Jimmy Fallon continued his strong first week on “The Tonight Show” by bringing Michelle Obama on as a guest during the show’s “Ew” segment. FLOTUS joined Fallon and Will Ferrell in a super cute (if, at times, awkward) dance party.
Update Wednesday, March 5 at 12:03 p.m.: New York is not ending solitary confinement for developmentally disabled inmates as previously reported. It is limiting these inmates’ time in isolation to 30 hours.
New York will end the practice of solitary confinement for certain classes of inmates, including youth and pregnant inmates as part of an agreement announced Wednesday, the New York Times reported. The landmark agreement stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s confinement practices. Some 3,800 prisoners are held in solitary confinement every day for between 22 and 24 hours as punishment for violating prison rules, according to the NYCLU. And now, New York will be the largest correctional system in the country which prohibits solitary confinement for youth inmates.
Solitary confinement is an ineffective and inhumane form of punishment, advocates have long argued. It exacerbates or even causes mental illness, and can increase rates of recidivism, the NYCLU argued. New York has been confining inmates to solitary confinement for months and even decades, when experts have argued that the maximum “tolerable span” one can spend in solitary confinement is closer to 15 to 30 days.
“This agreement is an important step toward dignity and decency,” Leroy Peoples, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit who served 780 consecutive days in solitary confinement as punishment for filing false legal documents, said via the NYCLU.
If the reform moves as scheduled, the lawsuit should be resolved in two years, the New York Times reported.
On January 7, dozens of Nigerians were arrested after the country passed a draconian anti-gay law that punishes homosexuality with a life sentence in prison. Similar legislation appears to be headed for Uganda. Global gay rights watchdogs have noted that such bills are often the work of U.S. Evangelicals, who they say must take repsonsibility for their actions. Now, a prominent Nigerian voice has spoken out against the law. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes on the common arguments posed by supporters of the bill, including that being gay is “un-African.”
The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority - otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust. We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.
A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence: there are already, in different parts of Nigeria, attacks on people ‘suspected’ of being gay. Ours is a society where men are openly affectionate with one another. Men hold hands. Men hug each other. Shall we now arrest friends who share a hotel room, or who walk side by side? How do we determine the clunky expressions in the law - ‘mutually beneficial,’ ‘directly or indirectly?’
This year’s annual Tribeca Film Festival starts on April 16 and it’s opening with a documentary “Time is Illmatic” on rapper Nas’ seminal 1994 album “Illmatic.” The film’s debut will be followed by a live performance of the entire album from Nas.
The rapper issued a statement on the film’s official release:
“I want to thank the Tribeca Film Festival for supporting the film with the incredible platform they’ve built over the years,” Nas said in the announcement. “It’s an honor to premiere this film in my hometown. I also want to thank One9 and Erik Parker for their persistence and hard work. Those guys and I come from the same place and era, which gives the doc an authenticity that is important to me. We wanted this film to represent the real, from the storyline all the way down to the directors and producers.”
Jane Rosenthal, CEO and co-founder of Tribeca Film Festival, praised the film. “Like the festival itself, ‘Time is Illmatic’ and the groundbreaking body of work it recognizes has roots grounded in New York City, but represents and reaches communities far beyond.”
According to a new study by University of California at Berkeley researcher Christopher Petrella, people of color who are sentenced to prison are more likely than their white counterparts to serve their time in private institutions. Katie Rose Quandt points out at Mother Jones that those private prisons have higher levels of violence and recidivism (PDF) and provide less sufficient health care and educational programming than equivalent public facilities.
In Petrella’s study, age and race work in a very specific way when it comes to private prisons. From Bill Moyers:
Why would African American and Latino prisoners be cheaper to incarcerate than whites? Because older prisoners are significantly more expensive than younger ones. “Based on historical sentencing patterns, if you are a prisoner today, and you are over 50 years old, there is a greater likelihood that you are white,” Petrella explained to BillMoyers.com. “If you are under 50 years old — particularly if you’re closer to 30 years old — you’re more likely to be a person of color.” He cited a 2012 report by the ACLU which found that it costs $34,135 per year to house a non-geriatric prisoner, compared with $68,270 for a prisoner age 50 or older.
Here’s what that looks like:
Quandt takes a deeper dive into how this data helps bolster the argument that the prison industry cares more about profit than rehabilitation. Read more at Mother Jones.
When autoworkers at a Tennessee plant vetoed union representation last Friday, many observers saw the loss not just as a blow to the United Auto Workers but to future organizing efforts in the region. If big labor is to take the South (and hope to be relevant nationally), experts say, it’ll need to get better at reaching workers of color.
According to Cornell labor professor Kate Bronfenbrenner in a New York Times op-ed this week, “The South has more manufacturing units with a majority black workers, immigrant workers, low-wage workers and women of color — those most likely to choose unions — and fewer majority white male manufacturing units — those least likely to choose unions.”
Prominent voices on the left like Timothy Noah and others allege that the UAW lost the Chattanooga plant because of stereotypical Southern racist undercurrents. One May op-ed in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press compared the UAW to “an invading Union army.” But it’s difficult to assess that charge. Reporting in the weeks leading up to and after the vote rarely mentions the plant’s racial demographics or even, how race and gender shaped organizing tactics on both the pro- and anti-labor sides.
Going forward says African-American Kenneth Riley, head of a South Carolina local, big labor must factor this reality into their campaign strategies: “unions are most likely to be successful in units where the majority of the workers are minorities, people of color and women.” And, says Douglas Williams, a PhD student at the University of Alabama, in order to make inroads, big labor must take organizing cues from worker centers and prioritize community engagement.
ABC’s Nightline aired an exclusive interview with one of 12 jurors who served during Michael Dunn’s trial for the murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The juror, who prefers to be known only as Valerie, says she believes Dunn got away with murder—and also details how jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous decision about the first-degree murder charge.
You can watch the full segment online, although it may require a cable provider password.
Artist and programmer Justin Blinder, who Gothamist points out has lived in a dozen apartments in just six years of living in New York City, took raw data from the NYC Department of City Planning and the Google Maps Street View cache to create snapshots of how gentrification has altered the Big Apple’s landscape. And, as this National Housing Institute report lays out, lower income residents of color are trying to fight back.
See more at Gothamist, including an interview with Blinder on why he decided to do the project.
Harnaam Kaur, 23, suffers with polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes excessive hair growth. She’s spent most of her life juggling different waxes and shaving creams to rid herself of the hair and was relentlessly bullied by classmates. But she made the decision to let her facial and chest hair grow out, and says that she’s never felt more feminine. Watch her story.
Warning: Unfortunately, the above video carries the really problematic title of “Bearded Lady,” which just sensationalizes Kaur’s experience.
Hip-Hop is slowly taking a foothold in the academy. From Bun B’s appointment to Rice University’s religious studies department to Dr. Dre’s massive endowment to the University of Southern California, rappers are bringing their craft into the classroom. One of the most important appointments, however, as been 9th Wonder’s fellowship at Harvard, which is now the subject of a new documentary called “The Hip-Hop Fellow.”
The film features interviews include Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Kendrick Lamar, Rapper Big Pooh and DJ Premier, among others. From Price Films:
The Hip-Hop Fellow is a 78 minute documentary following Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder’s tenure at Harvard University as he teaches ‘The Standards of Hip-Hop’ course, conducts research for his thesis and explores hip-hop’s history, culture and role in academia. The film centers on the emerging significance of incorporating hip-hop studies into the academy and spotlights the scholars and musicians at the forefront of preserving 40 years of hip-hop culture.
(h/t New Black Man)
Janet Mock was on “The Colbert Report” last night, and neither she nor Stephen Colbert tried to shy away from her recent controversey with CNN’s Piers Morgan. The two do spend a good amount of time talking about preferred gender pronouns, and it’s an instructive exchange.
Update: Tuesday, March 25 at 12:57p.m.: We’ve removed the image. Click KChronicles.com to view it.
How can you tell an innocent hand gesture from a dangerous gang sign? Or a so-called “thug” from a relatively safe person who’s not out to hurt you? Cartoonist Keith Knight wants you to pay really close attention.
MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband, James Perry, welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world on Valentine’s Day. The news came as a surprise to many of MHP’s viewers because she didn’t appear to be pregnant. This morning, Harris-Perry opened up about the path that she took to expand her family after battling uterine fibroids and having a hysterectomy. And, contrary to many reports, she didn’t adopt. She found a surrogate:
My pregnancy with my first daughter was blessedly uneventful; this one, however, was indeed an event. It took two families, three states, four doctors, and five attorneys to get this little girl here. And while our gestational carrier has no genetic tie to our little one, she is now our family. She gave our daughter love, safety, and nourishment for nine months. On Valentine’s Day, she gave her life and placed her in our arms. Her immediate and extended families have supported all of us along the way. They crowded the hospital room this weekend and shared in our joy. We are all bonded for life and our daughter has a bevy of grandparents, aunties, and siblings tied to her by blood and love.
We are sharing this experience, but our gestational carrier and her family do not wish to share it publicly. It is our sincerest hope to protect their privacy as she has protected our daughter.
It’s been 83 years since Toni Morrison was born Chloe Wofford in Lorain, Ohio. So what words do you use to celebrate one of the most important writers of our time? Not many. Instead, you take some time out of your day to read one of her lesser known works, Recitatif, and look at photos of how fierce she’s been throughout her lifetime. Enjoy!
Morrison, then going by her given name Chloe Wofford, was Senior Class Treasurer of Loraine High School in 1949. Photo: Lorain City History.
Walking with Angela Davis on March 28, 1974. Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
Morrison (second from the left) pictured alongside June Jordan, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, Lori Sharpe and Audrey Edwards at a black women’s writing group in 1977. Photo: Harvard’s Schlesinger Library.
At her desk at Random House, where she worked as an editor and played a pivitol role in bringing black literature to mainstream American audiences by editing work from Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayle Jones, and Henry Dumas. Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
On her way to Yale on April 14, 1974, where she taught creative writing. Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
At her home in Spring Valley, NY. Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
April 17, 1978: At home in Spring Valley, NY with her younger son, Slade, to whom she dedicated her most recent novel “Home.” Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
At the awards ceremony for the 1978 National Book Critics Circle Award for her book, “Song of Solomon.” Photo: © Jill Krementz; all right reserved.
Morrison enjoys the view of San Francisco from the 24th floor of the Fairmont Hotel on the night the Lorraine Hansberry Theater declared November 21 “Toni Morrison Day.” Photo: Creative Commons/ Kingsley Willis.
The Center for Investigative Reporting just released a scathing new look at Richmond, Calif., home to one of the worst apartment buildings in one of the worst public housing agencies in the country.
Residents reportedly live in fear and squalor:
There were at least 16 life-threatening health and safety violations at the five public housing projects managed by the housing authority, according to the two most recent years of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports. Seniors and disabled residents lived amid exposed wiring and missing smoke detectors and fire alarms. Most well-kempt housing projects don’t have these major health and safety violations, HUD says.
Then there are the indignities that don’t show up in formal government reports: A woman with no legs giving herself sponge baths from her bathroom sink because maintenance workers didn’t install a simple safety bar in her shower. The fire department rescuing a paralyzed veteran from his third-floor apartment because the elevators didn’t work for three days. A disabled man who watched in horror for nearly a month as raw sewage slowly dripped from the neighbor’s bathroom upstairs.
This is all happening under the watch of a badly mismanaged housing authority that millions of dollars in the red while its executive director, Tim Jones, bills taxpayers for expensive meals at high-end restaurants.
Young Women United, an Albuquerque-based reproductive justice organization that helped win a hard fought victory against New Mexico’s recent anti-abortion bill, is now focusing its lens on pregnant women who are battling drug addiction.
The group says that instead of criminalizing these women, there should be more resources to help treat them. From Indiegogo:
Women who are substance using and pregnant at the same time face a criminal (in) justice system that only serves to shame and stigmatize addiction. Mothers who use are often judged and told they must love their drugs more than their kids or that if they really loved their kids they would simply stop using. We want to make a short video to highlight the powerful stories of strength and resiliency of our communities and shed light on the lived realities of people who struggle with addiction every day. By challenging exiting narratives around parenting and addiction, we hope to demonstrate the need for increased access to prenatal care and treatment for women who are pregnant and substance using.
The group has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for their campaign to educate the public and impact public policy. The public education campaign draws from the first-hand experiences of women who have been pregnant and using substances at the same time. The goal is to “change the landscape of the way people think of addiction and parenting.”
What’s worse than a Google Bus? Try a new Google office that houses startups in San Francisco’s Mission District, the longtime home of the city’s Latino community.
According to the Venture Capital Post:
The former office of newspaper and catalogue printer Howard Quinn is big enough to accommodate 200 people. Located on 298 Alabama Street, the printer had been in business for half a century when it closed in 2012. The increasing popularity of online publishing, fueled by the technology of the search company, has proven to be very detrimental to printers, the report said.
Hardware firms could utilize the site for gadget and device development since the building which was constructed in the 1920s is zoned for manufacturing. With the leasing of the space, Google could be thinking of acquiring more startups focused on making hardware as it grows from web search and dips its hand into other markets like wearable technology, robotics and the Internet of Things, the report said.
The move highlights the growing trend of Internet firms in Silicon Valley where a fierce competition for tech talent has led them to expand in San Francisco so they can lure new employees who don’t want to commute to Mountain View, Palo Alto and Cupertino, the report said.
The Mission has long been a hotbed of displacement for the city’s Latino residents thanks to widespread evictions and gentrification. Case in point: the average rent for a one-bedroom in the Mission is more than $2,700.
(h/t Mission Local)
Detroit-based rapper Danny Brown is known for painting dark and vivid images in his music. But this week on Twitter, he opened up about about how his own battle with depression impacts his work:
He was, however, speaking candidly about his mental health issues, talking openly about depression, insomnia, drug use and death.
“I can’t sleep my anxiety is at an all time high (sic) but don’t none of y’all care about that sh*t,” Danny confessed. Then, “Depression is serous y’all think I do drugs cause it’s fun.”
It’s not the first that Brown has spoken publicly about his struggles with depression and anxiety. Back in 2011, he told MTV about self-medicating with drugs like Aderrall, which needs to be looked at in the bigger picture. As Kellee Terrell pointed out at BET not too long ago, too many black boys and men are suffering through mental illness in silence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third cause of death among African-American males between ages 15 and 24, behind homicide and accidents. And while suicide rates among Black men are lower than their white counterparts, our rates have gone up dramatically. A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 to 1995, the suicide rate among African-Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233 percent, as compared to 120 percent of whites. Not to mention the suicide rates of Black men are four times higher than Black women.
Even facing that dismal reality, black men are the least likely to access mental health services thanks, in part, to how difficult it is for black men to get affordable health care. But, most importantly as Terrell points out, there’s also the stigma associated with mental illness that equates manhood with being “devoid of emotions.”