Colorlines

Vijay Seshadri Becomes First South Asian to Win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Vijay Seshadri Becomes First South Asian to Win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

This week, poet Vijay Seshadri became the first South Asian to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, winning the distinction with his collection “3 Sections.” Born in Bangalore* in 1954, Seshadri said in an interview in 2004 that he began writing poetry at 16:

I was in college. I had become interested in poetry and that first January I heard Galway Kinnell read from The Book of Nightmares, which as yet was unpublished. I loved that reading. I remember it clearly; it made me want to go home and start writing. I was never one of those writers who knew from the age of six that they were writers, who lisped in numbers. In my early twenties I wrote, or tried to write, a novel that was much too ambitious for me. I’d been influenced by the French new novel, and by Pynchon, and John Hawkes. They were radical novelists and I felt I had to write a novel like theirs. I probably had a novel in me, but it was much more a conventional novel that a person in their early twenties would write, a coming-of-age story; but I had modernist and postmodernist models. Around the time I was also reading Beckett’s trilogy and thought that’s what novels had to be. An impossible model, really. In my mid-twenties I went back to poetry.

“3 Sections” is his third collection of poetry, all published by Graywolf Press, which congratulated Seshadri on its website and posted three of his poems, including this one:

Three Persons

 

That slow person you left behind when, finally,

you mastered the world, and scaled the heights you now command,

where is he while you

walk around the shaved lawn in your plus fours,

organizing with an electric clipboard

your big push to tomorrow?

Oh, I’ve come across him, yes I have, more than once,

coaxing his battered grocery cart down the freeway meridian.

Others see in you sundry mythic types distinguished

not just in themselves but by the stories

we put them in, with beginnings, ends, surprises:

the baby Oedipus on the hillside with his broken feet

or the dog whose barking saves the grandmother

flailing in the millpond beyond the weir,

dragged down by her woolen skirt.

He doesn’t see you as a story, though.

He feels you as his atmosphere. When your sun shines,

he chortles. When your barometric pressure drops

and the thunderheads gather,

he huddles under the overpass and writes me long letters with

the stubby little pencils he steals from the public library.

He asks me to look out for you.

(h/t The Aerogram)

* Post has been updated.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Drops Transphobic Segment

'RuPaul's Drag Race' Drops Transphobic Segment

Logo’s hit series “RuPaul’s Drag Race” recently found itself in hot water for its repeated use of transphobic slurs.

From the Huffington Post:

During a mini-challenge on the show titled “Female or She-male,” contestants were asked to identify whether a photo showed a cisgender (non trans) woman or a former “Drag Race” contestant after viewing a cropped portion of the photo. Some transgender people claimed that the segment was transphobic, as “she-male” is considered by many to be a violent word used against trans bodies and lives.

The show released a statement on the matter:

We wanted to thank the community for sharing their concerns around a recent segment and the use of the term ‘she-mail’ on Drag Race. 

Logo has pulled the episode from all of our platforms and that challenge will not appear again. 

Furthermore, we are removing the ‘You’ve got she-mail’ intro from new episodes of the series.

We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.

Trans model and former Drag Race contestant Carmen Carrera issued a statement on her Facebook page taking the show to task for misusing its potential. “Drag Race should be a little smarter about the terms they use and comprehend the fight for respect trans people are facing every minute of today. They should use their platform to educate their viewers truthfully on all facets of drag performance art.” Another former contestant and trans woman told HuffPo that the show’s use of the slurs was “not cute at all.”

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis reiterated the importance of the show’s decision. “Logo has sent a powerful and affirming message to transgender women during a pivotal moment of visibility for the entire transgender community,” she told The Advocate. “GLAAD is committed to continuing to shape the narrative about the lives of transgender people with fair and accurate media images.”

NBA Players Get a Portlandia-Style Pep Talk

NBA Players Get a Portlandia-Style Pep Talk

The Portland Trailblazers are finally back in the NBA playoffs. And since the team’s now got some time on their hands, they accepted a visit from the stars of Portlandia. It wasn’t their usual pep talk. 

(h/t Yahoo! Sports)

Pharrell Is So Happy That You’re Happy, He Cried Tears of Joy!

Pharrell Is So Happy That You're Happy, He Cried Tears of Joy! Play

Pharrell (and his hat) sat down for an interview with Oprah to talk about the surprising success of his smash his, “Happy.” The host then showed a video of people around the world singing the song, which brought Pharrell to tears.

RZA: Gentrification Is ‘Just the Natural Process in America’

RZA: Gentrification Is 'Just the Natural Process in America'

So, what’s RZA up to these days? Mostly, film. The Wu-Tang member sat down for an interview with Jai Tiggett over at Shadow and Act to talk about his new film, “Brick Mansions.” (For a fuller picture of what RZA and other members of Wu-Tang Clan are up to, be sure to read Amos Barshad’s great piece at Grantland).

During his interview with Shadow and Act, RZA, a native of Brownsville, Brooklyn, shared some pretty interesting thoughts on gentrification: 

JT: Part of the movie’s plot is about the struggle between poor people trying to hold onto land and wealthy people coming in to try to develop it. The gentrification debate is pretty similar to what’s being talked about now in the news.

RZA: It’s happening right here in Echo Park. [Gentrification] is a two-way street. I grew up in Brownsville, but before the blacks were in Brownsville it was a Jewish community. So that’s just the natural process of America. Sometimes it’s negative, sometimes it’s positive. In the case of the Jewish people it was positive because they got to move out of the projects and buy homes. I can look at my own family and see that a lot of us have left the projects and are in brownstones renting. Very few of us can buy. So this is a process that just continues.

JT: So it’s unavoidable, in your view?

RZA: It’s part of the system. And we should actually embrace it and learn how to utilize it. The only way to do that, to me, is to get back into community. With this generation, you don’t even know your neighbors.

Obviously, this is a much different perspective than the one that Spike Lee’s been getting a lot of attention for lately, but I’ve decided to share it here because it’s something that I’ve heard pretty often, particularly when I lived in a rapidly changing section of West Oakland. Gentrification is by nature an economic force, and different displaced communities are sorting out how to deal with it.

But what RZA’s pointing to is pretty reactive, and doesn’t change the underlying structural inequalities that have uprooted black communities for generations. Nikole Hannah-Jones at ProPublica did a nice deep-dive into this last year, which detailed the decades-long fair housing crisis in America

In Memory of Musician and Activist Fred Ho, Here’s ‘West Afrika! Boogaloo’

Composer, musician and activist Fred Ho lost his battle with cancer on Sunday and passed away at his home in Brooklyn. He was 56 years young.

Ho’s life’s work was centered on the interplay between Afro-Asian culture. Here’s more from his obituary in the New York Times:

Mr. Ho, who was of Chinese descent, considered himself a “popular avant-gardist.” He was inspired by the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and by the ambitious, powerful music of African-American bandleaders including Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and especially Charles Mingus. But he rejected the word jazz, which he considered a pejorative term imposed by Europeans.

Self-reliance was a priority for Mr. Ho. He rarely played in anyone else’s band (among the exceptions were stints with the arranger Gil Evans and the saxophonists Archie Shepp and Julius Hemphill). Describing himself as a “revolutionary matriarchal socialist and aspiring Luddite,” he never owned a car and made many of his own clothes from kimono fabric.

Three years ago, Ho performed “West Afrika! Boogaloo” at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. It’s a stirring example of the content of his work, and the legacy that he leaves behind.

A couple of months before he died, Ho sat down for an interview with NPR to talk about how, through his music, he “became a fighter.” It’s a good summation of Ho’s career and his personality. Read more

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

This ‘A-Z’ of Dance Video Showcases Your Favorite Moves

This 'A-Z' of Dance Video Showcases Your Favorite Moves Play

And yes, that’s fan favorite b-girl Terra dancing to music by Le1f!

Directed by Jacob Sutton for Diesel’s jogg jeans campaign.

TAGS: dance video

This San Francisco High School Has an Amazing Rooftop Garden

This San Francisco High School Has an Amazing Rooftop Garden Play

San Francisco’s Mission District is often in the news for all the wrong reasons these days. Usually, it’s something having to do with gentrification and Google buses and, certainly, the community has faced massive displacement over the past several decades. But here’s a feel-good story: Mission High School’s rooftop gardening project, which Justin Richmond captured over at Mission Local recently. 

Infographic: Yes, Hollywood Is Still an Unequal Place for Black Filmmakers

Whether or not you think that 2013 was indeed the “year of black film,” the role of filmmakers of African descent in Hollywood is worthy of exploration. Not just because of the centrality of race in America, but also because enormous talent that, depending on the whims of the industry, gets ignored of validated in any given year.

The New York Film Academy has a new infographic that details that inequality faced by black filmmakers and actors. “In an attempt to place this current renaissance in Black Hollywood in a greater historical context, the New York Film Academy has put together a comprehensive infographic to detail 100 years of Black cinema while looking at more recent data to see how Black filmmakers and performers have been represented and employed over the past six years.” Check it out after the jump. 

‘Saturday Night Live’ Criticized for Bobby Jindal Skit

SNL is once again in the hot seat for its impersonation of an Indian-American celebrity. Last year, the show had Iranian-American actress Nasim Pedrad show up in brownface to impersonate Aziz Ansari. Now Pedrad is impersonating Bobby Jindal, a move that’s led some viewers to voice frustrating at the show’s repeated misses on brown characters.

Check out more over at The Aerogram

Lupita Nyong’o Manages to Make Losing Look Good

There was no love for Hollywood favorite “12 Years a Slave” at this year’s annual MTV Music Awards, which saw “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and actress Jennifer Lawrence walk away with its top prizes. Nonetheles, nominee Lupita Nyong’o managed to make losing look adorable on Instagram. The actress captioned with, “You lose you snooze.”

Here’s the Crushing Poverty That Surrounds Coachella

Here's the Crushing Poverty That Surrounds Coachella Play

We hear a lot about the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. This year’s festival boasted Outkast’s highly anticipated reunion, and it’s been known to be a place where artists can rise from the dead. But the surrounding poverty of the Coachella Valley rarely makes headlines.

The valley is one of the highest grossing agricultural regions in the country, but it’s also one of the poorest, as demonstrated in the above video from Fusion

Outkast’s Reunion Features Janelle Monáe, But Gets Mixed Reviews

The annual Coachella music festival kicked off this past weekend in Southern California with one of hip-hop’s most highly anticipated performances: Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast. After about a decade apart, the duo kicked off their reunion tour and were joined by rapper Future and songstress Janelle Monáe.

“What we are witnessing tonight is history,” Monáe gushed after the show, though Billboard noted that after so much time apart, the duo’s performance was understandably imperfect. Nonetheless, the reunion was Coachella’s most Tweeted moment, proof that fans are eager to see the group back together. 

If you’ve got some time today, check out this full recording of Outkast’s comeback:

The Latino Queer Arts and Film Festival Kicks Off in Los Angeles

The Latina/o Queer Arts and Film Festival is kicking off in Los Angeles from April 10-13. If you’re in the area, Remezcla has a round up of films to watch out for. Here’s a full list. In the meantime, check out these gems:

TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story

Director: Dante Alencastre

This documentary highlights an icon of L.A.’s transgender community, Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. From her humble beginnings and her struggle with drugs to her out spoken activism towards HIV, Bamby’s story is one of heartache and triumph. 

Loving the Bony Lady

Director: Scott Elliot

Arely Gonzalez has the largest private altar for Santa Muerte in NYC. La Santa Muerte, although condemned by the Catholic church, is widely worshiped by people who may be on the wrong side of life but still need salvation. In this short documentary we meet La Santa Muerta and her devotees. 

The Last Match (La Partida)

Director: Antonio Hens

Living down & out in Cuba, Renier works as a call boy in order to support his wife, child, and mother. Strictly business. While his best friend Yosvani is engaged to a young girl and living with their dirtbag father. When the friends share a kiss and lines begin to blur, Renier and Yosvani must face themselves, their family and the reality they want to live in or escape from.

See more over at Remezcla.

Brandeis Takes Heat for Revoking Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Brandeis Takes Heat for Revoking Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

When Brandeis University announced that it had reversed its decision to bestow an honorary degree on Ayaan Hirsi Ali at its commencement ceremony on May 18, many Muslim advocates applauded. Ali has made a name for herself as a feminist writer and fierce critic of Islam, who once described it as a religion that’s “not interested in peace.”

When the decision to give the honorary degree to Ali became public, critics spoke out. “She is one of the worst of the worst of the Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told the New York Times. “I don’t assign any ill will to Brandeis. I think they just kind of got fooled a little bit.”

The university now says that Ali “is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue,” according to a statement released by the school.

Meanwhile, Ali has spoken out about the university’s decision. Predictably, she’s not happy with it. “What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles.”

Ali was born in Somalia and was a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003-2006. Her 2007 memoir, “Infidel: My Life”, was widely criticized for its negative portrayal of Islam. 

Does Bollywood Drop the Ball on Mental Health?

Does Bollywood Drop the Ball on Mental Health? Play

That’s the question that the folks over at the Aerogram are grappling with in a recent story. Farah Naz Khan writes that Bollywood, a multi-billion dollar industry, continues to perpetuate the stigma associated with mental illness despite the struggles of millions of Indians.

Here’s more:

In a country with a population of 1.2 billion citizens, there are a mere 4,000 psychiatrists — compared to the roughly 50,000 psychiatrists in America. In 2012, The Lancet published a nationally representative survey of India that demonstrated suicide as the second leading cause of death among Indians between the ages of 15 and 29. Unfortunately, the country’s largest film industry’s portrayal of mental health issues usually leaves much to be desired. Let’s take a look at some examples from the past decade to get a better idea of the Bollywood’s subpar treatment of mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and autism (major spoiler warning — while discussing some of these movies, I’ll essentially be giving away the story).

Head on over to the Aerogram to see their pretty exhaustive list of films that miss the mark in dealing with mental illness. 

Date Night for the Obamas: Denzel Washington in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ on Broadway

Date Night for the Obamas: Denzel Washington in 'A Raisin in the Sun' on Broadway

President Obama and First Lady Michelle are scheduled to attend Friday night’s performance of “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway, according to Deadline

The revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, directed by Kenny Leon, stars Denzel Washington in a role that was praised by “New Yorker” theater critic Hilton Als.”The stage revitalizes Washington,” Als wrote in the latest issue of the “New Yorker.” “What can get too set in film — his bad boy swagger, the questioning eyes that soemtimes cut themselves off from his characters’ vulnerability — is dislodged by the moment-to-moment vicissitudes of theatre.”

Washington plays the role of Walter Younger, a frustrated 35-year-old husband and father who lives in a small two-bedroom Chicago apartment and is struggling with his family’s eventual move from the South Side to the predominately white Woodlawn neighborhood. The play was the first written by a black woman to debut on Broadway, and has since beomce a staple of African-American literature. 

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‘Fake Drake’ Steals the Show on Late Night TV

'Fake Drake' Steals the Show on Late Night TV Play

Everyone’s got an opinion about Drake. And who better to listen to those opinions than the man himself? The Canadian rapper joined Jimmy Kimmel on a segment called “Lie Witness News” in which Drake wears a disguise and asks passersby on Hollywood Boulevard what they think about him. What follows is pretty hilarious. So no matter what you think about Drake’s music, at least he’s got a good sense of humor. 

(h/t Jezebel)

Navajo Nation Votes Against NFL Team’s Racist Name

Navajo Nation Votes Against NFL Team's Racist Name

The Navajo Nation Council has voted to oppose the use of the Washington Redskins name. On Thursday, the council voted 9-2 in favor of a measure sponsored by lawmaker Joshua Lavar Butler, who says that the slur can have negative psychological impacts on American Indians.

The council’s statement also applies to other professional sports franchises, but does not include high school mascots. The final authority for the measure rests with the committee of the whole, according to ESPN.

Here’s more:

The president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association had urged lawmakers not to approve the measure. Peter MacDonald says the NFL team’s name honors American Indians.

On Friday, a United Nations human rights expert said the name of the team was a “hurtful reminder” of the mistreatment of Native Americans, but stopped short of joining in calls for the team’s owner to change the name.

Washington, DC NFL team owner Daniel Snyder has repeatedly defended his organization’s use of the name, and he recently launched the “Original Americans Foundation” that he says is tasked with helping disadvantaged Native tribes. However, the foundation’s name and leader have come under intense scrutiny. 

Derrick Gordon Becomes First Openly Gay Men’s Big Time College Basketball Player

Derrick Gordon, a guard for the University of Massachusetts’ basketball team, became the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player in NCAA history when he came out of the closet this week. 

Gordon made the announcement on Wednesday, just days after coming out to his family to mixed reactions, according to USA Today.

ESPN’s Kate Fagan broke the story, in which Gordon said that it was an “indescribable feeling” to come out. “Honestly didn’t feel like I was going to feel this way for three, four years.” Gordon came out to his teammates before telling the media with the help of his coach Derek Kellog.

More from ESPN:

He had closely watched the news around NBA veteran Jason Collins and NFL prospect Michael Sam, both of whom are active players and have publicly acknowledged being gay. About a year ago, Gordon befriended former NFL player Wade Davis, who is now the executive director of You Can Play. Davis introduced Gordon to Anthony Nicodemo, the boys’ basketball coach at Saunders High School in Yonkers, N.Y., who came out as gay last year. Davis and Nicodemo, along with several others, including Collins, mentored Gordon behind the scenes.

Gordon says that when the Minutemen returned home from their round-of-64 loss in the NCAA tournament, he began seriously considering coming forward publicly. He had accepted his sexuality during his freshman year in college, and in recent months had started checking OutSports to see who would be the first Division I men’s basketball player to step forward.

“I was thinking about summer plans and just being around my teammates and how it was going to be,” Gordon said. “I just thought, ‘Why not now? Why not do it in the offseason when it’s the perfect time to let my teammates know and everybody know my sexuality?’ “

Gordon is one of several athletes to come out as gay over the past year, including the WNBA’s Britney Griner, the NBA’s Jason Collins, and NFL prospect Michael Sam. 

 

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