Here’s a fun test. There’s a list challenge our of 100 must-see black films that includes some perennial favorites, including “Set It Off” and “Coming to America.” How many have you seen?
It’s been more than a week since video of an assault by one teenage black girl over another went viral. The video shows one girl, 16-year-old Sharkeisha, sucker punching a former friend, 17-year-old Shamichael Manuel. The video of a black person in distress, like so many others before it, has become a joke for some viewers, with some viewers making racist comments about the girls’ names. But, as Demetria L. Lucas pointed out over at The Root, the real tragedy is how many people enjoyed watching the video:
This isn’t funny. At all. It’s a vulgar display of violence, a tragic depiction of someone who lacks anger management and humanity and a shocking example of just how wayward some teens are. Sharkeisha’s reaction to a petty dispute over, likely, a boy who didn’t care about either of these girls is a clear-cut case of assault. This isn’t entertainment to get through the workday. The way that girl was kicked in the face could have resulted in her death.
To that point, the victim in the video has spoken out to local Houston news stations about how the popularity of her assault has impacted her life.
(h/t Madame Noir)
The best films are often those with plots that are snatched from our most searing newspaper headlines. Back in 2012, the Associated Press broke the story of how the NYPD had monitored Muslim students on at least 16 college campuses, part of a growing post-9/11 effort to monitor Muslims in America. Now there’s a new film in the works called “Naz + Maalik” about two closeted gay Muslim teenagers who are unknowingly being surveiled by the U.S. government.
At its core, it’s a love story, but it needs your help to cross the finish line. The filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $35,000. With less than a day to go, the campaign has already reached its goal, but every little bit counts.
Michael B. Jordan is big time. That much was made obvious this year with his stellar performance in Ryan Coogler’s debut film “Fruitvale Station.” But Jordan, known for his roles in hit shows “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights,” has over time developed a reputation as one of the most important black actors of his generation. David Simon, the writer behind “The Wire”, had this to say about Jordan’s breakout year for GQ:
The drug war? Stop and frisk? Racial profiling? Black-on-black violence? Our separate Americas? All that is commentary. If you need white folks to actually feel something, it pays to aim a handgun at Michael B. Jordan’s delicate and nuanced humanity and pull the trigger. Suddenly the risks of being young and black on an American street are apparent.
Last Friday some 111 people were arrested in civil disobediance actions around the country as part of Black Friday protests against Walmart, said protest organizers. In protests around the country, from Sacramento, California, to Hyattsville, Maryland, and Chicago, Illinois to Orlando, Florida, Walmart workers and their supporters came out to decry the labor practices and wages at the nation’s largest employer and largest retailer,* and to demand better.
This year’s protests marked the second year that current and former Walmart associates went on strike over the Thanksgiving holiday to demand higher wages and better treatment. This year’s actions were larger than last year’s, and involved more public support. But striking Walmart workers weren’t the only ones claiming wins.
Despite low shopper turnout and decreased spending across the retail industry this Black Friday, Walmart spokesperson David Tovar said in a statement, “This has been the most successful Black Friday in Walmart’s history.”
Tovar also defended the company’s wages. “For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy,” Tovar said in a statement. “Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour.” But, say current and former Walmart workers with the union-backed group OUR Walmart, the truth is the majority of Walmart associates make less than $25,000 a year—a short hop from the current federal poverty rate.
Seven Democratic lawmakers urged Walmart to listen to its striking workers and increase wages, The Hill reported. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ed Markey from Massachusetts, Reps. Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, Judy Chu of California, Lacy Clay of Missouri, Gwen Moore from Wisconsin and Jim McDermott of Washington wrote, “We stand with the courageous Walmart workers who are demanding better wages and an end to illegal retaliation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, has a responsibility to their employees and our country to respect workers and their rights. No one should have to fear losing their jobs just for speaking up.”
*Post has been updated since publication.
At about 10 a.m. on Sunday morning someone on the Republican National Committee’s social media team decided it would be a good idea to tweet a photo of Rosa Parks along with one of her quotes that read, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” That, alone, might have been fine and well if not for the message that the GOP tweeted alongside it: “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism.”
Yup, that’s right. The GOP is celebrating the end of racism because apparently no one person or institution is racist anymore. A few hours later the RNC tweeted a correction that the “previous tweet should have read “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in fighting to end racism.” Whoops.
That sparked the moment when Twitter user @FeministaJones started the #RacismEndedWhen hashtag. Buzzfeed has a pretty concise history of what comes next, most of which includes some really great and sometimes snarky reflections on race in America.
For possessing a trace amount of heroin, Paul Carter is 16 years into serving a life sentence. So too is Leon Horne but, for damaging two police cars while fleeing New Orleans police. The ACLU profiles both men in a new report drawing attention to a sobering legacy of 40 years of “tough on crime” policies. More than 3,000 people nationwide are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP)—all for nonviolent offenses.
Of these nonviolent offenders, 65% are black, 17.8% are white and 15.7% are Latino. Most cluster in the south, with Louisiana ranked first among states for most LWOP prisoners. It’s presumed that the $1.8 billion spent by taxpayers to imprison these men, according to ACLU estimates, is significantly more than the repair cost of two police cruisers.
“If lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug addicts actually worked, one might be able to rationalize them,” says the report, citing one federal court judge. “But there is no evidence that they do. …[F]or all the times I’ve asked jurors after a drug conviction what they think a fair sentence would be, never has one given a figure even close to the mandatory minimum. It is always far lower.”
Aamer Rahman is a standup comic based in Australia who uses humor to tackle racism. Along with fellow Muslim comedian Nazeen Hussain, Rahman’s part of a touring comedy show called Fear of a Brown Planet.
He recently broke down colonization, enslavement, imperialism, systemic inequity, war, internalized racism and (“tun, tun, tun!”) reverse racism—all in less than three minutes.
In another example of how expansive and diverse the U.S. is, The Atlantic produced an audio map that charts 10 different English language dialects across country. Based on Bert Vaux’s 2003 Harvard Dialect Survey, and visualizations by Joshua Katz, reporters called people across the country and asked them to pronounce words such as “pecan,” “roly poly,” and “bag.” The map reflects unique phrases and pronunciations that might give some hints as to migration patterns and cultural differences across the nation.
(h/t The Atlantic)
Activists in Selma, Alabama have been fighting for more than a year to stop the construction of a new 12-foot monument dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War* and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, attorney Faya Rose Toure will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday in jail after being arrested for protesting at a Selma City Council meeting.
Tarana Burke, one of the activists who’s been protesting the statue’s construction, told Colorlines why the fight matters.“I feel like allowing this monument to be erected is disrespectful to people who fought and died for our civil liberties,” she said. “What kind of message does it send to our children? We can’t just being complicit in our own oppression; it’s disgusting.”
Toure has reportedly been offered bail, but has refused in protest of the statue’s construction.
Burke has started a Change.org peition calling the construction “unacceptable.”
*Post has been updated since publication.
Every year before Thanksgiving, TIME asks public figures to write about what they’re grateful for. This year, there are some surprising contributions, including Ai-Jen Poo and Kid President. But one of the most poignant is from Chelsea Manning, who’s serving 35 years at Fort Leavenworth for leaking classified documents while she served in the Army—including video that illustrates U.S. forces targeting and firing upon children and innocent adults in Baghdad. Manning begins her statement with a clear understanding of why she’s reluctant to observe Thanksgiving:
I’m usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I’m thankful that I know that, and I’m also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths. I’m thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the “helpful natives” selflessly assisted the “poor helpless Pilgrims” and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.
Manning goes on to explain that she’s grateful for Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk and others who put their lives on the line for social justice:
I’m also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.
For instance, the man commonly known as Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn’t dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality—certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.
You can read Chelsea Manning’s entire statement on TIME’s website.
Legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix was born 71 years ago today in Seattle. Though he died in 1970 at the age of 27, he’s still known as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Here’s some rare color footage of Hendrix performing his hit song “Hey Joe” back in 1967.
Kanye West recently did an interview with the Breakfast Club on New York City radio station Power 105.1. It’s a lenghty, 40-minute interview, but Gawker pulled out a clip in which Charlamagne the God takes him to task for his contradictory attitude about corporations (the rapper recently said that his new deal with Adidas allows him to be the “Tupac of Product”). The jabs include:
- “To me it seems like you’re such a walking contradiction because you’ll denounce the corporations, but then you’ll get on stage and say you need Nike and Adidas to back you. That makes no sense to me.”
- “Why do you talk so much about money nowadays, man? I used to look at you as, like, a real revolutionary. You know real revolutionaries didn’t need money to change the world?”
- “You do realize that [sneakers] are not why we love you? We love you ‘cause of the music, bruh.”
- “If you’re a genius, why do you feel the need to tell everybody? Why you just don’t show and prove with actions and deeds, and not words and lip-service?”
- “I’m from Columbia, South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies over the state house. I seen people protesting to take that flag down for years. It’s just like the word nigga: you can’t make that into a postive.” (Re: Kanye’s Yeezus tour merch.)
In a long overdue adaptation of the classic Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Retha Powers offers an epic compendium of quotes by and about black people. Ranging from ”Go shorty, it’s your birthday” (50 Cent) to “You dance because you have to,” (Katherine Dunham), the book spans more than a century of black thought and writing through poetry, literature, speeches, and song lyrics.
Published in 1855, the original Barlett’s did not include black writers until its 14th edition in 1968. This new version includes an introduction by Henry Louis Gates who describes it as “the finest thought produced by writers throughout the African Diaspora.”
Gene Demby at NPR’s Code Switch blog shares his thoughts on how this book might offer a new way to explore the history and evolution of black culture in the U.S.
The middle of the 20th century finds all kinds of people thinking thoughtful and urgent things about The State of Black People. (It’s always good to be reminded that Fannie Lou Hamer was a badass.) And then — boom — Ray Charles is singing about the woman across town that he’s creeping with. The tenor of the quotes changes as the book moves forward in time. So does their form. Scripture gives way to abolitionist entreaties; lyrics from soul music give way to hip-hop’s staccato cadences. It all seems a little random, but there’s serendipity in stumbling onto something juicy in that randomness.
(h/t NPR Code Switch)
Pimprae Hiranprueck, who goes by Nancy, barely spoke English when she left Thailand for the U.S. at age 13. And while she now calls the U.S. home, for many years she’s struggled to reconcile missing her home country, and the family she left behind. As a way of coping and investigating the layers of emotions she felt about her estrangement, and her imminent return to Thailand, she produced “Intersecting the Parallels,” a photography project where inserts herself into landscapes and family photographs. In a recent interview in Slate, Hiranprueck says the project enabled her to, “reacquaint myself with friends and family and to create new memories.” Read more on her website.
Today, the IRS announced that it will be issuing new guidance on the kinds of campaign-related political activity that social welfare nonprofits (501c4) can engage. This comes after a year of controversy where Tea Party groups camouflaged as “social welfare” organizations have cried foul against the IRS, accusing the tax agency of delaying or denying their tax-exempt status applications for partisan reasons. Organizations with 501c4 status historically have been able to support or endorse candidates running for office so long as that activity doesn’t make up a substantial amount of the nonprofit’s overall agenda. But what constitutes “substantial amount” has been vague, and as a result billionaire activists — many of them on the extreme conservative side, like the Koch Brothers — have taken advantage of that ambiguity by setting up shadowy 501c4s that in recent elections have collected millions in “dark money” for their favored candidates, or against candidates they oppose. Donors who contribute to 501c4s do not have to disclose their identity.
But new IRS rules plan to demystify what “subtantial amount” means and clarify what exactly 501c4s can and can’t do when it comes to elections. According to this wire from the Wall Street Journal, the IRS and Deparmtent of Treasury are seeking to define “social welfare” by excluding “candidate-related political activity.” What is included in “candidate-related political activity” [from WSJ]:
- Communications that expressly advocate for a clearly identified political candidate or candidates of a political party.
- Communications that are made within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) and clearly identify a candidate or political party.
- Communications expenditures that must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
- Grants and Contributions
- Any contribution that is recognized under campaign finance law as a reportable contribution.
- Grants to section 527 political organizations and other tax-exempt organizations that conduct candidate-related political activities (note that a grantor can rely on a written certification from a grantee stating that it does not engage in, and will not use grant funds for, candidate-related political activity).
- Activities Closely Related to Elections or Candidates
- Voter registration drives and “get-out-the-vote” drives.
- Distribution of any material prepared by or on behalf of a candidate or by a section 527 political organization.
- Preparation or distribution of voter guides that refer to candidates (or, in a general election, to political parties).
- Holding an event within 60 days of a general election (or within 30 days of a primary election) at which a candidate appears as part of the program.
Treasury and IRS are seeking public comment on their proposed new guidelines, but if the above definitions hold up, it seems it will set tough limits on what 501c4s can do close to elections. Many of the organizations affected by these new guidelines are those that have propped up Tea Party candidates: Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which spent over $70 million in elections activity last year — and likely much more than that if you count the grants it issued to other nonprofits that performed elections-related work. Also impacted will be organizations like the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the Koch Bros.-funded Americans for Prosperity, and the anti-marriage equality Focus on the Family Action. Non-conservative nonprofits like League of Women Voters might also be impacted, though.
Ultimately, this is about checking organizations that have been abusing their tax-exempt status to ride for candidates in violation of IRS policies.
“This proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur in a statement. “We are committed to getting this right before issuing final guidance that may affect a broad group of organizations. It will take time to work through the regulatory process and carefully consider all public feedback as we strive to ensure that the standards for tax-exemption are clear and can be applied consistently.”
San Francisco’s increasing number of evictions have made national news this week. On Monday, the New York Times ran a piece on the “backlash by the Bay” that got lots of attention, and now former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has taken up the issue in a recent column for the San Francsico Chronicle. At issue are the tax breaks — which could cost $55 million — that city leaders offered Twitter to move into downtown. Here’s Brown:
There’s a war brewing in the streets of San Francisco, and a lot of people could get caught up in it if the tech world doesn’t start changing its self-centered culture.
Every day in every way, from rising rents to rising prices at restaurants to its private buses, the tech world is becoming an object of scorn. It’s only a matter of time before the techies’ youthful lustre fades, and they’re seen as just another extension of Wall Street.
And when that happens, tenant advocates, community activists, labor unions and Occupy types are going to start asking why we’re giving away the city to all these white-male-dominated businesses that don’t even hire locals.
We’ve covered a handful of those evictions here at Colorlines, notably those of the Lee and Yañez families from their longtime homes in the city’s Chinatown and Mission District. At the heart of many of these evictions is what’s known as the Ellis Act, a local law that’s been used to push longtime tenants out of rent controlled apartments. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is pushing for legislation that could revise the law and make it harder for landlords to evict people from their homes, according to CBS Local News in San Francisco.
WNBA star Brittney Griner is the focus of a new segment on AOL’s new original series “My Ink” and the openly gay baller took a minute to show off what she calls her “lesbian tattoo.” The moment’s at about the 1:45 mark in the above video.
UCLA announced late Monday that it will open an internal probe into claims made by David Cunningham III, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, who alleged that UCLA campus police used excessive force when they stopped him Saturday morning as he was exiting a gym parking lot in Westwood. It’s safe to say Cunningham, who is black, knows the definition and gravity of such claims—he’s also a former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
Cunningham had just paid a parking lot fee and was leaving an L.A. Fitness gym Saturday morning when campus police pulled him over for not wearing a seat belt.
The stop unfolded badly, according to Cunningham’s complaint, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Officer Kevin Dodd asked to see his driver’s license. Cunningham handed them his wallet, then the officers requested registration and insurance.
When Cunningham reached for his glove box to retrieve the documents, an officer “yelled at me not to move,” he said in the complaint. “I became irritated and told him that I need to look for the paper.”
A prescription pill bottle rolled out of the glove compartment, prompting the officer to ask if he was carrying drugs. Douglas said the medicine was for high blood pressure.
Cunningham couldn’t find his registration and insurance paperwork in the glove compartment and told officers he thought it was in the trunk.
“When I got out of the car to search my trunk, Officer Dodd shoved me against my car, told me I was under arrest for resisting and locked me in the back seat,” Cunningham wrote in the complaint.
Cunningham, 60, said the officers shoved him against his car, handcuffed him, locked him in the back of their police cruiser and told him he was being detained for resisting arrest.
Cunningham was later released. He limited his complaints to excessive force but his attorney Carl Douglas asked the broader, and perhaps more pertinent question: “Do you think this would have happened if he was a white judge?”
In a statement issued late Monday, CBS reported UCLA said, “During the course of the traffic stop, police officers instructed the driver to stay inside the vehicle and returned to their patrol car to run a routine license and registration check. Despite these instructions, the driver left the vehicle — an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk. The driver stood in the roadway and refused instructions to get back in his car. As a result, the driver was temporarily handcuffed. He was released at the scene shortly thereafter with a citation for failing to wear a seat belt.”