Puerto Rican rappers/rockers Calle 13 continue their fierce criticism of government systems and oppression in their latest track ”Multi_Viral,” a collaboration with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Assange, who remains a controversial figure, seems to be making a habit of teaming up with hyper-political artists, recently giving the intro at M.I.A.’s New York City concert. The track, which also features Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Palestinian artist Kamilya Jurban, broadly connects NSA spying with racism, environmental justice, government accountability and militarism. You can download the track for free on Remezcla.
British singer Lily Allen wrote a blog post on Wednesday responding to accussations that her latest video for the song “Hard Out Here” is racist. The video, which is supposed to be a making fun of Miley Cyrus’ twerking, has been panned for stepping over the line from parody to prejudice by objectifying the bodies of women of color. Mia McKenzie wrote at Black Girl Dangerous:
Here’s yet another video of a white woman performer using the bodies of black women as props. Smacking their asses and cutting away to their parts as though they are just pieces of people rather than, you know,whole people. All while singing about how she doesn’t need to shake her ass because she has a brain. The juxtaposition of that sentiment with images of black women gyrating and twerking is downright insulting. Here’s yet another white feminist throwing black women under the bus because she has some point she’s trying to make about…sexism? I mean, I can hardly tell, probably because my feminism includes black women. Because I don’t see black women, or any other women of color as tools, props, or background noise for white women’s self-expression. But that’s me.
On Wednesday, Allen wrote in a blog post titled “Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions” wrote that the video “has nothing to do with race at all.”
The message is clear. Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all.
If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens; I actually rehearsed for two weeks trying to perfect my twerk, but failed miserably. If I was a little braver, I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see. What I’m trying to say is that me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself from the girls, it has more to do with my own insecurities and I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on the shoot day.
But, as McKenzie wrote, “Satire works best when you are flipping the script on the oppressor…Not caricaturing and otherwise disrespecting the people who are oppressed by that system.”
(h/t The Guardian)
The Williams Institute estimates there are one million LGBT immigrants in the U.S., 30 percent of whom are undocumented. While immigration reform remains stalled in Congress, and seems increasingly unlikely to pass this year, the Center for American Progress produced an infographic to map out what immigration reform could provide for LGBT immigrants.
Capitalizing on a campaign in which bottom up economic justice was at the fore, a coalition of New York-based philanthropies—led by the Open Society Foundations along with nine others—is hosting a citywide conversation to help shape the agenda for incoming-mayor Bill de Blasio. The monthlong event, Talking Transition, hopes to engage New York’s eight million residents in an open process to establish priorities and policies for the next four years. Through interactive discussions, panels, and activities throughout the month of November, Talking Transition seeks to make sure that the voice of everyday people continues to be heard after the next mayor takes office. Each day groups of New Yorkers will gather to participate in moderated discussions on the city’s future.
With this effort to broaden the conversation on future policy, Talking Transition could serve as model for after-election activities in other municipalities and states by taking what is usually an elite conversation and transforming it into a more democratic one.
Yesterday I participated in a Talking Transition panel led by the North Star Fund’s Hugh Hogan on what the next mayor should learn from Hurricane Sandy. My remarks focused on the fact that city needs to reimagine what’s valuable and who’s valuable, recognizing that the working poor are at the core of the city’s future. Recommendations from each panel will be compiled and passed on to the incoming mayor’s team. Other topics to be covered over the next ten days range from health, to public safety to economic justice to education. A full list of what’s to be discussed with times can be found at talkingtransitionnyc.com.
Along with these set piece conversations, New Yorkers are invited to come in and register their thoughts and priorities through Talking Transition’s interactive kiosks. They can also do so online through Twitter @TalkNYC2013, on Facebook and on Instagram with #talkingtransition.
Black and Latino families have been hardest hit by “housing income segregation,” which is shrinking middle income neighborhoods across the country. And now it seems Latinos are also having a harder time qualifying for home loans than before the Great Recession, experts say. In a recent interview, Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals told VOXXI that Latinos are particularly affected by new, stricter rules.
“Latinos are one of those sectors mostly affected by these new regulations because of their non-traditional ways of earning income and lack of credit history in many cases,” said Gary Acosta, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).
Some of the new rules could require as much as a 30 percent down payment for those “risky candidates,” which Acosta also says is difficult for Latino families whose non-traditional, often inconsistent income earnings make it hard to accumulate the money needed for such a large payment. And these same informal labor jobs also make it harder for Latinos to establish good credit.
Macklemore has joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union in an effort to get more people to join the organization.
“I’ve got a lot of things to do during the day,” the rapper says. “So something like being beaten with a club, pepper-sprayed, and tased for expressing my political views would really slow me down. That’s why I carry the ACLU card.”
The New York City council recently approved a plan to for developers to replace an iconic factory in Queens with luxury high rise condos. For 20 years, the owner of that Queens factory has allowed artists to cover the building’s exterior in elaborate graffiti and the area, known as 5Pointz, has become an iconic draw for tourists from around the world.
From Atlantic Cities:
Developers Jerry and David Wolkoff offered to provide 10,000-square-feet of “art panels and walls” in the new buildings. But that arrangement did not satisfy artists, who immediately filed a lawsuit and were granted a 10-day injunction. On Tuesday afternoon, the court ruled against a permanent injunction.
That decision leaves the artists scrambling to re-apply for landmark status before the Wolkoffs rush in with the wrecking ball (a previous application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission was rejected in August). A spokesperson for 5Pointz insists, however, that the fight is not over. “The building is not going to go down before 2014,” she told The Queens Courier, explaining that a demolition permit still needs to be issued and tenants have until January to move out.
So far, the public has been split on the news. Banksy, whose New York residencyspurred street art mayhem last month, left these parting words on his website: “It’s been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye.” But others support the plan, saying the current site is in noticeably bad shape and an inefficient use of space.
I guess the saying is true: all good things must come to an end. After a great two season run, “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” will air its final episode this Sunday.
FXX has yet to comment on the cancellation.
Asian Americans, as human beings, deal just like other people with the gamut of mental illness, including postpartum depression and anxiety. But that doesn’t mean it’s openly acknowledged, let alone discussed. In fact, while 14 percent of women in the U.S. report postpartum depressive symptoms, women of Asian descent were least likely of all races to report having been told about postpartum depression by a health care provider, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Cultural perceptions about mental illness, by both patients and providers, may have something to do with that.
In a frank personal essay published by Hyphen Magazine this week, Sharline Chiang takes a different tact, writing openly about her shattering experience with severe depression and anxiety after she gave birth to her daughter Anza. But she hasn’t told everyone.
I didn’t know I had postpartum depression—postpartum anxiety to be exact. Even after I found out and was diagnosed with severe PPD a month later, I lied. Even after I was put on anti-psychotic medicine, even after I was registered at the mental hospital in Berkeley, I lied. I lied, because I didn’t want my parents to worry. It seemed the right, Confucian, filial thing to do, to protect one’s elderly parents from one’s own suffering. Most of all I lied because I didn’t want to be judged. I already felt like such a failure. I was failing as a mother and I was ashamed.
Four years ago I had three miscarriages. “You’re not careful enough,” my mother said. “You’re too active.” While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: “Go on bed rest so it doesn’t fall out.”
I couldn’t risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.
My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?
So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.
Read the rest of Chiang’s piece over at Hyphen.
Affirmative action is back for yet another day of court today. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments today in Fisher v. Texas, the major affirmative action case which was sent back down to appellate courts by the Supreme Court this summer.
While the Supreme Court affirmed in its June ruling on Fisher v. Texas that diversity on college campuses is a worthwhile goal and allowed colleges and universities to continue to take race into consideration in admissions, the High Court sent the case itself back to the Fifth Circuit to take a closer look at the University of Texas’ admissions policies. The question before the Fifth Circuit right now is whether race-neutral alternatives could still advance the school’s goal of fostering diversity as well as its current program, under which the majority of students are admitted via a race-blind policy and a small percentage are admitted through a separate process which considers race, among multiple other factors, to complete its admissions.
Proponents of affirmative action argue that race-neutral alternatives can’t and don’t produce the same kinds of diversity.
Catch up on Colorlines’ affirmative action coverage, including Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the other major affirmative action case currently before the Supreme Court, here.
In the first full month since the marketplace for new health insurance plans under the Affordable Healthcare Act opened on October 1, over 106,000 people across the nation have selected plans. Not exactly metrics to pop champagne over, but U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius said they expect those numbers to improve over the next few months when she announced the enrollment numbers this afternoon. Another 975,407 people at least made it through the application and eligibility process, but haven’t selected a plan yet, said Sebelius.
Getting through that process has not been an easy ride for millions of Americans who’ve tried and failed to access the Obamacare plans through the online portal Healthcare.gov. The website probably won’t get fixed anytime soon. Meanwhile, the HHS administration has appointed “Navigators” — community-based Obamacare evangelists dispatched to help people sign up for health insurance through other options. The Tea Party has been publicly attacking the Navigators program as part of their larger agenda to derail Obamacare.
Meanwhile, today’s enrollment numbers also include an additional 396,261 people who have been determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
“There is no doubt the level of interest is strong,” said Sec. Sebellius when announcing the figures. “We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months … They’re also numbers that will grow as the website, HealthCare.gov, continues to make steady improvements.”
Naima Lowe is a queer black artist based in Washington state whose most recent project is causing quite a stir. She’s created a book called “39 Questions for White People,” a collection of simple questions that are meant to generate a discussion around white privilege. Here’s how Lowe describes it:
The deceptively simple text asks complex questions about race and accountability. Each page of this limited edition, forty-page, loose-leaf book, was hand inked and hand typed at a small collectively run print shop in Olympia, WA. This work started as an experiment based in my curiosity about how whiteness is framed and understood by white people. The work of creating the book became an exercise in turning the emotional labor of racism into tangible physical labor. I was able to turn all that pain into an object, which is incredibly strange, but also incredibly freeing.
Questions include: How do you know that you’re white? Do you notice when the last white person leaves the room?
Copies of the book just went on sale and it’s currently on display at The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle as part of their special exhibition “Under My Skin: Artists Explore Race in the 21st Century.”
Writer, filmmaker and activist dream hampton made an appearance on Democracy Now alongside Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The two spoke to host Amy Goodman about the ongoing outcry in Detroit for accountability in the aftermath of the shooting of Renisha McBride, an unarmed 19-year-old black women who was killed by a white homeowner after she reportedly sought help following a car accident. In the interview, hampton articulated what’s at the core of anger surrounding the case:
AMY GOODMAN: So, there was a toxicology test given to the victim, to Renisha McBride’s body, but Ted Wafer was not tested? Is that the case?
DREAM HAMPTON: I mean, unless they—unless the Dearborn Heights Police Department produces a toxicology report from that night, which would, to me, seem standard procedure—if someone claims that there was an accidental shooting at their home, then it seems that—it would seem that they would be tested for alcohol or drugs. A toxicology report on Renisha McBride’s body is more criminalization of black corpses. I don’t make the analogy to Trayvon in this case. I think Jonathan Ferrell, killed in North Carolina by the police while he was seeking help after an accident, is a far—
AMY GOODMAN: Now, he was the Florida A&M football player who gets in a car accident, is running toward police, and they shoot him dead.
DREAM HAMPTON: Yes, he’s a better analogy, if we need make one; I don’t think that we need to. I think that we can deal with Renisha McBride and the life that was lost on its own merit. But this criminalization of black corpses is deeply troubling, as well. We saw this happen with Trayvon. We saw his public record, his school record, his attendance record, whether or not he had ever smoked pot—you know, this teenager, like, kind of criminalized even as he was a corpse. I’m not interested in seeing that happen again with Renisha McBride. Like the family, I’m hopeful that Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who, as you know, Amy, has a very serious reputation, will do the right thing and bring justice for the McBride family.
Films that celebrate queer women of color are rare, and the upcoming “Women and the Word: THE REVIVAL Documentary Film” promises to be a heartwarming thought-provoking look at five poets on an international tour. After a 55-day campaign on Kickstarter the project has been successfully funded, with post-production led by Sekiya Dorsett and Andrea Boston. Artists featured include T’ai Freedom Ford, Be Steadwell, Jonquille “Solsis” Rice, and Elizah Turner who explore gender, sexuality, and the unique barriers faced by queer women of color using music, poetry, and performance. More on the film:
Women and the Word chronicles the creation of an international salon-styled tour led and supported by women. It tells the story of how Jade Foster recruited a group of five dynamic poets and musicians to become stewards of a movement that builds community among queer women of color, upholds literary arts excellence, and occupies living rooms across the country.
Poet, activist, and current UCLA student Sy Stokes sends a powerful message with his poem “The Black Bruins,” which calls the school out for dismal black student enrollment. According to Stokes, only 35 black students in the incoming class are expected to graduate, and of the black males at the school—who make up a tiny 3.3 percent of the overall male population— 65 percent are athletes. Stokes says he was inspired to perform this piece because of his own experience of alienation as a multi-racial student, and the legacy of his cousin Arthur Ashe.
“We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for a level playing field,” he says.
NPR reports that black student enrollment at UCLA has plummeted since the state voted down affirmative action in 1996. Stokes’ video is a timely response to ongoing inequity at one of the most respected schools in the country, and challenges viewers to consider the systems that enable the school to continue to enroll only certain kinds of black students.
First Lady Michelle Obama moved into new political territory today when she visited students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of higher education. It’s not the first time the First Lady has weighed in on the importance of education, but today marked her first official forway into the world of ed policy. And while she framed her remarks around President Obama’s goal to make the U.S. the world’s top producer of college graduates, she kept her speech policy-free, instead choosing to speak about her own childhood, and lace her story with the personal responsibility themes which show up so often in her husband’s remarks toward black audiences in particular.
“At the end of the day, no matter what the president does, no matter what your teachers and principals do or whatever is going on in our home or neighborhood, the person with the biggest impact on your educaiton is you. It’s that simple,” Obama said today. “It’s you, the student. And more than anything else, meeting that 2020 goal is going to take young people like you steppig up and taking control of your education.”
“It’s not your circumstance that defines your future,” Obama later said. “It’s your attitude. It’s your commitment. You decide how high you set your goals. You decide how hard you’re going to work toward those goals,” she said.
Her words are important and inspiring; that Obama can call on her own path growing up the daughter of working-class parents and climbing to the heights of the country’s most elite educational institutions makes them even more powerful. But, much more than Obama acknowledged in her remarks, structural forces like poverty and racial inequity have a great deal of power over young people’s educational outcomes. In fact, recent studies have shown that the achievement gap today is not solely due to a bottoming out of the test scores of the poorest students. It’s actually that the test scores of the wealthiest students are rising higher and higher into the ether, dynamics exacerbated by growing class and enduring racial stratification in the country. There are always exceptions—take Obama herself—but for most and on a broad scale, structural forces beyond the control of any one student matter.
The First Lady’s remarks today were innocuous enough on their face, stressing the importance of hard work and believing in oneself and never feeling shame for the struggles one has faced. But they should be noted with caution. Obama, with all her power and charm, may very well be carrying on the neoliberal education reform agenda her husband has championed, while wrapping it up in her deeply personal words which erase the larger political and social forces at play.
Watch Obama’s remarks in full here.
For what will be the second year in a row Vietnamese LGBT groups will not be allowed to participate in the Westminster Tet Parade, an annual Chinese New Year Celebration in Orange County, Calif. Despite widespread public outcry, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, which now organizes the once city-run parade, voted Monday to exclude LGBT groups from the 2014 event.
LGBT groups have participated in the event for at least the past three years, but this year organizations such as Viet Rainbow of Orange County were banned from walking in the parade. Some say the move reflects an ongoing “cultural divide” within Vietnamese communities, who often adhere to a strict moral code that looks down on homosexuality and gender difference.
A spokesperson for the group told the LA Times that they were prepared to respond.
“They had an opportunity to make right what was wrong, and they chose the same path. Last year we were caught off guard, but this time we’re prepared with options.”
Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) stays busy. He guested on singer Kenna’s new track “Relations” and also has a new album coming out next month. Enjoy.
In an impassioned interview yesterday on Fusion, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) criticized President Obama, the GOP, and even members of his own party for continued inaction on immigration reform. Gutierrez told Jorge Ramos:
There’s much more the President can do about deportations. We cannot have … the president of the United State say that the young DREAMers, that their values are ‘the same values I and my wife inculcate in our own daughters,’ and then deport their parents.
Gutierrez has come under fire recently from immigration advocates who say he should be putting more pressure on Obama and Congress. And while some advocates, such as the DREAM 30 have turned their attention towards different tactics aiming to put an end to deportations and address immigrants’ rights issues, many others continue pushing for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.
Joined by Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), the two insisted that while immigration reform is still possible, they are “running out of time.”
Angel Haze sat down for an interview with Meredith Bennett-Smith at the Huffington Post to talk about her wild summer of freestyling and what propelled her into the rap game in the first place. From HuffPo:
Until the age of 15, Haze (born Raykeea Wilson) and her mother were part of the Pentacostal Greater Apostolic Faith, a church Haze has repeatedly described as a “cult.” Although Haze never officially “came out,” her mother found out anyway, prompting the dramatic scene that opens the “Same Love” cover.
“When my mom found out she was so angry,” Haze told HuffPost. “She was going through my s—t, and she staged this whole ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ scene, where she opened the blinds and the curtains in the house so they were all flying around. It’s winter and she turns off all the lights. And she sits down and she tells me, ‘God told me, you’re going to die of AIDS.’”
Looking back on those wind-whipped curtains now, Haze lets out a long laugh.
“That s—t is hilarious, when you think about it in hindsight,” she said. Still, as a 13-year-old, the confrontation left her terrified and confused. “I knew that I didn’t believe in hell,” Haze explained. “But I was also f—king afraid of it.”