Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Highlights From Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference

Highlights From Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference

Last week, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. held their 43rd Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., where African-American representatives in Congress interface with their constitutents and other district stakeholders about policies that best serve black communities. It’s an event that in recent years have been draped in scandal, as when newspapers reported questionable spending on the affair and alleged steering of awards and scholarships to family members of the Caucus. Other years brought shock, like when Obama told them to “stop complaining.” 

Obama spoke again at this year’s conference, as the keynote for their Phoenix Awards banquet, this time with tough words for Republican members of Congress who’ve been acting as dumbbells, weighing down progress on budget negotiations to keep the federal government from running out of money. He also chided them for attempting to defund food assistance benefits and Obamacare.  But he said despite the attacks that he wasn’t tired.

“I don’t get tired is because I’ve seen people who are in this audience and what you’ve done, the odds that you’ve overcome,” said Obama at the reception, which also honored Rep. Elijah Cummings and the historic “spirit of 1963” struggles for civil rights. 

Discussions around Congress restoring voting rights, reforming criminal justice, addressing black unemployment and climate change also dominated the conference. Below are highlights:

Economy — Just as the CBC conference kicked off, the House voted to cut $40 billion from SNAP food stamp benefits, which framed many of the discussions held about why African-Americans have been catching such a tough break in the current broken economy. A roundtable discussion led by Louisiana’s Rep. Cedric Richmond and Sen. Mary Landrieu and Texas’ Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee explored ways that Congress should address the growing racial wealth gap, and discussed a Senate report on economic inequities. Sen. Landrieu said that income and education gaps between whites and people of color have closed, but the “data tells us that this progress has not translated into the closing of the wealth gap.”

conyerscbc.jpg

(Rep. John Conyers addresses voting rights during CBC conference.)

Voting rights — During a workshop hosted by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan on restoring the Voting Rights Act to full power,  Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer made a surprise visit to assure that that was exactly what was happening in Congress. Shortly after, at another voting rights discussion Attorney General Eric Holder reinforced his commitment to protecting people of color against elections discrimination and said not to view the Supreme Court’s weakening of the Voting Rights Act “as a defeat for the cause of voting rights, but as an opportunity to ensure that modern protections are adequate to the challenges of the 21st century.”

Climate change —  Another surprise visit happened when new EPA chief Gina McCarthy crashed a panel discussion on environmental justice led by Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. She had just announced the same morning at the National Press Club the EPA’s new regulations on carbon emissions from new power plants, a ground-breaking policy targeted at curbing climate change. Before CBC members, she said that under her reign EPA’s priority would be communities of color and those most vulnerable to environmental dangers like climate change. Said McCarthy, “I want every grant program we have to be first screened for who is going to benefit. I want funds from every portion of our agency going towards addressing those most in need.”

Criminal Justice reform — At a forum on criminal justice issues led by Rep. Maxine Waters of California, Attorney General Eric Holder continued his streak of letting the nation know that he was implementing new sentencing policies that would remedy the mass incarceration crisis that has been devastating communities of color. CBC members and their constituents applauded the announcement Holder made about new guidelines for ending mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders that would be applied not just to new cases moving forward, but also retroactively to pending cases where a defendant has been charged but is still awaiting adjudication.

Comedian Kristina Wong Talks Asian Dating Fetish

Comedian Kristina Wong Talks Asian Dating Fetish

Kristina Wong’s already talked about white guys and their Asian fetishes. Now, during a recent appearance on W. Kamau Bell’s “Totally Biased,” the comedian took her analysis one step further.

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Listen to a U.S. Citizen’s Story of Being Detained By Immigration Enforcement

Listen to a U.S. Citizen's Story of Being Detained By Immigration Enforcement

Earlier this month Sarah Abdurrahman, a reporter for WNYC’s “On the Media,” was detained without explanation along with other family members by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Niagra Falls. She and her family are Muslim, and were returning from a family wedding in Canada. They later learned that other friends coming from the same the wedding, who are also Muslim, were separately detained at the Detroit border. Each person interviewed describes being bullied and harassed about their religious background, and some were subject to harsh physical treatment and had their cell phones searched or confiscated.  Now, Abdurrahman says she will be further investigate CBP and plans to file an official complaint against the agency for lack of transparency. 

This family’s story highlights ongoing camplaints against CBP, including that they racially profile individuals at the border, often violating their rights by confiscating electronic devices, or using abusive physical and psychological tactics—even against children—to terrify detainees. 

(h/t On the Media

Shady Businessman Exploits Homeless to Wait in Line for iPhones

Shady Businessman Exploits Homeless to Wait in Line for iPhones

The release of Apple’s new iPhone on Friday caused a worldwide ruckus, but the melee in Los Angeles was particularly unique, ending with scores of homeless people being assualted by police officers.

Last Thursday several witnesses spotted groups of men driving around the city’s Skid Row shouting “Who wants to make some money?” The men had reportedly promised people who were homeless $40, cigarettes, and fast food if they agreed to wait in line overnight for the new iPhone 5S and 5C.

But after being driven to the Apple Store in Pasadena and waiting in line for hours, the people who were homeless realized they had been duped. The Los Angeles Times reports:

According to various accounts, the businessman — who refused to identify himself but said he planned to resell the phones overseas at a large profit — had arranged for the homeless people to be given vouchers enabling them to purchase phones.

“It’s not illegal,” the man, who lated identified himself only as “Bobby”,  said in a brief interview with TV reporters. “I’m buying them at full retail price.”

He had not, however, given them money to actually buy the phones. So when the doors opened, the homeless flooded the store, but most of their vouchers appear to have been useless. A mad scramble ensued. The businessman managed to buy at least a handful of phones before the store told him he was done and ordered him out.

The man then declined to pay the homeless people whose vouchers were not used, witnesses and police said. An exhausted crowd erupted in anger.

Not only were the participants in “Bobby’s” scam not paid, but they were also left stranded at the Pasadena store.

Another Emmy Win for ‘Modern Family’ Puts Show on Verge of History

Another Emmy Win for 'Modern Family' Puts Show on Verge of History

The run-up to this year’s Emmy Awards show in Los Angeles was all about disruption. The old guard of network TV sitcoms was finished, and in its place had risen new shows with new distribution models that could permanently transform the television industry. David Finchner, director of the Netflix political drama “House of Cards,” walked away with the prize for best director, marking the first victory in a major category for an online distributor. And AMC’s hit drama “Breaking Bad” picked up its first win in the drama category.

But some things at this year’s Emmy Awards remained the same, and in at least one case, that was a good thing.

For the fourth consecutive year, ABC’s “Modern Family” won the award for best comedy series. Since its debut in 2009, the show has earned a total of 45 Emmy nominations. In terms of consecutive wins, the show now sits behind only “Frasier,” which won the award for best comedy series five years in a row from 1994 to 1998.

The show is structured as a mockumentary that follows three generations of a prominent Southern Californian family. It’s been heralded for its groundbreaking approach to controversial social issues including interracial dating and gay marriage.

Still, the show was one of the only bright spots for actors of color at this year’s awards. Despite all the chatter about “Scandal” possibly making a big splash at this year’s Emmys, actors of color didn’t win any major awards at this year’s awards. Kerry Washington was nominated for best actress in a drama, but was beaten by actress Claire Daines in “Homeland.” ( Although “Scandal” actor Dan Bucatinsky win the award for Guest Actor in a Drama.)

The lack of racial diversity at this year’s awards is neither new nor surprising. According to the Screen Actors Guild, only 28 percent of roles on TV go to actors of color, and few of those roles would qualify as a lead of supporting actor. 

Here’s a partial list of this year’s nominees and winners. For a full one, visit the Los Angeles Times.

WINNER: “Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Homeland” (Showtime)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Mad Men” (AMC)

ACTOR IN A DRAMA 
Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey”)
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
WINNER: Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”)
Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
Damian Lewis (“Homeland”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)

ACTRESS IN A DRAMA 
WINNER: Claire Danes (“Homeland”)
Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”)
Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) 
Connie Britton (“Nashville”)
Kerry Washington (“Scandal”)

WRITING FOR A DRAMA 
George Mastras (“Breaking Bad”)
Thomas Schnauz (“Breaking Bad”)
Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”)
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (“Game of Thrones”)
WINNER: Henry Bromell (“Homeland”)

DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA 
Tim Van Patten (“Boardwalk Empire”)
Michelle MacLaren (“Breaking Bad”)
Jeremy Webb (“Downton Abbey”)
Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”)
WINNER: David Fincher (“House of Cards”) 

Jamie Foxx Makes a Promise to Save Scholarships at the Univ. of Calif.

Jamie Foxx Makes a Promise to Save Scholarships at the Univ. of Calif.

It’s no secret that the University of California is in dire financial straits. But now there’s a new crowdfunding effort underway to help raise more scholarship money for students at the university’s 10 campuses. Promise for Education is a campaign that asks students, alumni, celebrities (like Jamie Foxx, who’s featured in the video), and ordinary people to make a promise — any promise — and, through people’s social networks, help raise money to save scholarships for low-income UC students. You can adopt a cat or promise to bungee jump and, in five pretty easy steps, help students afford college. Here’s how it works:

Watch This Adorable Video From Crazy Aunt Lindsey

Watch This Adorable Video From Crazy Aunt Lindsey

Lindsey E. Murphy is a science enthusiast who’s passionate about helping kids love science. Murphy, aka Crazy Aunt Lindsey, is a full-time babysitter, and often makes videos with the kids she cares for. Last week one of her videos, staring an adorable young man named King, went viral when it was shared on Boing Boing.  Her kid-friendly science experiments have also been featured on Scientific American.

She started her video series in 2011, but her website was recently hacked and she lost a lot of her past work. The recent attention has motivated her to relaunch the site, and she’s already working on new projects.

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead?

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead?

Despite hopes to the contrary, the promise of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) is all but dead in the House. The Senate had passed the Gang of Eight’s bill and handed it over months ago. House minority leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) made pretty clear his party wasn’t going to move on it—yet advocates continued to put pressure on Congress. 

But it seems that effort hasn’t paid off. Speaking to the Washington Post today, Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) made it pretty clear:

“It doesn’t appear that we’re going to move forward with the group of seven,” Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a key player on immigration as a member of the gang, said in an interview with me. “The process is stalled. I don’t believe we’re going to produce a bill anytime soon.”

When President Obama spoke about the overdue need for CIR in January, he said he wouldn’t waste any time:

[I]f Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.

But the president has let eight months pass without action on immigration reform since he made that statement—and it’s estimated that during that time, about a quarter of a million people have been deported. The president can use his executive power to curtail those deportations, but in an interview with Telemundo this week, he explained he has no interest in doing so.

While the news is surprising to some, rumors of the bills failure have been circulating for months. Tania Unzueta, an organizer with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, says she first found out about the news through social media. “I feel like we’ve been talking about it for a bit, even as immigrants rights advocates,” she says. “But we continue to move on Plan A—asking president to take action to stop deportations.”

Unzueta understands that Obama won’t stop deportations outright, but she says he has a lot of options—including putting a halt to the damaging Secure Communities program, altering the policy around who counts as a high-priority removal target under prosecutorial discretion, and changing the qualifications for who’s eligible for deferred action.

Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-Az) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas), meanwhile, introduced their own CIR bill in the House today. “This is not an issue that’s going away just because some people refuse to pay attention,” warned Grijalva. 

Retrial Date Set for Cop in Aiyana Stanley-Jones Death

Retrial Date Set for Cop in Aiyana Stanley-Jones Death

Joseph Weekley, the Detroit police officer who shot and killed seven year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, will be retried on a charge of involuntary manslaughter on December 4. Weekley also faces one charge of careless discharge of a firearm. The cable network A&E was following Weekley’s unit in its pursuit of a murder suspect when the shooting occurred. Stanley-Jones was sleeping on a sofa with her grandmother in the early morning hours of May 16, 2010 when Weekley’s unit burst through the door. The suspect they were looking for was not present in the apartment, but both Weekley and prosecutors agree that the bullet that killed the child was fired from the officer’s gun. Weekley’s previous trial ended in June after a jury deadlocked on a verdict. (h/t Huffington Post)

There’s a Deaf NFL Player Who You Should Know About

There's a Deaf NFL Player Who You Should Know About

Seattle Seahawks fans have set world records for being the loudest in the NFL. But there’s at least one player whose attention is focused squarely on football, by neccessity. The team’s starting fullback Derrick Coleman is deaf. From Buzzfeed:

The former UCLA tailback has been legally deaf since the age of 3 and can only hear sounds and tones without the hearing aids, but that has never slowed him down on the football field, where he relies primarily on lip reading and hand signals. According to the recruiting website Rivals.com Coleman was the fifth-ranked high school fullback in the class of 2008 and during his four years at UCLA he rushed for over 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns. Despite his success, he went undrafted in the spring of 2012.

Playing fullback is a relatively thankless job of blocking and setting up plays for the likes of Marshawn Lynch, one of the league’s leading rushers. But Coleman’s story is unique and important, too.

TAGS: NFL

Boston Man Who Returned $42,000 is Generously Rewarded

Boston Man Who Returned $42,000 is Generously Rewarded

Glen James, a Boston man in his mid 50s who is currently homeless, returned a backpack containing $42,000 in travelers checks and cash earlier this week. Soon after, 27-year-old Virginia man, Ethan Whittington, started a campaign on GoFundMe which has so far raised $130,450

Whittington is not the owner of the backpack. He says he started the fund because he was inspired by James’ generosity and honesty. 

James says he’s been homeless for five years, and in addition to the donations he also received an award from the Boston Police Department.  

Attorney General Outlines Changes on Mandatory Minimums

Attorney General Outlines Changes on Mandatory Minimums

Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Congressional Black Caucus Thursday, and summarized changes the Department of Justice is taking to end mandatory minimums for “people charged with certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.” Holder expanded on his initial announcement, made last month, and explained his department’s new policy:  

I am pleased to announce today that the Department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt.  By reserving the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers or kingpins, we can better enhance public safety.  We can increase our focus on proven strategies for deterrence and rehabilitation.  And we can do so while making our expenditures smarter and more productive.

As The New York Times reports, Holder issued a memo to prosecutors that the new guidelines apply retroactively:

The policy applies to defendants who meet four criteria: their offense did not involve violence, the use of a weapon, or selling drugs to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or drug trafficking organizations; and they have no significant criminal histories.

On Thursday, the Justice Department ordered prosecutors to apply the new policy retroactively to defendants who are already in the system but have not yet been sentenced. It was not immediately clear how many pending federal drug cases would be affected.

The policy (that you can read in its entirety)—which relies on prosecutorial discretion—is not truly retroactive, however. Those people already convicted under what Holder referred to as “draconian mandatory minimum sentences” will continue to serve them out. 

House Votes to Cut $40 Billion in Funding For Food Stamps

House Votes to Cut $40 Billion in Funding For Food Stamps

In a tight vote yesterday (217-200) the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved deep cuts to the federal food stamps program. One in seven people currently use food stamps, about 85 percent of which are children and the vast majority of who are people of color.  With the U.S. poverty rate holding steady at 15 percent, food stamps are seen as a critical safety net program for needy families. 

The approved bill would cut $4 billion annually over the next decade and it includes strict new work regulations such as a three-month cap on food stamp benefits if recipients do not secure employment. GOP lawmakers claim the cuts are needed because the program is overfunded and has been abused by recipients.

While the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it does, the move signals a disconnect between many Republican lawmakers and the reality faced by the estimated four million people who rely on food stamps to make ends meet.

Grace Jones Is Coming Out With a Memoir Next Fall

Grace Jones Is Coming Out With a Memoir Next Fall

Grace Jones has apparently changed her mind about writing a memoir, because hers is due out next fall. From the New York Times:

The model, actress, singer and Studio 54 legend has an agreement with Gallery Books for a book scheduled to come out next fall. Gallery, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced Wednesday that the book is currently untitled.

In a statement released by Gallery, Jones noted that her song “Art Groupie” began with the line, “I’ll never write my memoirs.” What made her give in? If she didn’t do it, someone else would.

Queerty offers up 10 reasons you should be really, really excited (if you aren’t already).

tumblr_lidvfn5G3O1qhjikro1_500.gif

Fresh Prince of Bel Air Makes an Appearance on an NHL Goalie’s Face Mask

Fresh Prince of Bel Air Makes an Appearance on an NHL Goalie's Face Mask

What else can you say? Canadian goalie prospect Jordan Binnington knows his ’90s television.

2Pac’s Mother Afeni Shakur Producing Biopic of Slain Rapper

2Pac's Mother Afeni Shakur Producing Biopic of Slain Rapper

There’s been a Tupac Shakur biopic in the works since 2011, but the project recently gained some momentum thanks to a new deal to finance the film. From Deadline:

Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films is teaming with Morgan Creek Productions to co-finance and co-produce Tupac, creating a new urgency for the long-gestating biopic on the hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur. They are working with a script by Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, and a new draft is expected in two weeks. Several companies battled for the rights to partner on the film with Jim Robinson’s Morgan Creek before MCP president David Robinson sealed the deal with EFO. They are eyeing a February start date and a $45 million budget. They have the rights to exploit Tupac’s musical catalog, and his mother, Afeni Shakur, will be a producer on the film.

No word yet on the cast, but Deadline notes that “Fruitvale Station” actor Micheal B. Jordan or Anthony Mackie could be good fits for the leading role. Read more over at Deadline.

Hari Kondabolu Demands TSA Reparations

Hari Kondabolu Demands TSA Reparations

Just another reason to watch “Totally Biased.”

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Parents Complain After Child Forced to Reenact Slavery on a Field Trip

Parents Complain After Child Forced to Reenact Slavery on a Field Trip

During a Nature’s Classroom field trip organized by Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy last year, a 12-year-old black girl was forced to pretend she was a slave as part of a historical reenactment. During the simulation she was called the N-word, chased through the woods, and threatened with physical violence including whipping and cutting her Achilles. Nature’s Classroom has been criticized for this same reenactment in the past, but continues do it. 

Now, Sandra and James Baker—the girl’s parents—have taken their complaints to the Connecticut School Board and the Human Rights Commission after 10-months of trying to get an apology from their daughter’s former school. Other students who went on the same trip were recently debriefed, and described being similarly horrified by the experience. 

Has Stop-and-Frisk Been Replaced by Youth Surveillance?

Has Stop-and-Frisk Been Replaced by Youth Surveillance?

In an article published today in the New York Times, the NYPD seems to be beefing up social media monitoring as a tactic to replace the once common stop-and-frisk, which was ruled a violation of rights by a federal judge earlier this year.  According to the article, the NYPD says 30 percent of shootings over the past several years can be connected to youth gangs known as “crews” or “sets,” and Facebook is a particularly reliable source for connecting people with these groups. 

Police also claim people involved in gang activity often threaten people or boast about past actions on Facebook, which enabled the NYPD to thwart a potential violent incident earlier this spring. Now it seems they will be relying more heavily on “Operation Crew Cut” to root out potential crews. The officers are also using Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, often disguising their identities to gain access to individuals.

This strategy has been applauded even by staunch stop-and-frisk opponent Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, among others. But the increased use of this tactic also brings up some serious questions about internet privacy and government surveillance. While internet bullying should never be condoned, could an idle threat by a teen somehow link him to gang activity? What’s your take?  

(h/t New York Times)

Navajo Star Wars: Coming to a Theater Near You

Navajo Star Wars: Coming to a Theater Near You

Some 150,000 people speak Diné bizaad, or Navajo language. Yet no major film has ever been released in Diné. That means that monolingual speakers—who mostly live on the Navajo Nation that spreads out over Arizona, Utah and New Mexico—have been unable to simply go to a theater to enjoy a film. 

That all changed recently, after Navajo Nation Museum director Manuelito Wheeler set out to get Star Wars dubbed in Diné. Before the casting call could even be made, the film first had to be translated—and that’s not an easy thing for a language that’s so precise in its descriptions when compared to English. Wheeler explained the process to NPR in June:

We had a team of five translators and in my mind they pulled off a miracle. You know, there was some talk out there … like, ‘How are you gonna say robot because there’s no word for robot in Navajo?’ It’s such a powerful language, that it’s very descriptive, very descriptive. If you ask for an object in Navajo you will know you’ll be getting a round object, you’ll be getting a skinny, soft object, you’ll be getting a flat rigid object. So, the trick was choosing from the variety of definitions that the group came up with. So for example: “robot.” It’s a thinking machine; a machine that thinks for itself.

Navajo Star Wars was shown on and near the Navajo Nation this summer with glowing reviews from Diné speakers. And now, it’s hitting major cities, too. Arizona State University will host an exclusive screening in about two weeks (do yourself a favor and click on that last link for an awesome poster image!), and it’s coming to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles soon, too. 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191