Zahra Lari is an 18-year-old figure skater from the United Arab Emirates who’s known to the folks back home as the “Ice Princess.” This year, she’s already making headlines at the Winter Olympics in Sochi for performing in hijab. In the above video, she explains how she came to figure skating and she approaches being a role model to Muslim women.
Pratibha Parmar’s new documentary on Alice Walker called “Beauty in Truth” debuted on PBS last week. It’s the first project of its kind to explore Walker’s legacy as a pioneering black womanist writer, and it’s just on time, as Walker celebrated her 70th birthday on February 9.
Parmar told the Daily Beast why it’s so important to capture Walker’s legacy for younger audiences.
There are many reasons why many young people don’t know who Alice Walker is. There’s a deliberate erasure of women history-makers, particularly woman who have been outspoken, and Alice has always been outspoken on so many different issues. There’s also a shocking gender and racial bias in the teaching of history and literature, so that the white male literary canon is always at the top of the reading lists. Unless there are educators who have an awareness and commitment to ensuring that women and especially women of color are represented in their reading lists, the default will always be the white male canon.
So far, the film has gotten great reviews, with the Los Angeles Times noting that, “the praise is more than due, and it isn’t often we get to spend time with a person of such conviction under whose hands words bloom with both beauty and power. But then there really isn’t another person like this. There’s only Alice Walker.”
To see a list of screenings, visit the film’s website.
Michael Sam, a top-rated college football player at the University of Missouri and a highly regarded pro prospect, came out of the closet in an exclusive interview with the New York Times over the weekend. It’s a huge deal in the macho world of men’s college sports, and a big step for Sam, who made the announcement weeks before the NFL scouting combine. The move will likely make him the first openly gay active NFL player since Dave Kopay in 1975.
Sam, who was born the seventh of eight children and has known he was gay since the start of his college career, says that he’s received overwhelming support from both his family and his teammates, many of whom knew that he had dated a man on the university’s swim team. But a difficult road lies ahead in the NFL.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. “I just want to own my truth.”
But the N.F.L. presents the potential for unusual challenges. In the past year or so, it has been embroiled in controversies ranging from antigay statements from players to reports that scouts asked at least one prospective player if he liked girls. Recently, Chris Kluwe, a punter, said that he was subject to homophobic language from coaches and pushed out of a job with the Minnesota Vikings because he vocally supported same-sex marriage laws. And last week, Jonathan Vilma, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, said in an interview with NFL Network that he did not want a gay teammate.
Outsports published the behind-the-scenes story of how Sam decided to come out publicly. With the NBA’s Jason Collins and the WNBA’s Brittney Griner paving the way, there’s long been talk of an NFL player coming out of the closet. The tricky part, according to league sources, was finding the right player whose story could resonate with the public. Last month, Sam would up being that guy. And here’s how:
The story had the potential to be the biggest sports story of the year. This wasn’t an active player on the Denver Broncos coming out that affected one team — this was a player who could be drafted by any of the 32 teams. It affected the entire nation, every locker room, every front office, every sports talk show, every sports blog. It would also be a story that resonated throughout the year: later this month at the Combine, next month at Missouri’s Pro Day, in May at the NFL Draft, then again this summer at OTAs, training camp and in September when the NFL season starts. The story would be a marathon, but the timing of the first step was crucial.
Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, an important reminder of the unique challenges facing the black community in its fight against HIV/AIDS. African-Americans only account or 12 percent of the U.S. population, but make up 47 percent of all of the country’s new HIV infections. Approximately one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, as well as one in 32 black women. Today, the Centers for Disease Control released new data on what’s called the “HIV care continuum” showing that among blacks who had been diagnosed with HIV:
* 75 percent were linked to care.
* 48 percent stayed in care.
* 46 percent were prescribed antiretroviral therapy.
* 35 percent achieved viral suppression (i.e., the virus is under control at a level that helps keep people healthy and reduces the changes of transmitting the virus to others).
* Black males had lower levels of care and viral suppression than black females, and those who were younger (under 25) had lower levels than those who were older.
That data paints yet another bleak picture but, as Kali Lindsey writes at The Grio, there’s reason to hope:
Since the beginning of 2014, health insurance programs expanded under the ACA are prohibited from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and certain preventive services must now be provided at no cost to the beneficiary, including routine HIV screening. Historically, many people with HIV have been prevented from accessing healthcare services that we now know remain vital for those with HIV and beneficial overall to public health. Studies have shown initiating HIV treatment as early as possible is in the best interest of those living with HIV, but it also has the added public health benefit of reducing transmission rates if viral suppression can be achieved and sustained. This is why it is so important that, under the ACA, all plans must provide treatment to people who are HIV positive.
Last year, TheBody.com released a compelling infographic illustrating the multiple risk factors at play in black communities struggling with high HIV infection rates.
The term “life hacking” is everywhere these days. It can mean everything from simple tricks to make your everyday life easier to, supposedly, getting everything you’ve ever wanted by breaking life’s unspoken rules. But as Jen Dziura writes over at Medium, race and gender often determine who’s allowed to break which rules, and too often, “life hacking” becomes another term for “white privilege.”
Brioxy hopes to change all of that. It’s a life design platform — first a website, followed by a mobile app — specifically for young people of color from the Brown Boi Project’s B. Cole. According to its Indiegogo campaign, which ends today, it’ll help those young folks answer questions like:
How do I figure out the right path to the career I want? How do I use science to build my willpower and make things happen? How do I mobilize others to help me pursue my dreams? What are the biggest social media traps? Tired of being pigeon holed around your race or gender—redefine the landscape on your terms. Authenticity and success are possible.
The Indiegogo campaign is trying to raise $25,000 to help build the website, app, and host gatherings on college campuses. Read more about it.
From Detroit to Chicago, Philadelphia to New Orleans, school closures are the reform du jour. Whether the crisis is the onslaught of market-based reforms like in New Orleans and Philadelphia, or unprecedented budget cuts, also in Philly—school districts have been turning to mass closures in recent years. The reforms destabilize neighborhoods and remove crucial community supports for the most vulnerable kids, advocates say. And it’s as yet unclear whether mass school closures and the charter system produce the kinds of educational dividends they promise.
Check out the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn campaign infographic in full on the OTL site. (PDF)
Repercussions are still unfolding from last week’s cover story in The Nation, “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars.” Many thought it unfairly targeted a few popular online women of color—but the battle lines don’t break that neatly along the race line. Catch up on the debate and the latest with yesterday’s “Tell Me More” segment, featuring writer Michelle Goldberg and her article’s representative “mean girl,” Mikki Kendall. Later, Kendall started the #LessToxicFeminism hashtag on Twitter, which inspired hundreds of replies over a 15-hour period. Check it out and per Kendall’s original direction, add your understanding of how less toxic feminism would work.
Today, fresh discussion continues. Jennifer Pan, in Jacobin Magazine, looks at the unpaid labor of producing social media and says:
“…it should similarly concern us that that black women and other women of color could likely have the monopoly on doing the hard work of social justice organizing on Twitter without remuneration, sometimes literally for hours a day.”
Matt Bruenig often blogs about class and he goes further with Pan’s focus on opportunities for remuneration, or lack thereof. It’s “overdetermined,” he writes, that poor kids will not make it into media jobs. They’re locked out not only by unpaid internships, but by a lack of credentials. So when it comes to platform and big microphones, rich kids stay winning.
What’s your take?
This week the State Department opened a public comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily from the Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refining. Critics say that the project threatens Native communities, while supporters argue that it’ll bring much-needed jobs (For more on this, be sure to read my colleague Brentin Mock’s piece that looks at whether Keystone XL will, in fact, produce good jobs.)
Now, the folks at Movement Generation’s Justice and Ecology Project based in Richmond, Calif.—home to the perpetually troubled Chevron Richmond Refinery—have released their own parody of what a Keystone XL job might look like for someone from the community.
Opening statements in the murder trial of a 47-year-old white man, accused of killing a 17-year-old black boy in Florida, began at noon today. Follow this link to watch live. A day after Thanksgiving in 2012, Michael Dunn allegedly shot Jordan Davis at a Jacksonville gas station following an argument in which Dunn complained about loud hip-hop music coming from Davis’s friend’s car.
In a New York Times short documentary film this week, filmmaker Orlando Bagwell looks at a key similarity between Davis and Trayvon Martin: “Stand your ground” laws. Bagwell says Davis’s story:
“…provides insights into the larger question of whether these laws, which encourage handguns in public places and shooting in the name of self-defense, ultimately make us safer and more civilized. Is this the society we hope to leave to our children?”
(h/t The Florida Times-Union)
It’s been just over a month since Brooklyn-based comedian Akilah Hughes released the video “Meet Your First Black Girlfriend,” which takes a funny look at black-white interracial romance.
Hughes spoke to the Huffington Post about why she decided to make the video:
I think Black women are exoticized in interracial relationships because the media only portrays Black women in a few ways, while other races tend to get more options. The media mold for a young Black woman is very limited—must be extremely aggressive, commandeering, unintelligent, etc.—while that has not been the case with the overwhelming majority of Black women I’ve met from all different backgrounds. Truthfully, I think more Black women would feel comfortable dating outside of their race if that wasn’t the case, because it’s one thing to have a TV show or movie that doesn’t know you see you in that negative light—it’s quite another to find out that your significant other does as well. When media starts to reflect the actual world we inhabit instead of aiming to create it, I’m sure there will be greater understanding in interracial relationships.
Looks like the message resonates with plenty of viewers.
By most estimates, 2042 is the year when white people are projected to become the minority racial group in America. Comedian Hari Kondabolu, of “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” fame, has a debut album coming out called “Waiting for 2042” that hilariously takes a part the anxiety and overall ridiculousness surrounding that conversation of America’s changing racial demographics.
Here’s a sneak peek, in which Kondabolu opens with the line, “Saying that I’m obsessed with race and racism in America is like saying that I’m obsessed with swimming while I’m drowning. It’s absurd.”
Former “Community” star Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) recorded a really good cover of P.M. Dawn’s 1992 hit “I’d Die Without You” over at BBC Radio 1.
It’s a nice change for Glover, who’s been on plenty of hip-hop heads’ shit list’s since the release of his 2011 project “Camp,” which detailed, among other things, a very problematic Asian fetish. Marah Eakin over at the A.V. club writes that, “It’s so good, in fact, it kind of makes you wonder why Glover—if he’s off TV comedy now—doesn’t pursue more of a straight R&B sound instead of hip-hop.”
I’ve been among the many people who haven’t wanted to give any attention to George Zimmerman’s latest publicity stunt, which involves fighting DMX on Celebrity Boxing Match. But the story, and Zimmerman, aren’t going away any time soon. So how do you try to make sense out of something that’s so ridiculously stupid? You don’t. Because, as Rembert Browne writes over at Grantland, it’s worthless:
Nothing about fighting in the name of Trayvon has any merit. DMX isn’t a hero. His desires scream Jack Ruby, not Nat Turner. And with his decision to participate, it only fuels Zimmerman’s circus, setting the stage for one of the most disrespectful events to take place in recent memory. Because, over everything else — beyond how offended you or I may be — there is a set of parents who have to watch this sideshow play out. A set of parents who outlived their murdered son. And a sideshow that wouldn’t exist if their son were alive. A sideshow that exists only because their teenage son is dead.
Every single person directly or peripherally associated with this fight is worthless. From the actors involved to the space that holds the event to the charity that accepts any money from the proceeds. Worthless.
Angel Haze did an interview with Hypetrak recently where she talked about everything from her childhood to her admiration for Kendrick Lamar’s performance at the Grammy’s. She also opened up a bit about why she thinks there are so many female rappers in hip-hop right now:
It’s really crazy, it’s shifting, it’s like some weird cosmic shi*t is happening where there’s more female rappers than there have been in previous years, and it’s all about having [the scene] expand so far that more girls now realize you can do it all at one time without being the same as one another. Like there’s nothing remotely similar between me, Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj - I’m on one side, Iggy’s on another, Nicki’s on another - it’s just crazy and there’s so much variety.
But while there’s plenty of variety, power in the industry hasn’t changed all that much.
Last December, when Haze talked publicly about leaking her album four months ahead of schedule, she said that she was frustrated with her label, which she accused of sitting on the project for too long. “If the main source of your happiness becomes the sole source of your stress, then something needs to fucking change.”
Azaelia Banks pointed that out last week on Twitter when she called out the structural inequity that’s at the heart of her repeated album delays. The Harlem rapper begged to be dropped from her label, Universal, and then wrote on Twitter: “I’m tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about my black girl craft. They don’t even know what they’re listening for or to.”
Though Haze and Banks have had their own personal and creative beefs, they’re saying the same thing: there’s an abundance of talent that’s running up against the same old structural barriers. They’re speaking out because they know you’re listening.
In time for Black History Month, the King children want to sell his Nobel Peace Prize medal and his personal Bible, sworn over by Pres. Obama during the 2013 inauguration. Daughter Bernice King alerted the public to her brothers’ lawsuit in an open letter yesterday. She names a “private buyer” as the interested party. The complaint, according to the Boston Globe, does not mention an intention to sell the items.
This latest incident is one in a string of sibling lawsuits over the keepsakes of Dr. King’s legacy, which also entangle Harry Belafonte. It highlights, for some, the vast difference in values between the best and worst of the Moses and Joshua generations, respectively. (Another high profile family spat moved to closure this week with the reading of Nelson Mandela’s will.)
One view says, butt out. These squabbles are private family matters and therefore best left to family to sort out. Another says Dr. King’s items should be viewed in the same light as the Buddhist temples of Bamiyan or treasures looted from Baghdad’s Iraq Museum: as belonging to human civilization and treated as such.
What’s your take?
February is a doubly bittersweet month for the family of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin. It’s been nearly two years since he died on February 26, and today, February 5, would have been his 19th birthday. To commemorate the day and to honor a life cut short, Colorlines started the hashtag #19forTrayvon. We asked our followers to think about who they were and what they experienced at 19. Each tweet represented a possibility or opportunity now lost not only to Trayvon, but to all young people whose lives have been cut short by racialized gun violence.
Happy birthday, Travyon.
Swedish electronic band Little Dragon is hard at work on their forthcoming album, “Nabuma Rubberband,” and decided to give fans a sneak peek at their creative process. Check out this video, which was shot in their home studio in Gothenberg, Sweden.
In case you missed it, Janet Mock made an appearance on “Piers Morgan Live” last night to talk about her new memoir “Redefining Realness.” But instead of asking about the actual issues that she lays out in the book, Morgan did what has become sadly predictable of mainstream media when it comes to covering trans communities and focused almost exclusively on Mock’s physical transition.
As you can see when you watch the clip, the on-screen description of Mock was that she “was a boy until 18,” even though she’s identified as a woman since high school. Morgan’s Twitter account then asked its followers, “How would you feel if you found out the woman you are dating was formerly a man?”
It was upsetting to watch for many reasons, but especially because Morgan’s questioning implied there’s an inherent deception involved in being transgender. It’s a logic that says that being transgender is a choice, a costume, a scheme put on to dupe cis men. It’s also the same logic at the core of so-called “trans panic” legal defenses, in which cis men accused of killing trans women have, often successfully, argued in court that they were “provoked” to attack their victims after discovering their biological sex. It’s a warped sense of power cloaked in patriarchy that has dug early graves for women like Gwen Araujo and Angie Zapata, teenagers who were violently killed for being themselves.
Mock kept her composure during the CNN interview, but later told Buzzfeed that Morgan was “trying to do info-tainment.” She added, “he doesn’t really want to talk about trans issues, he wants to sensationalize my life and not really talk about the work that I do and what the purpose of me writing this book was about.”
Mock and her supporters voiced their outrage on Twitter last night which, once again, completely flew over Morgan’s head. The CNN host said that he wished he’d never booked Mock and then called Mock and her supporters “dimwits” before sending this threat:
I’ll deal with you tomorrow night on air @janetmock - never been treated in such a disgraceful manner. Be proud.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 5, 2014
As expected, Congress today passed a farm bill that will further reduce stamp benefits by $8 billion over the next decade. It’s the first farm bill passed since 2008.
The 68-32 Senate vote registered dissent on both sides of the aisle. Some Democrats opposed any cuts to food stamps at all while, according to The Hill, some Republicans wanted more safeguards to prevent most of the subsidies from flowing to wealthy farmers.
Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Rosa Parks became an icon of the civil rights movement after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Although she wasn’t the first black person to do so, Parks’s civil disobedience kicked off a massive boycott and Supreme Court decision that affirmed that Alabama’s segregation laws were unconstitutional. Here are five quotes attributed to Rosa Parks to remember her by on the day of her birth, 101 years ago today.