“Get On Up,” the new James Brown biopic starring Chadwick Boseman, opens in theaters this weekend. David Remnick at The New Yorker calls it the second best film ever made about the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The first might be this video of a live New York City performance of Brown’s back in 1964.
Following in the footsteps of Laverne Cox, who was on the cover of “Time” earlier this year, CeCe McDonald is featured in the latest issue of “Rolling Stone.” In a feature written by Sabrina Rubin Erderly, McDonald recounts the the years she spent as a homeless teen, the deadly altercation that led to her highly publicized prison sentence, and reflects on her new role as what Erderly calls a “trans folk hero.”
“I wasn’t born a boy,” she says heatedly. “I was born a baby.” Like many trans women, CeCe disputes her basic narrative as that of a boy who grew up to be a woman. Rather, hers is a story of mistaken identity, of a person assigned the wrong gender at birth. She doesn’t know why she was created with a boy’s anatomy but with the mind and soul of a girl; all she could do was work with the mixed-up results. “If the Creator, whoever He-She-They are, wanted me to be a certain way, that’s how They would’ve made me,” CeCe declares at the bohemian Minneapolis coffee shop Cafe SouthSide, which serves as a local LGBT hub. “But until then, until all this shit is figured out? I’m-a rock this. Till the wheels fall off,” she says, one balletic hand in the air testifying, flashing electric-yellow fingernails. Across the table a friend, a lesbian poet in Buddy Holly glasses, laughs with appreciation, as does the proprietress behind the cash register. “Till the wheels . . . fall . . . off! Mmmph!” CeCe exclaims with a flourish. “Crop tops and all, trust and believe that!”
Janelle Monáe’s impossibly young-looking mom stars in her new video for the title track of her latest album, “Electric Lady.” The pair are joined by Esperanza Spaulding, T-Boz, Monica, Estelle and T.I. as Monáe heads back to college as a member of the sorority the Electro Phi Betas.
If you’re looking for people of color in your summer sci-fi blockbuster, you’ll be waiting for a long time. A new infographic form Lee & Low Books details just how lacking fantasy films are in the diversity department: only 14 percent of movies feature a female protagonist and only 8 percent feature a protagonist of color.
The study analyzed the top grossing Hollywood sci-fit and fantasy blockbusters as reported by Box Office Mojo.
“The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination,” Marissa Lee, co-founder of the international grassroots organization Racebending.com, told Lee & Low. “Hollywood has managed to market some weird stuff, like a tentpole movie about talking teenage turtle martial artists, or cars that change into space robots. I don’t buy that when it comes to marketing diverse leads, suddenly this giant industry can’t do it.”
Musician and photographer Jeffrey Scales wrote about touring with Minnie Ripperton and meeting an adorable 5-year-old Maya Rudolph:
…During our off time off from touring, I was often at their home around her family and photographed Maya frequently. Most children get very antsy in front of a camera, but she seemed to be fascinated with the photographic process. She held a firm gaze and always seemed to be studying this photographic process very closely, so I’m not at all surprised that she’s become one the finest comedic actors working in front of a camera today.
I’m also not surprised that Maya found her way into comedy. What few people may know about her mother is that Minnie was one of the most hilarious women you’d ever meet. She had a wry, even ribald wit that would totally disarm the coolest of characters, the biggest record producers, and the most pompous industry executives of the day.
Read more on Scales’ Tumblr.
Beyonce’s in the middle of her “On the Run” tour with husband Jay Z and at a recent stop in New Orleans the reigning pop diva covered Lauryn Hill’s ex-factor. Watch the video above.
Brooklyn-based comedian Hari Kondabolu is the 2014-2015 artist-in-residence at New York University’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute and he’s excited about his new gig. From his official statement:
During my years performing in New York City, I have found myself constantly looking for performance opportunities to experiment with new ideas and create longer, fuller pieces. While there are, of course, many open mic nights across the city, they have time limits and do not always have people in the audience. Occasionally, I may slip in a few new jokes during longer headlining sets around the country, but this is not always the most conducive way to present material in-progress and safely fail. In addition, some of the things I want to work on are more long-form (like stories) and are not always best told in a stand-up context. As a result, I often end up flying back to Seattle (where I began my stand-up career) to develop new work in a theater I rent out every few months. This is obviously not ideal since I live in New York City, my hometown.
This residency at the A/P/A Institute at NYU will give me just the space and time I need to publicly workshop ideas I’ve had for years, but have not had the opportunity to explore. These ideas include material for my stand-up act; essays and stories for publications, radio, or live performances; live and video sketches; and short films.
In many ways, it’s coming full circle for the comedian, who was rejected from NYU back in 2000 after missing the application deadline in order to prep for his first stand-up gig. The kickoff event for his new residency will take place at NYU on October 15.
(h/t Angry Asian Man)
Rachel Howzell Hall spoke with NPR’s Code Switch team about her new book “Land of Shadows.” It’s her fourth novel and is set in her hometown of Los Angeles, where black homicide detective Elouise “Lou” Norton tries to solve the case of 17-year-old Monique Dowler in a rapidly gentrifying part of town.
“I want people to realize that, one, there’s a story in this part of Los Angeles and that there are heroes in this world, just as there are villains,” Hall told Code Switch’s Karen Grigsby Gates. “And a lot of times, [in] L.A., you see Echo Park, you see Hollywood, but you don’t see Southwest Los Angeles, and you don’t see cops who have great compassion like Lou does, and cops who come from the areas in which they patrol. So I want people to not make assumptions about this city and about the people who live here.”
You can hear Hall’s interview and read an excerpt of the new novel over at Code Switch.
Hilton Als, essayist and longtime theater critic at The New Yorker, gave the commencement speech to this year’s graduates at Columbia’s School of the Arts. He manages to perfectly capture hope and loss as he experienced it as a student there during the dawn of the AIDS pandemic:
I wonder if you, like me, feel, just now, like a ghost in the sunlight, awash in memories as your life shifts from student to professional, and your professors become your colleagues. I’ll pull rank now—but just for a moment—and say that my ghosts are probably older than yours. I mean almost Madonna old, and her 1980s music is there in my reminiscences along with so much more as I recall that the majority of my ghosts became just that during the AIDS crisis, which I first read about while I was a student at Columbia—in 1981 or so. I met those now gone boys at Columbia some time before I met you. In memory they wear what they wore then: Oxford button-downs, and they smoke and gossip in the sun that always makes the steps of Low Library—the very steps you’ve sat on yourself—look like a sketch in a dream. Tomorrow was faraway then. And then it wasn’t.
Read more at the New York Review of Books.
A new segment by PBS’ Ivette Feliciano explores how and why clothing for gender non-conforming people is on the rise.
Back in 2012, UCLA professor and public intellectual Robin D.G. Kelley did an interview with Mondoweiss, a website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, about his experience as part of a U.S. delegation to Palestine. His comments offer some perspective on how even in time so-called peace, violence and destruction in the region are commonplace.
We went to Hebron, and visited and talked to Palestinian merchants, and witnessed a level of racist violence that I hadn’t even seen growing up as a black person here in the States (laughs), I have to say, and I’ve been beat by the cops. The level of racist violence from the settlers is kind of astounding. We visited Aida refugee camp just north of Bethlehem, and we went to Bethlehem as well. On my own, I went to Nablus and visited the Balata refugee camp. We also went to Haifa, and we met with a group of Palestinian-Israeli scholars and intellectuals to talk about the boycott.
As NPR’s “Tell Me More” gets ready to air its last episode on August 1, host Michel Martin took to the pages of the National Journal to spell out how conversations about women in the workplace ignore race. She references Anne-Marie Slaughter’s popular 2012 essay in The Atlantic “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” explores the jobs women of color have in today’s workforce, and then finally lands on it’s not all that useful to “check your privilege:”
Women of color have a long history of making a way out of no way, of rising out of circumstances many would consider impossible, of finding hope and purpose in the most difficult circumstances. Surely these are strengths that should be brought to bear on these issues, and surely there is a way for white women to join us in this struggle. There is a saying that is popular on some college campuses right now: Check your privilege. As I understand it, it’s mainly aimed at advantaged white people who are being admonished to recognize their advantages, especially ones they take for granted. I won’t presume to speak for all women of color so I will speak for myself: I don’t care about that. I don’t want your pity, and I can’t use your guilt. I don’t want my white female colleagues to “check” their privilege. I want them to use it—their networks, their assets, their relationships—to form a united front with women of color, and to help improve things for all of us.
Read more at National Journal.
Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporic Arts is facing hard times. James E. Bartlett, the institution’s executive director, made the following appeal this week to ask community members for support to help it stay afloat:
We’ve been lucky to have the support of so many fantastic foundations over the years, and we are very grateful for their ongoing commitment to cultural arts. Our funders are model philanthropists who continue to stand by our growth and innovation. But it is not enough to rely on foundations and government grants to stay afloat. We are in danger because we are a small, Black organization and wealth inequality continues to be a very real challenge in the community we serve. We operate without an endowment or major individual donors, making us vulnerable to funding cuts. If a funder decides they no longer want to support the arts (as often occurs), we have to cut free programming, or even staff. That’s why we’re asking you to take action now.
The museum, which was founded in 1999, has set up a fundraising page in an effort to raise the funds.
Where do you end up when you ride New York City’s northbound 4 train? Woodlawn cemetery. It’s the final resting place for legends: Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Max Roach.
MC John Robinson, radio DJ Thomas Simmons and jazz vocalist T.C. III documented their journey north while exploring the genre’s history. Check out the first in a two-part series of “Last Stop on the 4 Train.”
Nina Millin and The Beyoncélogues FTW!
The time Millin tackled “Single Ladies” and “Best Thing I Never Had” and while they aren’t as scary as “Mine,” they are also funny. Very funny. My favorite line? “I up on him, he up on me” which Millin delivers as if it was “Et Tu, Brute?” Enjoy “Single Ladies” above and check out “Best Thing I Never Had” below.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Questlove answered Nolan Freeny’s question “Are you pro or anti Iggy Azalea?” by defending the Australian rapper’s hit “Fancy” as the “song of the summer.”
Here’s the thing: the song is effective and catchy as hell, and it works. Just the over-enunciation of “hold you down”? [Laughs]It makes me chuckle because all I can see is my assistant holding a brush in the mirror and singing it.
I’m caught in between. And I defend it. I see false Instagram posts like, “She said the N-word! She said the N-word!” I’ll call people out — “Yo, don’t troll.” I know you’re ready to give your 42-page dissertation on theGrio about why this is culture vulture-ism. You know, we as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture. If you love something, you gotta set it free. I will say that “Fancy,” above any song that I’ve ever heard or dealt with, is a game-changer in that fact that we’re truly going to have to come to grips with the fact that hip-hop has spread its wings.
And to tell the truth, I was saying this last year, I don’t think it’s any mistake that four or five of my favorite singers are from Australia. Like between Hiatus Kaiyote, there’s a bunch I can name for you right now, but I don’t think it’s a mistake that a lot of of my favorite artists are coming from Down Under. A lot of them more soulful than what we’re dealing with now. When you think soul music and Aretha Franklin and the Baptist-born singer, that’s sort of an idea in the past. As black people, we’re really not in the church as we used to be, and that’s reflected in the songs now.
I’m not going to lie to you, I’m torn between the opinions on the Internet, but I’mma let Iggy be Iggy. It’s not even politically correct dribble. The song is effective. I’m in the middle of the approximation of the enunciation, I’ll say. Part of me hopes she grows out of that and says it with her regular dialect — I think that would be cooler. But, yeah, “Fancy” is the song of the summer.
Emily Rios, the 25-year-old actress who stars in FX’s “The Bridge” and had a role on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” recently opened up about coming out to her family. Rios was born in Los Angeles and raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in nearby El Monte. In an interview with AfterEllen, she said that she’s proud to take on queer roles.
I’m gay, personally, so being Mexican and a lesbian — this is why I love the character because I deal with the same type of things with my own family,” she said. “Mexican-Americans especially — because this generation, we come into America and your family wants to be proud. You want to come to this country and say ‘This is what I have to show for it. I brought my family and we’re living our better life.’ For my family, my mom didn’t want me to live a difficult life. She brought me here for a better one so she’s like ‘Your coming out…I don’t want this to be this. I want you to be comfortable.
I want it to be an incidental thing, which is what happens in our everyday life,” Rios said. “I wanted to make sure the whole lesbian aspect wasn’t this whole coming out story and the character wasn’t going to be made more flamboyant in any sort of way.
In an article that originally appeared in the September 29, 1979 issue of The Nation, James Baldwin wrote that “Jews and Palestinians know of broken promises.”
But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say that it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years.
Finally: there is absolutely—repeat: absolutely—no hope of establishing peace in what Europe so arrogantly calls the Middle East (how in the world would Europe know? having so dismally failed to find a passage to India) without dealing with the Palestinians. The collapse of the Shah of Iran not only revealed the depth of the pious Carter’s concern for “human rights,” it also revealed who supplied oil to Israel, and to whom Israel supplied arms. It happened to be, to spell it out, white South Africa.
Read more at The Nation.