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)

ACLU Calls for Investigation of ‘Roving’ Border Patrols

ACLU Calls for Investigation of 'Roving' Border Patrols

In a letter filed Thursday with the Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU of Arizona is calling for an investigation of “roving” border patrols, which have been cited as far 60 miles north of the Mexico border. The order comes just two weeks after the ACLU won a settlement in Seattle, Wash. over roving patrols, and two days after Arizona police used pepper spray to break up an impromptu immigration rally in Tucson involving the Border Patrol. 

In their letter they outline a number of abuses allegedly perpetrated by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in Arizona: 

  • Pulling a citizen over as she was driving her young children home from school, threatening her with a Taser and leaving her with a flat tire on the side of a dirt road;
  • Stopping a citizen who was driving on Tohono O’odham land and then dragging her out of her vehicle and detaining her for over an hour without reason;
  • Causing hundreds of dollars in damage to a citizen’s car while he was visiting the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in southeastern Arizona;
  • Pulling over and questioning a man, while holding automatic weapons, on his family’s property 60 miles north of the border for over an hour in front of his relatives; and
  • Stopping and wrenching a citizen from her car, then groping and holding her in handcuffs without explanation until local police intervened.

In light of the Seattle settlement, CBP is now required to have “reasonable suspicion of violating the law,” before pulling someone over in that state. 

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sentenced to Serve 28 Years in Prison

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sentenced to Serve 28 Years in Prison

The former mayor blamed for driving Detroit to bankruptcy was sentenced to 28 years in prison by a federal judge on Thursday, convicted of 24 counts including tax crimes, bribery, extortion, and racketeering. Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to serve the maximum recommended sentence, which is one of the toughest ever imposed for a public official. 

Prior to sentencing, Kilpatrick spoke out in his defense, saying he deeply regretted his actions, particularly hurting his family, and taking advantage of his power while Detroit citizens were struggling. And while Kilpatrick is bearing the brunt of Detroit’s recent political and financial troubles, which include being $18 billion in debt, some say he has been made a scapegoat for larger local corruption issues.

Four Panels on Race and Gender at NYC Comic Con

Four Panels on Race and Gender at NYC Comic Con

If you’re looking for conversations on race, gender, or sexuality in comics and fandom, Racialicious has a handy guide for this year’s NYC Comic Con convention. Starting Thursday you can attend panels titled, “LGBT and Allies in Comics,” “Representations in Geek Media,” “Geeks of Color Assemble!: Minorities in Fandom,” or “Women of Marvel.” And if you can’t make it, they’ll also be live-tweeting the event. Unfortunately, only four out of 334 panels and screenings address race or gender, which seems in keeping with the industry’s attitude towards these issue.  

(h/t Racialicious)

Florida Senate Looks to Revise ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

Florida Senate Looks to Revise 'Stand Your Ground' Law

On Tuesday the Florida Senate approved a bill to make amend the state’s “Stand Your Ground,” law, which many see as primarily responsible for George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Among the amendments are regulations that law enforcement will instruct neighborhood watch participants not to pursue suspects. The amendments also clarify language that agressors cannot use “Stand Your Ground” as a defense. But considering the broad legislative support for the law, it seems unlikely these amendments will ultimately be adopted. 

And while the Senate is looking to amend, others are moving to repeal. In August, the Dream Defenders introduced “Trayvon’s Law,” and State Rep. Alan Williams refiled an earlier petition to overturn the law, saying reforming the legislation is not enough. A recent study showed that homicide rates increase in states where “Stand Your Ground” are used, and that those who use the law as a defense more often acquitted when the victim is black.

Confrontation With Arizona Border Patrol Turns Violent

Confrontation With Arizona Border Patrol Turns Violent

A routine traffic stop in Tucson, Ariz., became an immigration protest on Tuesday night, and then turned violent. Local law enforcement pulled over a driver for a missing license plate light, and called Border Patrol after they suspected the diver and his passenger were undocumented immigrants.  A crowd gathered shortly after the driver and passenger were detained, and more than 100 people made a circle around the Border Patrol vehicle in order to prevent it from leaving.

According to eyewitnesses, the demonstrators were then sprayed in the face with pepper spray and shot at with rubber bullets when they wouldn’t move away from the vehicle. Border Patrol took the two immigrants into custody, and also allegedly arrested at least one demonstrator.  Immigration advocates held a press conference today in Tucson and are calling for Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor to step down. Police say they were following regulations set by Arizona S.B. 2010. 

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.

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