! There you go,” but then changed his mind, saying EPA needed to only be “rebuilt.” Not able to remember the final three, he settled with an “Oops.”
But perhaps Romney’s suggestion was prescient because EPA is, for all intents, shuttered, thanks to the government shutdown.
EPA chief Gina McCarthy warned last week that if the government closed it would mean that her agency “effectively shuts down.”
“The vast majority of people at EPA will not be working,” said McCarthy at an event sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor newspaper, as reported in The HIll.
She wasn’t kidding. Of the 16,205 employees at EPA, less than a 1,000 are expected to go to work under the shutdown, according to their contingency plan. For “excepted” activities EPA must perform to ensure the safety of human life and protection of property, only 613 employees, or 3.85 percent of their total capacity, will remain on board. For “exempt” staff — those engaged in military, law enforcement or health care activities, or those paid by a source other than congressional annual appropriations — only 296, or 1.83 percent of the employees will remain on board.
If a hurricane happened to strike — we’re just a little past the halfway point of hurricane season, which ends November 30 — EPA does retain staff that could respond by helping contain oil spills, hazardous waste disposal and other needed monitoring. They will continue legal counseling and litigation for certain high profile cases, the BP oil spill civil trial for example.
Also untouched by the shutdown are many activities EPA is helping carry out to restore damages from the BP oil spill, which is paid for with BP fines, and also “Superfund” activities, which is remediation of areas where hazardous waste has built up or is out of control. Superfund sites — for example a place where a shuttered chemical plant once operated, but either didn’t dispose of its materials properly or didn’t bother at all — are often located in low-income communities or communities of color, and its funded by billing companies responsible for the pollution.
At the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference last month, Lisa Garcia, EPA associate assistant administrator for environmental justice, said that despite the cuts they would still try to preserve their grant-giving program that helps community-based organizations build capacity — the kind of grants that allow those organizations to assist in Superfund remediation in their own neighborhoods.
“Even during the time of sequestration and budget reductions we hold our small environmental justice grants closely to our heart and no one can touch it,” said Garcia. “I don’t want to say you can cut other things because we don’t want any cuts, but we will look seriously at other cuts to save those capacity building grants. They are important to communities and we recognize that.”
Von Diaz, Wednesday, October 2 2013, 10:59 AM EST
For the 125th anniversary issue of National Geographic magazine, photographer Martin Schoeller captured a series of images that explore the increasingly multiracial face of the U.S. The striking images speak as much to increased racial diversity as the complexities of racial self-identification. Beginning in 2000 the U.S. Census allowed people to choose more than one race. Nearly seven million people selected multiple races that year and in 2010, 32 percent more people chose to do so. Each of the photographs depicted in this October 2013 issue includes both the self-ID chosen by the person photographed, and the boxes they checked on either the 2000 or 2010 census.
In the accompanying article, author Lise Funderberg talks about the significance of this change in the census:
Although the multiple-race option is still rooted in that taxonomy, it introduces the factor of self-determination. It’s a step toward fixing a categorization system that, paradoxically, is both erroneous (since geneticists have demonstrated that race is biologically not a reality) and essential (since living with race and racism is).
Questlove may be one of the busiest people on the planet. Most famous for being the drummer of the Roots, Questlove made his way down to Brooklyn on Monday to help launch the “Made in NY” media center, one of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s signature initiatives.
The new space is located in Brooklyn’s trendy DUMBO neighborhood and is housed in a 104-year-old building that was once a coffee factory. It’s meant to be an incubator for creative talent across disciplines.
“Collaboration between the sectors is crucial if we’re going to be the global media capital of the digital age, and our administration is working hard to make sure that’s the case,” Bloomberg said during the press conference.
Questlove is serving as the center’s first artist-in-residence. “In recent years, technology has really played a game-changing role in how we create and how we consume art,” he told reporters. “Who knows—maybe I’ll create the new Tonight Show theme with someone here at the center.”
After spending more than 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison, Herman Wallace is a free man. Wallace, 71, has advanced liver cancer and was granted immediate release on grounds that women were excluded from his grand jury. Wallace was taken to a hospice in New Orleans last night.
Wallace’s legal team released the following statement on Monday:
“Tonight, Herman Wallace has left the walls of Louisiana prisons and will be able to receive the medical care that his advanced liver cancer requires. It took the order of a federal judge to address the clear constitutional violations present in Mr. Wallace’s 1974 trial and grant him relief. The state of Louisiana has had many opportunities to address this injustice and has repeatedly and utterly failed to do so.
“Mr. Wallace has been granted a new trial, but his illness is terminal and advanced. However, the unfathomable punishment of more than four decades which Mr. Wallace spent in solitary confinement conditions will be the subject of litigation which will continue even after Mr. Wallace passes away. It is Mr. Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola 3’ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr. Wallace is gone.”
A former Black Panther, Wallace and fellow inmates Robert Hillary King and Albert Woodfox, were put in solitary confinement in 1972 after they were convicted in the fatal stabbing of 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller. Both Woodfox and Wallace maintain their innocence in Miller’s killing, instead saying that they were targeted because they’d established a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971. The three came to be known as the Angola 3.
Wallace’s story was the subject of the film “Herman’s House”, which chronicled his friendship with an artist who encouraged him to imagine his dream home.
Capping a jarring day in which the economic costs of the shutdown started to pile up, early evening reports emerged that the House of Representatives will begin separate votes on each government agency to determine which will stay open and which will remain closed. There are close to 500 government departments and agencies.
According to Politico, the House will take up a bill to allow full operations at the Veteran Affairs Administration and the National Parks Service. It would also permit the government of Washington DC to continue delivering services to DC residents. Should the House move forward with this idea, it essentially means that Congress would pick winners and losers by deciding which services citizens would receive and which they would not.
But it’s unlikely to become law. That’s because Democrats in the Senate turned a cold shoulder to the proposal. Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat, told Politico that conservatives are trying to pick their “favorite agencies to keep open” and went on to dismiss the idea.
The House move comes against a backdrop in which the economic hit of the shutdown is becoming clearer. Washington area economist, Stephen Fuller, told the Washington Post that the DC region would lose $200 million each day in economic output every day that the shutdown continues. Particularly hard hit is its $6 billion tourism industry in the nation’s capital, which relies upon the nation’s monuments and generates badly needed revenue for the majority people-of-color city.
Underscoring the chaos caused by the closure of the government, WWII veterans in wheelchairs and on canes broke through barricades at the World War II Memorial in order to honor their fallen comrades. But what happened today is more than symbolic. The reality is that the closings have started to bite.
Nineteen thousand kids in Head Start were shut out from the program on this first day of the shutdown.
All of this underscores that the peculiar legislative process is spreading disruption far and wide. NBC News reports that IHS Global Insight, the global consulting firm, released a report that details the fact that the shutdown will cost taxpayers $12 million an hour. That means that at the end of this day taxpayers will have shelled $300 million just to keep the government closed.
Yesterday’s Dream 30 border crossing action, organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) as part of the Bring Them Home campaign has resulted in the almost immediate release of seven people of the original 36 people who crossed. NIYA activists now want to know how long it will be until the other 29 border crossers will be released.
Elsy Núñez, originally from Honduras, and her four-year-old daughter Valeria, who is a U.S. citizen, were released late Monday—just hours after the action in Laredo, Texas. Since then, Javier Galvan, 16, and his father Javier Calderon were released; Jessica Gallegos, 16, and her sister Ingrid Gallegos, 13, were released with their mother Victoria Reyes; and Brandow Gonzalez, 15, and his mother, were released. That leaves only one minor—Luis Lopez Rivera, 17—in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. NIYA organizer Mohammad Abdollahi says that officials have indicated Lopez Rivera will be transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement; CBP declined to comment on the case.
Aside from Lopez Rivera, 28 of the Dream 30 remain in custody. According to Abdollahi, the seven who have been released so far obtained almost immediate humanitarian parole because of a “significant public interest.” NIYA activists now want to know whether the 28 will also be released in the public interest, or whether they will be transferred to an immigrant detention center, as happened with the Dream 9.
Brandow Gonzalez, who left his home in Columbus, Ohio, when his parents were deported four years ago, was elated after his relase today. “I was prepared to be in detention for a long time, and I was prepared to suffer there,” says Gonzalez. “I’m surprised, but so happy and so grateful.”
Details are still emerging; check back for more coverage soon.
Somewhere in America, Obamacare is still working. Even if its website is not. Many people complained this morning, the first day for Healthcare.gov, the federal web portal for Obamacare health exchanges. Reason for the grief was the website was running slow and crashing. During a press conference at the Rose Garden, President Obama said that was because of the overwhelming traffic of people looking to use it.
“Healthcare.gov demanded exceeded anything than we expected,” said Obama, who calculated that more than 1 million people visited the site before 7 a.m. “Like every new law, every new product roll out, there are going to be some glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix.”
Obama likened it to the recent Apple iOS7 upgrade rollouts, which garnered plenty of complaints for rolling so slow.
Apple “fixed it in a few days,” said Obama, “but I don’t remember anybody saying Apple should stop making iPhones.”
One thing the president said he will not stop making is Obamacare for the American people. House Republicans have been sending continuing resolutions to the Senate that would temporarily fund the federal government, but only under the condition that Obamacare funding would be delayed one year. The Senate has rejected those bills and Obama said he would not accept them anyway.
“As long as I am president I will not give in to the reckless demands of some Republicans in the House who want to deny healthcare benefits” to the American public, said Obama.
Watch video of Obama’s press conference this afternoon:
Yesterday, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina for its voter ID bill, his Justice Department staff was preparing to shut down. When Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution or a spending bill last night, Cabinet agencies across the federal map began implementing plans for working at partial capacity — many of those plans drafted in 2011 when a government shutdown was threatened then.
For the Justice Department, many of its staff will be exempt from shutdown-imposed furloughs, due to the nature of its national security work, but some of its divisions will have to send home huge swaths of their staff. Among those is the Civil Rights Division, which is furloughing 71 percent of its employees, according to a copy of the Justice Department’s shutdown contingency plan. Of the division’s 634 employees, 182 will stay on board, including 134 attorneys.
Also hit: the general Civil Division with 71 percent of its 1,310 employees on furlough and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which would lose 70 percent of its 1,339 employees.
All political appointees are immune to furloughs, but at yesterday’s press conference, Holder said some of his agents and lawyers will not survive.
“It is entirely possible that we will have to put on furlough some FBI agents and prosecutors as result of the dysfunction that exists primarily in the House of Representatives,” said Holder
Holder will remain in office, but he said he would reduce his pay by the largest amount of salary loss suffered by any of his impacted staff. Training for new Justice staff and for state and local officers the department regularly works with will also either be cancelled or postponed.
People are trying to make a political point and I’m trying to run a Justice Department,” said Holder. “We’re trying to keep the American people safe; we’re trying to keep crime down”
Other impacted areas:
U.S. Parole Commission: In this agency, which responds to requests for emergency warrants and processes parole certificates, 87 percent of this department is vulnerable to furloughs.
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force: The Wire will not come down. This Task Force has “strike forces” that target drug kingpins and wide-scale organizations that move weight. While its administrative support will shrink considerably, it’ll still be on the prowl for that highest-level drug activity that Holder has not grown lenient on despite his current reforms. Also note, both DEA and ATF has exempted large portions of their staff from furloughs, 87 percent and 83 percent respectfully. The Wire stays up.
FBI: Their investigations are expected to carry on and it is retaining at least 84 percent of its staff.
Office on Violence Against Women: This grant program will keep 100 percent of its staff.