Magic Johnson is clear about what he thinks is most important in the black community: jobs. The NBA legend talked to The Grio’s Chris Witherspoon about advancing Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of racial equality, and was clear to point out that the LGBT community has an important stake in that fight. To bring that point home, Johnson talked about how he and his wife Cookie have supported their son, EJ, who came out publicly. “My son EJ came out, me and my wife Cookie are happy to support him a million percent,” Johnson told The Grio, adding later, “I don’t care about the backlash. If somebody don’t agree, that’s on them.”
Black comedians Chris Rock and W. Kamau Bell sat down for an interview with The Root recently to talk about how they inject smart cultural criticism in their work. Rock is an executive producer for Bell’s hit FX show “Totally Biased”, which has been tackling everything from Stop-and-Frisk to the n-word. Here’s a gist of the interview, in which they about how humor can be an effective platform for discussions about racial inequity:
WKB: So many white people in America can understand race simply by quoting Chris Rock or Bill Cosby. That just goes to show how powerful comedy can be. It helps people see through the eyes of others without the fear of misunderstanding. Laughter is a great equalizer that way. It brings us closer together, without us even realizing it.
What’s the worst thing you can call a white person these days? Apparently, it’s a “hipster.” Watch this funny sketch from writer Kristina Wong.
In order to celebrate the release of her second album, “The Electric Lady,” Janelle Monáe turned David Letterman’s desk into a stage and performed her new song, “Dance Apocalyptic.” For more on the album itself, check out this morning’s feature: Janelle Monáe: Cyborg Diva, Black Girl Nerd, Marketing Genius.
We reported yesterday that George Zimmerman was in “investigative custody” based on a 911 call placed by his wife, Shellie. She accused Zimmerman of punching her father in the nose and threatening them both with a gun, saying in the 911 call that she was afraid Zimmerman was going to shoot them.
He has since been released from custody, and his wife has retracted her statements, saying she didn’t actually see a gun. Neither she nor her father are pressing charges against ZImmerman. His lawyer Mark O’Mara told reporters he believed the incident was a case of heightened emotions typical of divorce proceedings, also saying “There may have been some pushing and touching. That happens a lot in divorce situations …” O’Mara also said it was likely Zimmerman was armed, but that he never drew his weapon.
George Zimmerman is currently in “investigative custody” with Florida police in connection with a domestic battery charge involving his wife, Shellie. He is not under arrest nor has he been formally charged, but police in Lake Mary, Fla., are holding him at a relative’s house after his wife called 911, claiming Zimmerman had threatened her. Allegedly, he pulled a knife on her during an altercation, and then pulled a gun on her and her father. Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce last week.
Zimmerman, who was found not guilty for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in July, has remained in the spotlight this summer. In August he was photographed taking a tour of a Florida gun manufacturer, and has been pulled over for speeding twice.
This story is still developing. Stay tuned.
The battle for the next Mayor of New York has dominated the conversation ahead Tuesday’s Primary Election in New York City. Between Anthony Weiner’s sexting and arguing with voters, and Bill de Blasio’s son Dante’s impressive Afro, smaller elections aren’t getting much attention.
But in East Harlem, a recent mural project has sparked controversy among two City Council candidates. Candidate Gwen Goodwin claims that incumbent Melissa Mark-Viverito conspired against her campaign by coordinating a mural on her building. According to the New York Daily News, she told supporters :
“This a picture of a bird who’s head has been severed from its body,” she wrote in a mass email to supporters. “I have been told in the Puerto Rican culture it means ‘problem solved.’”
Goodwin claimed the painting has connections to Santeria, a mix of ancient African rituals with voodoo and some Catholicism.
The mural is part Los Muros Hablan, a project coordinated by La Respuesta in partnership with El Museo del Barrio, which was supported by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Sergio C. Garcia is fighting the California Supreme Court for the right to practice law in that state. In 2009 he passed the California State Bar exam (on the first try), and soon after was sworn in, admitted, and licensed to practice law in CA. But, according to Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), who is advocating on his behalf, his license was revoked two weeks later based on “an error.”
The State Bar Association of California and the CA Department of Justice both support Garcia’s case. Last week the CA Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, and will ultimately make a landmark decision on whether a professional license, such as that to practice law, should be denied on the basis of citizenship.
Melissa Lambarena, spokesperson advocating for Garcia, says he will now wait 90 days to learn the CA Supreme Court’s decision. “In the meantime he is reaching out to the legislature and has received their support. If the decision from the court is not in Sergio’s favor he is determined to target the U.S. Supreme Court,” she says.
Garcia is an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was a year old. He left the U.S. temporarily at age 9, but came back into the country at age 17 and has been in CA ever since. Garcia has a pending green card application, which was filed in 1994 and was accepted in 1995, but still hasn’t come through.
We covered Marimacho’s gender bending back in June as part of our annual pride package. The Brooklyn-based indie line also did it big at this year’s Fashion Week. Proof:
Philadelphia takes on Washington, DC this evening in Monday Night Football and, in all likelihood, a (fake) severed head wearing a (presumably) Indian head dress will be there.
“We gotta stay focused on passing laws to expand the vote wherever we can, and to roll back voter suppression laws wherever we can and stay focused on that until the job is done,” said NAACP President Ben Jealous when I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial.
That job is far from done, but Jealous will be working it from a different angle come 2014. Yesterday, Krissah Thompson at The Washington Post broke the news that Jealous plans to resign from the 104-year-old civil rights organization at the end of this year. After five years at the NAACP’s helm — and just one year into a recently renewed three-year contract — Jealous is choosing to devote time to his 13-month-old son and 7-year-old daughter, he told Thompson. He’s also venturing into more partisan pastures, getting involved in efforts to help launch progressive candidates into government, particularly in the South, as reported by USA Today.
Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP’s chairman of the organization’s board of director’s said of the announcement:
“We thank President Jealous for his time leading the Association. Under his leadership, the NAACP has built a highly competent staff that will carry our mission forward and meet the civil rights challenges of the 21st century. Our board, staff and volunteer leaders throughout the country deeply appreciate his sacrifice, and will continue to implement our game-changing goals for the next half century that include the restoration of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, implementing Trayvon’s Law, bolstering civic engagement efforts and ensuring our community is enrolled in the Affordable Care Act exchanges.”
Sherrilyn Ifil, president of NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, the litigation-focused organization founded by pioneering civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall (no connection to NAACP except in name), said they “applaud the leadership” of Jealous.
“Although the LDF and the NAACP have been separate organizations for over 50 years, LDF and its director-counsels have always enjoyed a close collaborative relationship with the NAACP,” said Ifill. “We have been particularly happy to work with Ben Jealous, who has brought energy, strategic vision and tireless advocacy to his work as the NAACP President. …Jealous leaves his organization with a strong legacy of coalition building and voter mobilization. His efforts have strengthened the entire civil rights community. We look forward to continuing to work with the NAACP, in particular this year as we intensify our efforts to protect minority voting rights in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder.”
LDF experienced a departure of a civil rights pillar of their own when one of their leading attorneys Debo Adegbile transitioned in May to join the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as their special counsel attorney. With the Senate committee, Adegbile will continue the Voting Rights Act protection work he performed with LDF — he delivered oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of VRA in the Shelby v. Holder proceedings — by helping Congress produce a solution for the Section 4 coverage formula.
As for Jealous, he was also front and center for many of the voting rights battles fought concerning the Voting Rights Act, particularly as the U.S. Supreme Court partially dismantled it this summer. Jealous was also present for voting rights battles beyond the Supreme Court.
In Pennsylvania, where the NAACP continues to fight a photo voter ID law on racial disenfranchisement terms, Jealous told Colorlines at a court hearing on the matter before the November elections: “If the Pennsylvania Republican leadership succeeds in stealing this election by denying people the right to vote there will be hell to pay.”
The Republican leadership did not succeed, despite their verbal confirmation that they were in fact trying to swipe votes from Obama via the voter ID law.
When I interviewed Jealous at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the 1963 March on Washington, he emphasized the importance of restoring the Voting Rights Act to its fullest complement. He said he was “confident that Congress will restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act within the next 12 months, possibly by the end of this year.”
But he also warned those concerned about voter ID laws not to take eyes off of Pennsylvania, saying that “What they couldn’t do last year, they’re trying to do for 2016.”
As for Pennsylvania Republicans confession that they were trying to rob Democratic votes, Jealous said, “the very notion that the [Republican] party in that state’s legislature would decide to suppress the votes of his neighbors to try to steal the presidential election was outrageous.”
Many of Jealous’s contemporaries are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would guarantee every American the right to vote, which while not an official campaign of the NAACP, is still “a very worthy cause,” said Jealous at the ceremony.
Standing with thousands of people gathered behind him that day on the National Mall and President Obama not far away seated at the Lincoln Memorial, Jealous said through wind and rain: “We must be vigilant, we must be organized, and we must stand up and recognize that our right to vote is paramount for our ability to defend all of our other rights.”
Hear Jealous talk about the importance of working with environmental groups in restoring voting rights in this video clip of our interview here:
[Update 1:50 p.m. 9/9/13] More on Jealous’s resgination announcement from the Sierra Club:
“Just a few weeks ago in Washington, civil rights activists marched with environmentalists, union workers, LGBT advocates, and thousands of Americans pushing our nation to fulfill its promise of justice and equality. It was a clear example of the unprecedented alliance of diverse voices and the strength of the civil rights movement of today that would not have been possible without the visionary leadership of Ben Jealous at the NAACP.
Recognizing that justice is not complete when American families don’t have access to clean air and clean water, Ben was instrumental in launching the NAACP’s environmental justice program. And driven by the understanding that the pursuit of justice means protecting workers, our planet, and our democracy, Ben and the NAACP were key in the formation of the Democracy Initiative alongside the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the Communications Workers of America. We have built new relationships, cultivated new strategies, and built new bridges that will move us forward together for years to come.
During Ben’s five years of service, the NAACP has not just added more members and registered more voters — it has courageously built alliances that have strengthened the organization’s cause and bolstered all of us in the struggle to secure a better future for every American. On behalf of the Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters, we congratulate Ben Jealous on a job well done and we look forward to working closely with his successor to continue building on the foundation he helped construct.”
Edwidge Danticat recently sat down to talk with Guernica Magazine about her new novel, “Claire of the Sea Light.” It’s Danticat’s first novel in more than a decade, and the first book she’s published since Haiti’s devestating 2010 earthquake. It’s a fascinating interview that touhces on everything from Danticat’s own creative process to how immigrant writers are categorized by publishers and Wikipedia. Here’s one part that really stood out:
Guernica: Would these be very different stories if you didn’t translate? If you took them down in Creole?
Edwidge Danticat: Oh, definitely. I had that experience with Krik? Krak! I made some of the stories into radio plays in Creole and they become totally different. More alive in some way. More immediate. In the epigraph to Drown, Junot Diaz uses a quote from a Cuban poet, Gustavo Pérez Firmat—“The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you.” This is the dilemma of the immigrant writer. If I’d lived in Haiti my whole life, I’d be writing these things in Creole. But these stories I am writing now are coming through me as a person who, though I travel to Haiti often, has lived in the U.S. for more than three decades now.
Often when you’re an immigrant writing in English, people think it’s primarily a commercial choice. But for many of us, it’s a choice that rises out of the circumstances of our lives. These are the tools I have at my disposal, based on my experiences. It’s a constant debate, not just in my community but in other communities as well. Where do you belong? You’re kind of one of us, but you now write in a different language. You’re told you don’t belong to American literature or you’re told you don’t belong to Haitian literature. Maybe there’s a place on the hyphen, as Julia Alvarez so brilliantly wrote in one of her essays. That middle generation, the people whose parents brought them to other countries as small children, or even people who were born to immigrant parents, maybe they can have their own literature too.
Back in 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced an ambitious new initiative to try to help curb bullying in the Big Apple’s classrooms. The plan included putting up “Respect for All” posters in school buildings, documenting reported incidents of bullying, notifying parents, and following up with students after they had reported harrassment. The plan was applauded by some of the city’s Asian American non-profit groups who had long pushed for measures to end bullying in classrooms.
But a follow up survey released this month by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund shows that there is significant work left to be done. In a snapshot survey of 163 Asian American students conducted in after school programs, youth leadership meetings, and houses of worship, researchers found that key components of the 2008 plan had yet to be fully implemented. Only 16 percent of survey respondents who reported bullying to their schools recieved a written report from their school, as mandated by the ‘08 plan. Additionally, only 0.5 percent of bullying victims surveyed reported that their parents were notified of their harrassment — another major requirement of the 2008 initiative. Overall, the survey found that reported incidents of bullying had actually increased 20 percent among Asian American students since a similar survey was conducted in 2009.
The survey’s authors are now pushing for the Department of Education (DOE) to publish yearly data on bullying and harrassment, along with increased training for school staff members on how to respond to bullying incidents and the implementation of resorative justice curriculum that emphasizes empathy instead of focusuing on punitive measures for students who engage in bullying behaviors.
On the whole, young people — particularly young people of color — are supportive of comphrensive immigration reform, according to a new study from the Chicago-based Black Youth Project. But while young people of color were generally supportive of immigration reform, they often had varying ideas of how immigration is changing the country’s landscape.
In an online survey that was conducted in both English and Spanish last Spring among 1,500 respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, the possibilities and challenges of building black-brown political alliances were made clear. The study’s key findings include:
- Young people of color support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform at higher rates than white youth, who are more supportive of punitive measures and increased enforcement of existing law.
- Majorities of both Black and white youth believe that undocumented immigrants take away jobs, housing, and health care from people born in the U.S.
- However, Black (43.3 percent) and white (17.6 percent) youth disagree substantially about whether undocumented immigrants should be eligible for government services.
- Black youth have a more inclusive and expansive view than white youth of the role of immigrants in American society.
- A clear majority (61.1 percent) of Black youth believe that immigrants are treated better than most Black people born in this country. These feelings of alienation may inhibit the prospects for Black-Brown coalition-building.
Importantly, those sentiments seem to have shifted over the course of President Obama’s time in the White House. In early 2009, slightly more than 54 percent of black youth between the ages of 18 and 29 believed that immigrants were treated better than most black people who were born in this country. That number has jumped to 61 percent in 2013, according to the survey.
“These findings have substantial implications not only for politics of immigration reform, but also for the political cohesion of young Blacks and Latinos,” the survey’s authors write. “The findings in this report suggest that there are a variety of attitudinal barriers to Black-Brown collaboration. In an era where young people are deeply worried about the availability of jobs and affordable health care, it is important to limit the ability of the media and our politicians to exploit these concerns and generate mistrust and anxiety among young people of color.”
Visit the Black Youth Project for more information on the survey, titled “Immigration Reform and the Possibility of Black-Brown Coalitions Among America’s Youth.”
Today’s jobs report underscores the weak state of the U.S. economy as the country considers military action abroad. In August the U.S. added 169,000 jobs. That’s below analysts’ expectations. The overall unemployment rate barely declined to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent.
Black and Latino unemployment remained virtually unchanged in depression-like territory at 13 percent and over 9 percent respectively. This minuscule decrease in joblessness registered for all the wrong reasons.
The bottom line is that millions of people have dropped out of the workforce. The decline in those actively looking for work—officially known as the “labor participation rate”—is masking true unemployment. The number of people who’ve stopped searching is the highest in almost four decades. As the official unemployment number only measures those “actively” looking for work, the exit of millions from the job force makes the overall jobless situation look better than is actually the case. In fact, if discouraged workers were added to unemployment calculations, then the number of those out of work would be closer to 10 percent.
Adding to the less than stellar report is that it revised downward the number of official jobs created in June and July. There were 74,000 fewer hirings made during that time frame than were initially reported. Given today’s news—with looming critical deadlines in the next four weeks on the budget, debt, health care, and immigration—those concerned about economic justice can only hope that these issues receive top billing alongside the war resolution that’s currently up for consideration.
Last summer a group of undocumented immigrants traveled across the country for a “No Papers, No Fear” Ride for Justice in the Undocubus. Colorlines reporters followed the bus as it rode through southern states from Phoenix, AZ to the North Carolina Democratic National Convention. The riders were immigrants of all ages who joined the Undocubus caravan to advocate for immigration reform, and bring attention to racial profiling, prisoner abuse, and high deportation rates directly linked to Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Arpaio is currently under federal investigation for these charges.
This summer ”Priscilla the Undocubus,” was all but destroyed while on sabbatical in Los Angeles. Unknown persons vandalized the interior and exterior of the bus, and stole parts of the motor. The news came as a shock to the Undocu-riders, who were saddened to see the bus in such a terrible state when they were just starting to make plans to go back on the road.
“No Papers, No Fear” organizers started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to rejuvenate the Undocubus so they can begin a new cross-country journey.
With Janelle Monáe’s sophomore album “The Electric Lady” due out on September 10, Pitchfork offers a sneak preview of what fans can expect. The story itself is pretty a pretty epic accomplishment of multimedia journalism and includes a digital stream of the new album. But here are some of the most interesting facts I picked up from it:
Monáe and her Wondaland Arts Society Take An Almost Scientific Approach to Art
The house is decked out for creative purposes in a highly studied way, as if someone has been reading up on Prince’s Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota, or Jack White’s Third Man Headquarters in Nashville. Monáe has another home to herself in the Atlanta area, but she sleeps, eats, and breathes Wondaland when she’s in work mode.
She tested the new album out at some Atlanta-area strip clubs.
At one point, they brought early versions of tracks to Atlanta’s fabled strip clubs to see what the women there could dance to—a somewhat surprising move considering Monáe’s android-obsessed subject matter is light years away from the champagne room.
Despite her loyal fanbase, Monáe hasn’t quite taken off — yet.
On one hand, she’s got Prince making the case that she should be on stage at the biggest annual televised celebration of black music. On the other hand, she kind of needs Prince to make the case that she should be on stage at the biggest annual televised celebration of black music. It is sometimes easier to like the idea of her—a whirling, twirling, fantastical funk robot in a tux, a firecracker of a live performer, a young woman who runs her own tight creative ship—than it is to forge a natural connection with her music and persona. With The Electric Lady, she has a chance to change that.
George Lucas is a big fan.
Star Wars mastermind George Lucas flew Monáe out to his Skywalker Ranch in California to give an intimate performance on the property.
Therapy is a really important part of her life.
“I didn’t like the idea of therapy at first,” she continues. “In the black community, nobody goes to therapy. You go to your pastor or you go to the Bible. There’s a stigma.” Monáe, who grew up in a devout Christian family, still says grace before meals. “But I think God blesses us with brains to find medicine, to find cures, and I don’t believe in not using that. Therapists are there to listen.”
It’s been more than ten years since “City of God” made its international debut and became a smashing success. The feature film, based on a 1997 novel by Paulo Lins, tells the story of the rise of organized crime in the country and became an classic in the United States, where it earned four Oscar nominations.
Now there’s a new documentary out that details what the film’s actors have been up to for the past decade. “City of God - Ten Years Later” was recently one of 20 films selected for Premiere Brazil 2013, a traveling screening that begins in Rio de Janiero and includes at least one stop in New York City. The festival in Rio will take place September 26 to October 10; details on a U.S. screening haven’t been released yet.
While Native American themes have become popular in the fashion world, Native American designers have often been left out of the spotlight. In an effort to change this sad state of fashion affairs, three Native designers will be spotlight three designers this Friday: internationally acclaimed Sho Sho Esquiro, Lyn Kay Peters of Ringing Bell Robes, and Linda Lavallee of Cree Nisga’a Clothing.
The show will take place this Friday at the New Yorker hotel in Manhattan. According to its Facebook page, the event will celebrate “self-taught First Nation fashion designers who are sure to bring global awareness of this highly neglected and untapped resource of rich traditional talent.”
Esquiro talked about her 2013 collection with the Native American fashion blog Beyond Buckskin earlier this year and noted that in addition to drawing from indigenous cultures, she was also inspired by Frida Khalo and Day of the Dead. Here’s a video that features some of her designs on the runway back in 2012:
More photos from Esquiro’s collection:
Walmart employees nationwide are expected to join demonstrations today in downtown Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and 13 other U.S. cities in protest of continued low wages and employee terminations. Organized by the union-backed group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), the demonstrations come after Walmart failed to address the group’s Labor Day deadline to make a public commitment to a $25,000 minimum annual salary for full-time employees, and reinstating employees who were recently fired after going on strike.
Walmart employees have been involved in multiple demonstrations since November, including a walkout in June and organized civil disobedience at the store’s Washington D.C. headquarters in August. At least 20 employees have been fired and 80 more have received disciplinary actions. OUR Walmart organizers have also aligned with recent fast food worker strikes against low wages.