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Jersey School District Apologizes for Elementary School Ebola Panic

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 11:03
Jersey School District Apologizes for Elementary School Ebola Panic

Two students arriving from Rwanda were set to start school at Howard Yocum Elementary in Maple Shade, New Jersey, earlier this month but the school's fear about Ebola kept them from doing so. 

According to Fox 29, a school nurse sent a letter to teachers and staff warning them that two students from an east African nation had enrolled and would soon start classes. Rwanda is Ebola-free--so much so, that it recently started screening and strictly monitoring travelers visiting from the United States. The nation, which straddles east and central Africa, is nowhere near Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which have been ravaged by the virus.

Rwanda's closest to Liberia, but at a distance of nearly 3,000 miles--roughly the distance between Dallas, Texas, and Quito, Ecuador. Nevertheless, a rumor about the children enrolling in the school spread to parents.

In a post that's dated October 18--a Saturday--Maple Shade's school superintendent attempted to clarify the district's position:

Dear Parent(s)/Guardian(s):

The Maple Shade School District takes the health of all students and staff very seriously.  As many of you are aware, we have students who have spent time in the eastern portion of Africa that were scheduled to start in our schools on Monday.  This area of Africa has been unaffected by the Ebola virus.  Despite the fact that the students are symptom-free and not from an affected area, the parents have elected to keep their children home past the 21 day waiting period.  The family is looking forward to joining the Maple Shade Schools the following week. 

Please see the links below for more information about the Ebola virus.

Beth Norcia, Superintendent of Schools

Fox 29 then reported on developments and spoke with local parents: 

FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

After considerable media attention, the district apologized on Monday:

Dear Maple Shade Community Members:

As you know, the Maple Shade School District has been the object of extensive media coverage and community dialogue over the past several days. Our schools have become the unwitting "face" of our nation's fears with regard to pressing health concerns.

If we step back as a community, it is clear that we are of one mind. We all care about our children. New parents were anxious to enroll their children in our public school system. A staff member was anxious to allay any possible fears even before they arose. Community members raised questions about potential health risks to all of our children.

None of the actions that have shined the regional light of media exposure on Maple Shade Schools was mean-spirited or ill intended.

Next week, we will welcome the new students whose parents graciously offered to keep them close this week. Our staff, students and entire school family will be enriched by their presence, as we are by each and every student with us today.  

As these students enter our doors, we vow to safeguard them and offer them the best possible education here in the Maple Shade Schools. That is our promise to every student.

We will, however, consider the unintended consequences of our messages more carefully in the future. No matter how well intentioned, a message that originated within our schools created conflict and concern within the Maple Shade community. We offer our sincere apologies.

Beth Norcia

The kids are expected to finally be able to attend school next week.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Dee Rees Talks About What Inspired Her Bessie Smith Biopic

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 10:06
Dee Rees Talks About What Inspired Her Bessie Smith Biopic

It's been three years since Dee Rees debuted her critically acclaimed film "Pariah" at the Sundance Film Festival. In the years since, she's been busy working on a TV biopic of American blues legend Bessie Smith. Queen Latifah will play Smith in the film, which is slated for an early 2015 release.

Lisa Schwarzbaum from the Directors Guild of America spoke with the young director about how she prepared for the project, and Rees talked about her grandparents:

To convey her vision, to HBO executives as well as to her cast and crew, Rees created collaged inspiration boards full of photos (particularly from the 1930s South Carolina portraiture work of Richard Samuel Roberts and from the photo book Juke Joint by contemporary Mississippi photographer Birney Imes) and color swatches to create a visual style she articulates precisely. "The first act is grays, blacks, browns, the color of insecurity," she explains. "In the second act, it's metallic colors, colors that are almost not from nature, oranges you wouldn't believe. And then in the third act, the colors are more from nature, like peach, greens, earth tones. I wanted a lot of conflicting textures, looking through things." In fact, Rees can whip out a smartphone showing her combinations. She also kept beautiful old photos of her grandparents and great-grandparents "on my 'shrine' during production."

Read more.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Little League Star Mo'ne Davis Stars in World Series Ad

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 09:37
Little League Star Mo'ne Davis Stars in World Series Ad

It's already been one helluva ride for Mo'ne Davis, the 13-year-old girl whose 70 mph fastball caught the country's attention during last summer's Little League World Series. She's gotten tons of attention, especially from some of today's biggest sports stars. During last night's opening Major League World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, Davis appeared in a commercial for Chevy, and it's got a lot of folks talking:

Should a 13-year-old already be starring in a corporate commercials touting her athletic ability? The NCAA thinks it's okay. Davis has already spoken publicly about wanting to pursue a college sports career, and UConn's legendary coach, Geno Auriemma, even got in trouble for congratulating her earlier this year. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Dear White People's Naomi Ko: 'People Don't Think Asian-Americans Are Capable of Protest'

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 09:26
 'People Don't Think Asian-Americans Are Capable of Protest'

Naomi Ko, the Korean-American actress who's gaining attention for her supporting role in Justin Simien's "Dear White People," spoke with Kylee McIntyre of the Visibility Project about her frustration with the model minority myth and what she hopes people will see in the critically acclaimed film. Ko's part was pretty small, but it was pivotal: Her character, Sungmi, encourages black students on campus to unite with other groups of color to protest a racist frat party.

"People don't think Asian Americans are capable of assembly and protesting [...] that's part of the whole model minority stereotype: Asians do really well and assimilate and become doctors and pay taxes and vote Republican," Ko says. She rolls her eyes a little and hits me with a no-nonsense look. "That's not what we do."

..."What 'Dear White People' made me [realize] was not necessarily what it meant to be a woman, Korean-American, person of color. I'm already confident in that," says Ko, who remembers being brought up in the "first wave" of Asian American identity. "Like, figuring out what it means to be Korean or American or Korean-American? That annoys me."

Read more at the Visibility Project

Categories: Diversity Headlines

The NBA's Official Anthem This Season is by Kendrick Lamar

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 09:03
The NBA's Official Anthem This Season is by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar got a huge endorsement this week when the NBA announced that his song "i" will be the official anthem of the 2014-2015 season. From Hypetrak:

The song can already be heard in the new NBA On TNT spot, and will be featured in the league's commercials throughout the year. On top of that, K. Dot will headline a special fan fest/viewing party outside The Q for the Cleveland Cavaliers' opening game against the Knicks on October 30. "i" has previously been featured in the trailer for Chris Rock's Top Five movie, which was co-produced by Rock, JAY Z and Kanye West.

Lamar's major-label debut, "good kid, m.A.A.d city," won tons of critical acclaim after it was released in 2012. His next album is due out later this fall.


Categories: Diversity Headlines

Leslie Jones on SNL Promotion: 'Get Ready'

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 08:56
 'Get Ready'

Earlier this week, "Saturday Night Live" announced that it added comedian Leslie Jones to its regular cast. Jones, a former college basketball star who got her big break touring with Katt Williams, took to Twitter to tell fans about her excitement:

It's official I'm a cast member!!! Get ready! Get ready!! @nbcsnl

-- Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) October 20, 2014

Jones' new role is a big deal in light of all the flack "Saturday Night Live" has gotten in recent years for not having any black female cast members. Sasheer Zamata, a young black female comedian, joined the cast last year. Jones joined the show as a writer and appeared in two episodes. Now you can expect to see a lot more of her. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

North Korea Releases Ohio Man, McDonald's Still in Decline, FTC's New Chief Technologist

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 07:07
North Korea Releases Ohio Man, McDonald's Still in Decline, FTC's New Chief Technologist

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:

  • North Korea releases Jeffrey Fowle, an Ohio man it held for six months after Fowle left a Bible at a nightclub. 
  • If the weather feels like cooperating wherever it is you live in nearly all of North America, you'll be able to watch Thursday's partial solar eclipse. (I suggest the strainer method if you haven't done that one before!) 
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Rinku Sen and Jeff Chang Discuss His Latest, 'Who We Be'

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 05:16
Rinku Sen and Jeff Chang Discuss His Latest, 'Who We Be'

My friend Jeff Chang has written "Who We Be: The Colorization of America," a wide-ranging history of racialized culture clashes of the last 50 years. It's a great sequel to "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," which is about the early years of hip-hop. Jeff and I have known each other since 1987, when we went through the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program of Center for Third World Organizing together. He later went on to become the first associate editor of Colorlines upon the founding of the print magazine, and later still to become a music and cultural critic. He is now the director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.

"Who We Be" is hefty. It looks and feels like a coffee table book with a lot of art and thick paper. But unlike most coffee table books, you will actually want to read it. It covers a vast number of debates over race, cultural consumerism and artistic production that took place between 1963 and 2013, some of them well-known, others much less. Jeff and I sat down for a talk about the book, why he's obsessed with culture and how he writes.

"If Can't Stop, Won't Stop" was a history of hip-hop, "Who We Be" is a history of multiculturalism, a deep, wide-ranging history about the nation's conflicts over who gets to define our culture. You look at high art, street art, political art, advertising and a whole host of other cultural products and the fights, often quite intense fights, over them. What made you want to take such a deep dive?

I don't ever start out like "this is going to be comprehensive or definitive" anything. I start with the germ of an idea and a bunch of stories. This book came from one day in New York City, several months after "Can't Stop Won't Stop" came out. In "Can't Stop Won't Stop" there was a whole swath of history I didn't give any kind of attention to. That was the rise of the multiculturalism arts movement during 1980s as well as the student activism that you and I were a part of in those days. Shortly after the book came out, I was on a panel with Greg Tate, Brian Cross, Vijay Prashad and Mark Anthony Neal. Everybody had a different take on the question of how hip-hop fit into this post-multicultural moment. It was mind-blowing, all these aspects and positions on multiculturalism that I'd never considered. Mark saw it as a college hustle; Vijay as a grand illusion; Greg saw it as this amazing moment of cultural nationalisms coming together. Brian, coming in from Ireland, saw all points of view, and that it was an amazing time of fervor. He saw all these questions about consumerism that we hadn't resolved. Then I got on the train to the Bronx, where Lydia Yee had an exhibition on contemporary arts. We talked about how race had been drummed out of the contemporary arts world.

I pitched it to my editor Monique Patterson, one of the few black editors in the business, and she said "nobody cares about multiculturalism." Multiculturalists were ancient history. Diddy was on billboards so there was no need. Then Obama runs, and all this stuff comes out about his college history. Then the anti-Obama backlash happens, and the culture wars flare up again. When I began writing, Obama was about to be elected. I thought, cool, I'll get this book done in a year, and it'll have a happy ending. But 2009 starts up with Van Jones, Yosi Sergent, Shirley Sherrod and [Henry Louis Gates]. That's when it really got going. What was going to be a short victory lap became six-year deep dive.

In the book, you use the metaphor of a wave to describe culture as a process, one that lives in the soft spaces between events, between political events in particular. You have said, in other places, that culture trumps politics in terms of changing minds and behavior. Why are you so obsessed with culture?

The trigger for these thoughts was looking at the 2007-8 election cycle and seeing Obama not as politician but as symbol, and the explosion of street art and creative activity that begins to happen in the lead-up to his election. What does this all mean? Is it ephemeral, just an interesting phenomenon? Or does it represent something deeper about the way we think of change? There's been huge cultural churn in social life. Social media, communications strategy, messaging, framing. We talk about all these things in progressive movements now that point back to conscious and unconscious ways of thinking.

A lot of research has been moving in that direction. Not just in movements, but also in the academy. What we're concluding is that we are complex individuals, having our minds change all the time. The metaphor of the wave actually reveals something deep about how change happens. Culture functions a lot like the ocean. The wave builds, it recedes, when it builds again, there's new stuff in it.

You partly argue that multiculturalism was presented to Americans after the 1970s, especially in colleges. You seem to be saying that initially a lot of Americans bought it and then got buyer's remorse that was ginned up by conservatives.

The term "multiculture" was coined by Ishmael Reed in mid '70s. The idea's pretty simple: America is not a melting pot and there are a million different ways to become American. We then start wanting to understand what the exchanges look like and how they evolve. Now this seems basic to us, but at the time that was a huge challenge to everything. You can see how big a shift it was in the 1980s when, first academics and then the right in general, and the left, too, begin to organize against multiculturalism. This idea that there could be multiple paths to the same end, a society that's built of all these different types of people, came under attack. It's this long run, a 33-year path from Reed to Obama being elected president.

The last section of the book covers September 11, 2001 to 2013, when it became clear that the country would become majority people of color by mid-century. You use the term "demographobia" to describe the racial anxiety that erupted. Tell me about that.

Stanford faculty director H. Samy Alim coined the term in the lead-up to 2012 elections. It was a snarky, 140-character way of explaining all the backlash we could see in the resurgent culture wars. He tweeted that demographobia was the irrational fear of changing demographics. It made me laugh for hours. It really fit the moment. Richard Benjamin talks about this in his book "Searching for Whitopia," about white folks fleeing these multiracial spaces because they can't stand the idea that the country is changing this way. It's white flight 40 years after term got set. It reflects a deep-set fear among certain whites who just can't comprehend what a multiculture could look like, can't conceive of it as anything but apocalyptic.

You are a particularly visual writer. I can see the settings and people and fights you talk about in the book. How do you write? What was your process on this big book?

The book's central metaphor is of seeing race. Race happens between the actual appearance and the more complicated perception of difference. That was always in the back of my mind. You have to figure out how to describe a thing that hangs on the wall, just like you think about how do you describe a three-minute song and how it changes over time and how it makes you feel.

After I took the job at Stanford, I couldn't write whenever I wanted to. I'd get up at 4 a.m. and write for two hours before I went to work. If I was feeling it, I'd squeeze out a little extra time and show up late. That was the quiet time, in the mornings. On weekends, Lourdes, [my wife], would let me not clean the yard so I could write. But the bulk of the writing was at Sea Change cottage. I walked out of Provincetown with 150 pages. I'd get up, read a passage out of Twyla Tharp's book on creativity, have breakfast and start up by 8:30, go strong til 4:30 and then get on the bike. At night I'd read Italo Calvino or James Baldwin. I was reading "Invisible Cities," 600-word bursts of images of these fictional cities. It was the furthest thing from what I was writing about but exactly what I needed at that point

What does a setting have to do with the writing? Is it just the quiet?

There was stuff in the house, like a Jaune "Quick-to-See" Smith piece downstairs, and a lot of other art, so there would be all these different types of sparks. You don't do it 100-percent consciously, but you surround yourself. At home I have my room, my records and music. It's all there; I just have to open a cabinet door and there are these visual cues. You just want to have those kinds of things to be able to light you up and get you going or help you get out of a writing cul de sac. 

What effect do you hope to have on the reader with this book?

I would hope that people get to a point where they say, "Yeah, why do we have this strange paradox where I feel like I may be closer to you because I can see a TV show or read a book about you now, and yet, I still don't want to live next to you?"

Can we have a more open conversation about that? At this particular point, it's heartbreaking for those of us who were young and in the streets in our 20s, half a lifetime later, seeing that the students are still asking for the same kinds of things we were. And things haven't gotten much better. Anyone with our background in trying to change the world, you want a person to leave with not just empathy, but with the feeling that they want to go out and change the world afterwards.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Matthew McConaughey Defends Washington, D.C., NFL Team Name

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:53
Matthew McConaughey Defends Washington, D.C., NFL Team Name

In a cover story interview for November's GQ, Matthew McConaughey makes clear that, despite being from Texas, he's a hat-wearing fan of the Washington, D.C., NFL Team:

[You] were a Redskins fan growing up in Texas? What the hell was that about?
Two things. First: 4 years old, watching Westerns, I always rooted for the Indians. Second, my favorite food was hamburgers. The Redskins had a linebacker named Chris Hanburger.

That's all it took?
When you're 4 years old, that's all it takes. I got a Redskins hat in my bag right now.

Hollywood Westerns were largely about myth-making, which shaped misconceived nations about Natives--and McConaughey's comment appears to point to that.

And, there's more:

What do you think about the calls for the team to change its name?
Man, it's twofold. What interests me is how quickly it got pushed into the social consciousness. We were all fine with it since the 1930s, and all of a sudden we go, "No, gotta change it"? It seems like when the first levee breaks, everybody gets on board. I know a lot of Native Americans don't have a problem with it, but they're not going to say, "No, we really want the name." That's not how they're going to use their pulpit. It's like my feeling about gun control: "I get it. You have the right to have guns. But look, let's forget that right. Let's forget the pleasure you get safely on your range, because it's in the wrong hands in other places."

But as a fan, it would hurt you a little to see the logo gone?
It's not going to hurt me. It's just... I love the emblem. I dig it. It gives me a little fire and some oomph. But now that it's in the court of public opinion, it's going to change. I wish it wouldn't, but it will.

Not everyone was "fine with it since the 1930s," since the term the team name uses refers to skinning Natives for bounty.

McConaughey also made the claim that he "know[s] a lot of Native Americans," who apparently back his claim but won't say so publicly. He then made a rather confusing comparison to gun control--a topic that doesn't include a racist team name.

Then again, he seems pretty certain the team logo will soon go. 

You can read McConaughey's interview in its entirety over at GQ

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Picking a Halloween Costume? Watch This Cupcake Tutorial First

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:53
Picking a Halloween Costume? Watch This Cupcake Tutorial First

Using cupcake-making as a metaphor, our colleague Kat Lazo has a fabulous new video that breaks down the way that Halloween has become a sad excuse for cultural appropriation, misogyny and a lot more: 

Lazo's a video production specialist for Colorlines' publisher, Race Forward--but she also works on her own stuff. Check out her YouTube channel, TheeKatsMeoww.  

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Junot Díaz Endorses Call to Boycott Israel

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:23
Junot Díaz Endorses Call to Boycott Israel

Junot Díaz has formally endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). He joins more than 370 other cultural workers in the call against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. 

The best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur "Genius" Grant recipient signed on with the USACBI, which calls for an end to the occupation and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, according to an October 21 press release from the campaign.

In the release, Díaz explained his position:

If there exists a moral arc to the universe, then Palestine will eventually be free. But that promised day will never arrive unless we, the justice-minded peoples of our world, fight to end the cruel blight of the Israeli occupation. Our political, religious and economic leaders have always been awesome at leading our world into conflict, only we the people alone with little else but our courage and our solidarities and our invincible hope can lead our world into peace.

You can see the full list of USACBI endorsers here

Categories: Diversity Headlines

One Lawyer Keeps the Pressure On For Criminal Justice Reform

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:31

Making the rounds on national media this week is public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson whom Desmond Tutu calls, "America's young Nelson Mandela." His new memoir, "Just Mercy," is about a man wrongly convicted and put on death row and it promises to keep the country's attention squarely on the 2.2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States--and the unjust ways that many of them arrive there. Stevenson's mainstream media tour is yet another indication that, following the success of Michelle Alexander's, The New Jim Crow, the country is ready to at least talk about criminal justice reform and reducing mass incarceration.

Stevenson is executive director of Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. Watch his recent "Daily Show" interview with Jon Stewart above. And if you haven't already seen it, check out Stevenson's more intimate 2012 TED talk, too. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Oscar De La Renta: 'I Feel Very Lucky That I've Had a Wonderful Life'

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:32
 'I Feel Very Lucky That I've Had a Wonderful Life'

Oscar de la Renta died on Monday. The 82-year-old designer, who was born in the Dominican Republic, was an icon of global fashion, holding an especially special place in American fashion.



In this video from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, de la Renta talks about dressing Hillary Clinton and playing an instrumental role in helping her land her first Vogue cover. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

RIP Oscar de la Renta, New Ebola Gear Guidelines, Leslie Jones Joins SNL

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:12
RIP Oscar de la Renta, New Ebola Gear Guidelines, Leslie Jones Joins SNL

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning: 

  • Total CEO Christophe de Margerie dies in a crash in his private plane at Moscow's airport; he was in Russia to further expand his oil empire. 
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Premiere: Alsarah & The Nubatones on 'Songs of Return'

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 13:20
 Alsarah & The Nubatones on 'Songs of Return'

Sudanese-born, Brooklyn-based singer Alsarah and her band The Nubatones have already gained a good amount of critical acclaim in the United States. Alsarah’s previous album “Aljawal” with French producer Débruit earned a spot on NPR’s list of 10 Favorite World Music Albums of 2013 with a sound that’s been described as “East African retro pop.“ 

But it’s impossible to talk about East African music without touching on the violence that’s torn the region apart for decades. Earlier this year, Alsarah & The Nubatones released ”Silt,” an album has its musical roots in the Nubian “Songs of Return” after mass displacement and resettlement due to political conflicts and flooding. Now, they’re releasing “Silt Remixed” on October 21. Here’s the world debut of the video for the track “Habibi Taal.” 

In an email to Colorlines, Alsarah had this to say about the new version of the song:

This is a traditional song from Central Sudan that is a part of the women’s musical tradition, Aghani Albanat, performed at weddings and other social gatherings. Traditionally these songs are written and performed by women and are one of the few spaces that allow women to publicly express their feelings towards a romantic interest. And so, they have a tendency to be very simple flirty love songs with the sole purpose of making you dance. I think its very important to honor the simplicity of these lyrics and these songs because they express an important section of Sudanese society that is often ignored by practitioners of ‘high brow art’ (which tends to be arab, male, and muslim-centered) deeming it artistically lacking.

The release is out on October 21 and will be available for purchase on Bandcamp.

Translation of the lyrics:

My love come lets be one so long as love has mixed in with the blood, where is the fault, how could they blame me oh my love my love is like mangos and apples, my love is honey, all else are bland my love is honey, all else are bland I would migrate just to be with you oh my love I will wait for you by the sea where the birds have migrated and traveled to that place where the birds have migrated and traveled to are you from here, or from Saturn oh my love my love come lets quench our longing and live up high in the sky-towers of london lets live up high in the sky-towers of london for the sake of love and decorum oh my love I’ll wait for you on Elgash road my love is gold, the others are copper my love is gold, the others are copper love should be like this or not at all love should be like this or not at all love should be like this or not at all love should be like this or not at all
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Hari Kondabolu Knows How to Fix the Most Racist Team Name in the NFL

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 13:16
Hari Kondabolu Knows How to Fix the Most Racist Team Name in the NFL

Funny man Hari Kondabolu took on the R-word controversy with a new satirical video. He swaps out the logo of Washington, D.C.'s pro football team from an indigenous man's head to a severely burned white person. Kondabolu even asked for submissions from the internet and posted them on Tumblr. In an email, he told Colorlines: "My logic is that if human decency won't lead to them to changing it, then perhaps some creative public mockery will, at least, devalue the brand!"

Categories: Diversity Headlines

In Georgia, Immigration Frustration May Test Latino Voters' Impact

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:19
In Georgia, Immigration Frustration May Test Latino Voters' Impact

Latinos are already remaking U.S. demography, but their impact on elections is still up for debate. In Georgia, demographic shifts, combined with Latino voters' perennial disappointment over immigration reform, make for a unique race this fall. A key question, as in other recent elections, is whether Latinos will express their frustration by staying home. Such a move would hurt Democrats more so than Republicans, who in 2010 sought to capitalize on this tension by airing a political ad urging Latinos to stay home from the polls.

Los Angeles Times' Mark Barabak reports on the issues at play in the countdown to these midterms:

Latinos have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the new federal healthcare law and Velez, a Democrat, considers it a good thing Obama has done. But it was just one thing -- and a small one at that -- compared with the immigration issue, [Eddie] Velez said. "Everything that was promised didn't happen," said the round-cheeked 33-year-old, who may skip next month's election, figuring it won't make much difference who wins. "Nothing has changed."

In many ways Georgia offers both a reflection of the past and a window into the future of Latinos' growing political clout.

The Latino population has increased from less than 1% of Georgia's 4.6 million residents in 1970 to more than 9% of the state's nearly 10 million residents today.


Eventually, Latinos, Asian Americans -- also Democratic-leaning and rapidly growing in number -- and the state's historically large black population are expected to turn Georgia from solidly Republican into a swing state. "Republicans are just going to run out of white voters," said Charles Bullock, a demographics and political expert at the University of Georgia.

But will Latinos refuse to vote this year to send a political message to Democrats not to take them for granted? In recent years, the threat that Latinos, whose midterm election turnout indeed dips between presidential elections, will stay home on Election Day has become as common a refrain as promises of immigration reform made and left unfulfilled. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

When Good Union Jobs Were White

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:45
When Good Union Jobs Were White

In 1943 at the height of World War II, a West Coast union threatened to send 40,000 of its members on strike if the Kaiser shipyards in Portland didn't "revoke the promotions 'of eight New York Negroes' classified as skilled workers."

Think about that for a minute, the scale of mobilization threated by white workers, during war, in order to stop eight skilled Negroes from earning the same or similar benefits for their families, as their white peers. Now that same union, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers is more than half people of color, according to the Contra Costa Times, and it's beginning to acknowledge its past with an award this September for unrecognized "Home Front support" to 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin who is African-American. The gesture surprised Soskin--and it's perhaps one example of the honest tackling of racism within union ranks that national labor leader Richard Trumka called for after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But is an award enough? What does it mean for labor, for working class people, to not only acknowledge but to also reconcile past on-the-job racism?

I'm curious about those "eight New York Negroes," for example, and the costs borne by their families. Whatever happened to them? What was the monetary cost borne by the growing community of migrants, many fleeing the Jim Crow South and finding equal work for less pay, benefits and exclusion from collective bargaining?

Read more about Ms. Soskin at The Contra Costa Times and her awards ceremony, here.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Tackling Race and Racism in the Latino Community

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:31
Tackling Race and Racism in the Latino Community

In a terrific post over at NACLA, Melissa M. Valle breaks down the perennial problem of non-black Latinos’ refusal to acknowledge race—both in Latin America as well as in the U.S.:

Bring up racism amongst those from Latin America and you’ll often get an exasperated groan, followed by something about how class is the predominate stratifying principle in Latin America, and a plea to stop applying your U.S.-based take on race to those in Latin America and the Caribbean. They may even throw in a “we’re all mixed” or “what is race?” rejoinder for good measure.

Valle, a doctoral student at Colombia University, highlights the upcoming afrolatin@ forum taking place in New York next week, where panels will tackle everything from media to immigration and more. The program also includes a book presentation of Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America, described as “a richly revealing analysis of contemporary attitudes toward ethnicity and race in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, four of Latin America’s most populous nations.” The presentation takes place the evening of Tuesday, October 21. 

In her essay, Valle wonders about what disproportionate discrimination also means for black Latinos here in the states:

In the United States, less than 3% of all Latin@s identify as racially Black. What does this mean for access to resources determined by numerical representations for millions of Latinos and Latinas of African descent?

You can read Valle’s full post over at NACLA

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Misty Upham's Family Says Cops Taunted Actress About Mental Illness

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:03
Misty Upham's Family Says Cops Taunted Actress About Mental Illness

It's been less than a week since Misty Upham's body was found at the bottom of a steep cliff in Washington state. The 32-year-old actress, who was Native American and a member of the Blackfeet Nation, was known for her recent roles in popular films like "August: Osage County" and "Django Unchained," but also made her mark in memorable performances in "Frozen River" and "Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian."

Upham's family reported her missing on October 6 and at first feared that she had committed suicide after a change in her medication for anxiety and bipolar disorder. After her body was found on October 16 by a search party made up of family and friends, those closest to the actress said publicly that they believe that she died accidently while trying to hide from police, who didn't do enough when alerted that she was missing and was possibly in danger due to her illness. According to them, she had good reason to hide. In a statement posted on Facebook last Friday, family members recounted disturbing details about a previous run-in with local cops:

Misty was afraid of the Auburn PD officiers [sic] with good reason. In an incident prior to her disappearance, the Auburn PD came to pick up Misty on an involuntary transport to the ER. She was cuffed and placed in a police car. Some of the officiers [sic] began to taunt and tease her while she was in the car. Because it was dark they couldn't see that we, her family, were outside our apartment just across the street witnessing this behavior. They were tapping on the window making faces at her. Misty was crying and she told them
you can't treat me like this I'm a movie actress and I will use my connections to expose you. Then another officer walked up to her asked "are you a movie star?, then why don't complain to George Clooney!" After Misty arrived at the ER we went to see her and she has a swollen jaw, black eye and scratches and bruises on her shoulder. I asked the ER staff what happened and they said Misty was brought in like that. Misty said she couldn't remember what happened but thats why she feared the police.

Family friend and spokesperson Tracy Rector told the Washington Post that tension has been especially high between local police officers and Native Americans near where Upham's body was found, on tribal land near Aubrun, Washington that's interspersed with areas under the jurisdiction of local authorities.

"The family pleaded for the police department to look for her; they pleaded for dogs," Rector said in an interview with The Post on Friday. Long-standing tensions between police and Native Americans on the Muckleshoot Reservation might have played a role, Rector said.

"Unfortunately, it feels like 1950?s racism in many ways," said Rector, a Seattle-based filmmaker. "The family is concerned that Misty was considered just another Native person and treated as such. Even that is unacceptable. Native lives matter. It doesn't matter what her skin color was."

It's a shocking and mysterious end to a remarkable young life. Just after her critically acclaimed  performance alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County" earned her a Screen Actor's Guild Award Nomination, Upham wrote about the day she got the role that would change her life in an essay for The Daily Beast.

At the time when I received that life-changing phone call, I was paying my bills as a housecleaner...That's what I hoped to convey when I landed the role of Johnna in August: Osage County, a young Native American woman who answers an ad for a housekeeper and caregiver for Violet Weston, a troubled matriarch played by Meryl Streep. I wanted to bring the humanity and dignity of this woman to the big screen.

In the interview below, Upham talks about being on set of the film and getting to "believe in the magic."

Her family has set up a crowdsourcing page to help raise funds for her memorial. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines