The Original ‘Sapphires’ Join Protest Over Sexist, Racist DVD Cover

The Original 'Sapphires' Join Protest Over Sexist, Racist DVD Cover

Anchor Bay, the distributor for film “The Sapphires” new DVD came under fire last week after an image surfaced of its U.S. branded DVD cover. Released in 2012, the award-winning film was applauded for its portrayal of The Sapphires—Naomi Mayers, Beverly Briggs, Lois Peeler and Laurel Robinson—and their struggles against sexism and racism in 1960s and 1970s Australia. 

The existing DVD cover, intended for Australian audiences, prominently features The Sapphires, played by Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell, with their manager, played by Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, standing behind them. But in the new U.S. cover, the female actors are blurred into a blue background while their manager is thrust center stage. 

The_Sapphires_1_080513.jpgO’Dowd was among the first to come out against the DVD cover last week, saying
via Twitter, “it’s ridiculous, it’s misleading, it’s ill-judged, insensitive and everything the film wasn’t.” 

Now, the original Sapphires are also protesting the new cover, and calling on the NAACP for support. In a letter sent on their behalf, they say: 

“As I’m sure you can appreciate, the treatment of people of colour in Australia mirrored much of the trauma to which people in the United States were subjected. That trauma - and much of that treatment - remains alive and well in Australia today, as I know it does in the United States.”

In response, activist Lucy Manne began a petition, which has already garnered more than 10,000 signatures.  She hopes Anchor Bay will change the cover artwork before its release this week. 

Cory Booker Raises Money with Oprah, Misses NAACP Debate

Cory Booker Raises Money with Oprah, Misses NAACP Debate

It’s the last week of New Jersey’s special primary election for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat in the U.S. Senate, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is leading by double-digits in every poll. Perhaps that’s why he couldn’t be bothered with attending a Newark NAACP candidate’s forum late last week. His opponents, New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, were all in attendance for the Thursday night debate. Meanwhile, Booker was at a fundraiser hosted by billionaire kingmaker Oprah Winfrey (remember that her recent involvement in a major political race led to the election of the nation’s first black president). 

According to, the Oprah affair was held at “an upscale Jersey City restaurant with panoramic views of lower Manhattan.” The NAACP forum was held a few blocks away from Booker’s office in city hall — an office Booker’s been criticized for rarely occupying.

Only one African American, Oliver, is running against him in the Democratic primary. The other two, Pallone and Holt, are white men campaigning on progressive platforms — Holt is calling out Booker as not being a progressive at all in a new ad buy.

The long-time New Jersey civil rights activist Edith Savage-Jennings wrote in an op-ed today that she was supporting Holt against the black candidates Oliver and Booker. “Rep. Holt can often be seen in all the neighborhoods of Trenton, my home town, as well his entire district, hearing from the people he represents,” wrote Savage-Jennings. 

Booker’s absence at the NAACP event probably didn’t help his absentee-leader perception. 

“You know what would be great? If he brought Oprah over here,” Newark NAACP president Deborah Gregory told

André 3000’s Solo Album May Actually Come Out Next Year

André 3000's Solo Album May Actually Come Out Next Year

There are at least two albums that seem to perpetually exist only in the dreams of hip-hop aficionados: a proper studio album from Jay Electronia, and a solo debut from André 3000. Now it looks like one of those albums may actually happen in 2014.

It’s no secret that Outkast’s André 3000 has been busy with a Jimi Hendrix biopic called “All Is By My Side.” But BET’s Stephen Hill tweeted over the weekend that Dre’s long anticipated solo effort is also in the works. According to Hill’s tweet, the exchange went like this: “Me: hey what’s up? You got the movie coming,right? Andre 3000: yeah…and I got a solo album coming top of the year. Me:*droptofloor*”

The Outkast singer alluded to such an effort back in February when he told GQ:

“There’s a lot of music on the horizon. I’ve been living off the excitement of new artists. I’ve been privileged to have these new artists kind of reach out and grab back and say, “Hey, Andre, we want you on this song.” So I’ve been taking those calls and for the last two years, I’ve been doing collaborations. So these new artists have kind of been keeping me alive. I’ve just really been feeding off of that and this year I think I’m planning to do a solo project. I don’t know when it will come out, but hopefully it’ll come out this year.”

Get your headphones ready.

(h/t via Hypetrak)

TAGS: Andre 3000

Octavia’s Brood Wants to Bring You Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements

Octavia's Brood Wants to Bring You Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements

I’m a big fan of the Allied Media Conference, which is held at Detroit’s Wayne State University each June. It’s always a place where activists, artists, and ordinary people come together to think up innovative ideas. Case in point: for the past several years, activist Adrienne Maree Brown has been facilitating a popular workshop on acclaimed science fiction writer Octavia Butler and helping people think up ways to use lessons from her work in their own organizing. Now, it seems that work is branching out to places far outside of Detroit.

Brown and fellow organizer Walidah Imarisha have raised more than $15,000 in a crowd-sourcing campaign to put together an anthology of what they’re calling “radical science and speculative fiction by organizers and activists.” The project is called “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements” and is due out in the summer of 2014. The money that’s raised is being used to cover the costs of design and printing the book itself, but also to fund a national tour of readings, writing workshops, and organizing strategy sessions. While the project has already surpassed its fundraising goal, it certainly couldn’t hurt to contribute and see a workshop near you.

Watch This Brilliant Takedown of ‘Asian Girlz’

Watch This Brilliant Takedown of 'Asian Girlz'

Wearing a bikini top and hand-drawn tatoos including a geisha coming out of a cupcake and “not-shat upon” flowers in a dog park, video blogger Kristina Wong does a brilliant send-up of Levy Tran, the model who starred in Day Above Ground’s horrifically racist “Asian Girlz” video

On Twitter, Tran has defended the creators of the soft rock song that features lyrics such as “I love your creamy yellow thighs/Ooh your slanted eyes/It’s the Year of the Dragon/Ninja p***y I’m stabbin” as “sweet boys and not at all racist.”

Wong, who poses as Tran in the short clip, offers these airheaded takeaways from the debacle:

1. Nice people are not racist.

2. Racist people are not nice. 

3. Satire is racist when it’s done by not-nice people.” 

h/t: Hyphen 


CeCe McDonald Writes From Prison About Trayvon Martin

CeCe McDonald Writes From Prison About Trayvon Martin

Incarcerated transgender activist CeCe McDonald is currently serving a 41-month prison term for the stabbing death of a man who attacked her and friends in Minneapolis. Recently, McDonald wrote a moving indictment of racial profiling and the criminal justice system. In it, she references everything from George Zimmerman’s acquittal to the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act as proof that “the injustice system has failed us again.”

But perhaps one of the most poignant point in the letter comes when McDonald talks about her own survivor’s guilt as one of many high-profile people of color who have essentially been prosecuted for being targets of racist and/or homophobic attacks:

I know that people have been comparing my case to Zimmerman’s, and yes it’s obvious that laws are biased. But even I can say I came out blessed knowing that (a) the system was against me to begin with, and that (b) looking at other cases similar to mines, I didn’t have to spent extensive time-even decades-in prison. People don’t understand that I actually feel a guilt for that. I know that nothing beyond the incident and getting arrested was in my control, as it is for anyone who is a victim of the system. But for me it hurts-a lot. My heart aches for the Patreese Johnsons, the Marissa Alexanders, and the Chrishaun McDonalds. But no pain can bring back the Trayvon Martins, the Oscar Grants, the Matthew Shepards, the James Birds, the Gwen Araujos, and all of our brothers and sisters who were victims of hate in this world. I can say that survivor’s guilt is real. That I’m still, to this day, dealing with the fear and sadness of my experience with hate and discrimination. How blessed am I to have so much love and support from my family, and I say family which extends to all my friends and supporters around the world.

Further down in the letter, McDonald implores her supporters to think about how they can organize across race, class, and gender boundaries. Again, it’s a moving call to action and you should make your way through the entire letter on her Support CeCe McDonald website.

Celebrate James Baldwin’s Birthday With Powerful Words

Celebrate James Baldwin's Birthday With Powerful Words

Author, activist and truth-teller James Baldwin was born today in 1924. To celebrate what would have been his 89th birthday, read this excerpt from his 1979 essay “If Black English Isn’t a Language Then Tell Me What Is”:

It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity. There have been, and are, times, and places, when to speak a certain language could be dangerous, even fatal. Or, one may speak the same language, but in such a way that one’s antecedents are revealed, or (one hopes) hidden.

For more Baldwin gems, check out Buzzfeed’s list of 25 powerful quotes and watch an excerpt of California Newsreel’s biographical film “The Price of the Ticket.”  Happy birthday Mr. Baldwin!

h/t to @JohnnyGolightly

New York School Bans ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’

New York School Bans 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian'

According to the New York Daily News, middle schoolers at Public School 114 in Rockaway, Queens, won’t be reading Sherman Alexie’s prized illustrated novel. The school seems to have caved in to pressure from at least one angry parent and phone calls from the tabloid about the book.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” which is roughly based on Alexie’s own experiences as a youth, tells the moving story of a Native kid from the rez who winds up at an all white school with an offensive mascot. It’s the winner of several prizes, including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The novel features racial and sexual themes. And it was the book’s references to masturbation that irked one parent enough to protest the novel in its entirety.

It’s not the first time the book’s been censored. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” has been taken off of readings lists in Oregon, Washington, Missouri. It was banned by Washington’s Richland School District—until board members actually read the book and reversed their decision.

41 Immigration Reform Activists Arrested in Washington DC

41 Immigration Reform Activists Arrested in Washington DC

If you thought the House of Representatives might make a decision on immigration reform before the five-week summer recess, think again. Today is the last day before the summer recess and immigration reform won’t be resolved before September. To protest Congress’s continued inaction on this issue, activists came together in Washington DC yesterday and blocked traffic in an act of civil disobedience. Forty one people were arrested, among them union members from the AFL-CIO and the United Farm Workers. 

Meanwhile, other activists continued riffing on Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) choice words equating immigrants to beefy drug runners by hand delivering cantaloupes to 224 members of Congress. Here’s one young undocumented woman in the act. 

In solidarity with recent actions, undocumented immigrants and advocates started flexing their calves for immigration reform and sharing photos of their calves via social media with the hashtag . None of the calves pictured appear to be cantaloupe-sized. 

Kidnapper Ariel Castro Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole

Kidnapper Ariel Castro Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole

Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and tortured 3 women for 11 years in his Cleveland home, was sentenced to life in prison (plus 1,000 years) without parole. For several hours the judge, counsel, witnesses, and survivors listened to horrifying details of how he captured the women, physically and sexually assaulted them, and kept them in deplorable conditions. 

Castro avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to 977 counts including kidnapping and murder last week. Today, he told the courtroom. “I’m not a monster, I’m sick,” and seemed surprised when he learned he could have no future contact with the 6-year-old daughter he fathered with Berry. 

When Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued by neighbor Charles Ramsey in May, it put a spotlight on the ongoing crisis of violence against women in the U.S. During the sentencing, Knight read a statement, saying to Castro, “I will live on, and you will die a little every day,” and, “writing this statement gave me the strength to be a stronger woman.”

Jay Smooth: The Magical Danger of Sagging Pants

Jay Smooth: The Magical Danger of Sagging Pants

Our very own Jay Smooth just posted a new video in response to Don Lemon’s rather ludicrous recent comments about black America. It’s brilliant and funny, and we’re pretty you’ll want to watch and share this one!

Check the video after the jump. 

15 Shots at Unarmed Black Man Were OK, Says Fla. Sheriff

The two Escambia County, Fla., deputies who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton as he retrieved cigarettes from a car in his mother’s driveway were following standard procedure according to the county sheriff.

Middleton, who is black, was shot in the leg a little before 2:45 Saturday morning, the Pensacola News Journal reports. Police were called to the home by a neighbor reporting possible car theft. Police said they saw a metal object in Middleton’s hand and claimed that he lunged toward them. But Middleton, who was unarmed, told the News Journal that he backed out of the car with his hands up and police began shooting: “It was like a firing squad. Bullets were flying everywhere.”

In an interview with CNN, Escambia County County Sheriff David Morgan said the shooting was warranted. “Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” he said in a Thursday interivew. “I believe the standard we use and train to is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case which is a reasonable test.”

According to ThinkProgress, the officers are on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. 

h/t: ThinkProgress

Eagles Receiver Riley Cooper Apologizes for Using the N-Word

Eagles Receiver Riley Cooper Apologizes for Using the N-Word

Riley Cooper gave what seemed like a heartfelt apology at a press conference today for using the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. In a video that surfaced yesterday, Cooper is caught on tape saying, “I will jump that fence and fight every (N-word) here, bro.” He first apologized via Twitter yesterday. 

Allegedly he’d been drinking (which he acknowledges is “no excuse”), and became frustrated when an African-American security guard would not let him go backstage. When asked if he frequently uses the N-word, he said he did not because he was, “raised way better than that,” and added that his parents were “disgusted with his actions.” He says the Eagles heavily fined him, but the NFL says it will not take further action

In the wake of Paula Deen’s dramatic fall from grace after her own racist behavior emerged, it seems apologies for using racial slurs are coming rather swiftly. 

‘A Girl Hanged Herself Here’

'A Girl Hanged Herself Here'

When the Dream 9 entered the Eloy Detention Center last week in Florence, Arizona, they planned to start organizing. That effort has now grown into a hunger strike protesting the conditions in one of the most notorious immigrant detention centers in the country—and a deportation machine that continues to remove more than 1,000 people per day out of the United States. 

Shortly after arriving at Eloy, the Dream 9 say their phone use was unfairly restricted. In protest, they began a hunger strike—but six were placed in solitary confinement for their decision to do so. Most are back in the general population, but two remain. At the time of publication, 24-year-old Lulu Martinez and 22-year-old Maria Peniche have spent 104 out of the last 108 hours in complete isolation. Mohammad Abdollahi works with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), which organized the action that resulted in the Dream 9’s detention, and he remains in steady contact with the nine. He says that when Martinez and Peniche are brought out of their individual cells and into the yard once a day, they are shackled and interact only with guards.

But Martinez and Peniche aren’t the only ones facing horrid conditions at Eloy. Thesla Zenaida, who met the Dream 9 at Eloy and is now participating in a hunger strike along with other women detainees, explained in a phone call that a guard’s treatment at the detention facility drove a fellow detainee to suicide.

Look, a girl hanged herself. A girl was hanged here. [After] she was hanged, they didn’t want to take her body down. And for the same reason—because they treat us poorly. A guard treated her poorly, and that guard is still working here. They us like the worst dogs.

There were in fact two apparent suicides at Eloy in as many days in March of this year.

The NIYA’s presence at and near Eloy is also inspiring those on the outside with loved ones in detention as well. Jesus Magaña, 24, says that his sister Alejandra Pablos has been at Eloy for two years. Magaña says the 29-year-old had permanent residency after arriving to the U.S. at the age of two—but was picked up by authorities after two misdemeanor convictions. The vigils outside of Eloy have renewed his hope that his sister might be released. Pablos refuses to allow herself to be deported to Mexico because she has no family there, and is afraid what she’ll face in a country she doesn’t know.

Magaña returned from service in the Air Force one year ago, and recently moved from California to Arizona in order to be closer to his sister, whom he visits every weekend. He says he can’t imagine being separated from his sister, who has always supported him and wrote him for the four years he was on duty. “It’s like we were both deployed—she was in Eloy and I was in Kuwait,” says Magaña. “But they get treated worse here than I was in deployment.”

Magaña says that treatment includes humiliating remarks and the constant threat of solitary confinement. He adds that Pablos explained that she’s been told by guards that 70 women in various pods have joined the hunger strike—but that she was warned that if she did so, she would “face charges.”

The NIYA has started a campaign encouraging supporters to hold a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with the strikers inside Eloy.

TAGS: Dream 9 Eloy NIYA

Black Girls Code Founder Kimberly Bryant Gets White House Nod

Black Girls Code Founder Kimberly Bryant Gets White House Nod

Kimberly Bryant, a biotechnology and engineering professional and founder of the nonprofit Black Girls Code, was one of 11 people to receive the White House Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion award today. The award is given to celebrate people in the U.S. “who are doing extraordinary things to expand technology opportunities for young learners—especially minorities, women and girls, and others from communities historically underserved or underrepresented in tech fields.” 

Bryant founded San Francisco-based Black Girls Code in 2011 as a way to close the digital divide for girls of color. So far the organization has trained  more than 1,500 girls to work in technology fields such as robotics, video game design, mobile phone application development and computer programming. Bryant says she aims to reach one million girls by 2040.

NPR Digs Into Jay Z’s Beef With Harry Belafonte

NPR Digs Into Jay Z's Beef With Harry Belafonte

Over at NPR’s Code Switch blog, Gene Demby offers his own analysis about Jay Z’s public skirmish with Harry Belafonte and ends with this:

Black celebrityhood operates much differently now — and it’s different in large part because of the efforts of Belafonte and so many of his contemporaries. Jay Z and so many of us who grew up listening to his music inherited a world dramatically different than Belafonte. Whatever world the next generation inherits will have its own distinct guidelines and understanding of what social responsibility looks like.

Belafonte is criticizing Jay Z and Jay Z isn’t bowing in deference —after, all that’s not how hip-hop has ever worked. (Belafonte has since said he’d like to meet in person with Jay Z to squash their beef.) Whatever you think about the merits of their arguments, they are operating from two deeply disparate cultural contexts. Belafonte was at the peak of his fame in a world where he fought just so people could exercise the right to vote. Now, we live in a world where Jay Z gets quoted by the first black president. Just 20 years ago, that last scenario would have felt like jokey speculative fiction.

What struck me in Jay Z’s now infamous interview with Elliot Wilson was that while much of the world (ie. Bruce Ratner, Samsung) sees him as a symbol of all that’s young and black and hip in America, Jay himself seems a lot more closely aligned with struggles of the uber wealthy sliver of the country’s elite. It’s why he’s thrown himself into his new venture as a sports agent: he wants to protect the interests of wealthy people like himself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But it’s not activism or social responsibility. It’s self-interest. 

Court Allows Oscar Grant’s Father to Sue Ex-Bart Cop

Court Allows Oscar Grant's Father to Sue Ex-Bart Cop

A federal appeals court issued a ruling this week that will allow Oscar Grant III’s father to sue ex-BART officer Johannes Mehserle, the man convicted in the younger Grant’s death.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9thCircuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a trial judge’s decision to permit the suit by Grant’s father, Oscar Grant Jr., against Johannes Mehserle, who shot Grant on the platform of BART’s Fruitvale Station in Oakland in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009.


Lawyers for Mehserle had urged the 9th Circuit to examine whether the relationship between Grant and his father was close enough to justify a civil rights lawsuit alleging loss of companionship.

But the court declined to determine the contours of the relationship, observing the facts were disputed.

The case also presents some of the challenges faced by the families of the incarcerated. The elder Grant is serving a life sentence for murder, according to KQED’s Bay Area News Blog. In a rather uncomfortable moment, his attorney, Panos Lagos, told reporters ,“Even a murderer is entitled to consideration of his feelings and the loss of his only child.”

“Fruitvale Station”, a film based on the younger Grant’s death, is now showing in theaters nationwide. 

Here’s What You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Orange is the New Black’

Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” is the talk of the town, but here are some facts about the show might come as a surprise. From Buzzfeed:

Laverne Cox’s (Sophia) real-life twin brother played her pre-transition in the flashback sequence in Episode 3. 


That third episode was directed by Jodie Foster. 


This is Crazy Eyes in real life (actress Uzo Aduba). She’s also a Broadway actor and appeared in Godspell.


(Jesse Grant/Getty Images) 

This is the real Piper and Larry:


Larry wrote a modern love piece in the New York Times.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Elects First Black President

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Elects First Black President

Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She’s the first African-American and third woman to lead the powerful 86-year-old organization that’s responsible for the Oscars.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Boone Isaacs, a marketing executive who has served stints at Paramount and New Line, is the first African-American to head the 86-year-old Academy and only the third woman to serve as president.


Boone Isaacs succeeds Hawk Koch, who served as Academy president for the past year, but ran up against term limits after completing nine successive years on the board. A longtime Academy insider, Boone Isaacs represents the public relations branch on the board and is currently serving her 21st year as a governor, having returned to the board in 2011 after a hiatus. For the past year, she served as first vp while also producing the fourth annual Governors Awards in December.

It’s an important moment atop Hollywood’s hierachy. As we pointed out last year, the group that votes for the Oscars is 94 percent white — despite a rapidly diversifying movie-going demographic. 

‘Asian Girlz’ Is Quite Possibly the Worst Video on the Internet Right Now

'Asian Girlz' Is Quite Possibly the Worst Video on the Internet Right Now

Think of the worst Asian-fetish tropes that you can imagine. Got ‘em? Now watch this disgusting “Asian Girlz” video by “Day Above Ground”, a band that claims to sound like Led Zepplin, the Doors, Linkin Park…and Wu Tang Clan. While the song has already generated lots of controvesey, the band defended itself on its YouTube page, writing the following note:

We appreciate all the criticism and support. Our song “Asian Girlz” was not written with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent. We know it is racy and does push the boundaries further than other songs out there. Understand that we do not promote or support racism or violence. We love everyone no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation. Please respect our decision to delete any violent, insensitive, or hurtful comment and also one that supports racism. We hope that we can continue with our lives with much love and peace.

Just because someone didn’t intend to be racist doesn’t erase the impact of their actions. Angry Asian Man managed to listen to the whole song and decipher some of its most awful lyrics, which you can read after the cut.

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