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Dream Defender Phillip Agnew on Occupy, the Police and His 5-Year Dream

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:25
Dream Defender Phillip Agnew on Occupy, the Police and His 5-Year Dream

Check out In These Times' new Q&A with 29-year-old Phillip Agnew, one of the young leaders behind the Garner-Brown protests that many are calling a "new civil rights movement." Agnew co-founded Florida-based Dream Defenders in 2012 in reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin and has been organizing for racial justice ever since. Here, Agnew shares his views on Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter, ending policing in schools and what success looks like in 5 years:

I want to see us move from protest to resistance to full revolution. Constructing and building our own economy and systems and schools. I want to see community control of our food and [access] to food that enhances our bodies and our minds. And to see true self-determination for every person in this country, and that does include white people. But it means balance. Right now, black people, brown people, poor people don't have any rights to their lives and their destinies. I'd like to see the government not engage in wars where we perpetuate an economic system that ruins democracy around the world. That's not a five-year goal; that's probably a lifetime goal. And I'd like to see the prison-industrial complex end. In five years, I'd like to see a good majority of states around this country closing jails, and police departments looking completely different--being governed by the people.

And ICYMI, Revolt has a handy stats sheet on 38 of today's other leaders, too. The youngest is 19 years old.

(h/t In These Times)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Jamaican-American Poet Claudia Rankine Among National Book Critics Circle Nominees

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 08:41
Jamaican-American Poet Claudia Rankine Among National Book Critics Circle Nominees

The nominees for the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced this week, and a few prominent writers of color made the short list. Jamaican-American poet Claudia Rankine was nominated for her collection "Citizen: An American Lyric;" Korean-American novelist Chang-rae Lee was nominated for his latest book, "On Such a Full Sea;" and Guatemalan-American journalist Hector Tobar was nominated for his book, "Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free."

Other books of note that earned nominations: Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" and Marilynne Robinson's novel "Lila."

Take a look at the full list of nominees.

Dan Chiasson of the New Yorker wrote about the importance of Rankine's "Citizen," which was also a finalist for a National Book Award late last year. "'Citizen' is about the grownup ways in which this childhood scene gets replayed, the white cheat always backed by white institutions," Chiasson wrote. "It is an especially vital book for this moment in time. While the book was in press, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri; as I write this, hundreds of people are marching in protest there, engaging in civil disobedience and offering themselves up for arrest.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

These Memes Basically Sum Up Last Night's State of the Union

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 07:25
These Memes Basically Sum Up Last Night's State of the Union

There are a few ways to relive last night's State of the Union Address. You can read the transcript, you can watch it on YouTube, or you can re-live some of its best (and worst) moments on social media. Behold:

"I have no more campaigns to run...I know because i won both of them." #POTUSmixtape #TWIBSOTU #SOTU15 pic.twitter.com/pdhqUrVVv8

-- Elon James White (@elonjames) January 21, 2015

Did Barack say...About 8 years ago... Y'all have no CHILL. #ColdWorld #ThatVETOPower #rp @bella_miel

A video posted by suezette (@suezette) on Jan 20, 2015 at 8:42pm PST

Repost from @mrdavidjohns #PresidentialSwag #mybrotherskeeper. C'mon let's work together. That's real progress. Everyone deserves an equal shot, a chance, equal opportunities. Set that tone and let's get to work. #changestartswithus

A photo posted by Dominique Sharpton (@mssharpton2u) on Jan 20, 2015 at 7:27pm PST

Paid maternity leave? #SOTU pic.twitter.com/hYyoBoUTlA

-- Peter Staley (@peterstaley) January 21, 2015

When you say "I want our actions to tell every child: your life matters," you're acknowledging that they don't. #BlackLivesMatter #SOTU

-- Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) January 21, 2015

Transgender Individuals Recognized For First Time Ever In A State Of The Union Speech http://t.co/5PnUJM3KSa via @HuffPostPol #SOTU #Trans

-- Annamarya Scaccia (@annamarya_s) January 21, 2015

(h/t The Grio)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

State of the Union, 'Guantanamo Diary,' Sitting Kills You

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 07:20
State of the Union, 'Guantanamo Diary,' Sitting Kills You

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

  • Mohamedou Ould Slahi publishes a book about the "humiliation, sexual harassment, fear and starvation" he's been enduring at Guantanamo for 12 years; the excerpts are harrowing
Categories: Diversity Headlines

ICYMI: Alex Rivera Talks People of Color and Sci-Fi Futures

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 14:37

Alex Rivera—who directed “Sleep Dealer” as well as several immigration-themed music videos—spoke at the Platform Summit in Atlanta in the fall. In this clip he talks about his fascination with science fiction and why imagining the future should always be a reflection of the way our communities look today.  

Categories: Diversity Headlines

How Century-Old Segregation Hurts Austin, Texas Today

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 14:01

In 1880, African-Americans were dispersed throughout the city of Austin, Tex. By 1940, however, African-Americans had been shunted to one section of the city. Many folks know federal housing policy and creative practices such as redlining are to blame. But less known is: How does residential segregation implemented and baked in a century ago affect white, black and Latino residents today? Get the answers in a three-part multimedia series (including fantastic maps and videos) from the Austin-American Statesman called, "Inheriting Inequality." Check out the two-minute video above and the full project here

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Mayor Wants 'Outright' Ban on Police Using Mug Shots for Target Practice

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:09
Mayor Wants 'Outright' Ban on Police Using Mug Shots for Target Practice

North Miami Beach Mayor George Vallejo criticized his city police department for using mug shots of black men in its sniper team target practice exercises Monday, the Miami Herald reported. Vallejo also took to Twitter over the weekend to say that he plans to call for city legislation to ban the practice "outright."

After Florida Army National Guard Sgt. Valerie Deant found a sheet of shot-up mug shots which included the face of her brother in December, she found out that the police department used photos of men who'd been arrested over a decade ago in its sniper training program. The training program has since been suspended, and the city's police chief J. Scott Dennis has ordered an investigation into the practice, the Miami Herald reported.

The practice says nothing about how police interact with the community off the shooting range, North Miami Beach Maj. Kathy Katerman told the Miami Herald. "We have other targets, too," Katerman told the Miami Herald. "We don't just shoot at black males."

The target practice sheets were discovered amidst widespread outrage and national protests over the 2014 police killings of black men, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

New York's Governor Wants to Raise Minimum Wage to $10.50

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:07
New York's Governor Wants to Raise Minimum Wage to $10.50

New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced this Sunday that he will propose legislation seeking to increase the state's minimum wage to $10.50-an-hour, the highest among U.S. states. The state minimum is currently $8.75. Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan falls in line with other states and municipalities--at the behest of voters--moving ahead with increases in the face of inaction at the federal level. The debate continues however over whether anything less than $15, the new minimums first in Seattle and more recently San Francisco, is enough.

"Governor Cuomo's proposal is also a missed opportunity to raise the wage to what New Yorkers really need," Karen Scharff, director of Citizen Action of New York told Bloomberg News. "New York should be a national leader by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour."

Notably, Cuomo's plan won't give municipalities like New York City the power to determine their own increases--but it does propose to increase the city's minimum to $11.50-an-hour.

(h/t Bloomberg)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

A Collection of Stories From Queer and Trans Artist of Color

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:11
A Collection of Stories From Queer and Trans Artist of Color

When Oakland-based artist and activist Nia King launched a podcast a few years back, the goal was simple: to capture the stories of queer and trans artists of color. But the stories, which captured a diverse range of voices, from performer and organizer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha to talk-show host Janet Mock, were so good that King (a former intern at Race Forward, Colorlines' publisher) decided to turn them into a book. 

The collection, which was successfully funded with crowdsourced money, includes 16 interviews with queer and trans artists who have fused their political and creative work. In a digital world, those printed stories were crucial. As King wrote in the introduction for the book, published last fall, called "Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives:" 

I wanted to create this book so that the work of these amazing artists who have influenced me will not seem like a flash in the pan if they eventually burn out or go broke and have to stop creating. I want there to be a record of their wisdom and their influence and their greatness that will inspire others to create as well. I really do believe that QTPOC art activism saves lives, and this book is just one of my many efforts to show how and why.

King's work is vital, especially in a moment of supposed victory for LGBT communities. As Autostraddle pointed out:

The voices and experiences of queer and trans people of color (especially queer and trans women of color) are so often erased, silenced or pushed to the background. When our stories are told, they are told by people outside the community who don't always tell the story the way it really happened. This book proudly stands in direct defiance of these traditions. 

The book is available at indy stores across the country and on Amazon

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Al Madrigal Takes on His Biracial Identity in 'Half Like Me'

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 08:54
Al Madrigal Takes on His Biracial Identity in 'Half Like Me'

Al Madrigal, known for his role as the senior Latino correspondent on "The Daily Show," is set to debut his own one-hour special on biracial identity. The special, called "Half Like Me," is being billed as a "docu-comedy" and airs on Fusion this Thursday, January 22 at 10:00 p.m., ET. 

"Being half has always been confusing," Madrigal says in the preview for the special. "White people think you're Mexican and Latinos give me shit about not being Latino enough."

From the Huffington Post:

The special follows the star on a quest for identity that many Latinos in the U.S. can identify with. The journey takes him from a family reunion in Tijuana and smoking cigars in Little Havana to some Spanish classes with a group of elementary school kids. He discusses the issue of Latino identity with big names in the community such as Univision's Jorge Ramos, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and columnist Gustavo Arellano.

Here's a look at the trailer:

If you're a Hulu subscriber, you can watch it below:

Categories: Diversity Headlines

South Side Residents Open Chicago's 'Dream Cafe' on MLK Day

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 08:52
South Side Residents Open Chicago's 'Dream Cafe' on MLK Day

Chicago's Englewood neighborhood has been one of the city's most troubled. In recent years it earned the dubious reputation as the city's deadliest neighborhood. But residents there are resilient, so much so that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, a group of South Side restauranteurs opened up the Dream Cafe.  It's the neighborhood's first farm-to-table cafe. Watch more below.

FOX 32 News Chicago

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Kevin Hart, SNL Take on Gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 08:51
Kevin Hart, SNL Take on Gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Gentrification usually isn't a laughing matter, but Kevin Hart's guest-hosting appearance on last weekend's "Saturday Night Live," was filled with gems about it. In the clip below, Hart stars in a sketch about three friends -- Jay Pharaoh and Keenan Thompson play the other two -- who talk about life on the now moneyed streets of Bushwick. Take a look. 

(h/t Salon)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Protestors Rally Nationwide to Reclaim MLK's Legacy

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:34
Protestors Rally Nationwide to Reclaim MLK's Legacy

In cities across the nation, protestors took the streets with a call to reclaim Martin Luther King Jr's legacy this holiday weekend. The actions were part of a coordinated effort, dubbed #ReclaimMLK on social media, that sought to build off of them momentum of last year's rallies against police brutality.

St. Louis:

Message of the day #ReclaimMLK #Ferguson http://t.co/8rv7NriJv7 pic.twitter.com/1RJVehagOu

-- ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) January 20, 2015

Kids Matter. STL. #ReclaimMLK pic.twitter.com/1HmGdKywZH

-- deray mckesson (@deray) January 19, 2015 Bay Area:

I went to a lot of #ReclaimMLK protests this weekend. pic.twitter.com/PcubcgfVu2

-- Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) January 20, 2015

#Stanford68 We shut down the San Mateo bridge to #ReclaimMLK. There's good coverage of it on abc7! @SiliconShutdown pic.twitter.com/Uqwds4sdKs

-- Tulio Ospina (@tospina511) January 20, 2015

Activists at #3rdworld4blackpower is'in gas Palestinian, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Chicano and more #ReclaimMLK pic.twitter.com/hXodOhJYqj

-- Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) January 16, 2015

Die In Grand Ave, Oakland After Selma Screening. 4 1/2 Minutes. #ReclaimMLK #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/95hEy7QP9b

-- Anonymous (@occupythemob) January 18, 2015 Cleveland:

Protesters in Cleveland gather at spot where Tamir Rice was killed, prepare to march #reclaimMLK pic.twitter.com/zGyodmQ6KI

-- Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) January 19, 2015 Seattle:

The Seattle protestors have changed all the fronts of the local paper-of-record. http://t.co/eLmWW3S0fG. #ReclaimMLK pic.twitter.com/KsF1k1iwJW

-- deray mckesson (@deray) January 20, 2015 New York City:

Earlier today public defenders marched for #EricGarner. #ReclaimMLK RT @alaa2325: pic.twitter.com/ECcbXlw0Ux

-- Joo-Hyun Kang (@JooHyun_Kang) January 16, 2015

At the the #Dream4Justice march in New York City. Time to #ReclaimMLK! pic.twitter.com/qbQxBJcyMS

-- Gili Getz (@giligetz) January 19, 2015 Washington, D.C.:

Exciting #BlackLivesMatter Protest in D.C. is happening right now! #ReclaimMLK pic.twitter.com/yeZWfBVRAb

-- Popular Resistance (@PopResistance) January 15, 2015

"@johnzangas: Now: #4MileMarch in progress blocking DC streets drawing attention to #PoliceBrutality #ReclaimMLK pic.twitter.com/BoFCHhxo02"

-- HappyToBeBlue (@MonsterMarcia) January 19, 2015 Milwaukee:

"we are the people,the mighty,mighty people" #milwaukee #ReclaimMLK watch live @superbranch http://t.co/lQ0mofNly1 pic.twitter.com/zB06OI9Jrf

-- mary teatowel (@maryteatowel) January 19, 2015
Categories: Diversity Headlines

ISIS Hostages, Obama Prepares for State of the Union, RIP A$AP Yams

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:20
ISIS Hostages, Obama Prepares for State of the Union, RIP A$AP Yams

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

Categories: Diversity Headlines

10 MLK Quotes That Just Might Inspire You to Act

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 06:17
10 MLK Quotes That Just Might Inspire You to Act

This year, the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy promises to be different. Sure, there will be the obligatory memorials in your local paper, maybe a few television specials to recognize the heroism of the civil rights movement. But this year, more than most, political action will take the place of puppetry.

In theaters across the country, Ava DuVernay's portrayal of King's leadership in the 1965 protests for racial integration in Selma, Ala., is earning rave reviews (though not nearly enough recognition at the Oscars). That, on its own, is meaningful.

But what truly makes this year's MLK Day unique are the political actions happening across the country to reclaim his political legacy. Closely aligned with burgeoning movements like #BlackLivesMatter, dozens of protestors will gather in cities and towns across the country to reiterate King's call for the recognition of black people's basic human rights.

There's no better time than now to revisit King's words as both inspiration and as a factual accounting of his political might.

01-16-14-mlk-2.jpg01-16-14-mlk-5.jpg01-16-14-mlk-6.jpg01-16-14-mlk-9.jpg01-16-14-mlk-4.jpg01-16-14-mlk-7.jpg01-16-14-mlk-8.jpg01-16-14-mlk-10.jpg01-16-14-mlk-3.jpg01-16-14-mlk-1.jpg

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Dispatch from Highland Park: Gentrification, Displacement and the Disappearance of Latino Businesses

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 06:15
 Gentrification, Displacement and the Disappearance of Latino Businesses

I left Los Angeles to go back to school at the end of 2009—and I couldn’t afford to return for a visit until 2013, after I’d graduated and saved money from working. Before I arrived, several friends warned me that I wouldn’t recognize Highland Park, a historic Latino neighborhood that I once frequented. Since I’d already seen gentrification transform the Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods, I figured I didn’t need a warning.

Or so I thought.

During my trip to Highland Park I happened to turn down York, a major boulevard. I felt so confused by my surroundings that I literally pulled over in my rental to catch my breath. The bakery, or panadería, was gone. So was the mini market, the cheap party-supply store and the store that sold those giant five-gallon water bottle things. And those were just the places I could quickly recall. It seemed as if everything on the block had changed. Even the street poles were different—they were covered in bright knitted yarn, masking the familiar gang graffiti. As I drove down York, I saw only white folks eating, drinking, talking and walking in a neighborhood that had been populated mostly by immigrant and homegrown Latinos since the 1970s.

Back in Los Angeles for another visit this winter, I’ve been thinking about these changes and how they’re understood not only by residents, but also by small business owners. Is the risk of displacement for longtime retailers always the cost of doing business? And, if these kinds of changes are good for community—as most new business owners claim—do they benefit everyone equally?

Back in the Day

According to Census data, California’s white population decreased by five percent from 2000 to 2010, while the state’s Latino population increased by 28 percent. In Highland Park, the opposite has occurred. Census data for the neighborhood, which is surveyed by tracts, shows the white population increasing during this period by as much as 42 percent in some parts, while the Latino population has decreased by as much as 13 percent in some areas. Before the shift, Highland Park stores had largely been owned by and served working class and low-income Latinos. Many were immigrants.

But wealthier, and often whiter, residents have been moving in to Highland Park’s once affordable houses and apartments. In February of last year, a three-bedroom home listed for $879,000 but sold for $1 million ($121,000 over the listing price) just two months later. Property records indicate that the same home sold for a quarter of that, just $250,000, in 2000. New businesses have also popped up that cater to these wealthier residents—retail stores like Platform, which offers home styling and staging; exclusive workout studios like Pop Physique; and pricier bars and restaurants whose owners are sometimes willing to pay double per square foot on the existing rent.

The new businesses are also decked out enough to raise property values, leaving many immigrant-owned stores, as well as those who depend on them, on shaky ground.

Back in the Day

Latino immigrants, mostly from Mexico, have been calling Highland Park home since the 1950s, but desegregation, white flight and a powerful Chicano movement made it a predominantly Latino neighborhood by the 1970s.

In the ’80s, bloody civil wars in Central America resulted in an influx of Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Nicaraguan immigrants and their kids in Highland Park. Generation after generation, Latino immigrants moved into the neighborhood’s often roomy apartments and homes with big lawns, and they started small businesses. Latin American-style bakeries served up fresh coffee and baked goods while second-hand merchandise stores served this niche but fixed market.

Starting in the 1970s, Highland Park also served as cultural hub for Chicano artists, often in the shape of revolutionary-minded collectives founded by Chicano art icons such as painter Carlos Almaraz and printmaker Richard Duardo. According to longtime residents, that working-class, cutting-edge art scene, the inexpensive properties and a couple of new stops on Los Angeles’ burgeoning light rail system have attracted droves of wealthier residents and business owners over the past five years.

“It felt like it happened overnight,” recalls John Urquiza. About 15 years ago, the Latino artist decided to open an office for his design and consulting business on York Boulevard and Avenue 50. His rent for a private suite—which included a common space for large meetings and the use of unrented suites for photo shoots—was $200 per month. Urquiza says that over time there had been some small rent increases, but in late 2011 the mom-and-pop building owners, who are also Latino, raised Urquiza’s rent to $600, tripling what he’d originally paid. Rather than pay a rent increase he couldn’t afford, Urquiza moved out in November 2011. 

“Ground Zero” for Gentrification

Urquiza and others with long ties to Highland Park often call the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50 “ground zero for gentrification.” Although newcomers were already buying up homes on Highland Park’s side streets, Urquiza says that York and Avenue 50, “was the first visible incantation of change.” A posh, kid-friendly coffee shop named Cafe de Leche opened up on the corner in 2009. Business owners Matt and Anya Schodorf, a white and Nicaraguan couple, are often blamed for raising the profile—and rents—for commercial property in Highland Park.

Commercially speaking, the neighborhood’s other main drag, Figueroa Street, or simply, Fig, is still mixed. Spanish-speaking vendors hawk everything from belts and wallets to Mexican street corn and hot dogs to pirated DVDs. Most of their customers are the remaining Latino tenants and homeowners.

Aside from losing its character, Highland Park is also losing stores, like Nature’s Perfection Flowers & Gifts, that provide crucial services that might be hard for non-immigrants to recognize right away.

Take paying a utility bill: Undocumented—and even documented—immigrants don’t always have bank accounts. When it comes to paying a gas bill, for example, many don’t mail a check because they don’t have one to send. Similarly, they won’t pay online because they don’t have a bank account to shift money from.

For these residents, paying a utility bill is an in-person transaction. At the counter of Nature’s Perfection Flowers & Gifts, they get to make small talk in Spanish with owner Crystal Lazarro, pay their bills in cash and walk away with a hard copy of a receipt.

And because cell-phone providers often require a Social Security number to extend a line of credit, many undocumented residents use prepaid services instead. Lazarro provides top-up services that instantly recharge minutes on prepaid phones. Her store also handles domestic and international wire transfers—part of an enormous remittance network that fuels whole economies in some parts of Latin America.

But Fig also houses luxury businesses. Sunbeam Vintage, a retro furniture store opened in 2010, trades in burlap-like mustard yellow armchairs for upwards of $700 apiece. A French bistro, Chez Antoine, currently replete with “Je suis Charlie” signs, serves entrees starting at $18. And the rather gargantuan Kinship Yoga studio promotes one-and-a-half-hour sound baths—where gongs and singing bowls inspire “perceived vibrations”—at $20 a pop.

Fig is also home to The Greyhound Bar and Grill, which opened its doors a year ago. Matt Glassman is one of three owners who approached and bought what he describes as a failing business—a Salvadoran restaurant known for its pupusas—and dropped about $300,000 to refurbish the corner building.

Glassman, who describes himself as a “white Jew from Cleveland,” is quick to point out that he’s thought a lot about a race when it comes to Highland Park. A former American Studies student who rolls up his right T-shirt sleeve to reveal a Black Power tattoo, Glassman says he is proud that The Greyhound employs a lot of Latinos—both in the back and in the front of house. On a recent Tuesday night, as we leaned back and talked in one of the bar’s cushiony booths, Latino diners seemed to be ordering drinks and dinner in nearly equal proportion to white patrons.

Amid protests against Highland Park’s residential and retail gentrification, Glassman denounces some critics for what he calls “aggressive nostalgia.” Recalling an incident with a longtime Latina resident who approached him soon after The Greyhound opened and complained about the way the neighborhood was changing, Glassman says, “I will never be the white Jewish business owner screaming ‘racism!’ But this is what racism is: You only don’t like me because I’m white.”

Although many Latino immigrant storeowners were reluctant to discuss race in Highland Park with me, every single white person that I talked to on Fig—business owners as well as residents—brought up how they feel like some of their Latino neighbors are racist. This included a woman at an art studio who asked me if I understood what institutional racism was; after I nodded yes, she then called Latinos “institutionally racist because some of them own stores,” and make her “feel like an invader.”

The Greyhound’s Glassman points out that he’s “subjected to the same changes and fluxes in business and clientele as [everyone else]”—but he acknowledges that he has the security of a 15-year lease with a “very low” rent that he was able to negotiate. The 32-year-old says he feels a sense of personal responsibility if The Greyhound has in any way contributed to rising rents on Fig, but he does wonder why neighboring businesses don’t invest in refurbishing their storefronts.

Based on limited profits coming into their shops and a lack of access to wealth, it’s doubtful that most Latino-owned shops on Fig could afford to sink $300,000 into their businesses—or that it would even be a sound investment to do so. Their merchandise and services on Fig supply locals who don’t necessarily need another incentive to buy their goods. But even that’s changing.

“So many residents have already been displaced, and they’re the ones who most utilized those small businesses,” says Miguel Ramos, an at-large director on the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council who was born and raised in the community.

Local Protest

While the guys from The Greyhound were setting up shop a year ago, the North East Los Angeles Alliance (NELAA), was being founded. NELAA, which has about 30 mostly Latino members, focuses on disrupting evictions of longtime Highland Park residents from their homes and retail businesses. In November, activists taped colossalsymbolic eviction notices up on new businesses along York Boulevard. In December, NELAA held a candlelight vigil—a silent procession down Fig that culminated in a speak-out for displaced people.

Aside from protests, NELAA also helps renters protected by Los Angeles’ housing department to fight against illegal rent increases or evictions. But no such protections exist for month-to-month retail tenants.

Rafael Navarro manages a bike shop on Fig. At Raffi’s Bicycles, he sells new and used bikes and accessories and he does repairs while his wife, María Marroquín, sells Mary Kay goods and costume jewelry at the front counter. Navarro says his friend opened the shop about three years ago specifically to serve Latino riders who are often discriminated against in places like Santa Monica and Pasadena. He’s conflicted about the changes he’s seen in the neighborhood.

On one hand, Navarro, who’s called Highland Park home since he left El Salvador as a teenager in 1989, says he is happy about newcomers. “We [Latinos] don’t have wealth to do much—but now the economy is changing in Highland Park and different people want to help the community to be better.” (He notes that longtime residents haggle for discounts while newcomers don’t mind paying standard rates for good service and parts.)

But Navarro knows that the same economic drive that’s helping the bike business he manages has also created conditions that have pushed fellow immigrant retailers out. Asked about what a rent hike would mean, Navarro pauses, looks around and settles his eyes on his two children eating pizza in the back of the shop. “That would be devastating,” he says slowly. “They’d be destroying years of sacrifice and taking people’s jobs.” 

Shaking his head, he adds, “I hope they don’t do that here. I just hope they don’t do that.”

Big Incentives

One group of people are seeing big profits because of the changes: real estate agents.

Nicole Deflorian, a commercial sales and leasing director at Clint Lukens Realty, has been successful in coaxing commercial landlords to evict longtime month-to-month tenants in favor of wealthier newcomers who can pay much more per square foot. Working on commission, Deflorian has mostly covered Silverlake and Echo Park—two neighborhoods that have undergone similar changes in the last 10 years. And she’s now set her eyes on Highland Park.

“When we see a building that has tenants who have been there for a long time and are probably paying very low rent, we offer our services to property owners,” says Deflorian—who insists that gentrification starts with residential property rather than retail businesses.

Bike shop manager Navarro calls the practice of persuading landlords to evict lower-rent tenants unethical. “You’d have to be disgusting rich to open a business and pay $4,000 a month for a little place for rent,” he scoffs.

But Deflorian—whose practice of encouraging landlords to evict longtime tenants isn’t unique—insists it’s just the risk for anyone doing business.

“Change is a part of life, and the people who are in there now kicked out whoever was there before,” says Deflorian. “I’m just doing my job.”  

On Figueroa, where several immigrant business owners refused to talk about rising rents, I felt a sense of dread. Over a lunch of homemade vegetable stew and tortillas, one longtime owner of a women’s clothing store who spoke on condition of anonymity summed it up. “It’s too sad and too stressful to think about what comes next.” 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

The Hope and Burden of The Civil Rights Movement

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 08:32
The Hope and Burden of The Civil Rights Movement

It's nearly* six months since white police officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old, unarmed civilian Michael Brown in Ferguson, a St. Louis, Mo. suburb. There and around the country, the fatal shooting released a pressure valve of outrage about brutal and racist policing in black communities. Nationwide, people have marched, camped out in parking lots, blocked highway traffic, died in, sung in and even interrupted bourgie brunch. But to what end? What's next?

Many are calling the Brown protests (and those about the fatal police chokehold of 40-year-old Staten Island father Eric Garner) "a new civil rights movement." But as new, creative actions crop up to expand the common cry, #BlackLivesMatter, from the street to other areas of civic life, they're butting up against the legacy and perceived perfection of the old movement. That 60-year halo burns burns bright not just for Boomers but ordinary Millennials, too.

St. Louis rapper and activist Tef Poe captures the burden of history when he directly addresses his peers' expectations in, 'War Cry': "This ain't your daddy's civil rights movement," he raps. Still, the pressure put on this burgeoning movement from every part of society to conform to the PBS highlight reel is real.

No less than African-American history movie maven, Oprah Winfrey has reinforced the movement standard by which current protests are judged. "I think it's wonderful to march and to protest and it's wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it," she told People. "But what I'm looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, 'This is what we want. ...This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we're willing to do to get it.'"

Charles HF Davis III, a 30-year-old education researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Race and Equity Education, is quick to dismiss Winfrey's claims about unclear demands: "The information is available. If you don't know, you're not looking," he says. What Davis, who is completing a dissertation on contemporary student activism centered on the Dream Defenders, wants to talk about is the difference in leadership.

"This generation [of student activists] is very intentional about not having a charismatic leader," like a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Malcolm X, Davis says. That's perhaps its biggest difference with the classic civil rights movement, he adds. There are many leaders--and Davis points to the Ismaaiyl Brinsley fallout to say that's a good thing. Between shooting his ex-girlfriend and later murdering two New York City police officers in December, Brinsley bragged of killing cops in an Instagram post and referenced Eric Garner and Mike Brown. Conservative criticism quickly linked Brinsley directly to the protests then taking place in New York City.

"It'd have been easier to label the entire movement based on one outlier if there was a single leader," Davis says. "But because many leaders can say Brinsley has nothing to do with us, it's more difficult to co-opt the movement."

Perhaps the times required a charismatic leader in order for the civil rights movement to progress--but do all movements need one in order to succeed? "That's the $64,000 question for historians," says Steven Lawson, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and co-author of, "Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1968."

A single leader, usually selected by the grassroots, has always come to the fore, Lawson says, name-checking Douglass, Randolph, King and Mandela. What sets them apart is not only respect from the people but their ability to deliberate with the people in power who make public policy decisions.

Whether or not the generation mobilized by the Brown-Garner protests will gravitate towards a single leader out of the current crop remains to be seen, Lawson says. The jury is still out.

Danielle McGuire is a history professor at Wayne State University and author of "At The Dark End of the Street" a book about black women, rape and resistance during the civil rights and Black Power eras. "If people really understood the civil rights movement, we would understand that the movement made King," and not vice versa, she says.

Take sit-ins. "Students prodded and pushed King to take risks and use direct action instead of passive action action like the boycott." McGuire sees die-ins as part of a tradition sharpened during civil rights and she notes that even today's level of backlash against protesters' tactics is similar.

"We tend to romanticize the support that activists got in the past but in reality it was very little," she says. "A lot of the criticism that I hear around protests now, I could pick up a newspaper in the 1950s and read the same thing."

To McGuire's point, one North Carolina editor writing in February 1960 praised "Negroes of the South's" earlier campaign to win legal rights around segregation. But he couldn't get behind the new lunch counter sit-ins. "It does not follow that [we will support a] campaign designed to intrude into the areas of personal and private choice," he wrote. "Indeed by moving the struggle to this new arena, the young Negroes may risk alienating some of the support they have enjoyed."

Similar criticism or dismissal is being levied at protests in today's consumer leisure spaces like die-ins at malls and lately, #BlackBrunch. That new tactic originated in Oakland last December but virulent backlash brought it to national attention when it hit New York City.

One Oakland co-organizer who identifies as Wild Tigers, 28, says the main purpose of #BlackBrunch is to acknowledge people of color killed by police or vigilante citizens--particularly among patrons, "who can choose not to deal with the everyday reality of the war against black people." Protesters typically read names of victims aloud within a five-minute period.

Wild Tigers' sentiment behind wanting society to feel like all blacks' lives hold value isn't all that dissimilar from one expressed in Febuary 1960 by one of the Greensboro Four, Joseph A. McNeil. Then 17, he told The New York Times what provoked him to sit at Woolworth's whites-only lunch counter: "Segregation makes me feel like I'm unwanted," he said. Many black youth today say the same, certainly around policing and criminal justice. The sit-ins kicked off by McNeil and three of his classmates have been widely credited since as the key turning point in the civil rights movement.

"We tend to get nostalgic about the way things used to be," Davis says, pointing out that the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts did not begin as national demands. Rather, "they were concessions to things happening at local levels."

Davis looks around and sees young leaders who're purposeful about avoiding what they see as the classical movement's mistakes: too much dependence on a single leader and marginalizing women and members of the LGBTQ community.

"If you speak to the leaders of this movement they acknowledge their limitations and blind spots," he says. "Everything isn't always gonna work. But they're committed to figuring things out."

"I'm not worried," he says.

* Post has been updated since publication to reflect that six months will have passed on February 9.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Jay Smooth Makes Sense of Kendrick Lamar's Ferguson Comments

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 13:26
Jay Smooth Makes Sense of Kendrick Lamar's Ferguson Comments

Leave it to Jay Smooth to make sense of Kendrick Lamar's comments on Ferguson, which earned the rapper the ire of plenty of onlookers, including Azealia Banks

(h/t Fusion)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

'Selma' Star David Oyelowo Lined His Suit With MLK Quotes

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 12:18
'Selma' Star David Oyelowo Lined His Suit With MLK Quotes

If you didn't already love David Oyelowo because of his performance in "Selma," you'll certainly enjoy this. A day after being snubbed for a best actor Oscar nomination, the Oyelowo showed up at the 2015 Critics' Choice Awards on Thursday worse a suit jacket inscribed with famous quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. 

While on the red carpet, the 38-year-old British actor told reporters how he felt about this year's Oscars being so white. "The only way to put a dent in the very real fact that there is a disproportionate amount of people who do not look like me doing what I do is something that I'm just going to fight by doing the best I can with the roles I get.

Fashion meets pop meets civil rights. David Oyelowo's embroidered his jacket lining with MLK quotes: http://t.co/z5xJ6nfssp

-- julianne hing (@juliannehing) January 16, 2015



(h/t US Magazine)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Video: Black Lives Matter Delegation Visits Palestine

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 12:14

Solidarity Demonstration in Nazareth : Ferguson to Palestine from Dream Defenders on Vimeo

A delegation of Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, and Ferguson leaders has returned from a 10-day trip to Palestine, where they sought to forge connections with Palestinian activists.

"The goals were primarily to allow for the group members to experience and see firsthand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation," Dream Defenders' legal and policy director Ahmad Abuznaid told Ebony. "In the spirit of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the connections between the African American leadership of the movement in the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished and fortified."

While on their trip, delegates met with black Palestinians, refugees, Palestinian activists, and those who'd been removed from their homes in East Jerusalem. The Institute for Middle East Understanding assisted in developing the delegation's itinerary. During a stop in Nazareth, the delegation staged a solidarity demonstration.

Professor Marc Lamont Hill We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters. We come to a land that has been stolen by greed and destroyed by hate. We come here and we learn laws that have been cosigned by ink but written in the blood of the innocent. And we stand next to people who continue to courageously struggle and resist the occupation. People who continue to dream and fight for freedom. From Ferguson to Palestine, the struggle for freedom continues.

For more photos, check out IMEU's Flickr page.

Categories: Diversity Headlines