The legendary Cuban singer widely known as the “Reina de la Salsa” or queen of salsa music, Celia Cruz was a pioneering voice in the salsa movement and paved the way for future generations of Afro-Latina artists. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1925, her music frequently referenced African Yoruba roots in Cuban culture. She died of brain cancer in 2003 in New Jersey, where she’d spent most of her life in the U.S.
A few months ago, a group of black women caused quite an uproar when they stood in New York City’s Union Square with signs that read, “You can touch my hair.” Billed as an “interactive public art exhibit,” the event allowed anyone to “explore the tactile fascination with black hair by” touching real-life black hair on real-life black women.
Turns out that event was part of a short documentary series that also included a panel discussion with writer Michaela Angela Davis, model Autumn McHugh, Un’ruly Founder Antonia Opiah and moderated by filmmaker and former Miss Black Massachusetts Safiya Songhai.
(h/t Urban Bush Babes)
Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years a Slave’ made an in impressive United States debut over the weekend. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film grossed $960,000 from 19 theaters in six top markets for an average of slightly more than $50,500 average at each location.
Fox Searchlight distribution chief Frank Rodriguez said that the success went far beyond the opening weekend box office numbers. The film “reached an incredibly diverse audience. Playing in theaters including Lincoln Plaza in New York and the Showcase Icon in Chicago, we have been attracting both the art/specialty cinephile crowd, as well as the African-American audience,” Rodriguex told the Hollywood Reporter.
A federal civil jury concluded yesterday that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is personally liable for an inmate abuse case from 2009. And it could cost the sheriff $100,000. This marks the first time Baca has been held personally and legally responsible for a beating in his jails.
Tyler Willis alleged that sheriff’s deputies brutally beat him as he was awaiting trial at Men’s Central jail—punching, kicking, shooting him with a stun gun, and striking him with a flashlight, which caused multiple injuries. The plaintiff’s side argued that Sheriff Baca ignored warnings from studies that indicated a harsh level of brutality at his jails. The sheriff was one of five named defendants, and Baca will reportedly pay up $100,000 for his part—unless the decision is overturned by appeal.
The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in LA County Jails released a statement today welcoming the jury’s finding, but added that the decision indicates the need for civilian oversight. “Those in custody and their families should not have to take their cases to the Federal level to receive justice and ensure accountability,” the statement read.
The federal jury’s decision comes on the heels of a federal investigation into Sheriff Baca’s department—particularly for its use of force.
Tune in to the conversation around historically black colleges and universities and it’s easy to think the institutions are in a state of perpetual existential crisis. NPR’s Code Switch reporter Gene Demby’s deep dive into one West Virginia HBCU doesn’t do much to allay that perception, but he does offer a compelling, multilayered snapshot of an institution which has adapted to the changing times by enrolling more whites. So many that today, the student body of Bluefield State College, originally Bluefield Colored Institute when it was founded in 1895, is 90 percent white. It didn’t come about by accident. Structural forces—namely Brown v. Board of Education and the upheaval of the Civil Rights Movement, along with key decisions by white administrators—were instrumental in the shift.
Demby’s descriptions of life at Bluefield State College today are fascinating, if you’ve an attachment to the original mission and historical legacy of HBCUs. From: “The Whitest Historically Black College in America”:
Most of the current students we spoke to knew about the school’s status as a historically black college, but treated it like a bit of trivia. The players on the women’s basketball team, who were planting seeds for a homecoming event, joked casually about there not being step shows or marching bands or black fraternities and sororities.
When it was unveiled in 2010, the African Burial Ground Visitor Center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side became a significant monument to New York’s history of slavery, and it continues to commemorate those buried in the Ground Zero Slave Graves. That same year, the remains of previously enslaved people were also discovered in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. A group of advocates officially unveiled “African Burial Ground Square” this week on the site of the New Lots African Burial Ground, in honor of those forgotten African slaves. Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron, who was part of the renaming initiative, says the effort was also a way to replace street names that honor Dutch colonists with one that speaks to the legacy of slavery. According to New York’s Amsterdam News, there are 70 streets in New York named after former slave owners.
In addition to the square’s renaming, Schenck Playground in the square will also be given an “Afrocentric” renovation, which will include artifacts and a monument that will tell the story of the burial ground, along with new lights and equipment.
(h/t Amsterdam News)
Some 100 people—many of them undocumented youth—blocked a deportation bus Thursday evening outside immigration headquarters in San Francisco. For the next two hours or so, about 20 people placed themselves in front of and in back of the bus. Many of those involved recently attended a convergence in Arizona, which included trainings and civil disobedience actions, including the blocking of another deportation bus.
Federal immigration police told demonstrators that they would face felony charges if they didn’t clear the way—but activists held their ground. They were eventually escorted away from the bus, which was packed with immigrants preparing to be deported or heading to detention centers, and the bus took off.
It’s likely that demonstrators will hold similar actions in various cities in the coming days, as they demand President Obama halt record-setting deportations.
M.I.A.’s new album, “Matangi,” drops on November 5, and to help build hype for her third LP, the singer released a preview to a track called “Y.A.L.A” (You Always Live Again) in response to the YOLO (You Only Live Once) credo that’s been around for a few years. The singer wrote on Twitter this week, “If you only live once why we keep doing the same shit?”
A five-year legal battle is finally over for Juana Villegas, an immigrant who was forced to give birth shackled to hospital bed while being detained by Davidson County police in 2008. That summer, Villegas was pulled over in Nashville, Tenn., for “reckless driving.” She was nine months pregnant, but instead of being given a traffic citation she was taken into custody and then detained after police discovered she was undocumented, because federal authorities had given county police the right to enforce immigration policies. Villegas then gave birth to her son in prison, was shackled to a bed throughout her labor, and prevented from seeing her newborn son for two days after.
She has been awarded $490,000 in the settlement by a council representing both the city of Nashville and Davidson County. She has also been given the opportunity to apply for a U visa, which are made available to immigrants who have been victims of crimes in the U.S. A federal judge in Tennessee ruled in Villegas’ favor in 2011, but city officials have spent the last two years disputing the amount of damages she should receive. Because of this case, Davidson county no longer restrains women who are giving birth while incarcerated.
It’s been 16 years since Biggie Smalls’ death, but his memory is still alive and well in his hometown of Brooklyn. Passing cars still blast his music and murals dedicated to his short life seem to pop up every year or so. But there will not be any Brooklyn streets named after the slain hip-hop icon — at least not for now.
Several members of a local community board in Clinton Hill — where Biggie grew up — objected to the idea of re-naming St. James Place and Fulton Street “Christopher Wallace Way” after the rapper’s birthname. Lucy Koteen, one of the board members, said that she “looked up the rapper’s history” and was disturbed by what she found.
“He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charge, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth,” she said. “I don’t see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me.”
Ken Lowy, another board member and the owner of a local cinema, added that Wallace referred to women with derogatory names in his music.
Councilwoman Letitia James, who’s locked into a battle for the city’s public advocate, has yet to issue a letter of support for the petition, which is necessary for it to move forward.
LeRoy McCarthy, the 45-year-old man who started the effort to rename the street after the rapper, said that “board members should not hold Wallace’s physical appearance nor how he died against him.”
“There are many artists that share stories in a vernacular that their audiences understand,” said McCarthy in response to the complaint about misogynistic lyrics. “Biggie used the language from the streets he grew up in to convey what he wanted to say.”
It’s worth noting that Clinton Hill has been in the midst of intense gentrification for several years and there aren’t as many men who physically look like him left in the neighborhood. Case in point: his old apartment at 226 St. James place was recently on sale for $750,000.
(h/t DNA Info)
In 1970, 65 percent of U.S. families lived in middle-income neighborhoods. By 2009 that number had dropped to 42 percent. A recent study from researchers at Cornell University and Stanford University says middle-income neighborhoods are disappearing as it’s becoming more common for people to live in either extreme. The researchers use the term “income segregation,” which “denotes the extent to which families of different incomes live in different neighborhoods.”
From 1970-2009, the percentage of people living in the poorest neighborhoods increased from eight percent to 18 percent, and those living in the wealthiest neighborhoods increased from seven percent to 15 percent. Strikingly, the divide is much greater for black and Latino families. Increases in housing inequality appear to have spiked in 2000 and have continued to make a sharp upward climb, only recently leveling off in 2009.
This data follows similar reports that income inequality is growing nationwide, and is having a multitude of negative effects, including decreased life expectancy and education opportunities, and stifling the nation’s economic growth. The dangers of income inequality are so extreme that economist Robert Shiller—who was among the three to win the Nobel Prize for economics and also predicted technology and housing market bubble bursts—says it’s the most important challenge this country faces.
Those of us who were concerned that President Obama might tap New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, aka the P. Diddy of stop-and-frisk policies, as the next head of Homeland Security can rest easy. The Daily Beast is reporting that soon Obama will announce former Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson as the new Department of Homeland Security chief secretary. From The Beast:
Johnson, a well-known and trusted figure in the Obama White House, was a central player in many of the administration’s most sensitive national security and counterterrorism policies, including the ramping up of the drone program, the revival of military commissions to try suspected terrorists, and the repeal of the Defense Department’s ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces.
Johnson’s experience dealing with counterterrorism and cyber-security threats will comfort many on Capitol Hill. He is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement, also key elements of the DHS mission. Still, administration officials do not expect the nomination to be especially polarizing and are hopeful Johnson will receive a relatively warm reception in Congress.
Civil liberty groups will probably take issue with his role in the controversial drone program. It also won’t be very comforting for coastal communities and many Latino Americans that he “is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement,” as reported in The Daily Beast.
Johnson, who is an African American, is a graduate of Columbia Law School, and attended the HBCU Morehouse College for his undergrad. His father is the civil rights activist and sociologist Dr. Charles Johnson, also the first black president of the HBCU Fisk University in Tennessee. Before this Johnson practiced at a private law firm in New York and once served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the state in addition to his role in the Department of Defense.
A couple of years ago, Johnson caused a lot of head-scratching when he said in a speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have condoned today’s wars. “He would recognize that we live in a complicated world,” said Johnson, “and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”
We’ll see how he explains that in the Senate confirmations.
So-called “ethnic” foods are more available than they’ve ever been (remember Rhianna’s ubiquitous coconut water ads), and experts say this reflects the shifting taste buds of an increasingly multicultural U.S. Marie Callender, once famous for frozen chicken pot pies, now makes chipotle shrimp street tacos, and Campbell’s soup has turned up the flavor on its classic tomato soup with lemongrass.
Latino foods in particular are dominating the market. According to an Associated Press report, salsa beat out ketchup as the No. 1 condiment in the U.S., and tortillas are outselling chips and burger and hotdog buns. Asian foods are a close second, reflecting the largest growing immigrant communities in the U.S. Food companies seem surprised by what they can get away with flavor-wise, but overall it seems like a positive shift in the American palate. In a recent New York Times report, which also highlighted the growing popularity of Mexican Jaritos soda, a representative from Frito Lay says eating patterns are changing as well, and people are grazing or eating throughout the day more often.
Perhaps it’s silly to try to distinguish a uniquely American cuisine since, after all, pizza is commonly considered American. But this food trend certainly highlights the expanding Latino population in the U.S., and suggests that the growing Latino consumer base has the power to shift markets.
The Asian Girlz video from a few months back was bad enough. But now we have Alison Gold’s song and video called “Chinese Food.” It features a black rapper dressed up as a panda bear and Gold wearing what’s supposed to be traditional Chinese garb. Disgusted yet?
When the government shutdown began, Colorlines engaged its Twitter community in a chat with Imara Jones about its worries, ideas and expectations for the impact and resolution. As the shutdown ended today, we reprised our discussion with Imara using the hashtag #shutdownchat2. The results were enlightening, as followers weighed in on everything from the impact of race in the shutdown and the racially coded langage used for public assistance to the various ways in which individuals were affected by loss of pay and services.
Here’s the Storify:
After Congress finally put a badly needed end to the government shutdown, President Obama laid out his immediate priorities moving forward. Speaking from the White House Thursday morning, the president says he wants to tackle the budget, immigration reform, and the farm bill:
“Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now. And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff. There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.”
It’s a very tall order. The next round of debt and budget negotiations may prove difficult if Republicans dig their heels in once more—which could result in another government shutdown in the next few months. But Obama cautioned against the “process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise.”
The Senate has already passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill—but time will tell whether the House will move forward on it. The farm bill has been stalled for a year.
A new study from Stanford University says that hyper-sexualized female avatars, or characters taken on in video games, can have a number of harmful effects on women. Media critics like Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency, have long decried common female video game tropes—such as the “damsel in distress”—that promote negative representations of women as passive, sexual objects in need of rescue. But this new study further investigates the effect those same representations have when women take on a persona.
According to the study, women who took on the person of a sexy female avatar in a video game were more likely to objectify themselves and were more accepting of rape myths in real life. These same effects were increased if the avatar resembled them. Eighty six women aged 18 to 40 were part of the study, and researchers say their findings confirmed what is known as the Proteus Effect, whereby people take on attitudes and behaviors they experience in virtual environments such as video games. There are numerous studies on the effects of videos games in particular on young people, but this one gives new insight into how some games can contribute to rape culture.
Tambay Obenson over at Shadow and Act recently uploaded a YouTube clip of Idris Elba’s performance as Nelson Mandela in the upcoming biopic “Long Walk to Freedom.” The film opens in the United States on November 29.
The Oneida Indian Nation commissioned a poll to prove what’s increasingly becoming clear: a majority of people can see why the Washington D.C. NFL team’s name is offensive.
According to the poll, 59 percent of adults surveyed in the Washington region think that American Indians would have a right to feel offended if called “redskin.”
Th poll also found that 55 percent of adults in the region would not support the team any less if the club finally decided to change its name. The NFL and the Oneidas will meet in coming weeks and 77 percent of survey respondents said that team owner Daniel Snyder should attend.
(h/t USA Today)