links for 2011-08-01

  • "The map, constructed with genetic information from 30,000 African Americans, has a resolution so high it is now the world's most accurate genetic map, said David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and co-leader of the study.

    "The new map is the first to include thousands of African Americans. Most past genetic maps have been developed using people of European ancestry.

    "'Although people of African and European ancestry are genetically quite similar to each other, this will help to localize genes in DNA from people of all racial and ethnic groups,' Wilson said."

  • "Kern was simply advancing one of the most enduring and pernicious untruths in America's political economy. It holds that poverty – in general, but especially within communities of color – doesn't result from purely economic factors. Rather, the poor are where they find themselves as a consequence of some deep-seated cultural flaws that keep them from achieving success. They're held back, the story goes, by what is known alternatively as a “culture of poverty,” or a “culture of dependence.” It's a popular fable for the right, as it absolves the political establishment for public policies that harm the working class and the poor.

    "It's also thoroughly and demonstrably untrue, flying in the face of decades of serious research findings."

Yelling to the Sky: Beautifully Stereotypical

by Guest Contributor Tracy M. Adams, originally published at Monday’s Baby

 

On Thursday, June 9, I attended a Gen-Art sponsored screening of Victoria Mahoney’s independent feature Yelling to the Sky in Manhattan. Starring Zöe Kravitz and co-starring Gabourey Sidibe, this film has had significant buzz. It made its debut at the Berlin Film Festival and was workshopped via Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Lab. Based on synopses I read prior to the screening, I was curious to see if the portrayal of black women(hood) would be complex and fresh (as it was in Ava Duvernay’s wonderful I Will Follow) or if it would stick to the usual, shopworn portrayals that sometimes plague even independent feature films. I was especially interested to see whether Sidibe’s character would be similar to the one she played in Precious or if that image would be turned inside out (Sidibe was actually cast as Latonya Williams in Yelling before being slated to play Precious Jones).

In Yelling, Kravitz plays Sweetness O’Hara, a biracial high school student coming of age in New York City while managing a difficult home life. Quiet (at least for the first part of the film), sensitive, introspective, and intelligent, Sweetness has to contend with an alcoholic father, a mother with emotional (and possibly mental) issues, an older sister coping with young motherhood, bullies at school, and urban poverty. Zöe Kravitz did a great job with the script she was given; her performance was nuanced and quite believable. Actually, most of the actors in the movie were strong (including Tariq Trotter, better known as Black Thought of The Roots). However, despite the actors’ efforts, they could not overcome the disjointed storytelling nor the director’s inability to avoid well-worn tropes of the “coming of age in the ‘hood” drama. And whether intentionally or not, the director played into common cinematic (and real-life) racial memes. There were four that stood out.

Dark(er)-skinned black people are mean and like to victimize light(er)-skinned black people. The opening scene of Yelling involves Sweetness, accompanied by a friend of similar complexion, riding her bicycle right into a group of kids from her high school who in short order take her bike and beat her down in the street. Gabourey Sidibe’s character Latonya is the ringleader of this group, initiating the bullying and fighting, and ultimately ordering her boyfriend to viciously finish the job. The assault only stops when Sweetness’ sister Ola, who like Sweetness is very fair, brutally assaults her sister’s male attacker. While the director may not have intended for this scene to evoke intraracial stereotypes and conflict about skin color, it certainly looked that way on screen. Also, while Sidibe’s character was well put together (her hair was laid and her makeup was popping), she was still an (physically) intimidating bully. Continue reading

All We Are Gonna Say About Basketball Wives

Now, if you happen to be like me, an avid viewer of VH1…

And you just so happen to find Basketball Wives playing around the time Single Ladies goes off, so you catch little bits of the high school drama that happens when you allow seven women to act on their pettiest personal impulses…

And you just so happened to catch this episode, where they let Tami fight whatsherface:

And you remember how, ahem, different Tami is since the first time she was in a sticky situation on reality TV:

And you just so happen to remember when Shaunie tried to say she isn’t a fan of drama

As you see on the show, I’m not a big supporter of the bickering, drink throwing and fighting, but when you put a group of strong, independent and vocal women who are going through or just came out of a bad relationship together, there’s bound to be a little drama.

Let’s face it, we all know women like the ones on “Basketball Wives” and countless other reality shows: Women who are vocal if you cross them.

The problem for me is when black women are portrayed as only being that way and labeled different than their non-black counterparts for the same type of behavior. That’s when it becomes negative and damaging to our image.

I’m not saying we have to create shows that only paint a pretty picture about who we are, but there should be a balance and most of all some integrity to the shows we create.

And you look at how the whole show is people letting minor squabbles escalate into drama and violence…

Then this thread is for you.

I’m trying to pretend that I am not actively following this show, but at this point, I’ve seen three eps in a row. I think it’s time to give up the ghost…