Alice Smith Steals The Show at BET’s Black Girls Rock Awards

BET’s annual Black Girls Rock Awards Show aired on Sunday. The show, which is a partnership between the a non-profit group and the network, is a celebration of black women in music and activism. But it was New York City-based singer Alice Smith who stole the show with her rendition of Cee-Lo’s song “Fool For You.”

Also of note was Chicago activist Ameena Matthews, known for her work in violence and gang prevention on the city’s South Side, who was honored at Sunday’s ceremony. 


Angel Haze Shows Off Her Vocals on ‘Summertime Sadness’ Cover

Angel Haze Shows Off Her Vocals on 'Summertime Sadness' Cover

Angel Haze has already established herself as a talented MC, but now she’s also giving fans a glimpse of her vocal range. The artist continued her “30 Gold” series — 30 covers in 30 days — by singing her own version of Lana Del Rey’s song “Summertime Sadness.” Haze’s covers include songs by Jay Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore, Gil Scott-Heron, and Drake and the series itself is a precursor for her album “Dirty Gold,” which is due out next year.

(h/t Summertime Sadness)

Listen to a Full Stream of M.I.A’s New Album ‘Matangi’

Listen to a Full Stream of M.I.A's New Album 'Matangi'

M.I.A.’s new album “Matangi” doesn’t officially hit stores and digital downloads until Tuesday, but a full stream of the album was made available on YouTube this weekend. Check it out.

TAGS: Matangi MIA Video

Watch Julian Assange’s Skype Intro to M.I.A.s New York City Show

Watch Julian Assange's Skype Intro to M.I.A.s New York City Show

If nothing else, M.I.A. is provocative. The singer, who’s new album “Matangi” hits stores on Tuesday, opened a show on Friday with special guest Julian Assange. The Wikileaks founder Skyped into the concert from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he’s currently living under diplomatic assylum for publishing troves of secret government files and fleeing charges of sexual assault. 

M.I.A has long made clear her suport of Assange by contributing to his television show and naming one of her mixtapes Vicki Leekx.

(h/t Pitchfork)

Can Kerry Washington (and Obama) Fix the Virginia Governor Race?

Wait, Olivia Pope is stumping for Fitz again? No, that’s actress Kerry Washington rallying for former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe, who is currently leading Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the state’s governor’s race, which will be decided tomorrow (assuming there are no scandalous voting shenanigans that prolong the results). Washington, fresh off a hilarious hosting stint on Saturday Night Live, showed up in northern Virginia the following day for the rally, an event that also featured President Barack Obama, representing for the Democratic Party in the high-stakes battle. Even though McAuliffe is leading his Republican opponent in just about every poll, the Democrats aren’t taking any chances, which is why they brought out the big guns like The President and The Fixer herself, Washington, who apparently polls well with women. 

“You deserve a governor who trusts women to make our own health decisions!” said Washington at the rally, a dig at Cuccinelli given his policies on limiting women’s choices and access to abortion. Watch her speech below:

Here are five more races at the local level you should also pay attention to.

Byron Hurt Among Firelight Media’s $70k Film Grantees

Byron Hurt Among Firelight Media's $70k Film Grantees

Firelight Media has announed the 2013 recipients of the Next Step Media Fund, which will provide $70,000 to documentary film projects from independent producers of color. Each project has revieved direct mentorship award-winning documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, who co-founded Firelight Media. 

“The Next Step Media Fund helps to demonstrate that Firelight’s Producers’ Lab is more than just a mentorship program. In addition to helping these filmmakers prepare their work for national broadcast, we are providing holistic support to a whole new generation of independent filmmakers of color,” says Marcia Smith, Co-Founder and President of Firelight Media, “and being able to provide direct financial support at a critical stage demonstrates our commitment to making a long-term commitment to these participants.”  

This year’s recipients include Byron Hurt, whose documentaries “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” and “Soul Food Junkies,” have each debuted to critical acclaim. More on this year’s recipients:

Wednesdays in Mississippi by Marlene McCurtis


“Wednesdays in Mississippi” tells the little known story of the unlikely alliance and friendship between the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement”, Dr. Dorothy Height and Polly Cowan, a wealthy, New York Jewish activist. In defiance of a world in which women took their lead from their husbands, in defiance of the unacknowledged sexism inherent within the Civil Rights Movement itself, and in defiance of a world in which black women worked for white women, not with them, these two remarkable women fought together to effect lasting change.

 Hazing: How Badly Do You Want In by Byron Hurt


 ”Hazing” will be a 60-minute documentary film that will explore why the controversial practice of hazing continues to be widely seen as a meaningful and legitimate rite of passage, despite mounting lawsuits, fraternity/sorority chapter suspensions, increased media coverage, serious injuries, arrests, and tragic deaths.

  Trapped by Dawn Porter


 ”Trapped” will follow the progress of two Southern abortion clinics - Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery in Montgomery, AL and the Jackson’s Women Health Organization in Jackson, MS as they struggle to stay open in the face of an increasingly hostile legal and political climate.

 Mr. SOUL! by Melissa Haizlip


 From 1968-73, America got SOUL! - televisionʼs first “black Tonight Show.” The film celebrates the groundbreaking PBS series from its genesis to its eventual loss of funding against the backdrop of a swiftly changing political and social landscape, while profiling Ellis Haizlip, the charismatic man behind one of the most culturally significant and successful television shows in U.S. history.



Federal Court Reinstates Parts of Texas Abortion Law

Federal Court Reinstates Parts of Texas Abortion Law

Reversing last week’s decision to block portions of Texas’ controversial new abortion law, a New Orleans federal appeals court voted yesterday to lift an injunction against certain portions of the legislation. The law goes into effect today, and among those provisions which have been reinstated are requirements that abortion clinic doctors must have hospital admitting privileges, and restrictions on medically-induced abortions. The three-judge federal appeals panel agreed to grant Texas lawmakers an emergency stay, enabling them to begin enforcing the law pending a complete hearing, which likely won’t happen until January. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, one-third of the state’s licensed abortion providers will be forced to halt services immediately, a move that creates barriers which could have a much greater impact on low-income women of color. 

Former NYC Police Commissioner Slams Mandatory Minimums

Former NYC Police Commissioner Slams Mandatory Minimums

In his first interview since being released from prison on tax fraud and false statement charges, former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik had choice words about mandatory minimums for small amounts of cocaine. During a “Today Show” interview with Matt Lauer, he admitted that he “had no idea that for 5 grams of cocaine, which is what [a] nickel weighs, you could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.” The former commissioner also talked race and rehabilitiation:

“Anybody that thinks that you can take these young black men out of Baltimore and D.C., give them a 10-year sentence for five grams of cocaine, and then believe that they’re going to return to society a better person 10 years from now when you give them no life-improvement skills, when you give them no real rehabilitation, that is not benefitting society.”

Kerik served under New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani and once oversaw the country’s largest municipal jail system. He was a nominee for Homeland Security secretary before he was arrested. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison. 

h/t: Politico

Flash Mob Does ‘Thriller’ Dance to Protest Echo Park Gang Injunctions

Flash Mob Does 'Thriller' Dance to Protest Echo Park Gang Injunctions

Los Angeles-based organizing groups Standing Together Advocating for Youth (STAY) and the Youth Justice Coalition organized a flash mob in Echo Park to protest the LAPD’s latest gang injunctions. The injunctions prohibit suspected gang members from associating with one another in the neighborhood, but some in the community see them as more troublesome than helpful. From STAY’s Facebook page advertising the event:

Injunctions have been a tool to harass, imprison, displace families and rupture communities. We are getting together to ride around the proposed injunction area. We are creating our OWN safety in OUR OWN community. This ride will also be a teach in, if you want to learn more about the classist and racist injunctions and the rich hxstory of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Valley and Vista Hermosa join us! 

More than 150 people participated in and witnessed the protest. Read more at STAY’s blog.

Feds to Investigate Kendrick Johnson’s Death

Feds to Investigate Kendrick Johnson's Death

The mysterious death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson, who was found in a rolled-up wrestling mat at his Valdosta, Ga. high school in January, is now being investigated by U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. A surveillance tape released yesterday shows Johnson walking around campus on his final day, but does not reveal how he died. School officials are expected to release 1,900 hours of security camera footage in the coming days that could provide more clues.

Johnson’s parents recently contracted Benjamin Crump—lead prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin murder trial—as they believe their son was murdered and that his case wasn’t fully investigated because he was black.  Loundes County investigators ruled Johnson’s death accidental, saying he suffocated after he fell into the mat while trying to retrieve a shoe, and they continue to stand by their investigation. But an independent autopsy found blunt force trauma to the right side of his neck, which had not been revealed in prior autopsy reports. That, combined with the way his body was found stuffed with newspaper and missing organs after it was exhumed, have aroused suspicions around the nature of his death. 

Move Over ESPN, Morehouse’s Student Paper Has a Better ‘Body Issue’

Move Over ESPN, Morehouse's Student Paper Has a Better 'Body Issue'

Morehouse College’s student newspaper “The Maroon Tiger” released its first ever “The Body Issue” this week. While it’s modeled loosely after ESPN’s popular “Body Issue,” this one is more than just an adoring look at the physical body. Morehouse’s paper features 30 students from that campus and neighboring Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University who have agreed to pose nude and tell stories of overcoming abuse, addiction, and mental illness.

“I remember following the release of ESPN’s Body Issue and thinking to myself how distorted a presentation it was to showcase these ideal images,” MT managing editor Jared Loggins told HBCU Digest. “Frankly, I think the edition missed the mark. Here we are, living in a diverse country. The vast majority of Americans don’t look like that (not that having the perfect physique is a bad thing). The Maroon Tiger Staff wanted to created something of a socially conscious and radically different response to ESPN. And that’s what got the ball rolling.”

The paper’s editor-in-chief Darren Martin is about self-affirmation, not just sexiness. 

“Initially, we wanted to make this issue a socially conscious version of ESPNs Body Edition. This edition, with the tagline, ‘The Bodies We Want,’ is not indicative of the reality that we as students — or, broadly, Americans — face,” Martin told HBCU Digest. “Then the MT team started to research a narrower topic — body politics on college campuses and the mental/physical effects on students who struggle to change or hide themselves behind a veil in order to ‘fit in.’ This edition does not only focus on the physical body, but mind and soul as well. We wanted our peers to be able to liberate themselves through the technique of a narrative and, in return, inspire and liberate others because of their transparency.”


Check out the full digital version of “The Body Issue” from Morehouse College.

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Stop-and-Frisk Ruling

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Stop-and-Frisk Ruling

In a blow to civil rights, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has blocked a judge’s landmark ruling about stop-and-frisk. In mid-August of this year, Judge Shira Scheindlin concluded that New York Police Department officers routinely violated the rights of people of color by using racial profiling to target people to be searched under the controversial program. 

The City of New York appealed, however—and today, Judge Scheindlin’s ruling was remanded, because appeals court found that Scheindlin “ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges,” by granting interviews about the case, and exposing her partiality. That means that Scheindlin’s off the case, her ruling—which included the implementation of an independent monitor to track reforms, and a pilot program for officers to wear lapel cameras—has been stayed, and a new district judge will be chosen at random. New oral arguments on the case are now expected in March of next year. 

You can read the Appeals Court’s decision for yourself in its three-page entirety. 

‘Mosquita y Mari’ Director Aurora Guerrero Among SF Film Society Grantees

'Mosquita y Mari' Director Aurora Guerrero Among SF Film Society Grantees

The San Francisco film society has announced $425,000 in grants spread acorss nine different projects by Bay Area filmmakers including Peter Nicks and Aurora Guerrero.

Nicks’ documentary 2012 documentary “The Waiting Room” follows patients, families and staff at Oakland’s Highland Hospital and has garnered critical acclaim. His new film is called “Escape from Morgantown” and follows a man battling substance abuse in a federal prison camp. Gurerro’s 2012 coming-of-age drama “Mosquita y Mari” has also gotten rave reviews and she recieved $25,000 for a new project called “Los Valientes” (The Brave Ones) that follows an undocumented gay Latino man in San Francisco.

Read more about each grantee at IndieWire

Republicans Block Black Congressman and Civil Rights Lawyer From Key Obama Appointments

Republicans Block Black Congressman and Civil Rights Lawyer From Key Obama Appointments

Today, Republicans in the Senate voted to block two key Obama nominees: Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and attorney Patricia Millett for D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. Watt, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was apparently blocked because Republicans said they didn’t want a politician running the beleagured housing agency, according to Politico. The FHFA is expected to do more to help homeowners and those who’ve been displaced from their homes due to the housing crisis that started in 2009 — a crisis that hit homeowners of color hard while leaving them out of the benefits of the current recovery. 

Watt is a real estate lawyer, and in Congress he serves as a member of the Financial Services committee. He has advocated for policies to secure affordable housing and end predatory lending. 

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge said in a statement that she is “very disappointed” that Watt wasn’t advanced forward to lead the housing agency. There is only one other time in history that a sitting member of Congress has been blocked from the President’s nomination to a Cabinet-level post — Rep. Caleb Cushing of Massachusettes for Treasury — and that was before the Civil War. 

“This is a disgrace to this body and a disservice to the American people,” said Rep. Fudge. 

Also blocked was attorney Patricia Millett, who formerly worked for the U.S. Justice Department and is a board trustee for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Millett has been voted one of Washington, D.C.’s 100 Most Influential Women Lawyers by the National Law Journal and one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C. by Washingtonian Magazine. She’s also a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. 

But that didn’t stop Senate Republicans from blocking her nomination to the federal appeals court. According to Doug Kendal, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, Millett is a “perfect example” of the kind of nominee who lacks any ideological agenda, citing her work for the Solicitor General office under both Democratic and Republican administrations. “Even Ted Cruz recognizes that Millett is nothing short of a legal rock star,” wrote Kendall, though Cruz didn’t bother to vote on her nomination today.  

The D.C. Circut Appeals court, which is considered the second highest in the land, currently has three vacancies. Had she been confirmed, Millett would have been the sixth woman in history to serve as a judge there. 

Illinois Will Soon Begin Issuing Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants

Illinois Will Soon Begin Issuing Driver's Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrants in Illinois can begin applying for Temporary Visitor Drivers’ Licenses on November 12, where an estimated 250,000 immigrants may be eligible. Illinois joins states such as California and Connecticut that have recently approved legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to become licensed drivers. Authorities expect they will begin issuing licenses beginning in December, and the state is now starting to prepare for large influx of applications. State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Ill.) told the Chicago Sun-Times that more than 1,000 people showed up at an information seminar she offered, which she anticiated only 100 to 200 people would attend. Driver’s licenses have become a key issue among immigration advocacy groups, who argue that law enforcement use routine traffic stops as a way to racially profile immigrants, and as a tactic maintain controversial immigrant detention quotas.

Deadline Looming for Scholarship for Undocumented Students

Deadline Looming for Scholarship for Undocumented Students

It’s been a year since the Obama administration approved the first round of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, applications—a program that prevents certain undocumented youth from being deported for at least two years. Although being a DACA recipient comes with some obvious benefits, it can be still be pretty tough, particularly when it comes to paying for an education. That’s because most scholarships currently available require U.S. citizenship or authorized immigrant status to even apply.

The Golden Door Scholars program, however, was specifically created for DACA-eligible students. The scholarship, which covers tuition, room and board towards a four-year education, has partnered with schools in the Carolinas—but students from any state in the U.S. are encouraged to apply, including those who attend, or want to attend, community college.

Are you or someone you know eligible for the Golden Door scholarship? The application cut-off date is Friday, November 1 at midnight. 

Many Elite U.S. Colleges Have Deep Roots in Slavery

Many Elite U.S. Colleges Have Deep Roots in Slavery

For the past decade MIT professor Craig Steven Wilder has been digging deep into the legacy of slavery at some of the United States’ most elite universities. Through his investigation he found that schools such as Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale were all built on the foundation of a slave economy. In his new book, ”Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities,” Wilder looks closely at how these influential learning institutions grew up in key geographic regions based on founders’ investments in the Atlantic slave trade, and the role the wealthy founders had more broadly in American politics.

In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, he explains what this new information tells us about the American higher education system. 

I argue in the book that actually what allows the college to become—the university to become what we know today, an independent, influential actor in public affairs, rather than an offshoot of churches, which is what they are in the colonial period, right—what allows them to break free of the church and establish themselves and their own prestige in the public arena is the ability to articulate a new vision of the United States, a new future for the United States. But it’s premised on racial science. It’s premised upon a claim that academics, intellectuals, can make a better, more informed, truer argument about the future of the nation and the question of slavery. And they use race science to make that claim. 

Countersuit Claims That Robin Thicke Has a Costly ‘Marvin Gaye Fixation’

Countersuit Claims That Robin Thicke Has a Costly 'Marvin Gaye Fixation'

The battle between Marvin Gaye’s estate and Robin Thicke is getting worse. Thicke, along with Pharrel and T.I., had a massive summer hit with the song “Blurred Lines,” but many listeners noticed the song’s striking similarities to Gaye’s 1978 song “Got to Give It Up.” Those listeners included Gaye’s estate. In what seemed like a strange move, Thicke and company pre-emptively sued the estate to protect their hit.

In a counterclaim, Gaye’s estate alleges that Thicke stole the summer hit and also committed copyright infringement on the late singer’s “After the Dance” to create his 2011 track “Love After War.” In legal papers obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, Gaye’s estate allges that Thicke’s “Marvin Gaye fixation” extends even further into the 36-year-old’s discography.

What’s more, Gaye’s estate alleges that “Blurred Lines’” publisher EMI is desperate to salvage its massive summer hit. 

According to the counterclaims, EMI has breached a contract and its fiduciary duty by failing to protect Gaye’s songs, attempting to intimidate the family against filing any legal action, failing to remain neutral when faced with a conflict of interest and attempting to turn public opinion against the family. The penalty for those acts, says the Gaye family, should be that EMI loses all profits on “Blurred Lines” as well as rights to administer thesong catalog of Gaye, known as the “Prince of Soul.”

You be the judge:

Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines” 2013

Marvin Gaye, “Got to Give It Up” (1978)

Marvin Gaye, “After the Dance” (1978)

Robin Thicke, “Love After War” (2011)

PSA: Stay Away From White People This Halloween

PSA: Stay Away From White People This Halloween

Let’s face it: Halloween is a dangerous day for black people. This PSA from All Def Digital underscores that if you want to survive, you should stay inside. 

TAGS: Halloween PSA

Automatic Cuts to Food Stamps Coming This Week

Automatic Cuts to Food Stamps Coming This Week

A temporary stimulus boost to SNAP or food stamp benefits from 2009 expires on November 1, which means $5 billion in funding cuts to a program that provides much-needed support for low-income families and individuals across the nation.  An estimated 47 million people currently rely on SNAP benefits, nearly 49 percent of which are children,  a number that has increased during the current economic recession. The total cuts will amount to about a five percent reduction for families who already struggle to make ends meet, and some states already began making cuts. Talks around the contentious farm bill resume this week, which could add an additional $40 billion in cuts if the Senate approves a House bill proposed earlier this year. 

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