W. Kamau Bell, Reza Aslan Get New Shows on CNN

W. Kamau Bell, Reza Aslan Get New Shows on CNN

Great news for fans of racial justice and comedy: W. Kamau Bell* is coming back to TV!

CNN announced this week that it has ordered a new series in which the comedian travels the country and strives to “show the United States is not built upon just one, but many diverse and colorful definitions of America,” according to a statement received by the Hollywood Reporter. Bell previously had a comedy show on FX called “Totally Biased” that lasted two seasons and ended in November of 2013. 

Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American creative writing professor at UC Riverside and the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” is also joining the network with a new show called “The Believer.” The series is built around Aslan immersing himself in different faith-based communities and exploring what it means to be a “true believer.”

Read more at Deadline

*Bell has served on the board of Colorlines’ publisher, Race Forward.

5th Ferguson Resignation, Clinton on E-mail Debacle, Thicke and Williams Lose in Court

5th Ferguson Resignation, Clinton on E-mail Debacle, Thicke and Williams Lose in Court

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Parker Rice, one of two University of Oklahoma frat boys seen chanting about lynching black people on a video issues a statement which is part apology part victimization. His frat brother Levi Pettit hasn’t said anything, allowing instead for his parents to issue a similar statement that claims Pettit isn’t racist. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Don’t Know Jamaican Author Marlon James? Shame.

Don't Know Jamaican Author Marlon James? Shame.

Marlon James, the author of the new-ish novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings” hid himself while living in his native Jamaica. “I was so convinced that my voice outed me as a fag,” he writes in The New York Times Magazine, “that I had stopped speaking to people I didn’t know.” He was 28, well into adulthood, and by then weary of camouflage.

Now in his 40s, James reflects on finding freedom in the United States after growing up as a gay man in Jamaica. The island nation’s turbulent ’70s are the subject of James’ third novel—and also the subject of a Human Rights Watch report about anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, “Not Safe At Home.”

In the Times magazine James writes: 

…[M]y best friend, Ingrid, visited from Jamaica. She looked at my walls, covered with photos and posters, books all the way to the ceiling, four shelves of vinyl, copies of GQ, Bookforum and Out magazines scattered everywhere, my “simile is like a metaphor” T-shirt, then at my face and said: “This is so you, dude. I’ve never seen you as you before.” I didn’t even realize when it happened, when I stopped playing roles. 

Read more of James’ personal essay, here.

Two University of Oklahoma Students Expelled for Racist Chant

Two University of Oklahoma Students Expelled for Racist Chant

Just days after a video surfaced showing Sigma Alpha Epsillon members at the University of Oklahoma chanting racist slurs, two students in the video have been expelled from the school. 

The students have not yet been identified, but university president David Boren explained his actions in a statement. The students, who were members of the university’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, were dismissed for creating a “hostile learning environment for others,” the statement said, according to the Guardian. 

The move came just one day after the national chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon closed the University of Oklahoma’s chapter. 

The school, which boasts one of the most powerful football programs in the country, is also feeling the effect on its campus. The football team refused to practice on Monday, and one well-regarded recruit de-committed from the university after the video went public. 

[Video] John Oliver: The Other People of Color Barred From Voting

[Video] John Oliver: The Other People of Color Barred From Voting

“Anglo-Saxon values” makes an appearance as comedian John Oliver revisits the racist roots of why more than 4 million Americans in U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands can fight for their country but still can’t vote.

UO’s Racist House Mother, GOP Letter to Iran, Florida Officials Ban Use of ‘Climate Change’

UO's Racist House Mother, GOP Letter to Iran, Florida Officials Ban Use of 'Climate Change'

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • A stunning investigative report says that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection banned its workers from using the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability.”
TAGS: Morning Rush

Kansas City Has Warp-Speed Internet, and 20th Century Digital Divide

Kansas City Has Warp-Speed Internet, and 20th Century Digital Divide

A midwestern U.S. city has one of the fastest broadband connections in the world, on par with Hong Kong. That’s because four years ago, Google Fiber selected Kansas City, Mo., for the roll-out of its broadband network at speeds 100 times faster than anywhere in the county. Despite its warp-speed leap into the future, however, Kansas City still boasts a racial digital divide that tracks with its 20th century residential segregation of African-American and Latino residents. The disparity is one that’s renewing conversations around barriers to Internet access for all low-income communities of color and their ability to effectively compete in the global information economy. Seventy percent of public school students, according to local tech nonprofit Connecting for Good, do not have Internet access at home.

There’re a number of reasons for low adoption, as Fast Company reports. Major barriers include price (comparatively low, but not low enough for owners of buildings with low-income tenants, including public housing) and a perception among residents that the Internet—compared to paying rent or buying food—isn’t a necessity.

(h/t NPR)

Remember Tony Robinson Jr., Oklahoma Frat’s Racist Fail

Remember Tony Robinson Jr., Oklahoma Frat's Racist Fail

Here’s what I’m reading up on today:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Fine-Friendly Ferguson Judge Owes $170K in Back Taxes

Fine-Friendly Ferguson Judge Owes $170K in Back Taxes

The Ferguson judge accused by this week’s DOJ report of ticket fixing and punishing majority black residents with exorbitant fines and arrest for nonpayment reportedly owes more than $170,000 in back taxes. Ronald J. Brockmeyer, 70, according to The Guardian, is in his 12th year as Ferguson’s municipal judge. According to his private practice bio, he is also a judge in another neighboring city and prosecutor in three others. Brockmeyer’s and other’s dual roles have raised conflict of interest issues before and is considered symptomatic of the area’s Balkanization. St. Louis County’s 90 municipalities, according to a 2014 Better Together report, account for 11 percent of Missouri’s population but bring in 34 percent of all muni court fines and fees statewide. From The Guardian:

While Brockmeyer owes the US government $172,646 in taxes, his court in Ferguson is at the centre of a class-action federal lawsuit that alleges Ferguson repeatedly “imprisoned a human being solely because the person could not afford to make a monetary payment”.

“Judge Brockmeyer not being incarcerated is a perfect illustration of how we should go about collecting debt from people who owe it,” said Thomas Harvey, the director of Arch City Defenders, one of the legal non-profits representing plaintiffs who were jailed in Ferguson.

Also, today, more fallout from Wednesday’s DOJ report. According to the Post-Dispatch, Capt. Rick Henke and Sgt. William Mudd, two veteran police officers, have resigned over racist e-mails. The city’s top court clerk, Mary Ann Twitty, was terminated for the same reason.

Comedian Jessica Williams on Ferguson, Fines and The F.E.A. Party

Comedian Jessica Williams on Ferguson, Fines and The F.E.A. Party

It can’t get much worse than the DOJ’s Ferguson police department report. Unless, “even after the revelations, it’s business as usual at the Ferguson PD,” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart suggests to senior Ferguson correspondent Jessica Williams. Watch the video above for her novel solution: the Fined Enough Already (F.E.A.) Party. Thing is, Stewart’s suggestion isn’t that far-fetched. The DOJ report names and blames many city leaders now being asked to reform. 

One fired employee’s identity has been revealed since Mayor John Knowles’ Wednesday evening press conference at which he took no questions. Mary Ann Twitty, fired for sending racist e-mails, was the city’s top court clerk. Others include: 

…the police chief who authorized arrests without probable cause; the municipal judge who adds new charges when people contest their citations, yet quietly got his own traffic ticket wiped away; and the city manager who was the force behind the financially driven policies that led to widespread discrimination.

(h/t The New York Times)

It’s Seriously Cold Out, Google Car Insurance Search, Too Much Sugar

It's Seriously Cold Out, Google Car Insurance Search, Too Much Sugar

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • An 11-year-old child in England dresses up as the guy form 50 Shades of Grey, with cable ties and a mask, for World Book Day and is asked to alter his outfit. But his mom stands by her decision to allow him to go to school like a that.
TAGS: Morning Rush

#TBT: The One Native Person to Ever Grace Paper Money in the U.S.

#TBT: The One Native Person to Ever Grace Paper Money in the U.S.

It’s Throwback Thursday, and today we’re gonna take you back more than 100 years to illustrate a little-known part of paper money history.

In 1899, the U.S. Mint issued a $5 silver note that features Hankupapa Lakota Chief Running Antelope. It remains the only paper currency that includes a Native American in the history of money in the United States:


The note is still available as a collector’s item on eBay, where it sells for anywhere between $500 to $10,000, depending on the day and on the quality of the bill. Over at Treasured Stocks, there’s a short biography about Running Antelope, along with the cringeworthy rumor that the chief was made to wear a Pawnee headdress rather than a Lakota one:

This note shows, as its center and central figure, the image of brave Chief Running Antelope who became Head Chief of the Hunkpapa in 1851. He was born in South Dakota in 1821 and raised in native traditional skills and values. As diplomat, communicator, and warrior Chief Running Antelope was a friend and advisor to Chief Sitting Bull during the Plains Indian conflicts. He believed, however, that native nations should compromise with not fight against whites. If you are looking at a Chief Silver Certificate you are looking at a picture of the only American Indian to be featured on US Currency. The engraved picture is not without controversy, however. The story is that Chief Running Antelope is shown wearing a Pawnee head dress, not Hunkpapa, because the one the Chief actually wore was too tall for the engraving. Another version of that story is that the Chief was told to wear the Pawnee head dress during the photographic session which he adamantly refused to do. Either way, the head dress show on his head is Pawnee.

But, as Thomas King writes in his book, “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America,” it’s not exactly clear whether Running Antelope is wearing a Lakota or Pawnee headdress.

What is clear is that the bill went out of circulation shortly after it was first issued. More than 100 years later, Running Antelope remains the only Native to ever appear on paper this country’s paper money. Meanwhile Andrew Jackson—the president who oversaw the Indian Removal Act that resulted in the Trail of Tears—has been on the $20 bill for 87 years. 

Racist E-mails Aren’t the Worst Thing in the DOJ’s Ferguson Report

Racist E-mails Aren't the Worst Thing in the DOJ's Ferguson Report

A day after the Department of Justice’s report, racist e-mails exchanged between Ferguson police officers are capturing headlines and, perhaps, dominating social media shares. One officer has been fired and two others have been placed on administrative leave. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated,” Mayor James Knowles said at an evening press conference yesterday at which he took no questions. But, truly, racist e-mails rank among the least disturbing parts of a report so caustic it reads like an Onion article. What struck me was that Ferguson’s revenue-driven policing effectively steals from working-class and poor African-Americans—and the City of Ferguson has not conducted a full accounting of the cost of that theft.

In the DOJ report, we learn that as a result of eight charges stemming from false arrest, one 32-year-old man lost his job as a contractor with the federal government (read: good benefits). We also learn that one woman is still paying down on an illegal parking ticket she received seven years ago. As of December 2014 she had paid $550 on a $150 court fine—and still owed $541. These examples are necessary but the picture is still incomplete. What if in addition to the DOJ’s thorough report into the city’s institutions, there was also a separate audit to tally the economic cost of institutional racism?

Ferguson’s predation disrupted not just residents’ lives but their households’, too—but how? How does losing a federal contract for sitting in a parked car on a hot day impact a 32-year-old man and his family? 

Sustained police misconduct or abuse isn’t only about criminal justice. It’s an economic and livelihood issue, too. But the latter is harder to see if there’s not also a commensurate accounting of all that the city of Ferguson stole.

Video: Why Do So Many Native American Women Go Missing?

The heartbreaking story of actress Misty Upham’s disappearance and subsequent death is at the center of this new piece at Al Jazeera America: Why do so many Native American women go missing?

TAGS: Native video

[Video] Watch UC Berkeley Students School Their Professor About Institutional Racism

When students at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare grew tired of a professor’s racially charged remarks, they took a somewhat unconventional approach: a teach-in — for their teacher.

The action happened on February 24 and was aimed at Steven Segal, a tenured professor of social welfare and mental health who’s been with the university for more than 40 years. According to a report in The Bold Italic, Segal, who is white, recited a rap he’d written about “black-on-black crime” at a Black Lives Matter event on campus. Later, in class, he continued rapping, this time about scapegoating police.  Here’s more from The Bold Italic:

We all experienced the emotional impact of your actions. We would not be here today if this did not really immensely impact pain on all of us,” Erika O’Bannon, a student and protest organizer, said to Segal in a YouTube video of the action. “We cannot stand by this institution that supports your beliefs and the beliefs that you’re teaching to this class. We refuse to let this class continue as usual.”

Read Julia Carrie Wong’s account at the Bold Italic

Cuban Official Says Assata Shakur’s Extradition is ‘Off the Table’

Cuban Official Says Assata Shakur's Extradition is 'Off the Table'

Political exile Assata Shakur is safe — for now. The 67-year-old former Black Panther has lived in Cuba for decades since escaping a U.S. prison in 1979, while serving a widely disputed sentence for killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. When the U.S. announced last December a renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba, supporters worried that Shakur would be extradited to the U.S. as part of the deal. But that’s not the case.

From The Grio via Yahoo News:

“I can say it is off the table,” Gustavo Machin, the deputy director for American affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replied when asked if Shakur, whose birth name is Joanne Chesimard, would be returned to New Jersey now that Cuba and the U.S. are restoring diplomatic relations.

Not only is Shakur’s extradition off the table, Machin explained, but the Cuban official went so far as to question the fairness and validity of Shakur’s 1977 criminal trial. “There are very serious doubts about that case,” said Machin. “We consider that a politically motivated case against that lady.”

Read more.

DOJ’s Awful Ferguson Report, K-Cup Waste, 12-Person Kidney Swap

DOJ's Awful Ferguson Report, K-Cup Waste, 12-Person Kidney Swap

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • A massive exoplanet is observed to have a whopping four stars (it was previously believed to only have three). 

[Video] What ‘Ferguson’ Means for Black Men, Ages 5 to 50

[Video] What 'Ferguson' Means for Black Men, Ages 5 to 50

In time for the DOJ’s release today of its investigation of the Ferguson police department: watch 50 black men, ages 5-50, explain what “Ferguson” means in the 4-minute video above. What’s fascinating about Cut’s experiment is the ages at which ‘Ferguson’—and in a separate video, ‘police‘—start to take on meaning. 


‘Fresh Off the Boat’: Eddie’s School Bus Travails

'Fresh Off the Boat': Eddie's School Bus Travails

It’s recap time, readers. We’re on Episode 7 (“Showdown at the Golden Saddle*”) of “Fresh Off the Boat,” which means we’re just at the halfway mark for the 13 episodes that will make up the show’s first season. The handwringing and fretting over whether the show would be an unfunny, offensive dud have given way to easy enjoyment. 

It’s late in the day, and I admit that I’m tempted to leave a link here to “Fresh Off the Show,” the unofficial post-show chat hosted by comedian Jenny Yang and blogger Phil Yu, and peace out. I was honored to be invited to join the debrief last night. (I would follow Keiko Agena in any lineup.) We talked about immigrant hustle and dad sneezes with the requisite classic Asian snacks. But, like the good ratings-boosting Asian-American TV viewerYes! You’ve gotta give as good as you get! I am, I turned on the old Hulu and rewatched the episode just now for this recap for you.

Here’s where we are: Eddie’s not running his middle school, but he has found a pack of other seeming misfits who he can at least commiserate with. That means Eddie and his friends are devising survival strategies to escape unscathed from the inevitable social humiliation that is the daily school bus experience. As in sitting at the front and feigning sleep so back-of-the-bus bullies ignore you. But school bus rides hold one redemptive quality for Eddie: the daily promise of seeing his crush Nicole. 

Young Eddie indulges in fantasies in which he ventures to the back of the school bus where Nicole sits, shares his hip-hop gems (Ice Cube’s “Check Yo Self”) with her, and then basks in Nicole’s reciprocated affections. Of course, reality is much harsher.

Meanwhile, as business at Cattleman’s Ranch, the family’s ripoff Western-themed steakhouse restaurant takes off, Eddie’s dad Louis deals with intimidation from the franchise owner whose steakhouse idea he lifted. Eddie’s mom Jessica has no idea about the provenance of the hostility toward their family, and suspects a hate crime when a new billboard Louis places is vandalized. 

Jessica fumes about the vandalism and what she insists is racial prejudice while she and Louis head to dinner at a country club. The big dinner thrill for Jessica had been the opportunity to explore a real-life version of one of her favorite American movies: “Caddyshack.” The bit shows off how central movies and television are to Jessica and Eddie’s acculturation. (Constance Wu, as Jessica Huang, made me laugh out loud with her version of Rodney Dangerfield’s classic one-liner from the movie.) The moment goes by fast, but it’s almost profound to watch Asian-American actors Wu and Randall Park play immigrant parents who are embracing U.S. pop culture, on a network sitcom. Jessica and Louis’ Caddyshack banter is also a very real cultural experience. Raise your hand if you are or know an Asian kid whose American name was inspired by a character in an ’80s sitcom and an actor in a ’90s romantic drama.

Back at home, Eddie’s efforts to woo Nicole reach new lows when it turns out that she’s been called over, not to hang out, but to babysit Eddie and his younger brothers. Eddie does the inadvisable, but utterly funny. You should watch for yourself. It involves hot sauce.

Also, for folks who can’t get enough of the ’90s nostalgia, here’s a link to a Spotify playlist with songs from “Fresh Off the Boat.” Prepare for a trip down hip-hop memory lane.

*Post has been updated since publication to reflect that the name of the episode is “Showdown at the Golden Saddle” rather than “Showdown at the Golden Corral.”

Eric Holder Blasts Ferguson’s ‘Disturbing’ Pattern of Racial Bias

Eric Holder Blasts Ferguson's 'Disturbing' Pattern of Racial Bias

The Department of Justice has declined to charge former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, but that doesn’t mean outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder is backing off the city. In a speech today, Holder blasted Ferguson for its “routine” constitutional violations and “disturbing” pattern of racial bias against black residents, The Guardian reports.

Holder’s remarks came on the heels of the release of a Justice Department investigation into the practices and policies of Ferguson’s police department and court system. “It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” Holder said

The Department of Justice also announced this morning that it would not charge Wilson, and there’s little surprise here. The announcement came seven months after Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, and three months after a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict Wilson. “There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the DOJ’s criminal report read, ABC reported.

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