Five Authors of Color Among National Book Award Finalists

Five Authors of Color Among National Book Award Finalists

Five authors of color are among this year’s finalists for the National Book Awards. The list includes: Jhumpa Lahiri (“The Lowland”)  and James McBride (“The Good Lord Bird”) for fiction; Adrian Matejka (“The Big Smoke”) for poetry; and  Cynthia Kadohata (“The Thing About Luck”) and Gene Luen Yang (“Boxers & Saints”) in young people’s literature.

Historian Alan Taylor’s book about slavery in Virginia is also up for a non-fiction award. 

The awards will be announced in New York City on November 20. Head over to the National Book Awards’ site to see a full list of the finalists

Dream 30 Activist Granted Release

Dream 30 Activist Granted Release

Another person from the Dream 30 group that crossed the Laredo, Tex., international border last month is being allowed coming home. According to National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s Mohammad Abdollahi, 31-year-old Sandra Jara has been notified that her release from the El Paso Immigrant Detention Center will be finalized as soon as today, and that she will be able to return to her home in Los Angeles. This is the group’s second victory in two days, following the release of 17-year-old Luis Lopez from an Office of Refugee Resettlement facility Monday. Aside from Jara and Lopez, 24 of the Dream 30 group remain in detention.

Jara traveled with the group, some of whom were released from Border Patrol custody almost immediately after crossing, last month. But the Dream 30 group, including Jara, has vowed to stay in detention in solidarity with one another until each of them is granted release. Because of the partial government shutdown, regional and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokespeople are not available or have not responded to requests for comments on the cases.  

When I spoke with Jara shortly before she crossed back into the United States, she explained her long journey to me. Jara first came to the U.S. with her mother as a teenager. As she grew older, Jara realized she wanted to go to school to sharpen her photography skills. She applied for a program in Spain but had to return to Peru order to apply for a travel visa. When that visa was denied, she was essentially stuck in Peru as a self-identified queer person with little protection. Jara began the process to apply to immigrate to Canada, where she thought she might be able to attend school and integrate in society. Since Jara left the U.S. a couple of years ago, she’s not seen her mother, who lives in Los Angeles.

In the middle of her planning process to move to Canada, she heard about the Dream 9, who were all released following a very public border crossing in July. When Jara heard about the opportunity to cross with the Dream 30, she jumped at the chance—selling her few possessions in Peru for a chance to come back to Los Angeles.

Jara was born in Peru, grew up in the United States, tried to get a visa to go to Spain, wound up back in Peru, and was planning to go to Canada. But when I asked her where home was, she simply answered, “Home is where my mother is. And I’ll be seeing her soon.”


Majority of Front-Line Fast-Food Workers Need Public Assistance

Majority of Front-Line Fast-Food Workers Need Public Assistance

This summer, fast-food workers across the country staged walkouts in 50 cities to demand a living wage, and a new study from UC Berkeley shows just how low those wages really are. Using data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau combined with public benefit programs, the study shows that 52 percent of front-line fast-food employees—such as cashiers, cooks, custodians, and greeters—are on some form of public assistance. The incredibly low median $8.94 hourly wage, combined with lack of healthcare benefits, and low hours make front-line fast-food employees particularly reliant on programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

A complimentary study produced by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), says the result of paying fast-food workers low wages is also costing taxpayers money. According to NELP the top 10 fast-food companies in the U.S. cost taxpayers approximately $3.8 billion. The findings from these studies also show that fast-food employees, more than those in any other type of service work, are disproportionately dependent on public assistance to make ends meet.  

Black Artist Photographs White Women Wearing ‘Black’ Hair Styles

Black Artist Photographs White Women Wearing 'Black' Hair Styles

In the not-sure-what-to-think category comes the work of Endia Beal, a black artist who convinced a group of mostly middle-aged white women to get so-called black hairstyles such as fingerwaves and cornrows and then pose for corporate-style portraits.  

I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space,” Beal told “Slate” of the baby boomers who posed for her series titled “Can I Touch It?”


Beal produced “Can I Touch It?” during a short-term residency with the Center for Photography at Woodstock. But this isn’t her first racially transgressive piece involving hair. From Slate:

Some of these ideas first came to Beal while she was interning in the IT department at Yale while she was there getting her M.F.A. in photography. Beal is tall and black, and at the time she was sporting a large red afro that stood out among her colleagues, who were mostly shorter white males. One colleague told her about a rumor circulating around the office that many of the men were curious about her hair and wanted to touch it.

Being an artist and not wanting to shy away from her afro—or what Beal called “the elephant in the room”—she asked the men to not only touch her hair but to really pull it. She then recorded them a week later on video talking about what was for many of the men a new experience. 

See more images from “Can I Touch It?” at Slate.

Are ‘Anonymous’ Hackers Turning Their Attention to Rape Culture?

Are 'Anonymous' Hackers Turning Their Attention to Rape Culture?

The hacker collective that exposed a high school rape cover-up in Steubenville, Ohio has set its sights on a similar case in Maryville, Mo. Last year, 14-year-old Daisy Coleman says she was invited over by a football player from her high school who gave her alcohol and raped her, then drove her home and left her on her front porch. Her parents attempted to press charges, but the charges were dropped, after which the entire family was publicly shamed, had their house burned down, and were driven out of town.

On Monday hackers from the group known as “Anonymous” released a video statement detailing elements of the case, demanding an investigation, and threatening local Mayor Jim Fall with action. They also launched a social media campaign via Twitter using the hashtags #Justice4Daisy and #OpMaryville. Earlier this year, hackers who identify with the group were responsible for exposing the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio by hacking the accused rapists’ social media accounts. 

“Anonymous” member Deric Lostutter told Mother Jones that he felt compelled to expose the Steubenville case because he was, “always raised to stick up for people who are getting bullied.” The group is perhaps better known for targeting Brazilian banks, the Church of Scientology, and PayPal with Operation Payback. But these two recent actions seems to signal a particular interest in directly addressing rape culture in the U.S.

Read an Excerpt from New Yorker Critic Hilton Als’ ‘White Girls’

Read an Excerpt from New Yorker Critic Hilton Als' 'White Girls'

Theater critic Hilton Als is set to release his first book in nearly 15 years. The new project is called “White Girls”and showcases Als’ uncompromising look at race, class, and gender and is due out on November 12. Guernica Magazine has an excerpt in their forthcoming issue, which you can read over at their website.

Robert Glasper Teams Up With Jill Scott, Common, Emeli Sandé

Robert Glasper Teams Up With Jill Scott, Common, Emeli Sandé

The Robert Glasper Experiment is readying for the release of “Black Radio 2” on October 29. Following the Grammy-winning success of the first “Black Radio,” the new album is packed with heavy hitters, including Jill Scott, Common, and UK songstress Emeli Sandé. According to Entertainment Weekly, the new project, which will be released on Blue Note, also features Norah Jones, Snoop Lion, Lupe Fiasco, Brandy, Dwele, Marsha Ambrosius, Anthony Hamilton, Faith Evans and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (yeah, that one).

The deluxe edition of the album features Macy Gray, Jean Grae, Bilal, Jazmine Sullivan, and Eric Roberson. It also includes a cover of the Bill Withers classic “Lovely Day” that includes a spoken intro from Mr. Withers himself.

On Monday, VEVO premiered Glasper’s video for the track featuring Scott. And it’s everything.


Blair Underwood’s ‘Ironside’ Offers Glimpse at Disability on TV

Blair Underwood's 'Ironside' Offers Glimpse at Disability on TV

Blair Underwood is starring in a new drama on NBC called “Ironside,” which follows a parapalegic NYPD detective. Underwood’s casting for the role was controversial all on its own since he does not have a physical disability that requires him to use a wheelchair. But since the show has aired, it’s shed a new light on the way that disability appears on screen and the challenges facing actors who have physical disabilities.

There are only six disabled primetime characters on television, according to a report from GLAAD. Nearly 20 percent of people in America live with some form of physical disability, but fewer than two percent of roles in TV and film feature any characters who are physically disabled. Those characters have most often been portrayed in science fiction films like X-Men, and even then the idea is that someone’s physical disability is a gateway for another extrordinary superpower. According to a new documentary called CinemAbility looks at how the portrayal of disability on screen has changed over time. 

It’s a discussion that’s slowly gaining more traction. Blair Underwood has said in interviews that the role is especially meaningful to him because his mother, Marilyn, is in a wheelchair as a result of her battle with multiple schlerosis. 

Watch Three Artists Reckoning with Stop-and-Frisk

Watch Three Artists Reckoning with Stop-and-Frisk

Although a federal judge recently ruled that the NYPD’s controversial Stop-and-Frisk policy needs to be reformed, the tactic continues to be used by police—and not just in New York. More than a decade of racial profiling has left its mark, and inspired a trio of artists to explore its legacy, drawing on personal experiences as well as comments made by exiting Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Artists Akil b STRANGe, MC Grizzz, and AJ Cincotta-Eichenfield produced a audiovisual response to Stop-and-Frisk that also speaks to issues of gentrification and coming of age in a racially charged city. 

(h/t Gawker

Alice Walker Set to Publish Personal Diary

Alice Walker Set to Publish Personal Diary

Celebrated author Alice Walker is working on a new book of excerpts from her personal diary. Culled from more than 65 notebooks, the upcoming book chronicles 50 years in her life. Titled “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire,” the book is being published by Valerie Boyd, who also published Zora Neale Hurston’s biography. In addition to documenting her life growing up in rural Georgia and becoming a writer, and writing her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple,” the book will also chart her development as an activist.

On her personal website, Walker says this about her upcoming novel:

Courage is the fundamental offering of these journals.  Patience with the critical inner and outer voice is next.

(h/t Huffington Post Black Voices)

TAGS: Alice Walker

NBC’s Bob Costas Calls ‘Redskins’ Name a Slur on Sunday Night Football

NBC's Bob Costas Calls 'Redskins' Name a Slur on Sunday Night Football

It’s safe to say that the debate over the Washington football team’s name is overshadowing the club’s play on the field this year — which hasn’t been great. But in the first half of the NFL season, the debate over the team’s racist name, the “Redskins,” has taken center stage with both the Washington Post and the New York Times running lengthy pieces on the controversey recently. Now, one of pro football’s most recognizable announcers has joined in the fray: Bob Costas called the team’s name a slur on Sunday Night Football.

“It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent,” Costas said of the team’s name. “It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?”

You can read a transcript of Costas’ comments over at Yahoo! Sports.


Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Confederate Flag Featured at White House Rally

Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Confederate Flag Featured at White House Rally

Over the weekend, a gaggle of Tea Party enthusiasts in trucker hats and veterans gear descended upon the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. for a rally to protest Obamacare, though at times it sounded like they were protesting President Obama himself.  

One of the speakers was Larry Klayman, an attorney who founded Judicial Watch, a conservative legal non-profit that teamed with True the Vote last year to sue states that didn’t aggressively purge voters from rolls. Klayman, who now works with another conservative nonprofit called FreedomWatch, called for the crowd to engage in “a second American nonviolent revolution” using “civil disobedience” to demand that Obama “leave town.”

He called for Obama “to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party leader from Texas, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin were also at the rally, which moved from the World War II Memorial to the White House. Photos from the rally showing one protestor waving a Confederate Flag has circulated heavily across Twitter and other social networks: 


Big Freedia Talks New Orleans Bounce on MSNBC

Big Freedia Talks New Orleans Bounce on MSNBC

The Queen of Bounce made an appearance on Melissa Harris-Perry over the weekend to talk about her new reality TV show. It’s a fun and informative segment in which Freedia gives a brief history of how music in New Orleans has evolved over the past two decades. 

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Demonstrators Block Deportation Buses in Tucson

Demonstrators Block Deportation Buses in Tucson

—4:30 EST Update: At least 20 demonstrators were taken into custody following today’s demonstrations. NDLON representative B. Lowe confirmed that today’s demonstration, which lasted more than three hours, led to an unprecedented cancellation of court proceedings for the detainees. 

A group of immigration rights demonstrators blocked an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus that was full of of people being taken to Operation Streamline, a federal program that catches immigrants crossing the border, sentences them to jail time, and then deports them en masse—often in just one day. Twelve demonstrators locked themselves to the buses’ tires, while six others chained themselves to the entrance of the federal court. Police have arrived on the scene, and allegedly the demonstration is blocking traffic for up to 5 miles. 

NotOneMoreDeportation says Operation Streamline’s process of rapid deportation violates immigrants’ rights to due process and adequate legal representation.  

In Operation Streamline, people accused of crossing the border without authorization are diverted from immediate deportation and instead sentenced en masse as punishment to 30 to 180 days in private prisons at taxpayers’ expense. They are lined up in shackles and rapidly tried as a group to prison terms before eventually being expelled from the country. The Tucson court convicts an average of 80-100 people every weekday in its sessions.

This demonstration is happening in advance of an immigration summit in Tucson this weekend. At least 70,000 have been deported through Operation Streamline. 

Post has been updated since publication.

On National Coming Out Day, LA Teachers Wear Badges in Solidarity

On National Coming Out Day, LA Teachers Wear Badges in Solidarity

In collaboration with the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Project SPIN (Suicide Prevention Intervention Network), some Los Angeles school teachers “came out” today in support of LGBTQ students and their families. Teachers volunteered to wear badges with the word “Ally” printed in seven different languages as part of a new “Coming Out for Safe Schools” initiative. This is the first time the LAUSD has gone to such extensive measures to show solidarity towards LGBTQ students.  According to sources, 25 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students either self-identify as LGBTQ, or have family members who do. 

New Details in Georgia Teen’s Death Arouse Suspicions

New Details in Georgia Teen's Death Arouse Suspicions

Seventeen-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled-up wrestling mat on January 11, and at the time local law enforcement said they suspected he had become trapped inside the mat while trying to retrieve a shoe. An autopsy ruled the cause of death to be positional asphyxia, but that never sat well with Johnson’s parents. They had his body exhumed in June and requested an independent investigator to perform another autopsy.

What the examiner found was both suspicious and disturbing, and the Johnson’s have called on Benjamin Crump—lead prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin murder trial—because they believe he was murdered, and that their son’s case was improperly handled by law enforcement because he’s black.

Dr. William R. Anderson performed the second autopsy, and found evidence of blunt force trauma on the right side of Johnson’s neck, which appeared “non-accidental.” He also found that all of Johnson’s organs had been removed from his body, and had been replaced with old newspapers. Now, Johnson’s case has been reopened, and both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the funeral home that handled Johnson’s burial are under investigation. 

U.S. Housing Dept. Takes Hardest Shutdown Hit of All

U.S. Housing Dept. Takes Hardest Shutdown Hit of All

If ever there was a time to have a fully functional U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development it is now in the aftermath of the housing market crash, which began in 2007 and has yet to recover whole. But today, on the eleventh day of the government shutdown, HUD has definitely suffered the hardest blow: 96 percent of their staff, or 8,372 out of 8,709 people, are out of work right now. HUD is the agency that chiefly handles public housing for low-income families and housing discrimination complaints.

But those two areas are in jeopardy due to the furloughs. The Office of Public and Indian Housing had 1,401 people working on providing affordable housing for low-income families and disabled individuals. Now they have three (as of September 27 furlough forecasts; see chart). The Office of Fair Housing, which handles complaints when people are denied housing on account of race, family status or disability, was also severely cut apart. Normally operating with 548 people on staff, they are now down to two. This won’t impact funding for operating public housing complexes, and Section 8 rental assistance is still intact, for now. According to HUD’s shutdown “contingency plan” Section 8 funds are only available through December. Funding for low-income rental housing and assistance may be in danger by the end of October. 

Housing vouchers in general took a huge hit this year, especially after the last sequestration budget cuts on March 1, which may lead to upwards of 140,000 people going without vouchers by 2014 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Beyond that, the Office of Community Planning and Development, though down to just 13 people from 749, will continue to distribute community development block grants (CDBGs), which cities and nonprofits use often to build affordable housing. Those displaced by Hurricane Sandy will be relieved to know that HUD will continue to administer emergency disaster recovery assistance funds. Meanwhile, assistance for the homeless and people living with AIDS will continue. But all of that funding faces insecurity if the shutdown lasts for weeks or months.

Over at the National Housing Institute’s blog Shelterforce, they conclude that “it is clear that affordable rental housing receives the short end of the stick,” and lists the following foreseeable problems:

  • Existing project-based Section 8 contracts may expire without renewal;
  • Multifamily projects under construction may have funding stall, or may be allowed to draw down funds without required quality inspections;
  • Voucher holders may lose their homes if their landlords do not receive the contracted supplemental rent payments from HUD;
  • Some local public housing authorities may run out of funds at the end of the month.

Are You Ready for Jamie Foxx to Play Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?

Are You Ready for Jamie Foxx to Play Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?

Jamie Foxx is set to star in an upcoming film on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr biopic. The project is being developed by DreamWorks/Warner and will be directed by Oliver Stone. Shadow & Act reports that the project is one of four MLK projects that have been in development over the past four years, including Paul Greengrass’ “Memphis starring Forrest Whitiker; Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.”


NFL Player Wears Green Cleats for Mental Health Awareness Despite Fine

NFL Player Wears Green Cleats for Mental Health Awareness Despite Fine

Screen shot 2013-10-11 at 9.26.23 AM.pngThe NFL is notoriously strict with its uniform policy, regularly fining players thousands of dollars for wearing their socks too low or trying to alter their league-sanctioned gear. But Chicago Bears Wide Reciever Brandon Marshall, 29, wore green cleats in support of Mental Health Awareness Week despite knowing that his actions would lead to a big fine from the league. Marshall has waged his own public battle with mental illness and promised to match any fine the league throws his way and make a donation to a mental health foundation.

And he had a monster, 2-touchdown game in his team’s win over the New York Giants.

East New Yorkers Charge Tourists $20 to See Banksy’s Art in Their ‘Hood

East New Yorkers Charge Tourists $20 to See Banksy's Art in Their 'Hood

Banksy has been spreading his brand of subversive street art around Brooklyn these days, and some savvy residents are using it as an opportunity to make some cash. Gothamist brought us the story on Thursday of a group of East New Yorkers who are charging tourists $20 to see Banksy’s work in their neighborhood. It’s a pretty genius move considering the fact that the artist’s work is sprouting up in some of the most impoverished areas of Brooklyn. As one resident says in the video, “I’m trying to get some bread. This is my ‘hood.”

One woman told  Gothamist:

“They have been guarding it for a while drinking heavily, so who knows. They are pretty angry about how many white people are coming here. Side note, I have some cred here because I work close to that spot. The general feeling is that nobody cares about this neighborhood and now that they have something of value they should benefit. […] They reported that several yellow cabs have pulled up with people wanting to get a look. They are firm about the $20 fee and tried to warn me when I left about the crews from the area projects robbing people who look like they don’t belong. They wouldn’t let me take a picture, but were happy to let me take a nice long look while blocking some others who had not paid.”

(h/t Gothamist)

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