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. 

Holder Releases Millions for Criminal Defense of the Poor

Holder Releases Millions for Criminal Defense of the Poor

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced $6.7 million in grant money for the often underfunded and understaffed work of representing defendents of low income in court. This is one of Holder’s latest reform moves as he continues to attempt to upend the criminal justice system that has led to mass incarceration, particularly of black and Latino men and women. 

“Everyone accused of a serious crime has the right to legal representation - even if she or he cannot afford it,” said Attorney General Holder by press statement today.  

“These awards, in conjunction with other efforts we’re making to strengthen indigent defense, will fortify our public defender system and help us to meet our constitutional and moral obligation to administer a justice system that matches its demands for accountability with a commitment to fair, due process for poor defendants,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.

Holder has often publicly lamented that the justice system is undermined by all of the budget cuts the federal government has suffered lately. The sequestration ax earlier this year took a huge chunk of the Justice Department’s budget. In a Washington Post op-ed in August he wrote that “draconian cuts have forced layoffs, furloughs … and personnel reductions through attrition. Across the country, these cuts threaten the integrity of our criminal justice system and impede the ability of our dedicated professionals to ensure due process, provide fair outcomes and guarantee the constitutionally protected rights of every criminal defendant.”

The Justice Department took another hard hit during the government shutdown, when it had to furlough over 70 percent of its staff in its Civil Rights division. 

Meanwhile, Holder, who has hedged that his last days as AG may be near (though probably not anytime soon) has made criminal justice reform and ending over-incarceration a priority in the second term of the Obama administration. In similar news, former Newark mayor Cory Booker, who will be a sworn in as a U.S. Senator tomorrow, has said that he will push for new criminal justice legislation, specifically around ending private prisons and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, petty drug dealers. Amanda Terkel reported at The Huffington Post that Holder has already taken a liking to Booker’s ideas. 

Settlement Reached to Block Key Parts of Alabama Immigration Law

Settlement Reached to Block Key Parts of Alabama Immigration Law

Alabama’s HB 56, widely considered the toughest immigration law in the country, has been fiercely opposed since it took effect in 2011. The so-called “show me your papers” law has been legally challenged multiple times, but yesterday a coaltion of civil rights groups agreed to a settlement that will permanently block some of the most controversial provisions in the immigration law.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the following will no longer be enforced in Alabama: 

  • Requiring schools to verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K-12 students.
  • Criminalizing the solicitation of work by unauthorized immigrants.
  • A provision that made it a crime to provide a ride to undocumented immigrants or to rent to them.
  • A provision that infringed on the ability of individuals to contract with someone who was undocumented.
  • A provision that criminalized failing to register one’s immigration status.

In addition, the state is now required to pay $350,000 towards legal expenses for the coalition filing the lawsuit. 

A Brief Halloween History on Why Blackface Is Always a Bad Idea

A Brief Halloween History on Why Blackface Is Always a Bad Idea

Over the past week or so we’ve covered a good number of blackface Halloween costumes. They’re always wicked and it’s not just because racism makes people feel bad. Over at The Grio, Blair L.M. Kelley gives a brief history of blackface:

Blackface minstrelsy first became nationally popular in the late 1820s when white male performers portrayed African-American characters using burnt cork to blacken their skin. Wearing tattered clothes, the performances mocked black behavior, playing racial stereotypes for laughs. Although Jim Crow was probably born in the folklore of the enslaved in the Georgia Sea Islands, one of the most famous minstrel performers, a white man named Thomas “Daddy” Rice brought the character to the stage for the first time. Rice said that on a trip through the South he met a runaway slave, who performed a signature song and dance called jump Jim Crow. Rice’s performances, with skin blackened and drawn on distended blood red lips surrounded by white paint, were said to be just Rice’s attempt to depict the realities of black life.

Jim Crow grew to be minstrelsy’s most famous character, in the hands of Rice and other performers Jim Crow was depicted as a runaway: “the wheeling stranger” and “traveling intruder.” The gag in Jim Crow performances was that Crow would show up and disturb white passengers in otherwise peaceful first class rail cars, hotels, restaurants, and steamships. Jim Crow performances served as an object lesson about the dangers of free black people, so much so that the segregated spaces first created in northern states in the 1850s were popularly called Jim Crow cars.  Jim Crow became synonymous with white desires to keep black people out of white, middle-class spaces.

Read the rest over at The Grio.

Issa Rae Pokes Fun at Miley Cyrus in ‘Orange is the New Black and Sexy’

Issa Rae Pokes Fun at Miley Cyrus in 'Orange is the New Black and Sexy'

Funny lady Issa Rae is starring in a new parody called “Orange is the New Black & Sexy.” Taking aim at this year’s big Netflix series based on the real life experiences of Piper Kerman, Rae and company even manage to get in a dig at Miley Cyrus. Shadow and Act has the details:

Jessa Zarubica (It’s not Porn…it’s HBO) and Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl) star in Orange Is The New Black & Sexy, a satire on the popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black. The parody pokes fun at Piper (Zarubica) as she becomes enchanted by the black prison clique led by Taystee (Issa Rae) and experiences her own metamorphosis. Other current cultural trends (Miley CyrusJulianna Hough) are referenced while paying homage to the hit series in this hysterical mash up. Orange is the New Black & Sexy is aBlack&Sexy.TV and Dayna Lynne North/Loud Sista Production, co directed by Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier.

Rae’s been pretty prolific since she became popular from the YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl.” In addition to working with Shonda Rhimes on a pilot for ABC called “I Hate L.A. Dudes,” she’s also kept up with a steady stream of short web series’ “The Choir” and a spoof on a Black Twitter party.

Ray Kelly Gets Booed Off Stage by Brown University Students

Ray Kelly Gets Booed Off Stage by Brown University Students

Instead of giving a lecture yesterday on “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was booed off of stage by students who oppose the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. For 30 minutes students in the audience shouted out comments such as “Racism is not up for debate,” and “How about you stop stopping and frisking people?,” effectively preventing Kelly from giving his scheduled talk. Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, sent a letter to the student body yesterday expressing regret that Kelly had not be able to speak, saying the protest prevented students interested in the topic from asking questions. But in addition to their opposition to stop-and-frisk, student protesters also opposed the honorarium Kelly was to be paid, which they requested be donated instead to organizations working to end police brutality and racial profiling.

The New York City Council passed Local Law 31 earlier this year to amend stop-and-frisk policies following a federal judge’s ruling that the practice violates people’s rights. But a lawsuit filed by exiting Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which has been endorsed by the NYPD’s largest police union, is still under consideration. 

Kerry Washington Will Host SNL This Weekend

Kerry Washington Will Host SNL This Weekend

Kerry Washington, who just announced that’s she’s pregnant (yay!),  will host this weekend’s episode of “Saturday Night Live.” The actress, who earned an Emmy nod for her role on the hit ABC series “Scandal,” has never hosted a sketch comedy show before, but there’s a first time for everything. Eminem will be the show’s musical guest and make his sixth appearance on the show to promote his new album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” which will be released on November 5.

Katherine Dunham Museum Faces Closure Over Unpaid Bills

Katherine Dunham Museum Faces Closure Over Unpaid Bills

There’s a museum in East St. Louis, Ill., that’s dedicated to pioneering African-American dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham. Known largely for developing a dance pedagogy that later became known as “the Dunham Technique” that’s now become a staple of modern dance classes, Dunham was also a committed social activist.

But the museum that captures that legacy is in danger of closing due to the mounting cost of its utility bills. “Ms. Dunham could’ve left her legacy anywhere. The artifacts, memorabilia it’s all here for the world to see. The risk is [real]. If I don’t have $486 by Thursday the lights will be turned off,” says Curator Laverve Backstrom, who spoke with Fox 2 Now St. Louis

Backstrom notes that the museum is staffed by volunteers and money provided by the state of Illinois can only be used to fix the building’s infrastructure and cannot be spent on its operations.

“The Dunham museum is a well- kept secret. It needs to be out there, people need to know the building is here. I started this job and intend to see it through,” Backstrom said.


Donald Glover Talks About His New FX Show ‘Atlanta’

Donald Glover Talks About His New FX Show 'Atlanta'

Donald Glover sat down for an interview with Vibe TV to talk about his decision to leave the hit NBC comedy “Community” and his plans for a new show called “Atlanta” on FX. Glover says that he wanted to be his own boss and be more in charge of his creativity, but admits that his ideas for a new series are still pretty vague. “I don’t really know what it is, I just know it’s going to be personal,” he says of the new show.

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