The White House calls it a “virtual whistle-stop tour.” And it’s happening for a half-hour later this afternoon, as Pres. Obama takes questions about issues raised (or not) in Tuesday’s State of the Union. Get in on the conversation from 2pm-2:30pm, here. Follow on Twitter: #POTUSRoadTrip and cc: @Colorlines. We want to know what you’re talking about.
Over at Studio 360, Nishat Kurwa has a great piece up about a new book out called “Party Music” by musicologist Rickey Vincent that explores the history of the Black Panther Party’s funk band, “The Lumpen” — a name that comes from Karl Marx’s “lumpenproleteriat.”
But, as Kurwa explains, there was a lot more to the band than its predictable name:
Calhoun wrote some original songs, but time was tight. “I wasn’t able to write quickly enough to keep up with demand.” So the band would take hits and rewrite the lyrics to fit the revolution the Panthers were striving for. “Instead of saying ‘Dance to the music,’ it was, ‘Power to the people!’” remembers James Mott, one of the Lumpen members. They took Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which says “You don’t need a ticket, you just get on board,” and changed the phrase to “You don’t need a ticket, you need a loaded gun.”
Finally, they went into a studio and made their one and only recording, “Free Bobby Now” — listen to the song below. (Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party’s co-founder, was serving four years on a charge of contempt of court.) “I made pancakes, I sold papers, I did all kinds of things, but that was our singular contribution,” Calhoun said, to spread the message beyond the true believers. “If you won’t come to a rally, I’ll sing it to you, how’s that?”
Read more at Studio 360 and listen to the segment below.
So it looks like live broadcasts featuring brilliant people are a thing now. A very good thing, to be sure. Last year, bell hooks and Melissa Harris Perry brought down the house (and the Internet) with a lively discussion about black feminism at the New School. Not too long after that, Junot Diaz interviewed Toni Morrison at the New York Public Library. And now, the NYPL is back with more live streamed brilliance as Harris Perry takes the stage to talk with Harry Belafonte about progressive activism in a discussion that will be moderated by historian Jelani Cobb.
You can tune in and watch the whole thing live at 6:30pm EST. And follow along with us on Twitter with the hashtag #MHPBelafonte.
Transgender writer and editor Janet Mock has a new book coming out next week called “Redefining Realness” and has offered up a preview in a video that was released on Thursday. In this clip, Mock talks about the shame associated with sex work, but also how it helped her develop a sense of community and resilience.
The United States Post Office is commemorating Shirley Chisholm this year for its annual Black History Month stamp series. Chisholm, the first black congresswoman in the U.S. and the nation’s first African American to run for Democratic presidential nomination, also happened to be a fierce political icon. As such, the Chisholm stamps promise to elevate any kind of mail you’ve got to send.
New Yorkers who are feeling extra festive: head to the Shirley Chisholm post office in Brooklyn to pick up your Chisholm stamps. They’re being released tomorrow.
What controversy? Months after this Cherrios ad featuring an interracial family caused a racist public uproar, the company is back with a new ad starring the same adorable little girl that is pegged to the Superbowl. “The big game provided another opportunity to tell another story about family love,” Cheerios representative Camille Gibson told The New York Times.
It’s been six months since Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman, was beaten to death in Harlem and still no one has been charged with her murder.
The lack of progress in the case has outraged many, including Nettles’ family and other LGBT communities across the country, leading them to hold a rally in Manhattan on Thursday to call for accountability in the case. The rally will be held Thursday at 4pm at One Police Plaza in New York City.
The Trans Women of Color Collective of Greater New York issued the follwing press release:
“We will not be silent, we will not stand by while trans youth are murdered without recourse.” says Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Community Organizer & Co-Founder of Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC) of Greater New York. “The NYPD and the District Attorney’s office must be held accountable for their biased and botched investigation of Islan Nettles’ murder.”
Activists have raised many troubling questions about the District Attorney & NYPD’s negligence and mishandling of the case: It was revealed that no DNA evidence was collected from Paris Wilson at the scene of the crime, nor were witnesses rigorously questioned. Nor has it been explained why Simone Wilson, the suspect’s mother, was never held accountable for falsifying evidence when she persuaded a friend of her son to make a false confession which was later recanted. And perhaps most inexplicably, the D.A.’s office is claiming that all 10 surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the beating that lead to Islan Nettles’ death were broken.
“Having survived a violent assault, I know what a struggle it can be to get justice in NY. Not one of my attackers was charged - and I was almost treated by the police as though I deserved to be assaulted,” says Madison St. Claire, Co-Chair of Membership for TWOCC. “Now, the same thing is happening in the Islan Nettles case - and that sends the wrong message: that trans women of color are disposable - that our lives don’t matter.” says Madison. “Today, we send our own message NYPD & the DA’s office: TRANS LIVES MATTER!
As the press release notes, there were ten surveillance cameras in the vicinity of Nettles’ August beating, but officers have reportedly said that none were working. Stay tuned.
Barneys New York doesn’t exactly conjure feelings of inclusion. Just three months ago, Trayon Christian, a black college student, filed a lawsuit against the exclusive retailer after he says Barneys racially profiled him, causing him to be detained for two hours after purchasing an expensive belt.
But the luxury department store now has a campaign that features transgender people—most of whom are not professional models—to grace its catalog and advertisements. According to The New York Times, which details the campaign:
Alongside photographs of the subjects, many taken with family members, pets and other members of their support networks, the catalog also features excerpts from interviews with the participants by the journalist Patricia Bosworth, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the biographer of Diane Arbus.
Ranging in age from 17 to “early 30s,” their races, socioeconomic positions and places on the transgender spectrum vary.
The ads will run in the Times as well as Vanity Fair. According to TIME, the company’s execs came up with the idea a year ago to “raise acceptance of trans individuals.”
Kansas state Rep. Allan Rothlisberg filed a bill Tuesday proposing that Kansas public schools track the immigration statuses of their public schoolchildren, and then send that information along to the state.
HB 2521 lays out 15 different kinds of proof of status schoolchildren may bring in—from naturalization documents to a passport to a Bureau of Indian Affairs card number—to prove that they’ve got legal status to be in the state. Schools would be required to track and send to the state the number of students who enrolled but failed to prove their status, and the state would annually publish a report showing how much state money was being spent to educate those kids.
“I would prefer we spend tax dollars on citizens and not on illegal aliens,” Rothlisberg told the Lawrence Journal-World. The bill acknowledges that the state cannot prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in Kansas public schools. A 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyer v. Doe, firmly laid out children in the U.S. have a right to public education, regardless of their status.
The bill was “another attempt at intimidation and harassment,” Sunflower Community Action Group’s Sulma Arias told the Lawrence Journal-World.
Rothlisberg, a Republican from Grandview Plaza, is a noted anti-immigration lawmaker who last year supported an effort to repeal his state’s in-state tuition law for undocumented students. At the repeal hearing last year Rothlisberg complained about drug cartel members which he say fill U.S. prisons, and the inconvenience of listening to a Spanish language option on automated phone calls.
Rothlisberg’s antics this year call to mind HB 56 from Alabama, an embattled 2011 law which went several steps further than the Arizona SB 1070 law which inspired it to terrorize the state’s immigrant community. Among its many anti-immigrant provisions, HB 56 also required schools to track their undocumented student populations. Less than two weeks after HB 56 went into effect a judge enjoined that very provision, but by then many panic-stricken Alabama immigrant families were reportedly fleeing the state and taking their children with them.
In that respect, HB 56 was successful at the outset. But several years on from that initial hysteria, the law seems to have been unable to break the state’s immigrant community. Something Rothlisberg might want to keep in mind.
(h/t Huffington Post)
An effort four years in the making culminated Tuesday when Maryland’s state school board passed new school discipline regulations which roll back the state’s zero-tolerance policies. The policy changes seek to end widespread exclusionary school discipline practices which disproportionately impacted black students as well as students with special needs (PDF).
Maryland came to understand what many zero-tolerance reform advocates have long argued. School discipline practices that remove kids from the classroom for extended periods of time and alienate them from school environments discourage kids from staying in school, advocates argued. Efforts to discipline kids for behavioral missteps were in effect pushing students away from school.
The Baltimore Sun reported:
In 2009, when the state school board began questioning what members saw as the misuse of discipline, large numbers of students were being suspended for not attending school, talking back to a teacher or other minor infractions.
Students in Baltimore County who were found with even small amounts of alcohol could be put in an alternative school for a semester. An Anne Arundel County girl was suspended for carrying pepper spray in her pocketbook to protect herself as she walked to school in the early-morning darkness, as were two Easton lacrosse players who were found to have a pocket knife and lighters, used to fix their sticks, in their gym bags. And a Dorchester County ninth-grader was suspended for nearly a year without any educational services.
Under the new regulations, only students who pose “an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff” will receive long-term suspensions, and students may still attend school if they are appealing a suspension. Instead of going straight to a punitive response, the new school discipline code calls for a more rehabilitative approach. The new regulations come just three weeks after the Departments of Justice and Education jointly released federal guidelines for school districts around the country to re-evaluate their school discipline practices. The Obama administration urged school districts to follow the lead of states like Maryland which are re-evaluating the efficacy—and harm—of zero-tolerance policies.
For the first time, a group of Division I college football players are seeking to unionize. At a news conference in Chicago yesterday, Northwestern’s starting quarterback last season, Kain Colter along with the newly formed College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) announced their intention to file a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board. In order to do so, Colter would have needed more than a third of Northwestern’s 85 scholarship players to sign union cards. Colter and company’s move to unionize joins the O’Bannon lawsuit in escalating long-simmering tensions between college athletes, coaches, universities and the N.C.A.A. over profit-sharing—or, lack thereof. It also joins the unfolding UNC-Chapel Hill scandal in focusing attention on post-college life and the dismal graduation rates of black male athletes. They are over-represented in high-revenue-generating sports like college football and basketball.
For Colter, better healthcare appears to be driving his effort to unionize:
“The same medical issues that professional athletes face are the same medical issues collegiate athletes face, except we’re left unprotected,” Colter said. “The N.F.L. has the N.F.L.P.A., the N.B.A. has the N.B.A.P.A. and now college athletes have [CAPA].”
According to the New York Times, Tuesday’s announcement is the culmination of a series of small acts this football season: one week, several players from around the country wore “All Players United” (A.P.U.) wristbands and during a Rose Bowl title game, the NCPA flew a banner over the stadium that read, “Wake Up, N.C.A.A.”
Chief legal officer for the N.C.A.A. Donald Remy responded to yesterday’s announcement, backed by United Steelworkers:
“This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education.”
Northwestern belongs to the Big Ten, the biggest revenue-generating conference in college sports in the country.
(h/t The New York Times)
This week is National School Choice Week. But is it occasion to celebrate or cause for caution?
As with anything in the realm of education politics, this conversation is rife with coded terminology and heavy doses of politicized rhetoric. Let’s unpack some of it right now. “School choice,” in the eyes of supporters, refers to the idea that students and their parents should be able to choose where they go to school. Their neighborhood public school happens to be unsafe, or poorly resourced? A family ought to be able to move schools to, say, a private Catholic school or a charter school or a wealthier school across town, even. School choice is the idea underlying movements toward deregulation, and the privatization, of the public education. School vouchers and the movement to replace public schools with charter schools are the outgrowth of this idea, which is typically espoused by conservative lawmakers and education advocates. The market, the thinking goes, can solve problems that government and public institutions have thus far failed to address.
It’s also helpful to know who supports the deregulation of public education. This week, conservative education groups like the Heritage Foundation, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice are celebrating National School Choice Week with what the website touts as more than 5,000 events whose aim is to amplify the need for more school choice. The Friedman Foundation released their annual ABCs of School Choice report (PDF), and this year matched every state’s population of students who are eligible for school choice programs with their “purchasing power,” that is, the public money that’s being set aside for school vouchers and tax credits toward school choice. Much of the conversation is happening on Twitter, via the hashtags #amplifychoice and #schoolchoiceweek.
But it’s not just conservative groups behind this. More politically ambiguous groups like Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, have gotten in on National School Choice Week. Democrats and liberals are fond of turning to market principles as a way to save public education, too. Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee joined Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston on Saturday for a school choice rally. Thousands turned up, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Turning to private entities to save public education is alluring precisely because public institutions truly are struggling to address equity in education. Declining public investment in education has only made this task harder by starving public schools and teachers of the resources they need to do their jobs. As it is, the prevailing education reform effort in the country pits public schools against charter schools and each other for their survival. But advocates can’t always deliver on the promises with choice. As progressive education advocates have long pointed out, at the heart of school choice is the mandate for competition. Charter schools tout their long waiting lists for entry and hold dramatic, heartbreaking admission lotteries, but students shouldn’t need to compete for a coveted seat at a better school.
Progressive education advocates argue that people who really care about addressing the deep inequities in public education ought to invest in, not abandon, public institutions. Public school districts are the only institutions with the federal mandate, the capacity and very often the commitment to serve every single student—not just those whose parents have the social and economic capital to pull their kids out of the hardest-hit public schools.
But against this political backdrop and the day-to-day reality of public school life, which is increasingly defined by upheaval in the form of mass school closures, budget crises and school safety issues, the promise of something, anything, different than public school life is often irresistible. According to the conservative Cato Institute, the number of students taking part in school choice programs is at record highs: over 300,000, compared to 260,000 in the 2012-2013 year.
So maybe the question isn’t are you or are you not celebrating this week. Maybe it’s better to ask: is this the party you want to be at?
Chloe Kim is only 13 years old, so she’s too young to qualify for this year’s Winter Olympic games in Sochi. But she did wow the crowd at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., last weekend with this silver medal-winning performance, and the above video shows why.
Here’s more on Kim’s background:
(Via Angry Asian Man)
While I’m delighted that President Obama is suddenly going hard in the paint for economic inequality, and will continue to do so tonight, that issue far from entails all of what’s wrong with the state of our union. The wealth gap is just one part of America’s problem. It’s not helpful when Obama attempts to explain away issues like drug sentencing disparities as a class problem when we know, as Jamelle Bouie points out over at The Daily Beast, that it’s really a matter of race.
But issues like voting rights are insidiously carving up America into colored sections of inequality in ways that can’t be analyzed simply in economic terms. Which is why I would rather hear from Attorney General Eric Holder tonight than Obama, because he seems to be one of the few members of the Obama administration who’s paying attention to race.
We see Holder’s Justice Department going after problems like the school-to-prison pipeline, where there are clear racial disparities in how discipline has been administered. But there are few other arenas where Obama’s Cabinet is looking at how racial inequality defers and dissolves American dreams than in voting, the cornerstone of democracy.
When the U.S. Supreme Court disabled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last summer, Holder didn’t back down. He committed to using the Voting Rights Act’s remaining vital organs to prosecute laws in North Carolina and Texas, where Holder says he has evidence that lawmakers conspired to intentionally rob people of color of their civil rights.
Those lawsuits are fights over strict photo voter ID laws, which our Voting Rights Watch team did a ton of reporting on throughout 2012 to show how such laws could, and have, overburdened and intimidated millions of voters of color across the nation. Earlier this month, a judge in Pennsylvania permanently blocked a voter ID law from going into affect because it imposed unnecessary obstacles on voters.
That judge failed to find racial discrimination in the law, despite data presented that upwards of 750,000 voters—most of them African Americans, Latino Americans, and Puerto Ricans in particular—would have been affected had the measure been enforced. Last week, Obama’s Commission on Election Administration released a report on how to improve the voting process that failed to mention race once, despite data that black and Latino voters in Florida had to wait longer in line to vote than any other race in any other place in the country. And Florida wasn’t the only problem case—counties in Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia also did their black and brown voters wrong in 2012.
Obama has been oddly silent on racial discrimination at the polls. In some instances, he may have even weaponized proponents of racially discriminatory voter ID laws, either through his silence, or through episodes like when he was asked for ID to vote and made light of the situation instead of speaking out on its harmful effects.
A federal judge that previously upheld voter ID laws has since recanted that decision as a mistake, as has former president Jimmy Carter, who once endorsed those laws. Both have come to the current view that these laws can be hazardous for voters of color. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (a Republican), and Hillary Clinton have both denounced voter ID laws wholesale for their racial impacts. A recent study from University of Massachusetts sociologists Erin O’Brien and Keith Gunnar Bentele shows that voter ID laws have proliferated specifically in states with large black and brown populations, and where voters of color turned out in large numbers for Obama the past few elections.
But Obama has yet to stand up for those same voters on this issue. A new amendment has been announced in Congress, to plug in the Voting Rights Act void left by the Supreme Court’s decision last summer, to help restore legal civil rights protections for people of color. While it’s inadequate for replacing what Chief Justice John Roberts took out, Obama has yet to say anything about it.
Perhaps he will tonight. And the fact that DREAMer Cristian Avila, voter engagement coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, will be sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama tonight gives me hope. But the person who has courageously been fighting these racial issues out in the open is Holder, which is why I would prefer that Obama hand the podium over to his Attorney General tonight.
After a year of strikes and protests there’s a victory for many federal workers demanding that their government pay them a living wage. President Obama in tonight’s State of the Union address will announce plans to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour. The action affects workers currently earning less and will apply to new federal contracts. The federal government, according to a 2013 Demos report, employs more than 2 million workers earning less than $12 an hour, making it the nation’s largest low-wage labor employer.
The executive order is a limited enactment of a bill, which Obama hopes to get through Congress. The Harkin-Miller bill calls for an across the board minimum wage increase to $10.10.
Hubertus von Hohenlohe wants to make an impact on the slopes at the upcoming Sochi Olympics, even if he doesn’t win a medal. So the Mexican Alpine skier, already known for his distinctive style, revealed his Mariachi-themed race suit to NBC Olympics this week:
Hohenlohe, who is Mexican of German descent, told NBC,“Until I went to Mexico recently to make a documentary, I never realized what a beautiful, amazing, rich past and culture they have and what a proud people they are. The power to have your own identity is so strong and something I believe in, so I want to give it a go in a very cool, elegant way. I want to celebrate who they are, but of course in my own style.”
MSNBC today announced that Joy Reid will join their line-up as host of a new as-yet-unnamed show. Calls for Reid, managing editor of theGrio.com and a veteran political analyst, to get her own show have been percolating for a while.
Reid will be MSNBC’s fourth African-American host, according to Journal-isms. Her new show premieres at 2p.m. on February 24.
Macklemore may have been a big winner at last night’s Grammy Awards, but Kendrick Lamar walked away empty handed. The Compton-based rapper was nominated for seven awards but didn’t win anything, and even Macklemore thought that was foul. According to his Instagram account, Macklemore sent K. Dot a message after the awards ceremony:
“You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you,” wrote the Seattle rapper. “I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing during my speech and I froze. Anyway, you know what it is. Congrats on this year and your music. Appreciate you as an artist and as a friend. Much love.”
Alongside the text, Macklemore wrote a note to his Instagram followers:
My text to Kendrick after the show. He deserved best rap album… I’m honored and completely blown away to win anything much less 4 Grammys. But in that category, he should have won IMO. And that’s taking nothing away from The Heist. Just giving GKMC it’s proper respect.. With that being said, thank you to the fans. You’re the reason we were on that stage tonight. And to play Same Love on that platform was a career highlight. The greatest honor of all. That’s what this is about. Progress and art. Thank you. #grammys.
Nine years ago, now-Grammy Award winning rapper Macklemore wondered about his place in hip-hop. He’d probably done that for years, but this time he put it in a song called “White Privilege.” Its hook included the line: “I said I’m gonna be me, so please be who you are / but we still owe ‘em 40 acres now we’ve stolen their 16 bars.”
Those bars have since made the Seattle-based MC the most popular mainstream rap act in recent years, a fact that was underscored last night when he and producer Ryan Lewis walked away with the Grammy awards for best song, best new album and best new artist. And after last night’s big wins, the rapper’s tune changed. “I understand how certain people have said, ‘Oh, it’s the white, gay-promoting rapper from Seattle. That’s weird, he doesn’t belong here.’ It is what it is, it’s always going to be that. But it is hip-hop music. I’m just trying to push the art, push the genre.”
The success that Macklemore’s had with pushing the genre, paired with his vocal awareness that his being white played a huge role in his success, brings up a question that my colleague Aura Bogado succinctly brought up on Facebook: Does he represent an indictment of white supremacy — or a celebration of it?
It’s what many black hip-hop fans find irksome about him, the fact that this 30-year-old white guy has gained so much notoriety for making a black art form palatable for white listeners. He raps of thrift stores and marriage equality and, don’t get me wrong, it’s good music, catchy; dude is undeniably good at his craft. But he wears his white privilege like one of his ironic fur coats, a gaudy reminder to show how the music industry’s racial inequities are still stubbornly in place.
He made headlines even before the show began when it was announced that Queen Latifah would marry dozens of gay couple’s during Macklemore’s performance of “Same Love,” his celebration of marriage equality. It was a move so calculated that you couldn’t help but roll your eyes, even if the intention was to put gay couples at the center of music’s biggest moment. It was, in many ways, too calculated, too obvious, a move that did little to shift attention to the plight of the black artists who are regularly screwed over by the industry that has so openly embraced Macklemore’s music. Perhaps a more meaningful act would have been to share the stage with a black queer artist, anyone from Angel Haze and New York-based rapper Le1f, who’s openly criticized him for profiting off of the plight of the LGBT community.
But I digress.
Macklemore’s whiteness has been a topic of conversation at least since he burst onto the national stage with his hit 2012 record “The Heist.” He’s addressed it directly in interviews with refreshing honesty. “We made a great album,” he said to Rolling Stone last year of the hit album he made with white producer Ryan Lewis, “but I do think we have benefited from being white and the media grabbing on to something. A song like ‘Thrift Shop’ was safe enough for the kids.”
And that’s what makes his success so hard to stomach for some black listeners who want to see their realities reflected and celebrated at music’s highest levels with a big win at this year’s Grammy awards. He’s calling out the systemic inequity in the music industry and is aware of how he’s benefiting from it.
It’s not just black fans that are conflicted. Days before the Grammy Awards, Vulture quoted a source close to the star-studded affair who described how many of the rap committee’s members didn’t want Macklemore included in the categories for best rap song and album because his music’s more pop than hip-hop. “It’s not that they don’t think he’s a rapper,” said the source. “It’s just that when you’re trying to protect categories and someone has become popular, it should be judged as much. … Where does their music exist? Who are their fans?”
Those fans, according to the New York Times’s Jon Caramanica, are “hip-hop aware” but not “hip-hop exclusive.” In other words, they’re white.
Caramanica wondered aloud about the authenticity of a hip-hop moment that featured predominately white artists like Macklemore and Baauer (whose song “Harlem Shake” soundtracked much of 2012). He notes that where Macklemore differs from other white rappers like Eminem, Yelawolf and Machine Gun Kelly is that his “rapping is merely a tool to advance ideas that are not connected to hip-hop to an audience that doesn’t mind receiving them under a veneer of hip-hop cool.”
To be fair, it’s a well-known fact that white kids love hip-hop. But what sets Macklemore apart is how willing he is to actually talk about how his privilege informs his popularity. A well-intentioned white artist can still, half a century after Elvis, suddenly become the face of a historically black art form. His intention may not have been to do that, but the impact stays the same. In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that it takes more than awareness to create real change. And, frustratingly, Macklemore knows, too. Again, here’s “White Privilege”: “Hip-hop started off on a block that I’ve never been to / To counteract a struggle I’ve never even been through / If I think I understand just because I flow, too? / That means that I’m not keeping it true.”