Shutdown Update: In North Carolina, 50,000 Go Without WIC

Shutdown Update: In North Carolina, 50,000 Go Without WIC

As the government shutdown enters its ninth day, news from across the country shows the growing strain caused by it. According to the Center for American Progress’ Thinkprogress news blog, 50,000 kids under age five and their moms in North Carolina will go without food assistance this month. Due to the federal government’s closed doors, only eight out of 10 of that state’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) recipients got their benefits this month. That left the remainder to try to figure out what to do on their own. Despite reports last week that emergency money would float the nationwide WIC program, help is clearly arriving too late for some. 

But the tough news doesn’t end there.

Thinkprogress, also reports that the local government of Washington DC will run out of money on Sunday. This means that without Congressional action, parts of the city’s public safety, education, transportation and health systems will begin grinding to a halt for DC’s 600,000 residents next week. That’s because approval for the capital’s independent budget is wrapped up in the federal budgeting process.

And, as Politico lays out , just yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to recall critical workers in order to handle a salmonella outbreak in 18 states. More than 70 percent of that agency is furloughed due to the shutdown.

All of this underscores that with each passing day, the shutdown’s toll on the nation’s most vulnerable grows higher.

Hip-Hop Meets Science at a High School in the Bronx

Hip-Hop Meets Science at a High School in the Bronx

Columbia professor Chris Emdin is piloting an innovative approach to science curriculum at Bronx Compass High School. Emdin’s research focuses on race and inequality in the classroom, and he’s carved out a particular specialty in building creative and culturally engaging science curricula. Here’s his TED Talk from 2012:

André Leon Talley Talks Racial Diversity in the Fashion World

André Leon Talley Talks Racial Diversity in the Fashion World

Fashion world icon Andre Leon Talley sat down for a quick interview with the Daily Beast and touched on racism in the fashion world:

Now that fashion month is winding down, do you think there has been any progress with the issue of racism on the runways? How are you continuing your work towards improving this problem?

We, the Black Coalition, have made great strides. Valentino opened its show in Pariswith a black model, Malaika Firth. There are still houses that need educating, but it’s not my place to name them here. What we have witnessed is a great new moment in the impact of the international letters sent by the Diversity and Balance Coalition. In Milan, Phillip Plein did an all-black cabine and went even further — making the ultimate commitment — by booking all black models for his spring 2014 ad campaign.

Talley’s comments come after a scathing letter was published accusing the fashion world’s biggest designer’s of racism. Part of the letter read:

Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond ‘aesthetic’ when it is consistent with the designer’s brand. Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.

And clearly, Talley was keeping score. 

Obama Picks Yellen to Chair the Fed

Obama Picks Yellen to Chair the Fed

In a historic move, President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, or the Fed, as it is commonly known. Yellen will chair the nation’s central bank and one of the most important economic institutions in the world. Currently serving in the number two spot as the Fed’s Vice Chair, Yellen will be the first woman to head the institution. Given her focus on making the economy work for average Americans, progressives campaigned hard for her to succeed present Chair Ben Bernanke when he leaves office at the end of the year. 

The Fed sets the amount of money in circulation, which helps determine how large our economy can get and how fast it can grow. The Fed has two principle responsibilities: to ensure that any economic expansion is sustainable, and to foster full unemployment. It also plays a pivotal role in the regulation of Wall Street.

Massachusetts Senator and economic advocate Elizabeth Warren recently told MSNBC that Janet Yellen would “make a terrific Federal Reserve Chair.” A key reason is that since she joined the Fed’s Board of Governors in 2010, Yellen has long argued that job creation, over other important Fed goals, should be a top priority. 

Yellen’s two principal rivals for the post, former Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, and former head of the National Economic council, Larry Summers, were seen to be less amenable to this view. Geithner and Summers were chief architects of the “too big to fail” financial system that led to the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent recession.

Though Yellen’s path to Wednesday’s nomination was not always certain, many struggling in today’s economy will likely welcome it. The Senate will begin hearings on Yellen’s nomination in the next few weeks. 

Miley Cyrus Joins The Roots, Jimmy Fallon on ‘We Can’t Stop’ Remix

Miley Cyrus Joins The Roots, Jimmy Fallon on 'We Can't Stop' Remix

At least she’s not twerking again.

(h/t Buzzfeed)

Black Lesbian Minister Becomes Dean of Vanderbilt’s Divinity School

Black Lesbian Minister Becomes Dean of Vanderbilt's Divinity School

Vanderbilt Divinity School in Tennessee has appointed an openly gay woman to be its next dean. Emilie Townes, an ordained American Baptist who previously held administrative positions at Yale, is being described by the school as a “pioneering scholar in the field of womanist theology.”

“I am excited about becoming part of this slice of God’s cloud of witnesses as we shape ourselves into being responsive to holding traditions and the future together,” Townes said during her convocation address. “Not out of a sense that traditions are static but with an appreciation for the fact that they are dynamic and actually morph and change, though slowly at times. And also not out of a sense that the future is some magic potion that allows us to neglect the work we must do today.”

Townes’ partner, Laurel Schneider, also joined the Vanderbilt Divinity School’s faculty this year.

Though Townes’ appointment was announced last December, news of it has recently stirred debate within the Christian Press. From the Christian News Network:

Despite VDS’ liberal educational standards, not all seminaries and divinity schools endorse homosexuality. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that those who promote Scriptural sanctioning of homosexuality must resort to “feats of exotic biblical interpretation worthy of the most agile circus contortionist.”

“We should not be surprised … that apologists for the homosexual agenda have arisen even within the world of biblical scholarship,” Mohler writes in an article titled Homosexuality and the Bible. “Biblical scholars are themselves a very mixed group, with some defending the authority of Scripture and others bent on deconstructing the biblical text. The battle lines on this issue are immediately apparent.”

For Townes, the criticism isn’t new. In a Huffington Post column “Gay Marriage and Religion: What Marriage Means to Me”, she writes the following about her own ceremony:

Folks approach gay marriage from a variety of perspectives — moral, theological, social, political. As a Christian social ethicist with womanist leanings, I am clear that the Bible says precious little about same sex relationships, though it appears to have a bit more to say about acts but even that is muddled. I am also clear that although God judges our acts, God does so out of love and mercy and would much rather spend holy time applauding our attempts at humanity than smiting our behavior. The acceptance of gay marriage (even gays who do not believe in marriage) was evident at our ceremony — both of our families, a variety of racial ethnic groups and nationalities, differing sexualities, same sex couples who are married — some with children, others not, children, traditional nuclear families, the list went on and on. The sanctuary and the dinner and dancing that followed was one of joy and celebration — not so much for us as a same-sex couple, but because of our love for one another and trying to share that with others. Politically, it is disheartening to see out love, care, compassion and commitment to one another be made into a political football by the right and the left. The bottom line for me is not “gay marriage” but “marriage.” When folks, whoever they may be, find that the only word that expresses the commitment they make to one another is marriage — we should celebrate this and give them all the support we can for it is no small thing to live out vows that are marked by “forever.” 

(h/t Elixher)


TAGS: Religion

TLC Releases New Song ‘Meant To Be’ Ahead of VH1 Biopic

TLC Releases New Song 'Meant To Be' Ahead of VH1 Biopic

TLC’s getting ready to drop a new album called “20” to coincide with an upcoming biopic that will air on VH1 on October 15. In order to get fans ready, the group dropped a new single, “Meant To Be,” on Monday. The track was written by Ne-Yo and is reminiscent of songs like “Fanmail” from their earlier work. Take a listen.

(h/t Okayplayer)


Aziz Ansari Learns How to Eat a Pineapple Bun in Hong Kong

Aziz Ansari Learns How to Eat a Pineapple Bun in Hong Kong

Here’s a clip of comedian Aziz Ansari hanging out with food blogger Nicole Fung in Hong Kong as part of Esquire’s new travelogue show “The Getaway.”

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

Lawmakers Among the 200 Arrested at Immigration Rally

Lawmakers Among the 200 Arrested at Immigration Rally

Following a national day of action for immigration reform this weekend, several thousand demonstrators gathered in the nation’s capital on Tuesday with the goal of putting pressure on Congress to take action on immigration reform. 

Eight lawmakers were arrested at Tuesday’s rally on the National Mall: Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Al Green (D-Texas), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.),  Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and John Lewis (D-Ga.).  All eight blocked traffic in an act of civil disobedience, and were detained by law enforcement along with at least 200 other demonstrators.

Rep. John Lewis, who was an influential leader during the Civil Rights Movement, said via Twitter that this was his 45th arrest.

The rally was allowed to go on despite the National Mall being closed due to the ongoing government shutdown, which makes passing an immigration reform bill this year seem increasingly unlikely.  But Tuesday’s rally seems to indicate that advocates and lawmakers alike are not giving up the struggle.

Five SCOTUS Cases Worth Watching

Five SCOTUS Cases Worth Watching

After a U.S. Supreme Court summer session this year that will go down in history for controversial decisions that gutted voting rights, affirmed marriage equality and kinda did nothing for affirmative action, the court begins anew this week. This session doesn’t include the kind of high-stakes, hypertension-inducing cases involving civil rights as the last one, but there are some interesting petitions this fall that people of color might want to follow in their feeds over the next few months.

1. #CampaignFinance | Shaun McCutcheon, et al. v. Federal Election Commission: This case, heard yesterday, has been billed as the sequel to Citizens United, the SCOTUS case four years ago that counted corporations as people with free speech rights and thus removed restrictions on how much they could donate to political action committees during elections. Citizens United resulted in corporations and wealthy individuals giving copiously to political campaigns last year. With McCutcheon, what’s at stake is whether limits on contributions made directly to candidates, political parties and committees are constitutional. If the court decides they are not, then we may see elections straight sold to the highest bidder, making a mockery of “one woman/man, one vote.” 

2. #AffirmativeAction | Bill Schuette Attorney General of Michigan v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN): Though SCOTUS didn’t really decide definitively on affirmative action’s legal merits this summer, they’ll have another stab at it next week. Under Schuette, the court will decide if Michigan violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause when it amended its state constitution to ban race-based affirmative action in public universities. It’s a different case than the previous one, Fisher, which was about a white woman challenging a university policy that she believed discriminated against her because of her race. Schuette focuses on whether equal protection rights were violated when race-based university admissions decisions were shifted from the university to the state.

3. #ReproductiveJustice | McCullen v. Coakley: This case is about a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot “buffer zone” around women’s health clinics where protestors are forbidden. The buffer zones protect clinic workers and patients from aggressive anti-choice activists. The court already upheld a similar law in Colorado in 2000, saying buffer zones strike a balance between free speech and those who don’t want that kind of speech shouted in their face as they approach a clinic. But the party advocating to get rid of the buffers want that 2000 decision overturned as well as the Massachusetts law. The SCOTUS that upheld the buffer zone law in Colorado is a quite different one reviewing the case this fall.

4. #HousingDiscrimination | Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action: In this case, SCOTUS will consider whether the department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair housing policy on “disparate impact” is constitutional. (Disparate impact focuses on the discriminatory results of a policy as opposed to intentional discrimination.) But this case has broader implications for civil rights laws in general. Whether we’re dealing with housing, voting rights, labor laws or environmental justice, much of the strength undergirding civil rights protections in these areas lies in the disparate impact clause. Meaning, if people of color are losing work, housing, ballot access or protection from pollution due to a law, they don’t have to prove that lawmakers discriminated on purpose when devising the law. They only need to prove that the effects of a law have led to discriminatory results. Some of the SCOTUS judges, including Chief Justice John Roberts, don’t like disparate impacts, so this will be one worth observing.

5. #NativeRights | Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community: This case will determine whether a state (in this instance, Michigan) can sue a Native tribe or nation (in this case, the Bay Mills Indian Community) for operating an off-reservation casino. A lower court ruled that tribal sovereign immunity remains in effect even when a tribe operates a casino off of federal trust land, but the state is arguing that tribal sovereign immunity doesn’t apply. The Supreme Court will be deciding whether the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act makes it so that the state cannot sue the tribe. Additionally, the Supreme Court is also being asked to directly weigh in on—and perhaps cut away at—the question of tribal sovereignty immunity.

Watch California Youth Respond to Trayvon, Oscar, and Israel

Watch California Youth Respond to Trayvon, Oscar, and Israel

In a city that was previously named among the most dangerous in the nation, young people in Richmond, California often grapple with violence in their community. The organization RYSE formed as a way to help those young people cope with the violence surrounding them in their schools and neighborhoods.  In a recently released video, young men of color from that community respond to the deaths of three other young men of color as part of their Street Literature project: 

Street Literature is the result of young folks coming together to share the impact that the deaths of individuals such as Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and  Israel Hernández have had on them. Tired of being ignored, silenced, judged, and criminalized, these youth decided to voice their thoughts on how they are viewed and treated in our larger society. 

Watch an NYPD Officer Speak Out Against Stop-and-Frisk

Watch an NYPD Officer Speak Out Against Stop-and-Frisk

NYPD officer Adhyl Polanco has made a name for himself as one of the few police officers brave enough to publicly come out against the department’s Stop-and-Frisk policy. In this video, Polanco talks in detail about what drove his opposition.

(h/t Where I Am Going)

New Web Series Explores Latinos in the Bronx

New Web Series Explores Latinos in the Bronx

It seems every week a new web series comes out, a format that seems to be growing in popularity and leading to successful projects like Issa Rae’s breakout “Awkward Black Girl,” the Bushwick, Brooklyn dramedy “East Willy B,” and the wildly funny “Ask a Slave.”  The upsurge in new web-based programs, particularly those being produced by people of color, even inspired an event called Black, Brown and Digital this spring.  

Last month producer Adel L. Morales launched “Pushing Dreams,” a web series that follows a group of interconnected Latinos in the Bronx dealing with unemployment, racism, alcoholism, relationships and other issues. Characters include a Latina lesbian couple—one of whom just lost her job and the other who has served time in prison, and the cast includes Selenis Leyva—who plays Gloria on “Orange is the New Black.” The fourth episode of the series was released yesterday, and follows the gritty day-to-day of people struggling to make ends meet. 

Campaign Aims to End High Rates for Prison Phone Calls

Campaign Aims to End High Rates for Prison Phone Calls

Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in favor of lowering collect call rates for prison inmates, and capping the cost of calls at 25 cents per minute. In some states a phone call can cost as much as $1.13 per minute, which often puts a financial strain on inmates’ families trying to remain in contact with their loved ones. 

The ACLU, Beyond Bars and The Nation* launched a new campaign last week aimed at putting pressure on Global-Tel-Link, one of two large companies that control 80 percent of the prison collect call industry.  The FCC’s ruling is expected to take effect 120 days after the August 9 ruling, but phone company executives have already challenged the decision.

In their campaign video, 9-year-old Kenny Davis from Nashville, Tennessee talks about how he misses his dad, who’s currently incarcerated, and wishes he could talk to him every week. His mother, LaTonya Davis, says they can’t make the four-hour commute very often, and the phone calls are too expensive for her as a single parent.

*Post has been updated since publication


New Report Illustrates Obstacles for Transgender Immigrants

New Report Illustrates Obstacles for Transgender Immigrants

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is making it clear how important comprehensive immigration reform is for undocumented transgender people in particular. Although the government shutdown continues, House Democrats revealed a bill last week that they hope to get through a vote this legislative term—and NCTE is now backing it. 

A new NCTE report, meanwhile, highlights four particular challenges that face transgender immigrants:

Employment insecurity: A survey found nearly 40 percent of undocumented transgender people lost jobs because of bias—compared to just 36 percent of U.S. citizens.

Income and housing insecurity: Employment obstacles already make it harder for undocumented transgender folks to establish economic security. But did you know that undocumented transgender people are way more likely to live on less than $10,000 when compared to other populations, including transgender U.S. citizens?

Healthcare challenges: Undocumented transgender people are twice as likely to be physically assaulted in a medical setting, NTCE found.

Creating a pathway to citizenship: There are an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 undocumented transgender people in the U.S. A pathway to citizenship would mean shedding the fear of being separated from loved ones by detention and deportation.

The report, which you can read in its entirety, concludes with a call to Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill. 

‘Bet on Black’ Challenges Stereotypes of Black Fatherhood

'Bet on Black' Challenges Stereotypes of Black Fatherhood

Between the oft cited statistic that shows two out of three black children living apart from their fathers, and the often oversimplified media portraits of black dads who “walk away” from their children, the most common image of black fatherhood is that of absence. 

In the upcoming anthology “Bet on Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood in the Age of Barack Obama,” 20 writers reflect on dads who editor Kenrya Rankin Naasel describes as “black men who are committed, integral parts of their families.” 

“As a woman who was raised by a single black dad who made it his obsessive duty to help his daughters flourish, I think it’s key to tell the rest of the story,” says Rankin Naasel. “I don’t deny that there are some dismal statistics out there about single-parent households and stories for days about Black mothers holding it down alone, but I know firsthand that the stereotype doesn’t tell the entire story. Beyond what others think of our families, I feel it’s more important that we see them as strong, cohesive units, worthy of our energy and our protection.”

The independently published anthology, which features essays by writers such as Karen Good Marable, Harriette Cole and Yannick Rice Lamb, will be available on on Friday, October 11. In the run-up to the release, Rankin has a Kickstarter campaign up to increase the number of books available in the first print run.

“My hope is that this book will not only change the conversation that surrounds our men to a positive one, but inspire men who are perhaps falling short to be better,” says Rankin Naasel. “You can only hear that you’re a dog but so many times before you start barking.”

Here’s How You Can Dress Your Child Up Like a Famous Artist This Halloween

Here's How You Can Dress Your Child Up Like a Famous Artist This Halloween

Dear parents, 

Still looking for Halloween ideas for the kids? Look no further. Here’s how you can dress your adorable child up like a famous artist this year. Why? Well, why not? For instance, check out this Frida Kahlo costume from Oh Happy Day:

Frida Kahlo // We based this costume off one of the beautiful Frida Kahlo’s self portraits. The key to a good Frida costume is the flowers in the hair and the unibrow and moustache.

Materials Needed: Clip on Flowers, Eyeliner Pencil, Earrings, Scarf, and Dress.


(h/t Oh Happy Day)

This 3-Year-Old Danced to Beyoncé on ‘Ellen’ and Killed It

This 3-Year-Old Danced to Beyoncé on 'Ellen' and Killed It

Meet Heaven, a 3-year-old who first caught the Internet’s attention when a video of her dancing a choreographed routine with her mom (who, of course, is a dancer) popped up last spring. Heaven and her mom recently made an appearance on “Ellen” and the little showstopper wasn’t shy at all. When asked if she wants to be a dancer when she grows up, Heaven replied, “I am a dancer!”

TAGS: Beyonce

Stic of Dead Prez Shares Seven Easy Tips for Eating Well on a ‘Hood Budget

Stic of Dead Prez Shares Seven Easy Tips for Eating Well on a 'Hood Budget

For Stic of hip-hop group dead prez, healthy eating is a revolutionary act. That’s why he’s made his lifestyle of good food and plentiful exercise an important facet of his public persona over the past several years. Black communities are besiged by high rates of obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease and too many lack even basic access to affordable, healthy foods. Recently, the rapper offered up some easy ways to eat well without spending too much money.

“I have run into the following sentiment more than a few times: ‘I want to eat healthier but it’s too expensive!,” Stic wrote for “But bottom line always remember, we can pay now or pay later (in suffering and doctor bills etc.) when it comes to our dietary discipline and choices.” Here are a few of his tips:

Choose Produce not Packages: People think eating healthy is about buying a lot of expensive boxes and packages of processed foods, but that isn’t the case at all.

Cook Big and Save Some for Later: Cooking meals in large batches and freezing the leftovers for later in the week or month can save you a lot of time and money.

Instead of buying fast food or eating out at restaurants, or even cooking a full meal every time you get hungry, it’s way more cost effective and time saving and healthy for you to pull something out of the freezer and warm it up than it is to wash/chop/slice/boil/bake/wait in line/wait to be served etc. Them big Ziploc bags ain’t just for the D-boys! Lol

Soup Up your Options:  Large vegetable soups over brown rice or whole grain noodles pack in vitamins and nutrients, fill you up and are easy to make and delicious. Also Bean burritos, chili, and bean soup can be easy to prepare, cheap and good for you. Going totally meatless a couple of times a week (or for good) also helps your budget and gives your palate a variety to enjoy. Frozen veggies, which are inexpensive, work great in Soups. Nothing compares to that good and filling, good feeling of a hot and hearty bowl of Soup. Cheap, packed with nutrients, easy to prepare. Its the new “Soup-er” food! Lol!

Read the rest of Stic’s seven tips for eating well on a ‘hood budget at

Shutdown Week Two: Defense Dept. Puts 350,000 Back to Work

Shutdown Week Two: Defense Dept. Puts 350,000 Back to Work

Due to a recall over the weekend of 350,000 workers, the total number of federal employees furloughed was cut in half. The move was made by the Defense Department on Saturday to bring back almost all of its workers on the same day that the United States mounted military operations in Somalia and Libya. Though the summons to return to work was welcome news for hundreds of thousands of families, over a million more still remain in a lurch.

Despite the decrease in the number of furloughed workers to 450,000, more than one million more still on the job are not receiving pay.  As the shutdown stretches into its second week, concern and anxiety over how they’re going to make it is rising amongst many. CNBC reports that federal employees are increasingly turning to sites like eBay and Craigslist to sell items and raise badly needed cash. Others are selling their labor.

Temporary work site Task Rabbit has seen the number of people who’ve registered for jobs reach an all-time high since the shutdown. The number of those offering their services on Task Rabbit has doubled since October 1. With the normal payday for many federal employees scheduled for this week, pressure to figure out new ways to make ends meet will only grow.

Although the Defense Department is mostly back, agencies focused on education, the environment and health remain mostly closed. As a federal employee told me over the weekend, “everybody working is only thinking about what we’re going to do for our kids.”

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