Phylicia Barnes and the Black Girl’s Burden

By Guest Contributor Stacia L. Brown, cross-posted from PostBourgie

I was home for the holidays when Phylicia Barnes went missing. My immediate family—all women, now four generations deep, with the birth of my daughter— huddled around the small kitchen TV, listening to local news anchors explain the facts surrounding Barnes’ disappearance: black high school honors student from Monroe, NC comes to Baltimore, filled with excitement at the prospect of strengthening her relationship with a half-sister she barely knew and was likely eager to impress. During her visit, the sister, Deena, age 27, allows Barnes to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana—practices her mother expressly forbade at home. Barnes was last seen alive at her half-sister’s apartment; the only other person in the home at the time was the sister’s ex-boyfriend.

Perhaps the most chilling thing about this incident is how relatable the circumstances are. Family comes up from down south all the time, hoping for a bright lights-big city experience before heading back to the slow-ambling comforts of home. One half-sibling wanting to establish a bond with another, after only just discovering she had half-siblings in the first place? Also pretty common. An older sister who barely knows her younger one not being as protective as she should? That’s a familiar scene. A mother tentatively encouraging her daughter to connect with her estranged father’s side of the family, in an attempt to be a supportive, inclusive parent? Not uncommon.

For it all to end in a disappearance and, as of April 21, the discovery of Barnes’ body floating in the Susquehanna River, is all the more devastating, because we can easily put ourselves in the positions of at least one party involved in this tragedy.

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links for 2011-04-26

  • "Imagine you’re in the hospital with cancer. Would you rather spend everything you have to potentially live longer, or just forgo the costly medical treatment?

    "Your answer to that question might be influenced by your race.

    "A study published Tuesday in the journal Cancer finds that 80% of African Americans were willing to spend all their resources to extend life, but for white people the number is just 54%. Other minority groups landed between those two groups, with 69% of Hispanics and 72% of Asians saying they were willing to spend everything on extending life.

    :"Differences in religious belief can be subtle, but significant to the findings."

  • "So if you want to see the Quran contest as a cynical P.R. event designed to paint a friendly face on a sinister global conspiracy, or a celebration of the coming world Caliphate, then carry on. But if you're open to the possibility that Islam in practice is an incredibly diverse spiritual and social movement that embraces 1.6 billion human beings and a lot of internal discussion and disagreement, and that the more we know about it the better, then 'Koran by Heart' is a movie you've got to see."
  • "Yet in 2011, these teachers are treated like slave labor, fresh off the Middle Passage. The difference being, they were invited here, and are actually card-carrying union members. It's a shame they're good enough to educate children, but not worthy of being respected as professionals. Instead, by virtue of being from third world countries, they're treated like migrant agricultural workers. As a son of the Caribbean, and also of Caribbean educators who came before me, this is truly disappointing. What's next, undocumented doctors and nurses? One has to wonder, were they recruited from Europe would this be an issue?"
  • "A year later, SB 1070 looks like a big, expensive con. It brought us boycotts, lost business, a sullied reputation, another court battle and a betrayal of Arizona's heritage.

    "Oh, yes. And it did nothing to make the border safer or reduce illegal immigration.

    "The national spotlight made Arizona look like a place where extremism is the norm. International media lapped up each outrageous statement from SB 1070 supporters. Comedians ripped a hole in the state's dignity bigger than the Grand Canyon."

  • "Huge surges among Hispanic populations in the Deep South could mean a political sea change over the next two decades, as immigrants become naturalized and they and their American-born children register to vote.

    "The states with some of the largest percentages in Hispanic population growth make up a large swath of the Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to an analysis of the most recent census figures by the Pew Hispanic Center."

Open Thread: On “Radical Global Citizenship”

by Latoya Peterson

global citizenship

Earlier in the month, I had spotted a Fast Company article discussing the changing nature of diplomacy in the Obama White House. Alex Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, granted a sprawling interview to Fast Company which addressed embracing transparency and collaboration in a mistrustful global environment.

Some interesting bits:

Upon entering office, Obama vowed an end to cowboy diplomacy. Ross says the U.S. is exercising influence “on a more multilateral basis, and doing so under the frame of global citizenship, less than quote ‘America’s Values’.”

“The language matters,” continues Ross. “We live in such an interconnected world.”

While, to some, talk of interconnectedness may seem like political pandering and boilerplate, to a large swath of the country, it’s an aggressively contentious worldview. Former UN ambassador John Bolton recently called Obama the “most radical president who has ever been elected,” in a speech pointedly titled “the Case against Global Citizenship.”

For instance, while Bolton and other conservatives slammed Obama for prioritizing Egyptian democracy over an America-friendly despot, the State Department was been busy supporting overtly subversive technologies.

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MMW Roundtable: Jonah Goldberg’s Feminist Concerns

By the staff at Muslimah Media Watch, cross-posted with their permission

A few weeks ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote an op-ed claiming that feminism’s work in the West is “mostly done” and that’s it’s time to take feminism “overseas” to Muslim women.

We disagree.

Diana: Where do you begin in tearing apart Jonah Goldberg’s “Talking feminism overseas?” I can almost see Gayatri Spivak shaking her head as she waves her finger back and forth, saying as she has before, “white men saving brown women from brown men.”  So much for novelty in the discourse surrounding “third world women.” Can someone please throw something new at us?!

Azra: I’ll admit, after reading Jonah Goldberg’s article, I had to read it again (unfortunately), as I considered the chance that it was an excellent piece of farce. If only that were the case …

Sara: Oh, please, Jonah. Feminism is hardly a completed project in the United States. Who hasn’t ratified CEDAW yet? Measuring access to rights by national boundaries is problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the oasis of equality that Goldberg mentions is a myth, and really only applies to certain groups. The rights of women change according to socioeconomic factors and race.  Drawing empowerment or access to rights through national boundaries or groups pushes injustice into invisibility. Saying that the “work is done” is a flat-out insult to the work of modern American feminists.

Azra: Is feminism over in the United States? Continue reading

links for 2011-04-25

  • "Italy is struggling to deal with hundreds of Gypsies who live in illegal trailer settlements on the city's outskirts. Weeks ago, four children died in their sleep as a blaze tore through a shack in an illegal camp in Rome _ prompting Pope Benedict XVI to call for more solidarity with the Roma.
    "The Gypsies entered St. Paul's Outside the Walls, one of Christianity's most ancient churches, on Friday to protest city plans to send the women and children, but not men, to shelters, temporarily breaking up families."
  • "However, an alternative could soon be at hand. Ade is helping to resurrect a religious refuge for himself and his friends. He is part of the team restarting House of Rainbow, the country's only gay church, which was forced to close in 2008 after a witch-hunt stirred by exposés in local newspapers.
    "The Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay, the gay minister who founded the church, is leading the comeback even though he remains in self-imposed exile in London."
  • "The life expectancy of the black population – made up of blacks and browns – is 67 years in Brazil. According to the Annual Report on Social Inequalities, this time is lower than that recorded among whites, who live 73 years on average. The survey was conducted by the Center for Population Studies, Unicamp, and published by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) on Tuesday (19)."

Jonnie Lewis Brown: Outsider In Bollywood [Culturelicious]

By Guest Contributor Filmi Girl

I was beyond thrilled when I got word that the first African-American actor to have a major role in a Bollywood film, Jonnie Louis Brown, was willing to speak to me for this interview series. However, when I mentioned to some friends that I was going to be interviewing Jonnie, the responses I got were all some variation of, “He’s so scary!” In the United States, Jonnie is best known for his portrayal of the sadistic Officer Eddie Walker on HBO’s The Wire, a standout performance on a show packed with talented actors. Bollywood fans will know Jonnie from Apne, in which he played the toughest, fiercest boxer in the world.

Jonnie laughs when I tell him of my friends’ reactions. “You want to hear something funny?” Filmi Girl always wants to hear something funny. “What’s funny about all those roles is that I almost did not land any of them because the directors and writers thought I was so nice that I could not do it!” The good-natured man on the other end of the line certainly doesn’t sound as if he would steal money from kids, as Officer Walker did on The Wire. “It was just completely ridiculous, they were like, ‘He’s too nice, too clean looking! How can he… I don’t believe it.’ And then when they see me perform it’s like, ‘OH MY GOD!’”

Bollywood audiences also cried “Hai Bhagwaan!” when they saw Jonnie in Apne. For those of you who missed the 2007 Deol family film, Apne is, naturally, the story of a father and his two sons. Dharmenda plays an ex-boxing champ trying to repair his family ties by training up his son, played by Sunny Deol, to become a boxing champ. Jonnie plays the World Champion Sunny must defeat to gain closure. A Bollywood hero is only as tough as the villain he defeats and Jonnie’s performance in the ring allowed Sunny Deol to give the audience a victory that meant something.

“My first impression of Bollywood films was that I didn’t have one,” begins Jonnie. “I didn’t know quite what to make of the films; I had to really sit down and absorb and concentrate on what I was seeing, on what my senses were actually feeling.” But unlike some of the less enlightened film critics who enjoy mocking the filmi style of Bollywood, Jonnie’s years of acting experience allowed him to see past the cultural differences. “I came to realize right away how good the actors and actresses were in Bollywood. They are so good at what they do and they are so centered in the fundamentals of acting that it almost goes unnoticed because the creativity in their films is so high and their dance numbers and sequences are so large that their acting often gets overshadowed by that.”

It’s an astute observation from an actor who is used to thinking outside of the box. When I ask Jonnie why he decided to audition for a Bollywood film, he explains, “Being an African-American male in the United States, the work is very sparse, very difficult. Most of the writers and screenplay writers in the United States are Caucasian and they’re also male, so African-American males are mostly thought of, when it comes to screenplay writing, like an afterthought. The roles for us are sidekick or best friend until you reach that status of, say, a Denzel Washington or a Will Smith. The new opportunities are not necessarily there for us like there are for other ethnicities, unfortunately. So the chances for me playing Superman out of the blue will not happen. It’s one of those things where that’s just how it is.” He laughs. “What’s funny is that I hear my Caucasian actor friends say that there are so many more of them and that the competition is so fierce. But what I tell them is that there are more jobs for you, too. The experience for us [African-American actors] is a little bit different and because of that experience, that’s when you start considering things outside the box.” Continue reading

links for 2011-04-24

  • "Deadline just reported that Elvis Mitchell has been fired as Movieline.com’s Chief Film Critic, after just over 3 months on the job. Mitchell was hired as Movieline’s Chief Film Critic on January 12th of this year.
    "So why was he fired? Mitchell’s recent review of Source Code which reportedly contained reference to an item that was in an early draft of the film’s script, but not in the final film Mitchell saw.

    "Does any of this make any sense? Something’s amiss, and I don’t think we’re getting the full story here. Why would he review a film he hadn’t seen? And what happened between the time he replied to Movieline’s query, saying there was a misunderstanding, and them firing him?"

links for 2011-04-23

  • "Obama placed the ghost of his absent father at the center of his lyrical account of his life. At times, he has seemed to say more about the grandparents who helped raise him than about his mother. Yet she shaped him, to a degree Obama has seemed increasingly to acknowledge. In the preface to the 2004 edition of 'Dreams From My Father,' issued nine years after the first edition and nine years after Dunham’s death, Obama folded in a revealing admission: had he known his mother would not survive her illness, he might have written a different book — 'less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life.'”