‘Saturday Night Live’ Adds Two Black Female Writers

'Saturday Night Live' Adds Two Black Female Writers

Not only is “Saturday Night Live” adding Sasheer Zamata as its new black actress, but it’s also tapped two black female writers to join the show. The Hollywood Reporter notes that LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones will join the line up soon. Both were discovered during the sketch show’s recent auditions.

From THR:

Jones, a stand-up actress-comedian who was a finalist for the new castmember spot, has performed at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, has guest-starred in comedies including The League, Sullivan & Son and written and appeared on Def Comedy Jam and 1st Amendment Stand Up. She’s performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal as well as the Aspen Comedy Festival. In 2011, her comedy special Problem Child was broadcast on Showtime. Jones is repped by Integral Entertainment and Pierce Law Group.

Actress-comedian Tookes, meanwhile, is a former news reporter from Florida who has performed at iO West. 

Here’s Tookes’ character reel:

Federal School Discipline Guidelines: How to Stop Racial Discrimination In the Classroom

Federal School Discipline Guidelines: How to Stop Racial Discrimination In the Classroom

This morning the Departments of Education and Justice issued new guidelines which lay out for educators their legal obligations to refrain from racially discriminating agaisnt students with their school discipline policies and explain how they can do their jobs without engaging in discriminatory practices. The guidelines are the product of a joint federal initiative between the two agencies to address school discipline issues, and more to the point, the school-to-prison pipeline. 

School discipline is a powerful tool which can have a deep impact on students’ educational futures. But there are many ways to go about it, and too often school discipline in the form of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions shuts students out of school and discourages them from staying on track, the Departments of Justice and Education have argued. “In 2011 alone, more than 3 million public school students, and over 100,000 students were expelled, leading to our students losing hundreds of thousands of instructional time,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says in the package’s introductory video. What’s more, school discipline is often disproportionately applied, with black students receiving harsher treatment than their white peers. Black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white student counterparts to be expelled or suspended. And in a massive national survey, black students made up 15 percent of those tracked, but 35 percent of students who’d been suspended, and 44 percent of those who’d been suspended multiple times. The disparities, the federal government explains, aren’t because black students are more likely to misbehave than white students, suggesting that punishment is meted out unequally. 

In their guidance, the Departments of Justice and Education explain their rubrics for how they gauge whether or not a school is breaking the law with its school discipline practices. Racial discrimination can take several forms—it can be explicit and written into policy, but far more likely is going to involve “selective” application of a “facially neutral” policy. Second, the agencies delve into alternatives to harsh punishment and zero-tolerance policies. Most is so basic it hurts to have to see it spelled out with the force of federal law behind it: support students, make classrooms inclusive environments, draw up written policies and procedures for dealing with misbehaving students, involve parents. 

School discipline reform advocates have hailed the new guidelines as much-needed and helpful resources for educators and families. Deborah Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, called the guidance “groundbreaking.” “This guidance makes it crystal clear for schools what their obligations are under our civil rights laws and provides examples of best practices so that they can easily implement positive alternative practices,” Vagins said in a statement.

Read the federal guidance in full here.

Photo of Black Dad Styling Daughter’s Hair Goes Viral

Photo of Black Dad Styling Daughter's Hair Goes Viral

You may have seen this photo of a black dad styling his daughter’s hair with a toddler strapped to his chest. It’s gone viral in the past week as an example of good, and all too rare, forms of black fatherhood. Yahoo! Shine got in touch with the man at the center of the photo, Doyin Richards, 39, and got the back story.

Richards originally posted the photo on his website back in October with the title, “I Have a Dream: That People Will View a Picture Like This and Not Think It’s a Big Deal.” He’d taken it after his wife challenged him to do their 6-year-old daughter’s hair without leaving  their infant on her own. Richards not only did it, but took a picture as proof. He later reposted the photo last month and the photo was eventually picked up by the fatherhood blog The Good Men Project. Yahoo! Shine explains what happened next: 

In a matter of hours, the photo went viral, quickly amassing nearly 5,000 shares, 3,000 comments, and 190,000 likes, along with a slew of mean-spirited remarks, such as “He probably rented those kids. They don’t even look like him,” and “I would bet anything that you’re a deadbeat.”

Believe it or not, Richards actually faced a fair amount of criticism over the photo with detractors calling him a deadbeat who was using children to get attention.

Although to Richards, the photo is simply an accurate reflection of his daily life, he understands the scrutiny — to a degree. “The picture stirs emotion for a few reasons,” Richards tells Yahoo Shine. “The media doesn’t portray fathers as caregivers. We’re seen as bumbling fools trying to figure out parenthood, or macho men pushing their kids into the NFL. The other issue is that there’s a stereotype that black fathers are deadbeats.” 

Read more over at Yahoo! Shine


TAGS: fatherhood

Singer Lesedi Lo-Fi Speaks Out About Homeless Youth From Experience

Singer Lesedi Lo-Fi Speaks Out About Homeless Youth From Experience

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how talented and formerly homeless 20-year-old singer Lesedi caught the ear of a renowned record producer. His debut album, “Street Faces,” centers on the plight of homeless youth and hits stores on March 11.

(h/t Afropunk)

Get this Philadelphia Man a Good Job

Get this Philadelphia Man a Good Job

Cab driver Abu Bakarr Saccoh says he loves his job but he clearly loves accounting more. The 43-year-old immigrant from Sierra Leone has spent the last year and a half advertising his resume in the passenger cabin of his cab in the hopes of landing an accounting position.

Saccoh appears to be qualified. His resume includes a bachelor’s in accounting and finance from the University of Sierra Leone and in the U.S., a master’s in accounting and controllership from Strayer University in Pennsylvania.

The bold job search method hasn’t yet led to a job. But Saccoh says it’s yielded plenty of advice and encouragement from passengers.

“I wake up every morning thinking I’m gonna hit my defining moment today, you know,” he tells his local NBC station. “I am very, very hopeful that the opportunity will come at any moment; maybe from someone who gets in my cab.”

(h/t NBC10 Philadelphia)

Debo Adegbile Faces Senate For Justice Department Civil Rights Post

Debo Adegbile Faces Senate For Justice Department Civil Rights Post

Debo Adegbile, the former NAACP LDF attorney who defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer, will sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning (Can be viewed online at 10 a.m.) to take questions about his ability to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. His support from the social justice advocacy community is strong going in: Yesterday, 75 civil rights organizations joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a letter to the Senate committee urging them to confirm him. 

From the letter:

“Mr. Adegbile is exceptionally qualified to lead the Civil Rights Division at this time in history.  As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer on civil rights issues, he would bring a depth and breadth of understanding of federal civil rights laws, and their enforcement and application.  He has litigated cases across civil rights subject areas, from voting rights to fair housing to employment discrimination to equal educational opportunity. He has practiced law at all levels, from the trial court to the Supreme Court, and has appeared in courts throughout the country.”

While the confirmation process has been made smoother by new rules that call for a simple majority vote (51 ayes) in the Senate for approval, as opposed to the 60-aye hurdle previously needed, Adegbile is certain to face opposition from conservative Senators. Some on the right are making hay out of the fact that Adegbile represented former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981. But civil rights advocates who’ve worked with Adegbile for years are making the case that he represents the American story, having overcome poverty and homelessness as a child to become one of the top lawyers in the country. It doesn’t hurt that Adegbile began touching kids’ hearts when he had a reoccurring role as one of the children on “Sesame Street.”


Adegbile continues to work in schools from junior high to college as a mentor and teacher on constitutional law and civics.  

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement said in a statement, “I have litigated both with and against Debo and have heard him argue in the Supreme Court. I have always found him to be a formidable advocate of the highest intellect, skills and integrity.”

Laverne Cox Remembers Islan Nettles While Schooling Katie Couric

Laverne Cox Remembers Islan Nettles While Schooling Katie Couric

Model Carmen Carrera and actress Laverne Cox appeared on the Katie Couric show this week talk about being transgender women in the entertainment industry. Over the course of two segments, both Carrera and Cox completely shut down Couric’s attempts to objectify transgender women’s bodies by focusing on their physical transitions. 

First, here’s Carrera, who talks about how focusing on physical transitions distracts entirely from the lived realities of transgender folks (skip ahead to about the 2:50 mark):

Cox followed suit, citing the lived domination that transgender communities face in everything from housing to employment and physical safety. During the segment, Cox also cites the case of Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death in Harlem last summer (Skip ahead to the 2:25 mark):

Mindy Kaling Is Very Happy With Her ‘Elle’ Magazine Cover

Mindy Kaling Is Very Happy With Her 'Elle' Magazine Cover

Mindy Kaling took to Twitter today to respond to critics who bashed her recent “Elle” cover. The cover features a close-up shot of the actress and writer’s upper body instead of the standard full-body, which some critics have blasted as racist and fat phobic. Kaling, however, disagrees:


You Can Stream Del The Funky Homosapien’s New Album For Free

You Can Stream Del The Funky Homosapien's New Album For Free

Hip-hop heads, rejoice!

Longtime Bay Area emcee Del The Funky Homosapien dropped a free LP called “Iller Than Most” just after the near year. Listen to it here:

(h/t Okayplayer)

TAGS: hip hop

LA Sheriff Baca Resigns Amid Explosive Scandals

LA Sheriff Baca Resigns Amid Explosive Scandals

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca announced his resignation at a press conference Tuesday. He stated he will not seek reelection in November, and that he will step down from his post at the end of January. The sheriff gave what he called some “personal and private” reasons, but will mostly be stepping down because of a “negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought on” his department. Baca appeared to be fighting tears during his initial announcement. 

Baca leaves the department amid during a time of widespread controversy in a massive jail system. Baca’s department has helped detain and deport a record number of immigrants—the majority of whom were not accused of any violent crime. The sheriff’s department was also the target of a federal investigation. Grand jury indictments resulting from that investigation reveal serious abuse at L.A.’s Men’s Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

The documents allege not only excessive force and intimidation against inmates and their visitors—including broken bones—but serious corruption as well. Nevertheless, the sheriff states that his is “the safest large jail in the country.”

On Monday, Sheriff Baca agreed to an oversight commission, that he stated “would serve to further develop law enforcement skills regarding Constitutional policing, procedural justice, civil rights, and human rights as a whole.” That was a big change of course for Baca, who has long said that his department was free of any institutional problems—despite allegations about abuse and corruption for decades from former inmates and their supporters.

Just last month, Baca insisted the 18 grand jury indictments represented some bad apples, but weren’t evident of a crisis in his department as a whole. Those statements in support of his deputies were echoed during today’s press conference, during which time he also floated possible new candidates for election.

Baca first assumed office in December 1998. He is recommending jails chief Terri McDonald “[hold] the fort” until November’s election. 

Indian Grandmother Wins Marathon Barefoot, In Sari

Indian Grandmother Wins Marathon Barefoot, In Sari

So this is awesome. Lata Bhagwan Kare, a grandmother from Pimpli, India (who, depending on what you read is either 61 or 66 years old)  won the nearby Baramati marathon to cap off 2013. But what makes her win even more impressive is that she did it while running barefoot and wearing a nauvari (a Maharashtrian sari). From Yahoo! News India:

Kare revealed that she felt a little nervous standing at the start line - “I felt a little awkward, as all the other participants were staring at my dress. That also made me a little nervous. However, when the race began and I started overtaking them one by one, I gained my energy. While running I was talking to myself and telling that I want to win this race and I did it.”

Kare, in fact, did not start the race barefoot; she initially ran with her slippers on. But she did away with them a few metres into the race, when one of them slipped out from under her foot and she decided to abandon the other one.

Organizer Sachin Satav said on this surprising development, “We never expected a participant like Kare to be the winner of the race. It was pleasant surprise. We were extremely happy while handing over the trophy to Kare.”

h/t Angry Asian Man via Yahoo! News India.

‘Awkward Black Girl’ Issa Rae Named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30

'Awkward Black Girl' Issa Rae Named to Forbes' 30 Under 30

Looks like 2014 is turning out to be just as good as 2013 for Issa Rae. The 28-year-old comedian and writer was just named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Last year was a huge one for Rae as she teamed up with ABC’s Shonda Rhimes and was cast as Nina Simone in an upcoming Lorraine Hansberry biopic. She’s also writing a new show for HBO and working on a book. 

Yeah, her grind is real.

TAGS: Issa Rae

Five Things To Know About Sasheer Zamata, SNL’s New Black Female Cast Member

Five Things To Know About Sasheer Zamata, SNL's New Black Female Cast Member

NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” has finally added a new black female cast member: 27-year-old Sasheer Zamata. 

The hiring is the latest development in a saga that’s played out since 2006 when Maya Rudolph, the show’s last black female cast member, went solo. The conspicuous absence of black women on the late night sketch comedy program got a lot of attention last fall when “SNL” cast member Kenan Thompson told TV Guide that it was hard to find qualified black women for the show. The uproar caused executive producer Lorne Micheals to commit to finding someone who was talented enough, and invite that person to join the show this month.

Zamata will make her debut on January 18 in an episode in which Drake is the musical guest. Here’s what you should know:

1. Zamata grew up in Indianapolis and dreamed of becoming a journalist before studying theater at the University of Virginia.

2. After graduating in 2009, Zamata lit off for New York City and has been honing her skills with the Upright Citizens’ Brigade’s Diversity Program. She’s also appeared in sketches on “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” on FX and “Inside Amy Schumer” on Comedy Central.

3. She writes her own material, including well-received online shows like Doppleganger.

4. She does stand-up because she “likes doing scary things.”

5. She knew this was going to happen. Back in October, Zamata did an interview with Man Cave Daily and said that she was ready for her big break. “ I definitely feel like I’m on the cusp. It’s a very good time right now. I’m getting a lot of attention and I feel ready. I wasn’t ready a year ago, but I’m ready now.”

Google Celebrates Zora Neale Hurston’s 123rd Birthday

Google Celebrates Zora Neale Hurston's 123rd Birthday

It makes sense for the world’s largest search engine to be obsessed with orderly numbers, so maybe that’s why Google has decided to celebrate black writer Zora Neale Hurston’s 123rd birthday (or maybe they just did it because she’s brilliant). On Tuesday the internet giant adorned its famous homepage with an illustrated and hyperlinked portrait of Hurston set against a backdrop of what looks like a Florida swamp, landscape that featured prominently in her early 20th century work as an anthropologist, folklorist and author. 

Hurston, whose most famous work was her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” was a prominent figure during the Harlem Reniassance but faded into obscurity by the time of her death in 1960. Her life’s work was then rediscovered by Alice Walker in the mid-1970’s and has since gained recognition as one of the most important 20th century black writers.

State Legislators to Watch in 2014

State Legislators to Watch in 2014

As it was in 2013, so it shall be in 2014: There will be scant lawmaking to speak of in Congress so most of the action will be at the state legislative level. This has been the case pretty much since the 2010 midterm elections that ushered in a wave of Tea Party candidates determined to reduce the role of government by any means necessary. It will be abundantly true in this year’s midterms as well. So you’ll want to pay close attention to state-level representatives and senators, especially in the southern states where African-American political representation and power is in decline, mostly because of gerrymandering. With that in mind, gold star for reporter Louis Jacobson, who compiled for Governing magazine a list of 12 state legislators to watch this year that doesn’t wash only in hot water — meaning it’s not all white, as these watch lists often are.

Some gems from that list:

  • Rep. Marcus Brandon, Democrat; North Carolina — A gay, African-American serving in a state that has banned same-sex marriage while making it harder for people of color to vote. If he survives this, he may have a future in D.C.
  • Rep. Marilinda Garcia, Republican; New Hampshire — If Congress can’t move the needle on immigration reform, then perhaps politicians like Garcia can help come up with a bipartisan solution. She is running for Congress this year.  
  • Rep. Cyrus Habib, Democrat; Washington — “Believed to be the country’s first and only Iranian-American state legislator,” is how Jacobson worded it. Hopefully, he won’t remain that one-and-only for long. 
  • Rep. T. W. Shannon, Republican; Oklahoma — He’s from an African-American and Chickasaw Nation family and is the first black Republican state House speaker in the nation since Reconstruction. Perhaps he’ll join the group looking to change the public face and perception of the GOP. 
  • Sen. Elbert Guillory, Republican; Louisiana — We saw him celebrate when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and he’s been hard to watch ever since. After abandoning the Democratic Party he served for years, he’s taken a hard right turn. Whether that brand of conservatism will still be in style in 2014 and beyond is a huge question mark. 

Read the rest of the list for more interesting state legislators to look out for this year. 

Undocumented Living? There’s an App for That

Undocumented Living? There's an App for That

Living as an undocumented person in the United States means that, aside from the reality that you may be targeted for deportation at any moment, a lot of everyday activities are made a lot harder. 

Writer Erick Huerta, also known as El Random Hero, has rounded up ten Droid apps (sorry, iPhone users!) that are especially useful. Some of the apps are designed for Mexican nationals or people living in Los Angeles, none are exclusive to undocumented people, and all are free. Huerta points out those apps that he’s found most helpful as an undocumented person—and points out that some can be improved.

A quick sample includes:

Derechos Herencia
Finally, a know your rights app in Spanish that not only covers what you need to know about dealing with the police, but your rights when it comes to the Deprtment of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcing, Border Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The app was the result of an undocumented youth, Deyvid Morales, who was arrested by Border Patrol aboard a Greyhound Bus at a gas station. He fought his deportation and created this app to help others like him.

Los Angeles is big on cars—but, as Huerta points out, “driving while undocumented can results un numerous situations that that range from getting tickets to being deported.” This app can help you avoid police checkpoints there.

Circle of 6
What if immigration officers come knocking at your door? This app alerts six of your closest friends or family members of a dangerous situation. Huerta’s brilliant suggestion? Make the app available in languages other than English to really unleash its potential.  

Check out Huerta’s full list on his blog, Just a Random Hero

Evictions Are Still Hurting Communities of Color

Evictions Are Still Hurting Communities of Color

Every year the rent is too damn high and paychecks stay stuck on “not enough.” It’s a commonly lived story that’s bringing renewed focus in mainstream media on homelessness and the nation’s affordable housing crisis. Now, one Harvard sociologist, Matthew Desmond, is expanding the lens by looking specifically at how housing eviction upends the lives of the urban poor. Take Milwaukee: a recent survey showed the most recent move for one in seven black residents was an eviction or other involuntary relocation; among Hispanics, fully one in four. No database exists to track evictions nationwide but Milwaukee likely highlights an underreported national trend.

Nationally, between 1991 and 2011, the number of renter households dedicating less than one-third of their income to housing costs fell by about 15 percent, while the number dedicating more than 70 percent of their income to housing costs more than doubled, to 7.56 million. At the same time, housing assistance has not been expanded to meet the growing need: today, only one in every four households that qualify for housing assistance receives it.

Desmond’s research has already inspired coverage of black domestic violence victims in Pennsylvania and, leads to some common-sense policy solutions. One is, one-time grants for families experiencing temporary financial hardship. Desmond’s work, according to Harvard Magazine, shows how, “poor people are forced to make choices…that middle-class Americans take for granted, and sometimes must even choose between basic needs, because they can’t afford them all in the same month.”

(h/t Harvard Magazine)

Time to Pull Out Your Asian-American Family’s Home Movies

Time to Pull Out Your Asian-American Family's Home Movies

Do you remember your family’s old home movies? The ones of your uncles’ childhood living room games and your grandmother’s 50th birthday on nearly obsolete 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm formats? If your family is Asian American, the Center for Asian American Media wants you to dig them out of their dusty boxes for a new project called Memories to Light. Launched in December, the project is a community history project of sorts. They’re asking folks to send in their original home movies, which CAAM will digitize and share in an online public archive.

“Our mission is to present stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences and home movies are an unacknowledged, and yet rich, part of that history,” CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong says. “We hope to inspire future generations and connect them to the past and to the visual record of how earlier generations became Asian American.”

CAAM has released bits of the footage they’ve collected so far, and they provide a wonderful glimpse at the past. Learn more about how you can participate at CAAM’s website.

Watch Zimmerman’s Girlfriend Detail His Violent Abuse

Watch Zimmerman's Girlfriend Detail His Violent Abuse

A new video has emerged of George Zimmerman’s girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, detailing his abuse against her to Seminole County Sheriff’s office investigator Stephen LaGuardia. The interview took place following Scheibe’s 911 call in November, which resulted in Zimmerman’s arrest—five months after his acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin, and two months after a similar call from Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie. 

During the interview, Scheibe explains how Zimmerman choked her so brutally that he left bruises on her neck. She also details how Zimmerman pointed a shotgun at her to prevent her from calling 911, only to smash her glasses with his gun. Scheibe concludes that part of her is no longer in fear because Zimmerman was placed in jail, but that she was also still fearful because she feels that Zimmerman’s “got nothing to lose.”

Scheibe has since recanted her allegations, and prosecutors have dropped the charges against Zimmerman. During the interview, Scheibe is asked why she hadn’t previously called authorities. She answers, “I feel like he always gets off.” This video seems to confirm that assertion. 

Study: White Men Run The World of FBS College Football

Study: White Men Run The World of FBS College Football

Bowl season is here. And according to a new study of the racial and gender makeups of the top college football schools and conferences, white men are still running the show.

The University of Central Florida’s Diversity and Ethics in Sport looked into the race and gender of top leadership positions at all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision colleges and conferences for the 2013-2014 academic year. The vast majority of top positions—from college and university presidents to head coaches and athletic directors—were filled by white men. Nearly 89 percent of university presidents at these schools are white men, as are 84.8 percent of athletic directors and fully 100 percent of conference commissioners. 

This academic year there were 15 head football coaches of color. In the 2012-2013 academic year it was 18, but there have never been more than 19 head football coaches of color.

But who’s playing on the field? That’d be black athletes—they were 51.6 percent of the students on the FBS playing fields in 2012 (PDF)—followed by white student-athletes at 43.3 percent. Latinos and Asian-American student-athletes make up roughly 2 percent each, while Native Americans are 0.1 percent.

“I think that it goes back to same question, there’s no sanctions for them not to do it, so they continue to do business the way they’ve always done it,” study author Richard Lapchick told the AP. “I think it’s more of the ‘old boys’ network’ than it is a racial thing…So the pipeline isn’t full with potential candidates. I think colleges have to be more creative with how they look for key jobs like these and make sure they have a diverse pool of candidates.”

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