All posts by Kendra James

Thursday Throwback: Going Back Like Babies and Pacifiers; Why I Love Mariah

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim (originally published 6-1-09)

I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love Mariah Carey.

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I rarely try to justify this rabid adoration when I’m talking politics. Sometimes radical folks think that just because they like something, it must be radical. I’ve seen many bloggers look foolish this way. So I try to sidestep any probing questions as to why an incredibly serious and intellectual person like me (ahem) owns a Mariah wall calendar and tends to squeal deliriously when “Heartbreaker” plays over the supermarket PA system.

Usually when people ask why I so celebrate Mariah, I say “We’re both mixed race, and we’ve both experienced heartbreak. Obviiiiiously.”

But about a week ago, while discussing Nick Cannon’s accusations that the Mariah-inspired Eminem song “Bagpipes from Baghdad” was racist and sexist, the discussion that fell out of the post made me wonder if, after all, there was some need to untangle my Mariah love and its distant political underpinnings.

A little recap of the post and discussion: in trying to defend his wife against Eminem, Cannon proclaimed that Carey was a BLACK woman (the caps are his) and that it was time enough that white men like Eminem disrespected women of colour like Carey. He went on to compare Carey to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as examples of black queens that the black community should not allow to be disrespected. A lot of commenters said, “Right on, Nick!”

But a bunch said “Mariah Carey is black?” There were attempts to prove that she was not that black, by probing her bio and discussing her ethnic heritage in sixths and eights. Some suggested that she played both sides, emphasising her whiteness or her blackness according to which could sell more records, and that she was only black when it benefitted her. Some took offense at Cannon comparing Carey (who if half-white) to Obama and Winfrey (who are not half-white), frustrated by the fact that there was no recognition that Carey being light-skinned meant all sorts of light-skinned privilege, including more mainstream success than if she was darker-skinned.

I was taken aback. Truth be told I was unsure how Mariah herself identified. So I went back through the dusty internet archives, back to when Racialicious was Mixed Media Watch, to the first post I ever read on this site: Essence on Mariah Carey’s struggles with mixed race identity.

The post was interesting, but the comments were shocking. Commenters were incensed that Essence had identified Carey as a black woman. They were dismissive about Carey’s struggles with biraciality. Mostly the consensus was that Carey was a stupid rich poptart and that Essence was full of self-loathing idiots. Then again, I only read about the first 20 comments; it started to get too upsetting.  Continue reading

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Quoted: Payday Nation

Lone Hill said she had no problem with the loans because they were not made on the reservation.

Besides, she added, the Oglala Sioux have suffered long enough. “We’re getting hurt here too by our own people and our government and our country, who are not treating us fairly,” she said.

“When you deal with people who are impoverished, they will go for any idea that promises cash,” said David Mills, the director of the tribe’s economic development office and Catches the Enemy’s boss.

Catches the Enemy said her opposition to payday lending didn’t make her “a popular person” on the reservation. But she knew she was right to oppose the project: Her daughter, Yolanda, had lost the title to her truck several years earlier after taking out a car title loan, which like a payday loan comes at a high interest rate.

Elizabeth Rowland, who serves as treasurer of the Wakpamni district, agreed with Catches the Enemy. Her son, she said, had almost lost his van after taking out a similar loan.

After that experience, Rowland said she gave him some simple advice: “Don’t ever get involved with one of those loans again.”

– The Tribe That Said No (via Al Jazeera’s Pay Day Nation series), by Nicholas Nehamas; published 6-17-14

Recap: The 2014 Tony Awards

June 8, 2014: The night that this happened. via TonyAwards.com

To the credit of Sunday night’s Tony Awards,  I wasn’t tempted once during the broadcast to check in on the inmates at Litchfield or those who’ve taken the black at the Wall. That’s the magic of a well paced, mostly inoffensive, and relatively diverse major televised awards show.

Hosted by Hugh Jackman (returning to Broadway in The River this fall), the show began with a great (if slightly obscure to those not obsessed with the MGM Studios of the 1953) homage to Bobby Van with a performance from the cast of After Midnight following, featured Audra MacDonald’s 6th Tony win, that one time when Hugh Jackman, TI, and LL Cool J rapped lyrics from The Music Man , Neil Patrick Harris licking Samuel L. Jackson’s glasses during a performance of ‘Sugar Daddy’ from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a montage of nominated playwrights that reminded us just how white and male Broadway has chosen to let that world become, and a performance of ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserables that was just the opposite.

Kenny Leon’s third iteration of A Raisin in the Sun took home 3 awards including Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance By An Actress in A Featured Role In A Play for Sophie Okonedo, and Best Director of a Play for Leon himself. Audra McDonald won Best Performance By An Actress For A Leading Role In A Play for Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar And Grill, James Monroe Iglehart of Aladdin won for Best Performance By An Actor For A Featured Role In A Musical, and Linda Cho won for Best Costume Design of a Musical for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder. The send up to 1920s Harlem After Midnight which has, at different times, starred Fantasia Barrino, Toni Braxton, Baby Face, Dule Hill, and Vanessa Williams, with Patti LaBelle starting this week, also took home a win for best choreography.

Even if The Great White Way is still pretty white the Tonys seem to at least make more of an effort to showcase the diversity that does exist on New York stages. Six winners of colour make for two more than we saw last year, and certainly more than we’re going to see at, say, this year’s Oscars. With shows like Holler If Ya Hear Me (aka, ‘The Tupac Musical’), You Can’t Take It With You (starring James Earl Jones) opening this summer and The King and I, and Oprah produced ‘night, Mother eyeing 2015 runs the future shows that theatre will at least stay the course.

For more highlights highlights, tweets, and performances jump under the cut!

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[Friday Throwback]: Preparing My Kids To Be Able To Run Through Walls

Originally published on 9-7-2010, by Guest Contributor Paula, originally published at Heart, Mind, and Seoul

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You simply cannot train for a marathon without hearing about hitting the dreaded “wall”. The marathon wall is a commonly used term to describe the ultimate running fatigue that typically happens around the 20th mile of an endurance run such as the marathon (26.2 miles). Muscles grow heavy with fatigue and one’s pace slows down considerably. The body literally hits the wall and it can feel almost impossible to keep moving forward.

The first marathon I ever ran was in New York City. I was lucky enough to connect with the New York Road Runners Club and I had some amazing coaches, not to mention a host of running partners to keep me motivated. I remember attending a running clinic that was geared specifically towards first time marathoners and the panel talked about the wall. I left that auditorium determined that I would not be another one of its victims.

I gave myself a full year to train for the marathon. Single and ready to conquer the world, I had nothing but time and excess energy to invest into my overall training. Marathon wall be damned! Maybe I was too young or inexperienced to believe that I could train enough to avoid any pitfalls during the race, but it was the fear of that cursed wall that pushed me to train above and beyond what my already rigorous training program required.

I hope this doesn’t across as too arrogant, but I honestly found the marathon to be one long, fun and dare I say, easy run. Mile 20 came and went. Same with mile 21. Mile 22 came around and I felt stronger than ever with random bursts of extra energy. The last four miles of the race ended up being my fastest mile splits ever. I was high on the intensity and enthusiasm of the crowd as well as buoyed by the many, many hours of training I had put in over the past year (oh and I’m sure that little thing called adrenaline didn’t hurt, either). Granted, my time of 4 hours and 20 minutes was nothing to write home about, but I had accomplished a personal goal and had a blast doing it in the best city in the world (my .02!) – all while avoiding that cursed wall.

There are no shortages of examples written by those who believe that the marathon is a metaphor for life. Certainly I can reflect back on the 3 different marathons that I’ve completed and draw parallels to how my own life has played out. My last marathon was run with minimal training, an attitude that bordered on sheer apathy and a lack of respect that a marathon calls for and rightfully deserves. Not only did I hit the wall, but I incurred a rather serious injury that forced me to walk almost the last 5 miles of the race. I contend that the biggest difference between my first marathon (enjoyable and fun) and my third marathon (miserable at best) was all in the training and preparation.

As a person of color, I think of how many times I have hit the wall in my life as I navigate through this racially charged world in which we live. Continue reading

Recap: The 2014-2015 Network Upfronts

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by Kendra James

There was one clear winner at the network Upfronts this year: DC Comics.

Yes, DC Comics a company that hasn’t managed to do much this year except piss off their fans, came from behind, hurdled over the teen barrier that is the CW network, and dominated the fall 2014 pilot season. Thanks to pickups on NBC, FOX, and the CW, DC (in part with Marvel’s presence on ABC) has managed to leave CBS as the only network without a show centered around superheroes.

Of course, with a demographic needle pointed exclusively at the 45 and older column and two more NCIS and CSI spinoffs headed our way, it’s possible CBS just doesn’t care. Not that CBS was the only network with a line of uninspired pickups for the fall season– there’s plenty more of that (and the full details of DC’s television takeover) under the cut.

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Quoted: On Leslie Jones and SNL

But while Zamata’s presence has failed to revolutionize the show (duh), it was nice to see that Black female characters could be played by an actual woman. Alas, we got something far more offensive to Black women than Keenan Thompson in a dress when Jones made her on-camera debut on the long-running “Weekend Update” sketch, reporting on Lupita Nyong’o’s “Most Beautiful” honor.

I missed the sketch, but was urged by writer/comedian Mary Pryor to check it out early Sunday morning. I was, of course, horrified. My anger changed shape over the course of the day. At first, I was disgusted that Jones dared make light of slave rape AND dismiss the significance of The Lupita Moment all in one fell swoop—and that she jumped and hollered like some sort of banshee while doing it.  While I am typically disinterested by the concept of putting on a “good” face for White folks, it was appalling to see this sister gleefully acting like she was auditioning for Birth of a Nation 2: We’s Really Like Dis!

Leslie Jones is not a slave. She chose to both develop and perform this skit and for that reason, she should be ashamed of herself, but put her to the side for a moment. What about the producers, directors, cast members who watched this play out? No one said, “You know this is going to upset a lot of people, right?” SNL now has at least five Black actors and writers…one would hope that that would have been enough to stop this train. That is why we wanted Black women in the writers’ room in the first place, to prevent exactly this.  Because I am willing to bet that had a Jewish writer conceived an ‘Anne Frank meets Justin Bieber’ skit after the singer made his regrettable comments about the young Holocaust victim, someone would have had the good sense to shut it DOWN.

Once Again, No One Is Laughing At SNL, by Jamilah Lemieux via Ebony.com,  May 5, 2014

Food Friday- Video: The Secret To Everything Tasting Better

Food and culture are often discussed topics on The R, so we wanted to share  this video from NPR about food, tradition, and secrecy.  In this segment of their Micropolis series, reporter Arun Venugopal discusses why he’s never eaten with his hands in public, despite always doing so at home.  If the amount of Indian restaurants around the city are anything to judge by, Indian food has been embraced (or co-opted) by New Yorkers. So why haven’t all aspects been accepted as readily?

 

 

Diversity + Publishing: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Image via WeNeedDiverseBooks.tumblr.com

Each month I receive 10-20 advanced copies of young adult fiction books in all genres (mostly geared towards teen girl readers) per month from various publishers.  I can count on ten fingers the amount of those books that have featured a protagonist of colour. Even fewer of them feature a protagonist of colour also written by a person of colour.

That’s where We Need Diverse Books comes in.

Responding to the call for more diversity in children’s literature and the recent announcement of the all white all male panel at the upcoming BookCon in NYC, the movement’s organisers are urging readers to take over Twitter today. The hashtag #weneeddiversebooks is already in wide use, but the campaign is asking for even more support starting at 1pm EST:

  • Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
  • The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
  • However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1stto weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
  • Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.

The efforts are set to continue through May 3rd:

On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them.

While the campaign won’t officially start until later today, there’ve already been several great posts flying around the tag. Below are a few of the best, showing several reasons why we really do need diverse books.

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