In the latest from filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner, “Small City, Big Change” tells the story of the Latina/o activists who brought about the historic Transgender Equal Rights Bill in 2012. After a transgender woman was brutally attacked in the small town of Chelsea, Mass, the organization Mass Equality coordinated LGBTQ Latinos to organize social media campaigns, and speak directly with Chelsea representative Eugene O’Flaherty—who had opposed the bill for years. O’Flaherty was so moved by what he saw as the vulnerability of the LGBTQ community that he changed his position, and went on to champion and help pass the bill. The short film tells a powerful story of how grassroots activists can work with elected officials to bring about social and policy change. You can view the entire short film online.
The man suspected of killing 19-year-old Renisha McBride nearly two weeks ago outside of Detroit, Michigan, has been charged. In a press conference today, Dearborn prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that 54-year-old Ted Wafer will be charged with three counts: second-degree murder, manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Worthy explained Michigan’s self defense law, and why it doesn’t apply in this case, stating that her office does “not believe that [Wafer] acted in self-defense.” Reporters asked several questions about that law in particular, but the prosecutor made clear that she did not want to make political statements at this time. McBride is black and Wafer is white—and activists have drawn similarities to this case and George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. Worthy made clear, however, that she does not believe this case has anything to do with the race of those involved.
Wafer, who Worthy stated has been cooperative with authorities, has not yet been arrested. He’s expected to turn himself in later today.
UPDATE November 19 at 1:05pm EST: The “makeover” was apparently done by a Tumblr user with the handle “toonsketchbook.” The user alisonofagun, who reposted it and was incorrectly attributed as the original artist, has issued a statement condemning the makeover.
An artist on Tumblr took issue with one of Frida Kahlo’s iconic self-portraits and decided to give it a totally unncessary makeover. Here’s the original:
The original artist’s statement was captured by Tumblr user alisonofagun:
“Okay so I know this is kinda taboo but anyways.
Frida Kahlo: Not too easy on the eyes. I mean she’s got the lady-mo and the monobrow thing going on. She didn’t know where to put her blush or what shade lipstick would obviously suit her skin tone. Really, she’s a bit of a wreck. So this got me to thinking. What would have happened if her girlfriends had done the right thing and taken her to a beautician, (which clearly needed to happen)? I did a subtle re-paint over the top of her original self-portrait to “conceptualize” what it would have looked like if she had been whisked off to Beauty Works or the likes….I didn’t want to alter the integrity of the original painting too much. What do you reckon?”
Here’s the re-make:
Needless to say, not everyone on Tumblr was pleased with the makeover. Buzzfeed rounded up some of the responses, one of which read: “Kahlo’s eyebrows and mustache were a purposeful rejection of white colonizer standards of beauty; she didn’t just leave them on her face the way they grew, she groomed them and darkened them with makeup. Her appearance was beautiful, and it was intentional.”
President Obama has nominated Debo Adegbile, senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, to take over as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The former head of that division, Thomas Perez, is now Secretary of the Department of Labor. While Adegbile served as an attorney for the Senate Judiciary, working primarily on crafting a new Voting Rights Act bill, he’s more popularly known as the lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund who argued on behalf of preserving the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. Adegbile defended it twice before the high court, successfully helping to protect it when it was challenged in 2006, and again this past February before Chief Roberts’ court gutted the landmark civil rights bill. Adegbile also represented Hurricane Katrina evacuees in a federal voting rights lawsuit shortly after the storm.
“Our country needs someone like Debo with significant experience in voting rights to protect the deeply held American value that each person has the right to a voice in our democracy,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP LDF. “Debo has precisely the type of broad civil rights experience that is required at this pivotal moment in our country.”
If Adegbile is confirmed to serve as the Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, he will lead in enforcing the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, along with those of the Civil Rights Act to protect people of color and other protected classes from discrimination.
Adegbile is the son of parents who immigrated to America from Ireland and Nigeria. As a child he coped with poverty and homelessnes before working his way through law school by way of loans, various jobs and scholarships. He is now considered one of the premiere civil rights attorneys in America.
Peggy Noland, a white designer from Kansas City who’s worked with stars like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, has a deeply problematic new project out: a ridiculous line of t-shirts and dresses featuring Oprah’s head photoshopped onto nude bodies.
Why naked Oprah?
There’s a David Nelson painting of the former mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington. He’s nude except for women’s lingerie. It caused this huge uproar in the late eighties in Chicago. It’s kind of an updated version of that. We feel very protective of our public figures. We don’t want them to be exposed that way, but we feel like they’re ours, too. The simpler, more lighthearted idea is that it’s like one of those bikini-printed beach shirts. I think there are some really meaningful philosophical layers. I can’t believe I just said “philosophical” when talking about a dress. We share a humorous underpinning to all our work. That’s why there’s naked Oprah with a KISS face. It can nod to how ridiculous the fashion industry is at times.
The dress is anything but “lighthearted.” She chose to use Oprah’s image — as the most powerful black woman in entertainment who’s waged a very public battle over her weight throughout her career— instead of, say, an actual designer, because it’s something that will create a spectacle. Here’s more on Nolan:
Puerto Rican rappers/rockers Calle 13 continue their fierce criticism of government systems and oppression in their latest track ”Multi_Viral,” a collaboration with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Assange, who remains a controversial figure, seems to be making a habit of teaming up with hyper-political artists, recently giving the intro at M.I.A.’s New York City concert. The track, which also features Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Palestinian artist Kamilya Jurban, broadly connects NSA spying with racism, environmental justice, government accountability and militarism. You can download the track for free on Remezcla.
British singer Lily Allen wrote a blog post on Wednesday responding to accussations that her latest video for the song “Hard Out Here” is racist. The video, which is supposed to be a making fun of Miley Cyrus’ twerking, has been panned for stepping over the line from parody to prejudice by objectifying the bodies of women of color. Mia McKenzie wrote at Black Girl Dangerous:
Here’s yet another video of a white woman performer using the bodies of black women as props. Smacking their asses and cutting away to their parts as though they are just pieces of people rather than, you know,whole people. All while singing about how she doesn’t need to shake her ass because she has a brain. The juxtaposition of that sentiment with images of black women gyrating and twerking is downright insulting. Here’s yet another white feminist throwing black women under the bus because she has some point she’s trying to make about…sexism? I mean, I can hardly tell, probably because my feminism includes black women. Because I don’t see black women, or any other women of color as tools, props, or background noise for white women’s self-expression. But that’s me.
On Wednesday, Allen wrote in a blog post titled “Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions” wrote that the video “has nothing to do with race at all.”
The message is clear. Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all.
If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens; I actually rehearsed for two weeks trying to perfect my twerk, but failed miserably. If I was a little braver, I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see. What I’m trying to say is that me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself from the girls, it has more to do with my own insecurities and I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on the shoot day.
But, as McKenzie wrote, “Satire works best when you are flipping the script on the oppressor…Not caricaturing and otherwise disrespecting the people who are oppressed by that system.”
(h/t The Guardian)
The Williams Institute estimates there are one million LGBT immigrants in the U.S., 30 percent of whom are undocumented. While immigration reform remains stalled in Congress, and seems increasingly unlikely to pass this year, the Center for American Progress produced an infographic to map out what immigration reform could provide for LGBT immigrants.
Capitalizing on a campaign in which bottom up economic justice was at the fore, a coalition of New York-based philanthropies—led by the Open Society Foundations along with nine others—is hosting a citywide conversation to help shape the agenda for incoming-mayor Bill de Blasio. The monthlong event, Talking Transition, hopes to engage New York’s eight million residents in an open process to establish priorities and policies for the next four years. Through interactive discussions, panels, and activities throughout the month of November, Talking Transition seeks to make sure that the voice of everyday people continues to be heard after the next mayor takes office. Each day groups of New Yorkers will gather to participate in moderated discussions on the city’s future.
With this effort to broaden the conversation on future policy, Talking Transition could serve as model for after-election activities in other municipalities and states by taking what is usually an elite conversation and transforming it into a more democratic one.
Yesterday I participated in a Talking Transition panel led by the North Star Fund’s Hugh Hogan on what the next mayor should learn from Hurricane Sandy. My remarks focused on the fact that city needs to reimagine what’s valuable and who’s valuable, recognizing that the working poor are at the core of the city’s future. Recommendations from each panel will be compiled and passed on to the incoming mayor’s team. Other topics to be covered over the next ten days range from health, to public safety to economic justice to education. A full list of what’s to be discussed with times can be found at talkingtransitionnyc.com.
Along with these set piece conversations, New Yorkers are invited to come in and register their thoughts and priorities through Talking Transition’s interactive kiosks. They can also do so online through Twitter @TalkNYC2013, on Facebook and on Instagram with #talkingtransition.
Black and Latino families have been hardest hit by “housing income segregation,” which is shrinking middle income neighborhoods across the country. And now it seems Latinos are also having a harder time qualifying for home loans than before the Great Recession, experts say. In a recent interview, Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals told VOXXI that Latinos are particularly affected by new, stricter rules.
“Latinos are one of those sectors mostly affected by these new regulations because of their non-traditional ways of earning income and lack of credit history in many cases,” said Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).
Some of the new rules could require as much as a 30 percent down payment for those “risky candidates,” which Acosta also says is difficult for Latino families whose non-traditional, often inconsistent income earnings make it hard to accumulate the money needed for such a large payment. And these same informal labor jobs also make it harder for Latinos to establish good credit.
Macklemore has joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union in an effort to get more people to join the organization.
“I’ve got a lot of things to do during the day,” the rapper says. “So something like being beaten with a club, pepper-sprayed, and tased for expressing my political views would really slow me down. That’s why I carry the ACLU card.”
The New York City council recently approved a plan to for developers to replace an iconic factory in Queens with luxury high rise condos. For 20 years, the owner of that Queens factory has allowed artists to cover the building’s exterior in elaborate graffiti and the area, known as 5Pointz, has become an iconic draw for tourists from around the world.
From Atlantic Cities:
Developers Jerry and David Wolkoff offered to provide 10,000-square-feet of “art panels and walls” in the new buildings. But that arrangement did not satisfy artists, who immediately filed a lawsuit and were granted a 10-day injunction. On Tuesday afternoon, the court ruled against a permanent injunction.
That decision leaves the artists scrambling to re-apply for landmark status before the Wolkoffs rush in with the wrecking ball (a previous application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission was rejected in August). A spokesperson for 5Pointz insists, however, that the fight is not over. “The building is not going to go down before 2014,” she told The Queens Courier, explaining that a demolition permit still needs to be issued and tenants have until January to move out.
So far, the public has been split on the news. Banksy, whose New York residencyspurred street art mayhem last month, left these parting words on his website: “It’s been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye.” But others support the plan, saying the current site is in noticeably bad shape and an inefficient use of space.
I guess the saying is true: all good things must come to an end. After a great two season run, “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” will air its final episode this Sunday.
FXX has yet to comment on the cancellation.
Asian Americans, as human beings, deal just like other people with the gamut of mental illness, including postpartum depression and anxiety. But that doesn’t mean it’s openly acknowledged, let alone discussed. In fact, while 14 percent of women in the U.S. report postpartum depressive symptoms, women of Asian descent were least likely of all races to report having been told about postpartum depression by a health care provider, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Cultural perceptions about mental illness, by both patients and providers, may have something to do with that.
In a frank personal essay published by Hyphen Magazine this week, Sharline Chiang takes a different tact, writing openly about her shattering experience with severe depression and anxiety after she gave birth to her daughter Anza. But she hasn’t told everyone.
I didn’t know I had postpartum depression—postpartum anxiety to be exact. Even after I found out and was diagnosed with severe PPD a month later, I lied. Even after I was put on anti-psychotic medicine, even after I was registered at the mental hospital in Berkeley, I lied. I lied, because I didn’t want my parents to worry. It seemed the right, Confucian, filial thing to do, to protect one’s elderly parents from one’s own suffering. Most of all I lied because I didn’t want to be judged. I already felt like such a failure. I was failing as a mother and I was ashamed.
Four years ago I had three miscarriages. “You’re not careful enough,” my mother said. “You’re too active.” While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: “Go on bed rest so it doesn’t fall out.”
I couldn’t risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.
My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?
So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.
Read the rest of Chiang’s piece over at Hyphen.
Affirmative action is back for yet another day of court today. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments today in Fisher v. Texas, the major affirmative action case which was sent back down to appellate courts by the Supreme Court this summer.
While the Supreme Court affirmed in its June ruling on Fisher v. Texas that diversity on college campuses is a worthwhile goal and allowed colleges and universities to continue to take race into consideration in admissions, the High Court sent the case itself back to the Fifth Circuit to take a closer look at the University of Texas’ admissions policies. The question before the Fifth Circuit right now is whether race-neutral alternatives could still advance the school’s goal of fostering diversity as well as its current program, under which the majority of students are admitted via a race-blind policy and a small percentage are admitted through a separate process which considers race, among multiple other factors, to complete its admissions.
Proponents of affirmative action argue that race-neutral alternatives can’t and don’t produce the same kinds of diversity.
Catch up on Colorlines’ affirmative action coverage, including Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the other major affirmative action case currently before the Supreme Court, here.
In the first full month since the marketplace for new health insurance plans under the Affordable Healthcare Act opened on October 1, over 106,000 people across the nation have selected plans. Not exactly metrics to pop champagne over, but U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius said they expect those numbers to improve over the next few months when she announced the enrollment numbers this afternoon. Another 975,407 people at least made it through the application and eligibility process, but haven’t selected a plan yet, said Sebelius.
Getting through that process has not been an easy ride for millions of Americans who’ve tried and failed to access the Obamacare plans through the online portal Healthcare.gov. The website probably won’t get fixed anytime soon. Meanwhile, the HHS administration has appointed “Navigators” — community-based Obamacare evangelists dispatched to help people sign up for health insurance through other options. The Tea Party has been publicly attacking the Navigators program as part of their larger agenda to derail Obamacare.
Meanwhile, today’s enrollment numbers also include an additional 396,261 people who have been determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
“There is no doubt the level of interest is strong,” said Sec. Sebellius when announcing the figures. “We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months … They’re also numbers that will grow as the website, HealthCare.gov, continues to make steady improvements.”
Naima Lowe is a queer black artist based in Washington state whose most recent project is causing quite a stir. She’s created a book called “39 Questions for White People,” a collection of simple questions that are meant to generate a discussion around white privilege. Here’s how Lowe describes it:
The deceptively simple text asks complex questions about race and accountability. Each page of this limited edition, forty-page, loose-leaf book, was hand inked and hand typed at a small collectively run print shop in Olympia, WA. This work started as an experiment based in my curiosity about how whiteness is framed and understood by white people. The work of creating the book became an exercise in turning the emotional labor of racism into tangible physical labor. I was able to turn all that pain into an object, which is incredibly strange, but also incredibly freeing.
Questions include: How do you know that you’re white? Do you notice when the last white person leaves the room?
Copies of the book just went on sale and it’s currently on display at The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle as part of their special exhibition “Under My Skin: Artists Explore Race in the 21st Century.”
Writer, filmmaker and activist dream hampton made an appearance on Democracy Now alongside Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The two spoke to host Amy Goodman about the ongoing outcry in Detroit for accountability in the aftermath of the shooting of Renisha McBride, an unarmed 19-year-old black women who was killed by a white homeowner after she reportedly sought help following a car accident. In the interview, hampton articulated what’s at the core of anger surrounding the case:
AMY GOODMAN: So, there was a toxicology test given to the victim, to Renisha McBride’s body, but Ted Wafer was not tested? Is that the case?
DREAM HAMPTON: I mean, unless they—unless the Dearborn Heights Police Department produces a toxicology report from that night, which would, to me, seem standard procedure—if someone claims that there was an accidental shooting at their home, then it seems that—it would seem that they would be tested for alcohol or drugs. A toxicology report on Renisha McBride’s body is more criminalization of black corpses. I don’t make the analogy to Trayvon in this case. I think Jonathan Ferrell, killed in North Carolina by the police while he was seeking help after an accident, is a far—
AMY GOODMAN: Now, he was the Florida A&M football player who gets in a car accident, is running toward police, and they shoot him dead.
DREAM HAMPTON: Yes, he’s a better analogy, if we need make one; I don’t think that we need to. I think that we can deal with Renisha McBride and the life that was lost on its own merit. But this criminalization of black corpses is deeply troubling, as well. We saw this happen with Trayvon. We saw his public record, his school record, his attendance record, whether or not he had ever smoked pot—you know, this teenager, like, kind of criminalized even as he was a corpse. I’m not interested in seeing that happen again with Renisha McBride. Like the family, I’m hopeful that Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who, as you know, Amy, has a very serious reputation, will do the right thing and bring justice for the McBride family.
Films that celebrate queer women of color are rare, and the upcoming “Women and the Word: THE REVIVAL Documentary Film” promises to be a heartwarming thought-provoking look at five poets on an international tour. After a 55-day campaign on Kickstarter the project has been successfully funded, with post-production led by Sekiya Dorsett and Andrea Boston. Artists featured include T’ai Freedom Ford, Be Steadwell, Jonquille “Solsis” Rice, and Elizah Turner who explore gender, sexuality, and the unique barriers faced by queer women of color using music, poetry, and performance. More on the film:
Women and the Word chronicles the creation of an international salon-styled tour led and supported by women. It tells the story of how Jade Foster recruited a group of five dynamic poets and musicians to become stewards of a movement that builds community among queer women of color, upholds literary arts excellence, and occupies living rooms across the country.
Poet, activist, and current UCLA student Sy Stokes sends a powerful message with his poem “The Black Bruins,” which calls the school out for dismal black student enrollment. According to Stokes, only 35 black students in the incoming class are expected to graduate, and of the black males at the school—who make up a tiny 3.3 percent of the overall male population— 65 percent are athletes. Stokes says he was inspired to perform this piece because of his own experience of alienation as a multi-racial student, and the legacy of his cousin Arthur Ashe.
“We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for a level playing field,” he says.
NPR reports that black student enrollment at UCLA has plummeted since the state voted down affirmative action in 1996. Stokes’ video is a timely response to ongoing inequity at one of the most respected schools in the country, and challenges viewers to consider the systems that enable the school to continue to enroll only certain kinds of black students.