Diversity Headlines

Concussion Studies: From NFL Players to Jailed Youth

Colorlines - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:06
 From NFL Players to Jailed Youth

Half of 16- to -18-year boys and girls entering New York City jails, according to a new study, say they've had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated. The prior injury(ies) resulted in either loss of consciousness, amnesia or both, reports the AP, and most were caused by assaults. Concussion studies among retired NFL players gained note some years ago but a growing body of research now focuses on the prevalence of prior traumatic brain injury among youth offenders. The rate of TBI in the unincarcerated youth population is 15 to 30 percent.

Researchers postulate that prior TBI--just one or multiple, it's unclear--explains violent behavior, poor impulse control and decision-making, and high rates of recidivism. Reports don't indicate whether the New York City sample of 300 boys and 84 girls separated violent from non-violent offenders. Most 16-to-18-year-olds in New York City jails (75 percent) are in for violent crimes, including robbery, homicide, weapons possession and assault. 

Results come from a medical questionnaire distributed to incoming offenders.

(h/t AP)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

'Mad Men's' First Black Character Finally Gets a Storyline

Colorlines - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 18:06
'Mad Men's' First Black Character Finally Gets a Storyline

Warning: Spoiler alert.

It only took a couple seasons, but "Mad Men" is finally rolling out a storyline for its first significant black character. From NPR:

Sunday night, however, both Dawn and Shirley -- a recently added black secretary who, unlike Dawn, rocks very short dresses and natural hair -- got their very own conversation, just the two of them, that subtly realigned the show's consideration of race from one that was primarily about the experiences of white people to one that was at least curious about, if not yet diving deeply into, the experiences of black people, and specifically black women.

While the show has been the target of criticism over the years for its lack of black characters (see: The Root's Mad Men black-people counter), others, like author Tanner Colby, have argued that the show has actually done a decent job of handling race in the era of 1960's social upheavel. As Colby wrote at Slate back in 2012:

Mad Men isn't cowardly for avoiding race. Quite the opposite. It's brave for being honest about Madison Avenue's cowardice. While Don Draper and Sterling Cooper may seem woefully behind the times, that just means Matthew Wiener is right on schedule, historically speaking. And if Mad Men's schedule stays on the course it's been following, it's a safe bet that the season now beginning will finally bring us to the point when black consumers stand up and refuse to sit at the back of the advertising bus.

Read more.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Poll: Laverne Cox is More Influential Than Justin Bieber

Colorlines - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:18
 Laverne Cox is More Influential Than Justin Bieber

Who are the most influential people in the world? That's what Time Magazine is asking its readers to vote on in an annual reader poll. Currently, Indian politician Arvind Kejriwal sits in the top spot, while Laverne Cox just booted Justin Beiber from the fifth spot and Lupita Nyong'o is in ninth place. Voting closes on April 22, and yes, yours counts!

(h/t Jezebel)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Boston Marathon Begins, Biden in Ukraine, UAW Withdraws VW Union Vote Appeal

Colorlines - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 16:52
Boston Marathon Begins, Biden in Ukraine, UAW Withdraws VW Union Vote Appeal

Here's what I'm following on this morning: 

  • Boston Marathon, live.
Categories: Diversity Headlines

New Orleans Filmmaker Spotlights Black Oystermen of Louisiana

Colorlines - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 14:47
New Orleans Filmmaker Spotlights Black Oystermen of Louisiana

Over the next few days, you'll read and hear a lot about the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig that exploded on April 20, 2010, gushing hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and creating the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history. What you might not hear a lot about are the stories of the black fishermen in the southernmost tip of Louisiana who're among the worst impacted by the spill. New Orleans filmmaker Nailah Jefferson hopes to correct that by elevating their stories through her new film "Vanishing Pearls," which opens today in New York City and Los Angeles. The plight of these black oystermen (a subject first covered nationally here at Colorlines) has been an ongoing battle, beginning with when oil and gas companies began drilling in the waters they fish from decades ago. Over time, these fourth- and fifth-generation fishermen had already suffered through a number of previous disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. Jefferson spent the last three years following these men and their families as they've coped with just the latest disaster. After her film was featured at the Slamdance Film Festival -- a showcase for films that the Sundance Film Festival slept on -- it was picked up by acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay, whose African-American Film Festival Release Movement (AFFRM) company will distribute it. We caught up with Jefferson by phone  to discuss her experience in creating this important film.

So how did you learn about these oystermen?

I tell people all the time that while it's about 50 miles from New Orleans, Pointe a la Hache is really a world away. Even though I grew up in New Orleans I had never really visited these areas. When I went, I was totally enamored by the place. I had never thought about who caught our seafood before, or that these were family businesses that went back generations. When I realized that this was a place standing on its last legs, I knew it was a story I wanted to capture and not just for the sake of telling the story, but also to try and be helpful to this community. I hope that's what "Vanishing Pearls" does. It's why we decided to stick around and not just capture the first six months after spill. There hasn't been a recovery for these oystermen on an economic or ecological level.  

As you stayed on beyond the six months, did you ever worry about the so-called Gulf Coast Fatigue, people supposedly tiring of hearing about disasters in this area?

Well, we were also up against BP's million-dollar ad campaign saying the Gulf has recovered, and then trying to position themselves as the victims here. So it was an even steeper climb than just fatigue. Also, I think a lot of people assume these fishermen have been paid, or they've been overpaid. That's a perception we found a lot of people had, even within the region and definitely outside the region. We definitely want to overcome these false perceptions that BP has been successful in putting out there, and let people know there are many communities that haven't been paid. But it's not just about  the money. It's about the culture and heritage -- the oystermen just want to go back to fish. Oyster harvests are down 71 percent from before the spill in 2010, so that shows they have not returned to any normalcy in Pointe a la Hache.

In terms of audience, who were you speaking to with this film?

I think this is for anyone who like myself had a respect for the environment but wouldn't call themselves environmentalists, people who have a heart for people and love for history and storytelling. So, definitely someone who is inquisitive and who very much has a respect and curiosity for history. But also someone who is very much interested in how these situations played out. [People who want to know] what really happened four years later, [if] the money thrown at it went to the appropriate people [and if] the parties responsible for these disasters were held accountable?

How did you support yourself financially all this time while making the film?

When I came into the project I had someone who said they were interested in being an investor. About six months out, that fell through but I was too into the story to give it up by then. I had to take out two loans, and then we were able to get donations. Then we found an investor, thank God, in Dean Blanchard, who carried us from 2012 all the way until this deal with AFFRM. It's been hard, but it's nothing I would not do again in a heartbeat. it all actually worked out in my favor, because when I got the call from Ava [DuVernay] she said, 'OK, who did you get money from and who owns this film?' I said, 'Well, I do.'  

There have been so many villains for these oystermen, from BP to the oil and gas industry to the state of Louisiana itself. How were you able to pick which parts of the story to tell?

That was a struggle. There were so many different components to this story, and unfortunately you can't add everything or else this film would never end. It's so funny because the fishermen would say, "Well, you can come back and do a part two." [Laughs.] But, of course, there was a big issue with the [Mississippi River] freshwater diversions of the early 1990s, like the Caernarvon diversion that wiped out a lot of the private oyster beds that these guys had on the east bank of the [Mississippi] river. That's a story I wanted to include. From what Mr. Byron Encalade [president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association and key character of "Vanishing Pearls"] has told me he thinks there are more coming and that it might be a losing battle. So right now their focus is on mitigation.

Hear more about Nailah Jefferson at my blog over at Grist.org

For more on the Louisiana black oystermen check out this photo gallery from Shawn Escoffery, which ran in Colorlines shortly after the BP spill. Also read Race-Baiting the Gulf to Exploit Black and Brown Workers and Black Gulf Fishers Face a Murky Future.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Young Muslims Choosing to Wear the Hijab Despite Rising Tide of Islamophobia

New America Media - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:05
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Salmon Hossein, an Afghan-American Muslim working on a joint law and public policy degree at UC Berkeley and Harvard, says that his own family hates that he has a beard. The outward sign of his Muslim... Anna Challet http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Black LGBT Seniors Struggle with Double Discrimination

New America Media - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:05
 Photo: Larry Saxxon said homophobia in the African American community and racism in the LGBT community makes for a narrow margin with which to work for gay African Americans. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)Part 4 of series. For links to the... Matthew S. Bajko http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Traditional Cambodian Dance Being Reborn in California

New America Media - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 10:40
 LONG BEACH -- Emily Ngov’s grandmother had always liked watching the little girls perform Cambodian dances and wanted her granddaughter to do the same. In just second grade, Ngov began learning about her Khmer culture through dance.Time passed, Ngov got... Vivian Gatica http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Entrevista: Madre de San Francisco pide que los padres latinos participen en la educación de sus hijos

New America Media - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 00:47
EnglishNote del editor: Hace 10 años, el Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Francisco (SFUSD por sus siglas en inglés) empezó su Comité Asesor de Padres (Parent Advisory Council, o PAC), un grupo independiente de padres que les representan a los... Vanessa Serpas http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Lack of Diversity is Only a Symptom

Colorlines - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 00:00
Lack of Diversity is Only a Symptom

Daniel José Older is an author who's navigated the publishing industry; as such, he knows what it's like to push up against an institutionally racist trade. In a powerful essay over at Buzzfeed, Older describes the contradiction--and the pain--of loving the craft of writing, yet having to deal with a publishing industry that not only assumes that people of color don't read, but that people of color also lack what it takes to be masterful writers.  

In the essay, titled "Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing," Older also problematizes the drive for diversity:

We're right to push for diversity, we have to, but it is only step one of a long journey. Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism. It walks hand in hand with sexism, cissexism, homophobia, and classism. To go beyond this same conversation we keep having, again and again, beyond tokens and quick fixes, requires us to look the illness in the face and destroy it. This is work for white people and people of color to do, sometimes together, sometimes apart. It's work for writers, agents, editors, artists, fans, executives, interns, directors, and publicists. It's work for reviewers, educators, administrators. It means taking courageous, real-world steps, not just changing mission statements or submissions guidelines.

Take a few minutes to read his essay in full

Categories: Diversity Headlines

More Voting Rights Restoration Coming for Virginia

Colorlines - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 22:13
More Voting Rights Restoration Coming for Virginia

Virginians with felony convictions on their criminal records will have an easier path to having their voting rights restored thanks to reforms called for this morning by Governor Terry McAuliffe, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Under McAuliffe's new rules, the time that people convicted of "violent" felonies must wait to apply for rights restoration will shrink from five years to three years. The list of crimes that constitute "violent felonies" in Virginia has historically included drug charges. That will change with these new reforms. All drug distribution and manufacturing crimes will be recategorized as "nonviolent" felonies, which means Virginians with these drug convictions will have no waiting period for applying for restoration. All "nonviolent" felony convictions already qualify Virginians for automatic rights restoration when they appeal directly to the governor, a policy instituted by former governor Bob McDonnell. 

Finally, in case there's still any confusion around what crimes are considered "violent" or "nonviolent" felonies, the McAuliffe administration plans to post a list on its website for clarification. 

"Virginians who have made a mistake and paid their debt to society should have their voting rights restored through a process that is as transparent and responsive as possible," McAuliffe said in a statement.

Virginia once had some of the strictest terms for restoring voting rights in the nation. A coalition of grassroots organizations led by the Virginia NAACP state conference, Advancement Project, Virginia New Majority, Virginia Organizing, Holla Back and Restore, S.O.B.E.R. House, and Bridging the Gap in Virginia have worked to make the new reforms possible. 

But there is still much further to go. The civil rights organizations are pushing for automatic voting rights restoration for all people who have paid their debts to society immediately after serving their time in prison. 

"While we are glad the Governor has responded to community concerns, we remain concerned about Virginia's continued distinction between violent and non-violent offenses in the voting rights restoration process," said Advancement Project Managing Director and General Counsel, Edward A. Hailes. "There are numerous benefits to restoring voting rights for people who have completed their sentences, including the fostering of full community integration and the fulfillment of our core democratic principles. Those benefits apply for everyone, regardless of the basis for their conviction. We encourage Virginia to join the majority of states, which do not make distinctions between different types of offenses, by passing a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights for all."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Is a 'Massive Wave of Immigration' on the Horizon?

New America Media - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 21:43
A recent story in USA Today predicting that "another massive wave of illegal immigration is forming and rapidly headed to our shores” caught the eye of editors at Fusion, the English-language Latino TV network launched by Univision and ABC.  The... Fusion http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

After Twitter Debate, Univ. of Michigan Details New Plan to Increase Black Enrollment

Colorlines - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 21:30
After Twitter Debate, Univ. of Michigan Details New Plan to Increase Black Enrollment

On Wednesday the University of Michigan, together with the school's Black Student Union, announced a new initiative to increase black student enrollment at the school by making the university a more welcoming place for black students. The plan is the result of a months-long conversation between administrators and students after the BSU set off a Twitter storm late last year when the student group kicked off the hashtag #BBUM (for Being Black at University of Michigan), asking black students at the school to speak up about their experiences with racial hostility on campus. 

The Detroit News reported the details of the plan:

As a way of increasing diversity on campus, U-M will partner with black students at university-sponsored events that encourage African-Americans who have been admitted to the U-M to enroll.

U-M also will launch a pilot transportation project for black students living in more affordable housing outside Ann Arbor; earmark $300,000 to improve security at the Trotter Multicultural Center; and create a website for emergency funds available to students.


Other initiatives include creating a multicultural center on central campus, since the current facility used by BSU and other minority groups is off campus. A new program will be provided to all resident halls this fall to enhance understanding of race and ethnicity.

Additionally, university officials have begun digitizing documents at the Bentley Historical Library about U-M's Black Action Movement -- a series of protests at the university about black student recruitment, enrollment and experience that began in the 1970s.

"The students raised issues that absolutely needed to be dealt with and provided valuable insight on ways to effect change," University of Michigan Provost Martha Pollack said, the Detroit News reported. "We are grateful to each student for his or her willingness to engage in this important dialogue. Through their personal commitment to the work, the administration has deepened its understanding of the students' experiences."

Let this be a comfort to those weary of "hashtag activism" of late. Conversations that start on Twitter can open up space for productive offline conversations--and concrete positive changes. Check out 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Chinatown as Disneyland? The Future of an Ethnic Space

Hyphen Blog - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 21:00

From Starbucks to Quickly’s bubble tea, NYC Chinatown storefronts are getting a major makeover to match the upscaling of the previously working-class neighborhood.

read more

Categories: Diversity Headlines

April Lit: "She Will Never" by Wing Tek Lum

Hyphen Blog - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 20:20

As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, we offer you a second dose of Asian American poetry: "She Will Never" by Wing Tek Lum.

read more

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Lawsuit Alleges Contents at Native Am. Burial Site Were Dumped

New America Media - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 20:08
A lawsuit filed last week in California alleges that a Native American burial site was desecrated and that the contents were dumped near the U.S.-Mexico border.Two Jamul tribal members claim their ancestors were interred in unmarked graves on the site... Indian Country Today Media Network http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Voter Suppression -- Ohio's Incredible Tactics

New America Media - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 20:02
It was a sunny March morning when Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner (D) and her small band boarded the No. 4 bus, beginning their trek from the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati to a proposed new county Board of Elections... Zenitha Prince http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Prison Rape: Getting From Punchline to Serious Crime

Colorlines - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 19:29
 Getting From Punchline to Serious Crime

In a late March letter to attorney general Eric Holder, Texas governor Rick Perry apologized. In it he wrote that his state and, he suspected others, too, would not be able to comply with the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) because of burdensome oversight rules. While Perry's letter provoked a burst of media coverage, able observers mostly pointed out puzzling inaccuracies and phoned in easy rebuttals. In the meantime, PREA is back in the media spotlight.

Until Perry's letter, PREA had generally remained in the shadows even as it stands to impact more than 2 million people and the culture of punishment within the nation's prisons and jails. Colorlines checked in with prison reform experts to get a status update on whether, more than a decade after PREA's passage, we're any closer to reducing prisoner-to-prisoner or staff-to-prisoner sexual assault.

Sexual abuse should not be an inevitable feature of incarceration.

Passed by unanimous congressional consent, PREA establishes a standard that rape in prison--just like rape on the outside--is unacceptable*. For the first time prisons, jails and immigration and juvenile detention facilities are required to track incidences of prison rape; provide resources to help protect prisoners; and extend recourse to survivors. With national standards finalized last year, many facilities are only just now starting their first on-site audits. Going forward, at least every three years, inspectors will look for things like whether staff has been trained to help prevent sexual assault or if prisoners have been informed of how to report incidents.

The takeaway: "PREA acknowledges that prison rape is a problem," says editor Alex Friedmann, who follows PREA developments closely for Prison Legal News' 9,000 subscribers, 70 percent of whom are incarcerated. "You can't brush it under the carpet anymore. You can't say that prisoners deserve it."

Stigma makes tracking sexual assault inside prison walls difficult.

Roughly 200,000 men, women and children reported being sexually abused in detention facilities in 2011, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has anonymously self-reported data from inmates. For prisons, whites reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization at twice the rate of blacks. Black and Hispanic inmates reported higher rates of staff sexual misconduct. Persons of two or more races reported by far the highest rates for both inmate-on-inmate (4 percent) and staff sexual misconduct (3.9 percent). And of the more than 600 correctional facilities surveyed that year, the Oglala Sioux facility in Pine Ridge, S.D. reported the highest rate of staff sexual misconduct (10.8 percent)*. (The national average for prisons and jails is 2.4 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively).

Despite the above, however, the true incidence of sexual violence for all inmates is likely higher, Chris Daley, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, says. "We just don't have a good method of estimating how much higher." 

Friedmann points out that the stigmas bounding rape and sexual assault victims to silence on the outside are exacerbated behind prison walls. "If anything [the pressure to not report is] more exacerbated in prison where any sign of weakness sets you up for further abuse," Friedmann says. "And, if you're being abused by a staff member you may face retaliation, too."

PREA's implementation does not mean that imprisoned loved ones are now safe.

"We believe a number of agencies have aggressively moved forward with implementing PREA and in those facilities the culture and infrastructure is starting to be in place," Daley says. "But we're still a far cry from improving day-to-day safety." What PREA does do is provide tools (like reporting hotlines for inmates) and it improves response mechanisms. For example, PREA empowers loved ones to report incidents to non-staff law enforcement on a prisoner's behalf. "So a family member can now file a report with state inspectors or the police and expect to hear an official response." But know, Daley says, that "in some facilities, sexual abuse is deeply entrenched and it will take a while for daily life to improve."

Even with PREA's fairly extensive reporting and response requirement, Friedmann points out that it is an unfunded mandate. "Other than a moral incentive to comply there's no real financial incentive for states to comply," he says. (There's a 5 percent loss of federal funds for states that don't participate in the audit but the funds would be disbursed if the state uses it for compliance.) He adds, "PREA is a decent bill with decent protections but it's not the best that it could be."

Still, PREA is better than the zero-response regime that preceded it.

"In the past any number of corrections officers would say one of three things to an inmate [claiming sexual abuse]," Daley says: 'Defend yourself'; 'I don't get involved in domestic disputes'; or,'Sure I'll take care of that'--and never do anything about it." Now, Daley says, staff members or contractors know that if they do nothing to prevent abuse then their jobs are at risk.

Popular culture outside prison walls affects tolerance for rape on the inside.

"The only acceptable humor involving rape has to do with prison rape," says Friedmann who, like other Prison Legal News employees was once incarcerated. "It's acceptable to have the 'drop the soap' joke. We haven't gotten away from that because the public has a skewed idea of what really happens in prison. You have to realize: prison walls don't just keep prisoners from getting out*. They keep the public from looking in, too."

*Post has been updated.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Video: Immigration Policy Harms U.S. Citizens, Too

Colorlines - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 18:23

Nineteen people were arrested outside of Boston's Suffolk Detention Center Thursday after they chained themselves in protest of the Obama administration's immigration policy. Nearly 200 more marched outside the center, in growing protests as part of the #Not1More campaign

Among the 19 people arrested was 17-year-old Andres del Castillo. In a powerful statement captured on video, del Castillo explains what's at stake for mixed-status families.

Those arrested were released late Thursday evening. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Major Investigation Looks at Nation's Re-Segregating Schools

Colorlines - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 17:58
Major Investigation Looks at Nation's Re-Segregating Schools

As a follow up to her 2012 investigation into residential segregation, ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones is back, this time with a year-long look at re-segregating schools in the South and the nation, too. In "Segregation Now,":

Almost everywhere in the country, Hannah-Jones found, the gains of integration have been eroded. And nowhere has that been more powerfully and disturbingly true than in the South - once home to both the worst of segregation and the greatest triumphs of integration. Freed from the federal oversight that produced integration, schools districts across the 11 former states of the Confederacy have effectively re-instituted segregation for large numbers of black students, in practical terms if not in law.

The complete reporting package on re-segregated schooling today is huge so here's a handy how-to-read/view guide as well as a plain, non-graphics text-only version. Each chapter, based on Hannah-Jones' embedding in the Tuscaloosa, Ala. school district, will be rolled out over three days, beginning today. So settle in! 

In the meantime though, be sure to share your six words on race and education in America. And look out for reaction over the coming week to this major investigation--and add your own.

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