Updated: 3 days 12 hours ago
Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:12
Remember Jorge Narvaez and his young daughter, Alexa? Their 2010 videotaped cover of Edward Sharpe's "Home" eventually garnered 27 million view on YouTube and led to appearances on "Ellen" and "America's Got Talent." But, as Jorge Rivas writes at Fusion, the occasion wasn't exactly a family affair:
In March, Narvaez's mother [Esther Alvarado] was one of 78 adult individuals who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to turn themselves over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and seek asylum from the countries where they were born.
In March, Narvaez released an updated version of the video to bring attention to his mother's case.
Thu, 04/17/2014 - 19:13
Labor unions in the U.S. are at a crossroads and workers of color--particularly women, and immigrants-- figure prominently in how well they move forward. Big labor, now down to representing only about one in every 10 American workers, knows this. But incorporating immigrants and non-union and unemployed workers will also mean addressing their community issues, too--like mass incarceration and immigration reform. And for many young workers facing a bleaker present and future than many current pensioners, advancing non-workplace issues affecting low-income and working class people of color makes the difference between joining up or observing from a distance. Some unions get that. And that's all some young workers are demanding.
The support Constance Malcolm, 40, received from her union exemplifies this trend, which is known as social justice unionism. Malcolm belongs to an unenviable club of black moms. On an early February afternoon in 2012, about two weeks before George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, the NYPD kicked in the door of her Bronx apartment and in the bathroom, an officer shot her 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham in the chest. He was unarmed. A bag of marijuana floated in the toilet bowl.
Questions about how officers came to follow Graham in the first place as he left a nearby bodega found a growing community space for protest. Civil disobediences to end racial profiling and stop-and-frisk were then beginning to be seen more frequently due to a handful of dedicated activists. But the death of an unarmed teen helped magnify the call.
What had previously been small street corner rallies of 10 to 20 people mushroomed within four months into a march of tens of thousands down Fifth Avenue to then-mayor Michael Bloomberg's mansion. Part of the reason was Graham's mom. Ten years ago Malcolm, a certified nursing assistant, joined Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the fastest growing labor unions in the country. Identified by their purple and yellow T-shirts, her local, 1199SEIU East, along with Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, organized the 2012 Father's Day march. It showed New York City for the first time just how many people, and not just black and Latino males, were against the NYPD's practice of stop-and-frisk.
"Eleven ninety nine got thousands of people to come out to march and see the injustice being done to black and brown people," Malcolm says one early afternoon by phone. Her shift as a certified nursing assistant at a Bronx home has not too long ended. "So much had been going on with our youth, especially around stop-and-frisk, and people seemed not to pay attention. But 1199 got people out in the street."
"They're not just here for members but for all people," Malcolm says. "I think they would support anyone in an unjust situation."
How unions use (or, don't use) their organizing power was a key theme among young workers of color and young whites, too, at a recent Chicago labor conference attended by 3,000 rank-and-file members from around the country. In an era of cutbacks in jobs, public services, wages and, until recently, healthcare, a union's willingness to represent the hard issues facing their generation and all working communities appears to matter even more. It is not enough to work for members' on-the-job concerns, only.
"Unions want more members in order to be more powerful--but in order to do what?" asks 25-year-old Michelle Crentsil, an African-American union member who advocates on behalf of medical residents and doctors in New York City. "We can be more powerful to get good contracts and we should. But we need to be more powerful to address police brutality and mass incarceration, too."
In some ways, unions organizing for all workers, not just dues-paying members on the job is a practical matter. Compared to 30 percent of the workforce in the early 1960s, only one out of every 10 American workers is a union member today.
"They're going to die," Cornell University labor professor Kate Bronfenbrenner matter-of-factly says, of unions that don't look beyond workplaces to engage non-union workers in social justice unionism.
For Crentsil, appealing to new membership matters. She points out that research consistently shows that people of color, particularly women of color, are the workers most likely to unionize today. So supporting a living wage for non-union fast food workers, or advocating for local ordinances around paid sick leave or affordable childcare makes sense. More than that though, Crentsil, a Harvard grad from a working class family with union ties in Kentucky*, cares about strategy and wants unions to be clear-eyed about the attacks they've faced over the last few decades.
"When unions talk about inequality we have to name the implications that has for people of color and the intentionality behind that," she says. "When [this country] thinks of a public worker, for example, they think of a lazy black woman in a post office. They're saying these workers don't deserve protections or higher pay because they have racist, sexist notions of who these workers are."
Crentsil sees a clear bright line connecting increasingly difficult on-the-job fights for all workers, and the dominant racist framing of workers as undeserving.
"Every contract fight is dealing with basically the micro-manifestation of a larger problem of how we view workers in America," she says. Those biases, which debase one group of workers, justify continued lowering of protections and job security for all workers, union or no, Crentsil suggests.
It was difficult initially for 34-year-old Ramsés Teón-Nichols to connect his struggles as a young Latino on the job, with struggles he faced as a young Latino in the world. A case manager at a nonprofit providing housing to the homeless in San Francisco, Teón-Nichols is also vice president of organizing for an SEIU local. A decade ago however, he was a recent college grad with a deep student activist background who saw big labor as bureaucratic and unresponsive or unaccountable to "the community."
"I'd see hotel workers go on strike where I grew up in Las Vegas but it felt like, well, they look out for their own. What about the great majority of us who don't have a union?" Teón-Nichols says.
What he didn't realize then, he says, was that those hotel workers were bringing hard-won income as well as a sense of stability that derived from job contracts, back home to their neighborhoods.
"Without those on-the-job protections, things would be that much more difficult in their neighborhoods," says Teón-Nichols who describes as a formative and enriching moment, helping to form a union of nonprofit workers in his 20s with other low-income men of color.
"Forming a union gave us a space to figure a way out of unfair work conditions and managers that we thought were racist," he says. "And in a way, as men of color, we felt like by fighting back against racist bosses we were also fighting this larger system that in our daily lives was keeping us down."
Dina Yarmus, 29, a waitress in a hotel restaurant and an organizer in her Unite Here local in Philadelphia says she wouldn't stand for a union that only supported members.
"If I found myself in a union that only advocated for dues-paying members, I'd organize to change that," she says. "There are union members in that struggle now. You need to figure out how to do both."
Yarmus, who is white, is aware of how race plays in her workplace, throughout the hotel industry and in her city. White workers typically fill front-of-house positions. Lower-paid and back-of-the-house positions: Native and immigrant men and women of color. And because of Philadelphia's history, she says, it takes longer and is harder to build trust. But after a decade of fighting in her workplace and in Philadelphia communities for immigrant rights, against gentrification and for quality public schools, Yarmus says that what bridges the gap between all workers is a desire to have more control over their lives when so much--like unemployment, food stamps--is being taken away.
"People are being pushed and pushed to see their problems as individual with individual solutions," Yarmus says. "But our power comes from the ability to act collectively. A union is about fighting for democracy in the workplace but a union movement has to be about fighting for democracy in society."
While broad union membership has been on the decline, labor professor and researcher Bronfenbrenner says certain sectors are growing--especially if they are organizing women of color.
"The corporate-state alliance is so tight and workers rights are increasingly being dismantled so for unions to have power they're going to have to build community coalitions and fight over much bigger issues," she says.
"That means, for example, women in the workplace are going to have to get men to join with them to fight over rights over access to birth control and reproductive health issues. And workers of color are going to have to get white workers to join with them to make sure they have access to the vote."
For 1199SEIU in New York City, social justice unionism meant organizing around stop-and-frisk and police brutality.
No doubt, Malcolm, a nursing assistant who emigrated as a teen from Jamaica, appreciates the comparative job security offered by belonging to 1199. The Bronx has the highest unemployment in the state, 12 percent, and just a few train stops away from Malcolm's working-class neighborhood is the poorest congressional district in the nation.
But she appreciates, too, that her union president spoke during the recent second anniversary of Ramarley's death.
"He could've been somewhere else but he came," she says. With a grand jury failing last fall to re-indict Richard Haste, the officer who pulled the trigger, Malcolm is now asking the Department of Justice to step in and launch an investigation not only into Haste but the other officers on the scene.
Ramarley would have turned 21 this past Saturday.
*Post has been updated.
Thu, 04/17/2014 - 17:44
Since 1788, the state of New York has taken 2.5 million acres of Onondaga land in violation of a historic treaty as well as in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Six months ago, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that dismissed a land claim case first filed by the Onondaga Nation in 2005, which means U.S. courts are no longer an option. The Onondaga have long waited for Congress to move forward on a settlement act--but that hasn't happened, either. So an international venue is a logical next step.
The Onondaga Nation, whose home is what most know as Upstate New York, has filed a petition against the United States at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. If they're successful in this autonomous body of the Organization of American States, the commission will find that the United States is violating human rights of the Onondaga.
It's important to keep in mind that the commission broadly interprets human rights in the Americas; it can issue recommendations, but it isn't a court. There is an Inter-American Court of Human Rights, but the U.S. has never ratified its convention, and isn't party to the court.
"The U.S. government doesn't even live up to its own constitution," says Chief Virgil Thomas. "Their courts will never do justice for us."
Here are seven more things to keep in mind about why the Onondaga are taking their petition to an international human rights commission.
The Onondaga are part of an important confederacy of nations that governed well before the United States was even an idea.
The Onondaga, or People of the Hill, are one of six Native nations along with the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy--sometimes referred to as the Iroquois or Six Nations. The confederacy's territory extends over a good part of upstate New York, and into Canada. The Onondaga claim includes land in Syracuse and Binghamton.
The Haudenosaunee have had a government since well before Europeans arrived in the Americas. When Haudenosaunee entered into various treaties, they did so with sovereign counterparts. The Onondaga has always held sovereign authority over its nation, and as part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The Onondaga birthed democracy in what we know as North America.
According to the Haudenosaunee, a messenger of peace met with warring nations to bring them together around 1,000 A.D. Soon after, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed at the shores of Onondaga Lake. "That's the birth of true democracy," says Tadodaho Sid Hill, an Onondaga chief.
In 1744 and 1753 Benjamin Franklin visited the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and envisioned a settler confederacy influenced by what he saw there. That confederacy eventually became the United States of America. Today the Onondaga Lake is a massive Superfund site full of pollutants in the water and wildlife.
This petition has everything to do honoring treaties.
The Northwest Indian War--which took place for 10 years, largely over what we call the state of Ohio today--proved devastating for the United States just after it had gained independence from Britain. Although it's hardly recognized, the Battle of Wabash in 1791 resulted in the biggest Native defeat of the U.S. Army to date.
Anxious that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy would join the Western Confederacy that was proving victorious against the United States in Ohio, President George Washington sent wampum string to the Haudenosaunee chiefs, and asked Congress to appropriate funds to create a wampum belt to memorialize the treaty. The resulting 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua between the Haudenosaunee and the United States makes clear that the land in question belongs to the Haudenosaunee.
The Onondaga Nation was barred from filing a land claim in federal court, and was then told it waited too long.
The Onondaga Nation--like all Native nations--was barred from even taking land claims to federal court until 1974. Nevertheless, the Onondaga attempted to negotiate an amicable agreement with the state New York to have a say in the Onondaga Lake cleanup effort, and hoped that Congress would pass a land claims settlement act as it prepared the resources and know-how necessary to file a claim. When the Onondaga did so on March 11, 2005, it was legally valid in U.S. courts, but just 18 days later, a Supreme Court ruling for a similar case made the Onondaga claim illegal. In that ruling, Sherrill v. Oneida, the high court essentially came up with a separate set of rules that only applies to Native nations and land rights.
The Onondaga aren't looking for money, evictions or casinos.
The Onondaga Nation has a clear legal claim to its land and waters, which is spelled out in treaties. As such, it's entitled to seek damages and evictions. But, according to chiefs and the attorney filing the petition at the commission, the nation is not doing so, nor does it want to open casinos in the area. Instead, the Onondaga Nation wants a clear say in how to protect the land and the water, especially the Onondaga Lake. The nation has long worked with environmental groups, helping to stop a coal plant in 2007, works against hydrofracking today, and has a legal team that helps locals end their gas leases. The nation isn't seeking anything other than what's already spelled out in treaties and guaranteed in federal law.
Native nations have been already been successful at the commission.
In 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the United States violated the human rights of the Western Shoshone--they body's first ruling against the United States. The case concerned violations to due process, property, and equality under the law. The U.S., however, has ignored that finding.
A moral victory would be important.
The Onondaga's petition accuses the United States of violating human rights by stealing land and devastating the environment. If nothing else, the commission's decision to accept the petition means that the Onondaga are being heard. That's an incredibly important step for the Onondaga, who have long been wronged on their own land.
Thu, 04/17/2014 - 17:21
Windy City natives Kanye West and Common are teaming up with the Chicago Urban League for an initiative that they say will create 20,000 jobs for young people in the city.
Chicago's gun violence epidemic has been national news in recent years. Nearly half of the city's 2,389 homicide victims between 2008 and 2012 were younger than 25, and more than 2,300 young people survived shootings last year, as my colleague Carla Murphy noted earlier this week when gun violence began in the city began to increase once again. Illinois also became the latest state to pass a law permitting registered gun owners to carry concealed firearms after a bitter fight that had victims of gun violence at its center.
From the Chicago Defender:
Common recently announced during a press conference that his Common Ground Foundation will be working with Kanye West's Donda's House, Inc. and the Chicago Urban League in an initiative to bring employment opportunities through The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. 92 percent of the Black youth in Chicago are unemployed, which means that many of these kids are on the streets. And we've all read the gruesome headlines about Chicago's cruel streets. But what's worse is Chicago has become the center of the national gun debate, and the city's youth has taken the hardest hit from gun violence.
While the move has been celebrated by local and hip-hop news outlets, it's unclear what these jobs will actually look like and how much they'll pay. The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative focuses on finding year-round employment for young people between the ages of 16 and 24, and also provides mentoring and support services. Read more at the Urban League.
Thu, 04/17/2014 - 17:06
Here's what I'm reading about while not eating Cheerios this morning:
- The captain of the South Korean ferry was one of the first to escape; 284 people, mostly teens, are still missing.
- An overnight raid in Ukraine leaves three people dead.
- Edward Snowden questions Putin on television about Russian surveillance.
- Jobless claims are down to levels not seen since 2007.
- 19-year-old Canadian computer science student Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes is arrested for exploiting Heartbleed to hack Canada's Revenue Agency.
- X-Men director Bryan Singer is accused of drugging and raping a teenager.
- Guess who benefits from those free drug samples your doctor's hawking? Big pharma.
- And finally, do you 'like' any General Mills brands on Facebook? Doing so clicks away your right to sue them.
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 23:48
Oakland-based hip-hop group Los Rakas released a new album this week called, "El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo." It's the fifth album for the bilingual duo, and perhaps their most political work yet. This video for the single "Sueño Americano" takes direct aim at America's broken immigration system. The lyrics are in Spanish, but you can read a translation after the jump.
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 19:30
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 17:25
In a January story featuring 2014 predictions from 32 community leaders, Crain's Cleveland Business profiled no African-Americans or Asian-Americans. There was one Latino. And 30 of the 32 leaders whose views were published were men. How do those erasures happen in a city where more than half of the population is black and one third of its businesses are owned by women?
Crain's Cleveland with the help of concerned community members is apparently trying to figure that out.
Whites comprise about one third of Cleveland's population, Latinos are at 10 percent and Asian-Americans, just under 2 percent. Asian-American business owners account for 3 percent of the city's firms and African-Americans, roughly 25 percent.
(h/t Crain's Cleveland)
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 17:23
It was Moral Mondays that inspired us to start organizing, an African-American teacher from North Carolina told me recently at a national labor conference. Bunking three to a room and skimping on hotel-priced breakfast that morning, she and her colleagues had trekked to Chicago in search of more inspiration and, strategy. I thought of her after reading this week's Mother Jones profile of Rev. William Barber II, the man behind Moral Mondays. What he began last year as a small protest against voting rights infringement blossomed this February into a rally of tens of thousands.
Barber, who suffers a painful arthritic condition and is also pastor of Greenleaf Church in Goldsboro,
...has channeled the pent-up frustration of North Carolinians who were shocked by how quickly their state had been transformed into a laboratory for conservative policies. [And] what may be most notable about Barber's new brand of civil rights activism is how he's taken a partisan fight and presented it as an issue that transcends party or race--creating a more sustained pushback against Republican overreach than anywhere else in the country.
Read more at Mother Jones.
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:58
Here's what I'm reading about this morning:
- At least four people are dead, and nearly 300 people (mostly students) are missing after a ferry sinks off the coast of South Korea.
- Residents in eastern Ukraine are preparing for the worst.
- A man is in custody after a bomb scare at the Boston Marathon yesterday.
- Obama will announce a $600 million jobs training and apprenticeship program.
- Bank of America loses $6 billion on legal expenses in the first quarter.
- Twitter acquires analytic firm Gnip (which it was selling your data to all along).
- The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off today, with Nas himself at the Beacon Theater:
- A week after Shabazz Napier said he sometimes goes to bed hungry, the NCAA announces athletes will get unlimited food and snacks.
- Remember how GlaxoSmithKline was accused of bribing doctors Monday? Its new diabetes drug is approved by the FDA today.
- Mexico's former president Felipe Calderón, who fled his own drug war amid corruption scandals and left his country an economic disaster, actually makes economic arguments for tackling climate change.
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 06:11
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:
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.
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:51
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.
Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:37
The NYPD announced today that it has disbanded a post-9/11 plainclothes unit used to spy on Muslims in their communities. The Demographics Unit, according to a pay-walled New York Times article, mapped entire neighborhoods and built detailed profiles of where people ate, shopped and prayed. The move is being interpreted as one indication that the NYPD is backing away from controversial post-9/11 surveillance tactics, which are the subject of at least two suits brought by area Muslims and civil rights groups.
For more on these cases and their impact, see today's frontpage article by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh on Colorlines.
(h/t The New York Times)
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:52
Chicago's gun violence is back in the news again with yesterday's headline: 4 dead among at least 36 shot in 36 hours. "Chiraq's" gun violence and murder rate have been well covered by media over the last few years. A brief recap follows, in addition to the latest on solutions.
Most homicides occur on the city's predominantly black and Latino south and west sides. Much of the violence concentrates among youth. Almost half of Chicago's 2,389 homicide victims between 2008-2012 were killed before their 25th birthdays, according to a new Chicago-focused human rights report from Amnesty International. And that says nothing of the youth who survive shootings (more than 2,300 in 2013) or witness them. Again, from Amnesty: "Studies have shown that youth exposed to high levels of violence often become the victims and perpetrators of the violence, exhibiting the same psychological trauma as children growing up in urban war zones."
A fair question then: how is Chicago--from communities to schools to city hall to hospitals--intervening in the lives of all those young people with unaddressed psychological trauma?
New FBI director, James Comey in a visit yesterday to the city reportedly said: "You can't arrest your way to a healthy neighborhood"--even though cops and more cops appears to be the public's main demand. So if according to America's top cop, the punitive arm of the criminal justice system is only one part of the city's solution to gun violence and extreme rates of victimization among youth, what are others?
The new Amnesty report begins by recognizing that scattering public housing residents and recent school closings contribute, respectively, to fracturing previously hierarchal gangs and endangering Chicago's youth. It makes a few tangible recommendations as well. The first: properly investigating allegations of torture levied against Chicago police from the 1970s through the 1990s. One new investigation from watchdog group, BetterGov.org tracks increasing police misconduct claims over the past decade as well as skyrocketing costs ($84.6m in 2013, alone). Real reform won't come however, it says, until CPD addresses its own "no-snitch" culture and tolerance for abuse.
Other recommendations, including adequately funding anti-gang youth initiatives and beefing up protections for immigrants and LGBTQI individuals, make the Amnesty report a worthwhile read. Note too, how one Calif. group aims to help its crime victims of color living in high crime neighborhoods by first making them visible.
(h/t Chicago Tribune)
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:49
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)
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:48
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."
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:17
The César Chávez film has had its share of thoughtful criticism. Dolores Huerta kinda answered the controversy around Chávez's stance on undocumented immigrants (although it's unclear if anyone has asked her about her own). And, speaking of Huerta, where were the women in the film? And where were the Pinoy workers who influenced Chávez's work with the United Farm Workers (UFW)? But now, a Budweiser video connected with the film, which stars Diego Luna, is raising eyebrows.
The self-proclaimed King of Beers has long sponsored the UFW, and has now released a video of a special screening for held for farmworkers in Delano, California. It concludes with a clip of Chávez's son explaining, in Spanish (which is a bit bizarre, considering the video is in English, and Paul Chávez speaks English), that his father enjoyed drinking his Bud.
(h/t Latino Rebels)
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 20:16
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:
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 20:13
On an afternoon last November bell hooks sat on stage in an auditorium at the New School in New York City with Melissa Harris-Perry to talk about the finer points of black feminism. The two had a lively discussion that touched on everything from the trope of the angry black woman to the myth that black people are comfortable living in poverty. But the most seminal moment of the day came during the Q&A portion, when Tanya Fields, a single black mother of four who lives in the Bronx, put words to the painful stigma surrounding single black motherhood.
"The push-back that I am often feeling is not from white folks in the community," said Fields. It is from the other sisters who tear me down, tell me that the reason I am low-income is because I didn't have the insight to choose good men, that I should've kept my hand out and mouth closed and legs closed."
As she took a breath and gathered her emotions, Fields finished with an admission. "I consider myself a black feminist," she said, "but some days, it's just so hard to get out of bed and face other black people."
Harris-Perry then got up, walked off stage toward Fields, and embraced her in a long, tearful hug.
It was the night's most powerful moment. For all of the bile thrown at single black mothers, this had turned into a moment to truly celebrate them. But it wasn't just the audience of roughly 900 people inside of the New School auditorium that witnessed it. Hundreds more were tuned into a livestream of the talk.
Technology is changing the shape of education. Aspiring students can earn online degrees at schools such as the University of Phoenix or sign up with Coursera to take free online classes from Harvard, Stanford and MIT. Even elementary school classrooms are equipped with iPads. And while education's drift toward tech is fraught with questions of legitimacy, depth and professors' job security, what has emerged over the past six months is an opening for public intellectuals of color to work with universities and libraries to bring their work to broader audiences.
Stephanie Browner, a dean and professor of Literary Studies at the New School, says that the talk's popularity was the result of a perfect storm. "What good, race-thinking feminist doesn't read bell hooks?" Browner asks. "But we don't have a lot of opportunities to see bell hooks. She's a great thinker who walks between the academy and connecting [concepts] with regular peoples' lives. You add Melissa Harris-Perry and the platform she has on MSNBC, put them up on stage and record it, and there's an incredible appetite for that."
The trend didn't start or stop with bell hooks and Melissa Harris Perry at the New School. The concept of live-streaming is an old one in Internet years, and the New School's YouTube page is filled with hundreds of recorded lectures, panels, and conversations, part of the school's institutional commitment bridging the gap between academia and the broader world. But the hooks and Perry talk marked the beginning of a boomlet.
In December, Junot Diaz interviewed Toni Morrison in a discussion that was live-streamed by the New York Public Library. Ken Weine, the New York Public Library's vice president for communications and marketing, says the livestreaming is just one part of their approach to engaging the public.
"The New York Public Library is always looking for new and better ways to make our resources accessible to as many people as possible, and that's certainly true with live events," says Weine. "We're very interested in finding ways to make our public programs available to people who aren't able to join us in person, which is why we first started experimenting with live-streaming and we're definitely seeing a demand for recordings that people can share and revisit in the days, weeks, and even years after an event, and we're responding to that as well."
In just the first four months of 2014, online viewers have watched bestselling authors Zadie Smith with Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie at Harlem's Schomberg for Research in Black Culture, and professor Robin D.G. Kelley at Emerson College's Center for Theater Commons.
"[Video] allows a peer review process of the masses," says Browner, referring to the academic process by which work is judged by one's colleagues.
The form is a draw to viewers who, because of time, distance or access, may not be able to witness them in person. To date, the bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry talk has been viewed more than 255,000 times on Livestream's website since it first streamed five months ago, and that's not counting the additional hundreds of thousands of views on MSNBC's website and YouTube.
Zadie Smith and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie's has been viewed more than 84,000 times in leas than a month. These are big names that would draw audiences wherever they spoke, but the shelf life and reach of those speeches is now much larger than before, according to those who have planned the events.
For hooks, who's the author of more than two dozen books on race and feminism, the talk proved that the public is hungry for meaningful, prolonged opportunities to engage with one another. "I believe that conversation is the most powerful tool of learning and communicating in our culture right now," hooks said in a statement provided to Colorlines.
Tue, 04/15/2014 - 19:39
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.
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@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine