Updated: 17 min 57 sec ago
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 22:55
The fourth and final season of Adult Swim's hit animated series "The Boondocks" is almost underway, but it will do so without its creator, Aaron McGruder.
McGruder's absence hasn't quite been explained. He did announce that he's working on a new series for the network called "Black Jesus," featuring a modern-day black Jesus who's living in Compton, Calif., but fans still aren't clear on why he's not involved in seeing "The Boondocks" across the finish line. After all, he did transform it from a college newspaper comic strip into one of the network's most successful animated series. A press release from Sony Pictures Television, which produces the series, noted that the final season "was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined."
Justin Charity wrote over at Gawker about the show's troubled road:
Through the comic's conclusion in 2006, and the TV series' stalling in 2010, McGruder and The Boondocks drew frequent criticism from conservative commentators and black intelligentsia alike. The characters' fondness for the word "nigga," the overheated invectives against the Bush administration and white American power, the ensemble parody of minority stereotypes--it's so far unclear whether the TV series will retain such edge despite the absence of its notoriously brash creator, a guy who called Condoleezza Rice, an early fan of McGruder's strip, a "mass murderer" to her face in 2002, as he shook her hand.
But it's that brash attitude that also made it a fan favorite.
The show's final season premieres April 21st.
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 22:07
Arguments begin tomorrow March 25 for the Supreme Court cases Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The cases center on whether the for-profit businesses can refuse to cover no-cost birth control--part of the Affordable Care Act--in its insurance plans because of religious objections. According to the National Women's Law Center more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in federal court challenging the ACA's birth control coverage benefit. In a statement, Adam Sonfield, a researcher for the Guttmacher Institute, lays out some of the risks of the two cases:
"[T]he Supreme Court must also be aware that its decision could have consequences far beyond contraception. For example, there are many important coverage guarantees included in the ACA, and federal law more broadly, and if the Court sides with the plaintiffs, it could truly open a Pandora's box of discrimination. Employers might claim religious objections to coverage--for everyone or, for instance, for those who are young, unmarried or gay--of HPV vaccination, STI testing, breast-feeding equipment, maternity care, blood transfusions, HIV medication and mental health care."
For more (non-partisan) analysis and facts, read the rest of the Guttmacher statement.
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 20:39
The public dialogue around black male achievement got a real boost from President Obama's welcome-if-unambitious, My Brother's Keeper initiative. At 6:30pm EST today, the conversation continues with a Women's Herstory Month-themed Google Hangout: Why Women are Key to the Success of My Brother's Keeper. It's sure to be a rich session. Some of the ten panelists include Michéle Stephenson (American Promise producer and co-director), Damon Hewitt (senior adviser, Open Society Foundations) and co-host, Nicole Franklin (co-director of Little Brother, a film project that talks to black boys about love in their lives).
Check out the rest of the line up and don't forget to RSVP. The YouTube link for the event goes live at 6:25pm EST.
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 20:26
Jay Z's never ending bootstrap logic is once again on display in his new song with Jay Electonica, "We Made It." The track is a cover of a previous song by Drake and Souljah Boy and is the second song in as many weeks from Electronica, who delighted fans with a surprise track called "Better In Tune With the Infinite" last week.
It's a song that's at once questioning and celebrating black success. Electronica, calling himself the "Farrakhan of rap," praises the perseverance of black folks who've survived slavery but notes that "Obamacare won't heal all that anguish." Jay Z, the fervent capitalist, touts the ingenuity of black folks like Lupita Nyong'o who've reached the top of their field despite America's racism and brags, "with my arms and my feet shackled I still get paid."
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 20:23
By now, much of the country has heard of last Friday's Department of Education data that black preschoolers are more likely to be suspended than white preschoolers. (Yes, 4- and 5-year-olds face suspension, too) The data didn't get at why but one new study fills in some of the gap. It suggests that a child's race influences how teachers evaluate child's play. The research in Early Childhood Research Quarterly looks at 171 Southern California preschoolers, evaluated mainly by Hispanic and white female teachers, and finds that:
"Among Black preschoolers, imaginative and expressive pretend play features were associated with teachers' ratings of less school preparedness, less peer acceptance, and more teacher-child con?ict, whereas comparable levels of imagination and affect in pretend play were related to positive ratings on these same measures for non-Black children."
Suspicious behavior of blacks, it appears, begins even at age four. Check out study findings and limitations (i.e., observations took place in a child-friendly laboratory setting and not in classrooms)*.
(h/t Pacific Standard)
*Post has been updated.
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 20:21
ABC Family has decided to pull the plug on its recent series order for "Alice in Arabia" after pointed protests from Arab-American and Muslim American civil rights groups.
The show's detractors were primarily worried about its depictions of Arabs and Muslims, and its official synopsis gave plenty of folks cause for concern. The drama was about sp-called "rebellious" American teenage girl who's kidnapped and sent to Saudi Arabia to live with her Muslim grandfather. Its writer, Brooke Eikmeier, is a former army linguist who also worked for the National Security Agency.
"The current conversation surrounding our pilot was not what we had envisioned and is certainly not conducive to the creative process, so we've decided not to move forward with this project," an ABC Family spokesperson told TheWrap in a statement.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Los Angeles Chapter (CAIR-LA) acknowledged that Eikmeier had "noble intentions" but the group remained "concerned about the negative impact this program could have on the lives of ordinary Arab-American and American Muslims." CAIR has previously expressed similar fears with "24," "The Siege," "True Lies" and "Rules of Engagement."
So why is it so difficult for Hollywood to tell meaningful stories of Arab and Muslim Americans? For starters, Arab and Muslim writers don't often get much attention.
Back in 2011, Alex Cohen dug into this for NPR and focused on the work of the Muslim Public Affairs Council to help train emerging Muslim screenwriters.
[Qasim] Basir wrote and directed the recent feature film MOOZ-lum, a semi-autobiographical tale of a young African-American who struggles with the challenges of being raised Muslim.
Finding financing for MOOZ-lum was a real challenge, Basir says. Hollywood executives didn't quite know what to do with a film about African-Americans who were also Muslims.
"Because we know how to sell Big Momma's House 4, you know? We know how to sell the Tyler Perry movies, but this here -- who's the audience for this?" Basir says.
Not every critic of the show is ecstatic about the show's cancellation. Dean Obeidallah wrote at the Daily Beast that he would have preferred the network to have met with members of Middle Eastern and Muslim-American communities to work on a fair representation of their communities. But Obeidallah was also careful to point out Hollywood's problem with Arabs and Muslims is much bigger than this one show.
...for years Hollywood has presented almost exclusively the negative images of us. As Dr. Jack Shaheen noted in his book, "Reel Bad Arabs," there have been approximately 350 films between 1970 and 2001 that depicted Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, evil sheiks, and other dastardly villains. Although since 9/11 Hollywood has tried to be more responsible by including the one "good" Middle Eastern person to counterbalance the sea of "bad" ones as we've seen inHomeland. (And usually the "good" Arab is killed by the "bad" ones.)
What's even more disturbing is that, in general, people of Middle Eastern heritage aren't part of the creative team even though the project focuses on our culture.
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 19:49
This week will be a big one for anyone interested in the legacy of Cesar Chavez. On Thursday, Diego Luna's highly anticipated biopic on Chavez hits theaters starring Hollywood heavyweights Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera. Also this week, former "Los Angeles Times" editor Miriam Pawel's book, "The Crusades of Cesar Chavez," hits bookstores. And the two offer very different views of Chavez's legacy.
From the Los Angeles Times:
In the film "Cesar Chavez," by a Mexican production team led by the actor-director Diego Luna, he is a heroic and beatific figure using nonviolence to lead his people to victory. The movie ends with Chavez's United Farm Workers winning contracts in 1970 from recalcitrant growers.
The 534-page book, "The Crusades of Cesar Chavez," by former Times editor and reporter Miriam Pawel, follows Chavez, from his birth in a Depression-era Arizona and his father's loss of the family farm, to his death, following a long period in which the UFW was in decline. Much of the second half of the book delves deeply into what Chavez's old allies call "the dark side" -- his isolation and his embrace of what some saw as a cult of personality.
Both the film and book are attempts to, as the Times put it, "reclaim Chavez's place in the American memory." Like any political figure, Chavez's politics and personal life were undeniably complicated, and that means that his legacy is bound to be imperfect.
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 23:33
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 23:30
New York News | NYC Breaking News
Attention sneakerheads: Bobbito Garcia was on Good Day New York this week to talk his latest book "Where'd You Get Those? New York City's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987."
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 20:01
When referees barred Samah Aida from competing in a high school soccer match because of her hijab, the rest of her teammates at Aurora, Colorado's Overland High School decided to decided to show her their support.
From Bleacher Report:
Although many of the players who wore the hijabs weren't even Muslim, it was about much more than that. Rather than allowing their teammate to feel oppressed, the Overland players decided to take matters into their own hands.
Per Carol Kuruvilla of the New York Daily News, referees deemed that Aidah wearing the hijab in a game would have been "dangerous."However, even FIFA has decided to allow players to wear headscarves during matches, according to Al Jazeera.
Aidah and her teammates were allowed to play while wearing the hijabs in the following match.
You can see the players' act of unity in the above photo.
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 20:00
The school-to-prison pipeline may begin sooner than previously thought. According to the Associated Press, new numbers will reveal that preschools disproportionately suspend black children:
Data to be released Friday by the Education Department's civil rights arm finds that black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in schools, but almost half of the students suspended more than once. Six percent of the nation's districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.
During the 2011 to 2012 schoolyear, some 5,000 preschoolers were suspended once, and some 2,500 were suspended more than once. Schools are getting tough on children, and on black children especially--even at age four.
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 19:58
The powerful new documentary "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power" hits theaters this week. In it, director Frieda Mock tells the story of Hill's brave choice to testify publicly about about her sexual harrassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. The film, production for which began in 2010, had a powerful impact on its creator. Mock wrote about her experience over at XO Jane:
As the film's director, I'm beginning to understand that what Anita testified to that fateful day, October 11, 1991, struck a deep, resonant chord in many that erupts in a near love fest when they see how the rest of Anita's story unfolded. It's not what I set out to do. It's simply how Anita, no longer frozen in time in that iconic blue dress and now contextualized in time and place, comes across in the movie -- a fabulous, great, fun person.
At the outset, what I didn't realize and do now is that the heart of the movie is a deeply personal family story about Anita and the Hill family. It's a typical American story about working hard and providing for your family, but it's also about a quintessentially African-American family whose journey mirrors that of the history of African Americans -- from slavery to freedom, through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and forward.
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 18:32
Students of color at elite universities are fed up with on-campus racism and lately they're taking their defiance beyond the ivory tower. Before this month's "I, Too, Am Harvard" went viral there was last fall's #BBUM or "Being Black At Michigan" and now there's, "I, too, am Oxford." They all belong to a rich tradition of student activism around race and inequality. Yale University is entering the mix with the release of a new documentary film, "Black and Cuba." Shot in 2002 when the United States was muscling up for war in Iraq, nine graduate students, mainly of color, left their isolation-among-privilege in New Haven for Cuba. They went looking for revolution. Did they find it? Colorlines talked with filmmaker Robin J. Hayes,* now a professor at The New School in New York City and founder of civic participation nonprofit,Progressive Pupil
There's been a lot of highly publicized campus activity lately. What do you think about "I, Too, Am Harvard" and "Being Black at Michigan?"
They're continuing a long struggle for unconditional acceptance and inclusion on the part of students of color in higher education. That's part of why I framed "Black and Cuba" as a multi-generational story that asks, "How are we truly going to move forward from what social movements accomplished in the late 1960s and early '70s?" Back then we broke the hard color line. But how we move forward from there hasn't yet been fully resolved. I think we're seeing a generation of students with higher expectations.
Higher than the previous generation's?
Yes. I think the expectations among students, now, are higher and, in a way, so are the institutions.' And I'm speaking now only for a fraction of us who've been able to access institutions like Harvard or Yale. Those institutions, our families and communities all expect us to seize these opportunities and go for it. We're told there's no limit if we're willing to work hard and put in the effort. But what we often encounter is concrete hostility and observable marginalization, actions and statements that are degrading and dehumanizing. We're seeing that conflict rise to the surface with acts like, "I, Too, Am Harvard."
It's also really interesting to see that conflict in an international context with, "I, too, am Oxford." So you see micro-aggressions, for example, towards someone from Pakistan who's being told, "Wow, You speak really good English." This is the reality of what we're faced with, after being told, "Work hard!" and "Anything is possible!" "Black and Cuba" shows what we, as students in one historical context, have done to address those contradictions.
What were you looking for in Cuba? Did you find it?
I'll speak for myself. I was looking for hope that change driven by the needs of everyday people was really possible. Those are people who are working to live, people who do not have a surplus of wealth. Can their needs and desires be the engine of change?
And did you find that in Cuba?
I did. But not just in the "Cuba is the ideal" example. Cuba is a place with a lot of contradictions like everywhere. It's made important gains, no doubt about that. But they also are still struggling with certain things--like, freedom of speech and ongoing racial tension--just as we've made gains and are still struggling in U.S. I guess I found what I was looking for, in the connections we made with each other as a group, and also in our connection with the Cubans we met during the trip.
It was hard to tell at the end of the film whether you or the group had indeed found revolution.
I made a choice not to tie the story up extra neatly because I hope people will leave the film thinking about what they're looking for and how they can find it. Cuba was a way for me to start that path. And I think everyone else in the group is also still figuring and working that out in different ways. It's not something you can just decide, like Fidel and Che going off to the mountains to create revolution. It's day-to-day decision-making and it's important to keep looking.
You shot the Cuba footage in 2002 around the same time that the U.S. invaded Iraq for the second time. How did that impact your trip?
Actually, the day we were returning to the U.S. is the day Bush announced restrictions on travel to Cuba. I remember sitting in José Martí airport [and this is] after we'd been in Cuba and were really relating to Afro-Cubans telling us their own struggles to have more freedom of expression and economic opportunity and thinking, We're on the same page. And then we sat and watched the news reporting that Cuba was part of the so-called Axis of Evil and that they were the enemy? I'm looking around the airport at families enjoying cubano sandwiches and thinking, "Are we talking about the same place?" I see people who're trying to make way for their families, the best way they can.
Does Cuba treat their "everyday people" better than the U.S. treats its own?
It's difficult to compare directly because there are so many things enjoyed by Cubans that're the wildest dreams for us, like universal health care, universal public education, a real jobs program. These things are being threatened now by economic realities and free market reforms. For me, the fact that there's no difference in life expectancy based on race between Afro-Cubans and other Cubans is huge. But it's also clear that racial discrimination plays out in terms of access to jobs and employment advancement.
In tourism for example, there's a presumption that foreigners, mainly white Europeans and South Americans, prefer to interact with white Cubans when it comes to front desk or management positions. We also heard complaints that the highest echelons of government are still white. Our [dark-skinned, male] tour guide complained about racial profiling and stereotypes, too--I'm sad to report that there are common stereotypes about black people being lazy or criminal all over the world. There never was a racial utopia in Cuba but some activists do say that something about economic competition is worsening the racial divide.
Consider too, Cuba is a developing country. There are things that even lower income Americans have access to that's difficult for Cubans to get, like basic toiletries or electronics. I think it's always difficult when comparing America to a developing country. There's much less violence there, but I'm sure Cubans would look at Chicago's South Side and think, You guys are living the high life.
Do you see an opening for the embargo to end, now?
Absolutely. It's a policy that is completely out of steam politically. Even half of Cuban-Americans think it's time for normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. It's part of our privilege that we're not encouraged to think about how the embargo is impacting Cuba. But everyone in Cuba thinks about it every day. The question now is about when it's going to happen and whether the autonomy of Cuba and Cubans will be respected in the process.
We'll be bringing "Black and Cuba" to as many campuses and community organizations as we can and, we're also fundraising to bring it Cuba.
And before we go, what's good reading for those who're "seeking" like you were back then? What helped you?
For people who don't read for a living like me, this is a classic for a reason: "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." Also, read "Sister Outsider" by Audre Lorde and "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon. Start with those three. And stick with "Wretched"; the language isn't easy but if you're already interested in social justice and anti-racist practice, you'll get it.
*Post has been updated since publication.
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 00:24
One Philadelphia legal clinic noticed a few years ago that a disproportionate number of clients coming through their doors were young women of color. They all had criminal records and they all sought help because they were having a hard time finding good jobs or any work at all. Their numbers were notable because, as Community Legal Services of Philadelphia explains in a new report: "the vast majority of research, programming, and policy attention regarding criminal records and barriers to employment have focused on men. The impact of criminal records on young women seeking employment has largely been overlooked."
So CLS undertook a small local study. (Nationally, women are the fastest rising segment of the prison and jail population.) Among the findings: despite the low risk women pose to public safety, they may face more barriers to employment than men. One reason could be social expectations. Women are seen to have committed two offenses: one against society and another against "expectations of how women are supposed to behave."
Read more at ThinkProgress.
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 21:53
Yesterday, the research and policy think-tank Brookings Institution launched "The Primary Project," an examination of this year's midterm congressional primaries as a way of gathering insight on the future of the Democratic and Republican parties. Since primaries are considered the "neglected stepchildren of American elections," as Brookings called it, they are the races that are least likely to garner media coverage or intensive study.
"Since incumbent members of Congress pay as much - and often more - attention to their primary constituency as they do to the general election, we want to know what shapes the worldviews of Congress," wrote Elaine Kamarck, founding director of Brookings' Center for Effective Public Management.
The biggest question they'll be looking at: Is the Tea Party dead, yet? Both Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already begun publicly dismissing the Tea Party as nuisances. But they want be able to swat them away so easily.
This graph below looks at the kinds of primary challengers in Republican races held thus far in Illinois and Texas. Of the challengers, those of the Tea Party brand clearly outweigh all other types.
The special election in Florida a couple weeks ago wasn't a primary. But the Tea Party candidate David Jolly won, and in a district he wasn't expected to carry, and without the support of the Republican Party. If that doesn't signal that the party is still alive and tea-baggin', then I don't know what is.
That said, Tea Party candidates failed miserably in both the Illinois and Texas primaries held so far. We'll be watching the body count closely as well.
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 20:45
Almost 20 percent of youth aged 16 to 26 in Georgia are immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Their educational outcomes, a new study says, are cause for concern. On one end of the spectrum, the population of second generation children has increased nearly 50 percent in the last five years and at the other end Georgia's native white population is aging rapidly. The educational outcomes of first and second generation youth are expected to shape the state's future workforce competitiveness.
Here's more from the Migration Policy Institute report:
* English language learners have a four-year high school graduation rate of 44 percent; the state's is 70 percent.
* Nearly one-third of foreign-born youth ages 21 to 26 don't have a high school diploma or GED.
* Nearly 30 percent of English language learners in high schools have been in U.S. schools for six years or more.
The study acknowledges that Georgia's recent education reforms have been ambitious. But they don't go far enough in addressing the needs of immigrant youth, especially English language learners.
Georgia ranks 8th in immigrant population size in the nation, up from 16th place in 1990.
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 20:36
Chicago's students are certainly a resilient bunch. Here are some of the students from the city's Kenwood Academy dancing along to Pharrell's hit song "Happy." The school's principal, Gregory Jones, danced enthusiastically in the video and has been surprised by how popular it's become. "I'm very, very surprised by the reaction," he told the Chicago Tribune. I knew the kids here would watch it, but I didn't think anyone else would. Now we're getting phone calls from alumni who have seen it and I'm getting text messages from all over the country."
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 18:26
More than 100 people gathered at the White House this week for a special screening of Diego Luna's biopic "Cesar Chavez."
The audience included director Luna, stars Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera, labor leader Dolores Huerta and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez was also present. The president was introduced by Julie Chavez Rodriguez, deputy director of public engagement at the White House and the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez.
In remarks made shortly before the film began, President Obama praised Chavez's resilience. "That is one of the great lessons of his life -- we don't give up the fight," Obama said. "No matter how long it takes, no matter how long the odds, we keep on going."
The film opens in theaters nationwide on March 28.
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 18:01
"Alice in Arabia" is one of three pilots ordered by ABC Family, but it's already drawing criticism for its portrayal of Islam. The show is about a so-called "rebellious American teen" who's forced to move to Saudi Arabia and live with her Muslim grandfather. But the greater-Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced on Wednesday that it has asked the network to meet with Muslim and Arab-American leaders to discuss the show's potential for stereotyping.
Here's the official synopsis of the show:
Alice in Arabia is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather's royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil.
The show's premise isn't the only cause for concern. According to Deadline, the show is written by Brooke Eikmeier, a former army linguist who's also worked for the NSA.
In a letter sent to ABC Family president Tom Ascheim, CAIR explained its concern. "As the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, we are concerned about the negative impact this program could have on the lives of ordinary Arab-American and American Muslims."
The group's Los Angeles executive director Hussam Ayloush drilled down on that point in a statement. "We are concerned that, given media references to the main character 'surviving life behind the veil,' the pilot and any resulting series may engage in stereotyping that can lead to things like bullying of Muslim students."
In response to the criticism, an ABC Family spokesperson told Variety that they want people to give the show a chance. "We hope people will wait to judge this show on its actual merits once it is filmed. The writer is an incredible storyteller and we expect 'Alice' to be a nuanced and character driven show."
Rabia Chaudry wrote about the larger problem of Muslim misrepresentations in America:
The American Muslim community is ripe with talent and voices who can actually tell these stories in relevant, meaningful, and authentic ways. Portraying Muslims and Arabs as nuanced Americans instead of foreign caricatures would be a good first step for television. Instead of reaching across the globe for "Alice in America," perhaps we should start here at home with "Ahmed in Austin".
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:56
Justin Simein's award-winning debut film, "Dear White People," has been acquired by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. It means big things for U.S. and Canadian distribution this year.
The comedy follows a group of black students at a predomintately white campus where a riot breaks out over an "African-American-themed" party thrown by a white fraternity. It's a story ripped directly from any number of headlines over the years about racial tensions flaring up on college campuses around the country. It stars Tyler James Williams ("Everybody Hates Chris") and Tessa Thompson ("Veronica Mars"), and won the special jury award for breakthrough talent at Sundance.
"Justin Simien is a funny, fresh and current voice with his finger on the Millennials' pulse," said Roadside's co-president Howard Cohen, according to Variety.
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