Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture http://www.racialicious.com Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:12:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Weekend Reads http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/28/weekend-reads/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/28/weekend-reads/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:12:48 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33547 Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat? [Slate] Where Robb went to Detroit to bridge the gap in food access between rich and poor, Detroit’s city planners saw Whole Foods as a way to not only serve its longstanding middle class, but to expand it. In short, they wanted the store to serve […]

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Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat? [Slate]

Where Robb went to Detroit to bridge the gap in food access between rich and poor, Detroit’s city planners saw Whole Foods as a way to not only serve its longstanding middle class, but to expand it. In short, they wanted the store to serve as a catalyst for gentrification. Whole Foods was more than a potential employer for the 15 percent of Detroiters who were unemployed (and the 46 percent who’d stopped looking for work entirely);⁠ and it was more than a new option for the Detroiters spending $200 million a year on groceries outside the city. It was, in the words of the city’s economic development head, a potential “game-changer” for the city.

“Gentrification brings in revenue. That’s the tax base that we need to pay for city services,” George Jackson, the president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, told me in the summer of 2013. (After a new mayor assumed office in January 2014, Jackson resigned.) For DEGC, a quasi-public agency in charge of overseeing economic strategy for the city, Whole Foods’ allure was less about groceries and more about development. A successful premium grocer would make Detroit more appealing to middle-class and upper-class professionals—and to executives looking for a viable place to do business—helping the city as a whole.

Telling My Son About Ferguson by Michelle Alexander [New York Times]

My son wants an answer. He is 10 years old, and he wants me to tell him that he doesn’t need to worry. He is a black boy, rather sheltered, and knows little of the world beyond our safe, quiet neighborhood. His eyes are wide and holding my gaze, silently begging me to say: No, sweetheart, you have no need to worry. Most officers are nothing like Officer Wilson. They would not shoot you — or anyone — while you’re unarmed, running away or even toward them.

I am stammering.

Teaching our sons to be afraid is not the answer to cops who shoot children by Latoya Peterson [Guardian]

But the amount of love we feel right now is tempered by fear that I might lose Gavin too soon – and not to an accident, or even to local violence, but rather to the bullets of law enforcement.

I want my son to be brave, to have the heart to stand up to injustice. But I cannot teach him to be brave if I have to teach him to be fearful and meek in his interactions with authority. I cannot teach my son justice if I have to instruct him to always cower before the power of the state for the sake of his life.

Is Harvard Unfair to Asian-Americans? [New York Times]

The most common defense of the status quo is that many Asian-American applicants do well on tests but lack intangible qualities like originality or leadership. As early as 1988, William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said that they were “slightly less strong on extracurricular criteria.”

Even leaving aside the disturbing parallel with how Jews were characterized, there is little evidence that this is true. A new study of over 100,000 applicants to the University of California, Los Angeles, found no significant correlation between race and extracurricular achievements.

The truth is not that Asians have fewer distinguishing qualities than whites; it’s that — because of a longstanding depiction of Asians as featureless or even interchangeable — they are more likely to be perceived as lacking in individuality. (As one Harvard admissions officer noted on the file of an Asian-American applicant, “He’s quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor.”)

Communal Living & Class Antagonism in a Poor City [The Billfold]

[T]his August, a group of eight adults and three children – two married couples, their kids, an unmarried couple, and two other friends – pooled their resources and bought a nine-room house on Scarborough Street. Before they bought it, the manse at 68 Scarborough had sat empty for several years. Thieves had stripped it of its copper piping, and the 3.6 acres of surrounding land were ill-tended and overgrown. The group set about putting the house to rights: replacing the plumbing, bringing the wiring up to code, clearing brush and manicuring the landscape. They made a legal contract among them to share household expenses — everything from the mortgage to the groceries — opened a common bank account, and set up housekeeping. They cook and eat together most nights, planning group activities and sharing childcare responsibilities.

And then Hartford’s dwindling upper class sprung into action, filing a complaint with the city about a violation of a fifty-year-old ordinance that forbids cohabitation in that neighborhood by more than two people not related by blood, marriage, or an employer-employee relationship. A cease-and-desist order soon followed. What is unfolding as a result is a fascinating glimpse at a kind of unapologetic classism that small American cities don’t see much anymore.

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#WeAreAllNatives Parody Ad Skewers Cultural Appropriation http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/weareallnatives-parody-ad-skewers-cultural-appropriation/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/weareallnatives-parody-ad-skewers-cultural-appropriation/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:07:12 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33543 Comedy troupe Stupid Time Machine just released a great parody ad in time for Thanksgiving. In their words: A Thanksgiving ad for Urban Outfiter’s new We Are All Natives collection – “Indian wear for the rest of us.” Filmed on spec by sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine, the parody urges Urban – already famous […]

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Comedy troupe Stupid Time Machine just released a great parody ad in time for Thanksgiving. In their words:

A Thanksgiving ad for Urban Outfiter’s new We Are All Natives collection – “Indian wear for the rest of us.” Filmed on spec by sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine, the parody urges Urban – already famous for their controversial Kent State Massacre and The Holocaust Themed Apparel – to tap into something hipsters can’t get enough of: white people in headdresses.

(Thanks to CJ for the tip!)

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The Producer and the Anarchist: Dear White People’s Critique and Vision of Film http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/the-producer-and-the-anarchist-dear-white-peoples-critique-and-vision-of-film/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/the-producer-and-the-anarchist-dear-white-peoples-critique-and-vision-of-film/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:30:44 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33448 by Guest Contributor Mario Fitzgerald In one of the many footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Yunior opines: “Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with […]

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by Guest Contributor Mario Fitzgerald

In one of the many footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Yunior opines:

“Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with writers. Like, after all, recognizes like.”

Through the mind of Yunior, Junot Diaz expresses a core truth about writing: Despite being a tool of dissent for justice and equality, writing is also a powerful and thoroughly successful method of erasure, revision, and domination.

Through his first feature film, Dear White People, director Justin Simien has demonstrated how film can similarly be a tool for either justice or domination. Through the characters of Helmut West, a reality television show producer and Sam White, an independent documentary filmmaker, Justin Simien dramatizes the different ways in which the film industry has responded to racism and white supremacy.

Helmut West drifts in and out of the film searching for “conflicts” on the campus of Winchester University from which he can create a reality television show. Despite the title of the film directing viewers’ attention towards the many documented micro-aggressions of White characters towards the film’s Black characters, West is a Black man.

His presence raises a critique against the constant search for anti-Black racist acts committed by White people rather than manifestations of White supremacist thinking which, as bell hooks has so eloquently written, operates within us all.

In acknowledging the manifestations of White supremacist thinking, the actions of characters such as Coco become more understandable as she pursues possible areas in which she, as a black woman, may actually benefit from White supremacy and its valuations of physical beauty. A focus on White supremacist thinking can also reveal the problematic nature of actions from characters such as Reggie. As White supremacist thinking is connected to patriarchal thinking, Reggie’s manipulation of the Armstrong Parker House’s voting system in order to thrust Sam into a position of power that she never wished to attain is more easily recognized as patriarchal and subsequently challenged and resisted by an anti-racist, black feminist lens. One would still be able to acknowledge that the most powerful characters, such as President Fletcher, are indeed white.

However, a focus on White supremacist thinking will reveal how individuals of all identities stand to benefit from various aspects of the status quo and, thus, may actually have a vested interest in upholding certain oppressive systems while struggling against others.

West is also possibly the most perceptive character in the film, perhaps even more so than Sam, as he quickly identifies which people around him will easily fit into a consumable racial stereotype, be it the “angry black activist,” the “ghetto black woman,” or the overtly bigoted white person. However, he uses his perceptive abilities to further a part of the film industry that profits off of racism, and so West seeks to exploit racial confrontations he finds on campus rather than to challenge them.

Juxtaposed against West is Sam White, a young, passionate filmmaker and campus activist intent on exposing the contradictions of society, starting with her college campus.

Through her campus radio program, “Dear White People” and her first short film of white faced white people losing their collective minds over the election of Barack Obama as president, Sam attempts to expose the racist contradictions of the world through direct and didactic methods. Such methods draw both ire and adoration from Sam’s peers as well as the attention of the Winchester’s President and Dean of Students.

After facing the pressures to conform to the demands of her peers as well as the university administrators, Sam eventually falls back on her identity as a filmmaker, and with the help of her boyfriend, Justin, Sam embraces the role of an “anarchist filmmaker.” As such she presents the contradictions of society as problematic while simultaneously avoiding offering any solutions leaving that task for her viewers, as displayed in the final moments of her second short film documenting the fall out from a campus “black face” party in which she ceases to complete her last “Dear White People” edict. In this way, Sam, as an “anarchist filmmaker” challenges rather than exploits the racism displayed on Winchester’s campus.

It seems safe to say that Justin Simien, himself, has set the task for himself of following the “anarchist” tradition of filmmaking, a tradition marked by the questioning of society’s manners, formalities, and figures of authority in order to unveil the truths hidden by such facades.

DWP exposes the contradictions of the United States – especially its founding freedoms ingrained with racism and white supremacy – while also exposing our own personal and all too human contradictions.

However, Simien does not provide an easy ending glorifying the possibilities of the film industry to confront and challenge racism. Rather at the end of the film, it is Helmut West – not Sam – who sits in front of President Fletcher pitching his idea of using the conflicts of the university’s “race riot” to create a reality television show which will ultimately provide profits to both the university and television studio for which West works.

Therefore, though Justin Simien’s own first effort has opened to quite
some success as has the works of filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, and Ryan Coogler, Dear White People still acknowledges that the works of Hollywood studios and reality television shows capitalizing off of and profiting from stereotypes of black Americans still mainly control and define the narratives of black Americans.

The struggle continues, even in film, for in the words of Toni Morrison:

“Racism will disappear when it’s, A, no longer profitable, and no longer psychologically useful. And when that happens, it’ll be gone. But at the moment, people make a lot of money off of it, pro and con.”

Mario Fitzgerald is currently a Pre – K Assistant, Library Aide, and aspiring writer hoping to follow the paths set forth by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison living in Charlotte, NC.

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Voices: The Michael Brown Protests You Didn’t See http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/25/voices-the-michael-brown-protests-you-didnt-see/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/25/voices-the-michael-brown-protests-you-didnt-see/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33532 There will be those who will reduce Monday night to the sights of burning buildings and tear gas around Ferguson, Missouri, and use that to excuse and explain the police violence that both incited and accompanied them. But the reality is, demonstrators marched — peacefully — both in Ferguson and around the country not long […]

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There will be those who will reduce Monday night to the sights of burning buildings and tear gas around Ferguson, Missouri, and use that to excuse and explain the police violence that both incited and accompanied them.

But the reality is, demonstrators marched — peacefully — both in Ferguson and around the country not long after a local grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. These activists were not alone, and they will not be the last. This space is to recognize their presence, despite the insistence of certain narratives that they were not.

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New Fundraising Campaign Seeks To Preserve Sacred Land Of Pe’ Sla http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/24/new-fundraising-campaign-seeks-to-preserve-sacred-land-of-pe-sla/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/24/new-fundraising-campaign-seeks-to-preserve-sacred-land-of-pe-sla/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33528 Just over two years after the first fight to save sacred Native land in South Dakota, a new fundraising drive seeks to complete the drive to keep Pe’Sla — “the Heart of everything” — in indigenous hands. The campaign, organized by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, seeks to raise $500,000 by Nov. 30 for the […]

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Just over two years after the first fight to save sacred Native land in South Dakota, a new fundraising drive seeks to complete the drive to keep Pe’Sla — “the Heart of everything” — in indigenous hands.

The campaign, organized by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, seeks to raise $500,000 by Nov. 30 for the purposes of buying the last 438 acres of Pe’Sla land under outside ownership. The foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is working with the Oceti Sakowin Nations for the fundraiser, and this video is a quick introduction to its mission:

In 2012, the Oceti Sakowin Nations, working together with the foundation and Last Real Indians, successfully raised enough money to purchase more than 1,900 acres of Pe’Sla land after they were put up for auction.

From the current fundraiser’s Indiegogo page:

If this purchase falls through, the opportunity to save these sacred lands could be lost forever.

The Black Hills, including the sacred site of Pe’ Sla, were reserved for the exclusive use and occupation by the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the U.S. government. But once gold was found in the Black Hills (by an illegal expedition into these sacred Native American lands) the U.S. illegally seized the lands despite the treaty agreement.

The U.S. government has yet to give these lands back to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations. Even though the gold is gone, they still hold great natural, cultural and spiritual value to us. Now, we have no choice, but to buy our sacred lands at Pe’ Sla back from the current occupants. There’s no time for further contesting the illegal taking of these lands. We need to raise the money by November 30, 2014 or Pe’ Sla may be lost forever to Indian people.

Donations can be made at the link above, or the embed below.

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The Facing Race Files: Racial (In)Justice in the Post 9/11 Era http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-racial-injustice-in-the-post-911-era/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-racial-injustice-in-the-post-911-era/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:00:18 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33521 [View the story “Racial (In)Justice in the Post 9/11 Era” on Storify]

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The Facing Race Files: Lifting Up Queer and Trans Youth Resiliency http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-lifting-up-queer-and-trans-youth-resiliency/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-lifting-up-queer-and-trans-youth-resiliency/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33517 [View the story “Facing Race 14: Rainbow Warriors – Lifting Up Queer and Trans Youth Resiliency” on Storify] As promised, here are some of the images posted by the presenters:

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As promised, here are some of the images posted by the presenters:

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The Facing Race Files: Moving The Race Conversation Forward http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/17/the-facing-race-files-moving-the-race-conversation-forward/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/17/the-facing-race-files-moving-the-race-conversation-forward/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:00:41 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33515 [View the story “Facing Race: Moving The Race Conversation Forward” on Storify]

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The Facing Race Files: Special Ferguson Update http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/17/the-facing-race-files-special-ferguson-update/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/17/the-facing-race-files-special-ferguson-update/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33513 [View the story “Facing Race 14: Ferguson Update” on Storify]

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Live From Facing Race — The Next Fifty http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/15/live-from-facing-race-the-next-fifty/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/15/live-from-facing-race-the-next-fifty/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 21:00:43 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33499 From the program description: This year and next we will celebrate the anniversaries of major racial justice victories like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. In this plenary, big thinkers will reflect on trends and strategies for the next half century. With the Voting Rights Act itself under political assault, the conference’s final plenary […]

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From the program description:

This year and next we will celebrate the anniversaries of major racial justice victories like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. In this plenary, big thinkers will reflect on trends and strategies for the next half century.

With the Voting Rights Act itself under political assault, the conference’s final plenary feels more timely — and more needed — than ever. The discussion will feature:

The conference’s final plenary begins at 4:30 p.m. EST, and can be seen below.

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Live From Facing Race — Roots and Wings: Southern Histories, Legacies and Innovations for the Future http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/15/live-from-facing-race-roots-and-wings-southern-histories-legacies-and-innovations-for-the-future/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/15/live-from-facing-race-roots-and-wings-southern-histories-legacies-and-innovations-for-the-future/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 14:45:57 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33497 The second day of Facing Race kicks off at 10:15 a.m. EST with a plenary session describing current activist movements in the American South, a region many people still feel stopped being a hotbed of civic organizing during the Civil Rights Movement. The three speakers featured in this session have played active roles in forging […]

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The second day of Facing Race kicks off at 10:15 a.m. EST with a plenary session describing current activist movements in the American South, a region many people still feel stopped being a hotbed of civic organizing during the Civil Rights Movement. The three speakers featured in this session have played active roles in forging a new legacy of activism for the region:

  • Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founder and executive director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice, as well as a member of the governing board for the North Carolina Council of Churches and the founding pastor of the Freedom Temple Ministries and Sacred Souls Community Church. The Freedom Center launched a legal center focusing on the LGBTQ communities and an employment program helping the southern trans community — both the first of their kind for the region.
  • Cristina Tzintzún is the executive director of Workers Defense Project/Proyecto Defensa Laboral. Besides being featured in national news outlets like USA Today and the New York Times, Tzintzún’s work has led to her winning the national Trabajadora Community Leader award from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Last year, Southern Living Magazine named her one of its Heroes of the New South.
  • Chokwe Antar Lumumba played a vital role in the development of the People’s Platform in Jackson, SC, where his father, longtime activist Chokwe Lumumba, was elected mayor in 2013 on a platform emphasizing community development and the elimination of the gender-based pay gap. Antar Lumumba’s drive to help his community was also instilled in him by his mother, Nubia Lumumba, and he went on to become the managing partner at Lumumba & Associates, a law firm following those principles, as well as a member of the leadership team for Free Christian Church Ministries.

From the program description:

For the many of us- people of color, immigrants communities, LGBTQ people – who populate and call this region home, we experience and understand “the South” as not only the place where race, power, and revolution is best understood but also where history and legacies give way to 21st century innovation for our movements. Our dynamic plenary speakers, spanning the Southern region, will offer their insight on some of the challenges and opportunities facing the region and our movements to achieve racial justice and equity. From the continuing legacy of youth organizing and direct action in Florida; the role of faith in building inclusive communities and organizing for social change in NC; the realities of shifting demographics and the opportunities for worker organizing in Texas; and implementing community centered methods to build real economic, political and community power in Jackson this plenary will highlight how the South continues to build on its history and towards freedom.

The plenary, as posted online, can be seen in the livestream below.

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Live From Facing Race: Keynote Address Featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/14/live-from-facing-race-keynote-address-featuring-dr-bernice-johnson-reagon-toshi-reagon-and-tashawn-reagon/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/14/live-from-facing-race-keynote-address-featuring-dr-bernice-johnson-reagon-toshi-reagon-and-tashawn-reagon/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:00:19 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33483 This year’s keynote session for Facing Race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST and will be a multi-generational affair featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon. From the program description: Bernice Johnson Reagon, a scholar, singer/songleader, and activist for over half a century, has been a profound contributor to African American and American […]

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This year’s keynote session for Facing Race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST and will be a multi-generational affair featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon.

From the program description:

Bernice Johnson Reagon, a scholar, singer/songleader, and activist for over half a century, has been a profound contributor to African American and American culture. Born in Southwest Georgia, her singing style and traditional repertoire are grounded in her experiences in church, school, and political activism. As a composer, she has created a narrative of her social and political activism through her songs and larger compositions. She performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers during the sixties; founded an all women a capella ensemble, The Harambee Singers, during the Black Cultural Movement; and founded and led the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey In The Rock for thirty years until retirement. Paralleling her work in music, Reagon is one of the leading authorities in African American Cultural History.

Her strongest musical collaborator is her daughter, Toshi Reagon. Described as “a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music,” Toshi is a composer, producer, founder, and leader of her own ensemble, Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely. Taking the stage at 17, singer, songwriter, guitarist Toshi Reagon moves audiences with her cross genre offerings of blues, rock, gospel, and incredible original songs. Collaboratively, these two socially conscious women artists have masterfully created two operas, “The Temptation of St Anthony” and “Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter.”

Tashawn Nicole Reagon is a Sociology and Gender Studies major and an Intergroup Relations minor at Skidmore College. Tashawn has co-facilitated a two-credit, intergroup dialogue between students of color and white students on race, and interned in the Gender Rights and Equality Unit of the Ford Foundation, where she wrote a report entitled Student Activism for Gender Equity. Tashawn helped to establish the Justice Project at Saint Ann’s high school that examined issues of race and other identities.

The full session, as posted online, can be seen live below.

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Live From Facing Race — This Is How We Do It: Youth Led Racial Justice http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/14/live-from-facing-race-this-is-how-we-do-it-youth-led-racial-justice/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/14/live-from-facing-race-this-is-how-we-do-it-youth-led-racial-justice/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:30:15 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33479 Facing Race 2014 kicks off at 10 a.m. EST on Friday morning with “This is How We Do It: Youth Led Racial Justice,” a plenary session featuring the following speakers: FM Supreme, a founding member of Black Youth Project 100 and founder of the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement. Ramiro Luna, an immigration activist who […]

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Facing Race 2014 kicks off at 10 a.m. EST on Friday morning with “This is How We Do It: Youth Led Racial Justice,” a plenary session featuring the following speakers:

      • FM Supreme, a founding member of Black Youth Project 100 and founder of the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement.
      • Ramiro Luna, an immigration activist who has taken part in more than 100 actions in support of immigrant rights, as well as a community organizer and a member of more than a dozen political campaigns.
      • Sharon Davies, director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and a professor of law at Ohio State University.
      • Jaime-Jin Lewis, the former executive director of the NYC-based advocacy group Border Crossers, where she trained more than 2,000 educators from over 900 schools around the country in how to discuss race with their students
      • Key Jackson (1st Nation- Black and Makah), a community organizer who has worked with groups like Basic Rights Oregon and GSAFE Wisconsin, while also organizing electoral and legislative campaigns.

The panel description reads as follows:

A new generation of racial justice leaders are interrupting and innovating in the ways racial justice work is made relevant in our times. In various ways, young people are working creatively, intersectionally and courageously to set our nation on course for the racially just future we deserve. Who are some of the leaders guiding this next epoch? What models, tools, practices and cultural strategies are there to build a more just, inclusive foundation for their generation and the ones that follow? Join in this conversation amongst movement makers, as they share thoughts on what’s hot in racial justice now, and what’s on the come up in the years ahead.

The discussion, as posted online by Race Forward, can be seen below.

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Follow Racialicious At Facing Race 2014! http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/13/follow-racialicious-at-facing-race-2014/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/13/follow-racialicious-at-facing-race-2014/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33506 Racialicious is pleased to be covering Facing Race 2014 from Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 14 and 15. The conference is hosted by Race Forward — formerly known as the Applied Research Center and the publisher of Colorlines. This year, you can follow Arturo as he shares his observations from the event on Twitter. Watch the […]

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Racialicious is pleased to be covering Facing Race 2014 from Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 14 and 15.

The conference is hosted by Race Forward — formerly known as the Applied Research Center and the publisher of Colorlines. This year, you can follow Arturo as he shares his observations from the event on Twitter. Watch the #FacingRace14 tag or visit Race Forward’s Twitter for more information, as well.

But you can also come here to Racialicious.com over the weekend as we bring you live-streams for each of the four plenary sessions:

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I’m The Last Black Person In America Watching Nashville (And I Think The Writers Know It) http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/12/true-life-im-black-i-watch-nashville-and-i-enjoy-it-mostly/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/12/true-life-im-black-i-watch-nashville-and-i-enjoy-it-mostly/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 15:15:26 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33487 By Kendra James This was fun. Will y’all join us next week? Someone stick around for Nashville and let us know if a PoC is in it… — Racialicious (@racialicious) September 25, 2014   Okay, maybe not the last Black person, but I do love Nashville. I think Hayden Panettiere should have gotten an Emmy for her […]

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By Kendra James

 

Okay, maybe not the last Black person, but I do love Nashville. I think Hayden Panettiere should have gotten an Emmy for her work as Juliette Barnes in Season 1 and will fight anyone who says otherwise. I started paying for Spotify when I realised that I couldn’t live without the soundtrack on my morning commute. I could listen to Connie Britton say “y’all” all day, every day for the rest of my life and be a happy person.

 

Hi, I'm Kendra on Twitter   ACTING LIKE I DON'T EXIST. MT @racialicious  Someone stick around for Nashville and let us know if a PoC is in it...

 

I will always stick around for Nashville, but that doesn’t mean Latoya was wrong when she joked after the Blackish premiere a few weeks back.

Williamson’s run started a few episodes into the third season and, with actress Chaley Rose, brings the grand total of current recurring Black characters on Nashville to two. Once upon a time Robert Wisdom and Wyclef Jean had recurring roles as well, but neither lasted past the first season.

Nashville is not a show I watch for a diverse cast that deals with Serious Issues Of The Day. Would it be nice to have a Black character I could root for and who wasn’t, like Chaley’s character Zoey, my least favourite character on the show? Sure it would, but because I’m literally only here for Connie Britton’s hair, Clare Bowen’s “hair”, and Charles Easton’s over the top Man-Pain story-lines I haven’t been complaining.

Then Mykelti Williamson (probably most famous for playing Bubba in Forest Gump) showed up in the fifth episode of the season and I was forced to pay attention. He plays ‘Terry’, a seemingly mentally ill homeless man who befriends Bowen’s Scarlett (because Scarlett is running out of storylines and ‘have her befriend a kindly Black homeless man with a mysterious past who sings like a Baptist church soloist’ basically sums up the breadth of fresh ideas in that writer’s room). We first meet him living in an alley behind Scarlett’s song writing studio. Terry has been banging things around, shouting and talking to himself for most of the day by the time Scarlett decides to go out and speak to him

Scarlett, it should be noted, is perhaps the most extreme example of pure, white southern womanhood that one can find on television now that Sookie Stackhouse has been put out of her misery. Pale, with blonde hair rivaled in thickness only by her (fake) southern accent, she stands at a diminutive five foot one and looks smaller than that because she’s constantly draped in full skirts and over sized sweaters, as if a stiff breeze might take her out permanently. She’s overwhelmed easily by life and spent part of the second season in rehab because her record producer gave her some “energy pills” and she was too adorable and sheltered to know better.

I love Scarlett O’Connor, but she’s a hoopskirt away from being DW Griffith’s dream girl.

[L:Clare Bowen; R:Lillian Gish] They're pretty much the same person.

[L:Clare Bowen in Nashville; R:Lillian Gish in Birth of a Nation] They’re pretty much the same person.

Scarlett tentatively –Scarlett does almost everything tentatively– approaches Terry and offers him a sandwich. Terry explains that he yells about pizza in the alley to remind the universe that he exists and tells her that he can’t accept the sandwich because he doesn’t accept charity. He can, though, finish the song she’s been struggling with, right off the top of his head in one suddenly lucid moment that lasts only as long as he’s singing the blusey lyrics. The same thing happens later, when Scarlett offers to wash Terry’s clothing in exchange for cleaning out her gutters. He sings coherently as he cleans while inside Scarlett discovers a conveniently placed picture of his long lost family amongst his dirty things.

There are a few things happening here. Scarlett is never in danger in Terry’s presence, and instead of being the threatening Black male caricature, he’s a childlike figure who needs her aid. The narrative (which continues when a new episode airs tonight) is clearly going down some sort of attempted saviour path with Scarlett as the heroine. There’s also Terry’s Magical Negro-esque to appear just when Scarlett needs him, with the sole purpose of his character being to help her and further her plot and (questionable) character development along.

If there were ever more than one Black character on this show per season, or if even more than two people of colour ever spoke to each other for an extended period of time Terry’s sudden appearance and flaws of writing wouldn’t be so noticeable or rankling. Nashville’s music industry has very few Black people and when they do show up, they’re Wyclef Jean playing a sleazy producer for a five episode run. The rarity of appearances makes the pitfalls into stereotypes and tropes so much more glaring than they would be otherwise, and more disappointing.

Since I am one of approximately five Black people in America watching Nashville (discounting those who accidentally left the television on after Blackish), I doubt the writers are hearing much complaint about anything other than their faltering ratings. So I’m taking this opportunity to put Nashville on notice. No one is going into this soap opera expecting Deep Thoughts On Race, but we’re not looking for characters from Song of The South either.

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Doctor Who’s Unsung MVP: Samuel Anderson http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/11/doctor-whos-unsung-mvp-samuel-anderson/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/11/doctor-whos-unsung-mvp-samuel-anderson/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33476 By Arturo R. García In the days following Doctor Who‘s latest season finale, you can expect most of the credit (or blame) for the show’s transition this year into the Twelth Doctor era on showrunner Steven Moffat, or on stars Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi. But we’d like to argue that — somewhat unexpectedly — […]

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By Arturo R. García

In the days following Doctor Who‘s latest season finale, you can expect most of the credit (or blame) for the show’s transition this year into the Twelth Doctor era on showrunner Steven Moffat, or on stars Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi.

But we’d like to argue that — somewhat unexpectedly — the show’s most valuable player this season was Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink. The character many probably expected to be the show’s third wheel turned into its moral compass. And Anderson should be recognized for providing the dramatic glue in a season that was at times disconcerting, and not for the reasons Moffat might have intended.

SPOILERS under the cut

After weeks of teasing Danny’s involvement in the lives of the Doctor and Clara Oswald, we learn in the season’s sixth episode, “The Caretaker,” that not only is his relationship with Clara blossoming, but that it puts him in the Doctor’s judgmental crosshairs. But in a change from previous years, it’s the Doctor who is obviously at fault.

“He’s a PE teacher,” Twelve tells Clara after discovering Danny’s importance in her life. “You wouldn’t go out with a PE teacher. It’s a mistake. You’ve made a boyfriend error.”

On one hand, this plays off of this Doctor’s marked antipathy for soldiers, established by his cold rebuke of Journey Blue’s (Zawe Ashton) request to join Team TARDIS. But despite his positive interactions with characters like Courtney Woods (Ellis George) or Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), it’s still unnerving on a visceral level to see a white authoritative character like the Doctor dismiss a Black math teacher as little more than a jock.

Danny (Samuel Anderson) faces off with the Twelth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), with Clara (Jenna Coleman) stuck in the middle.

But where the episode shines is in giving Danny more of a platform to push back against the Doctor than to be the Jealous Lover. Upon hearing that Clara’s “space dad” is in fact a Time Lord, Danny seizes on the last half of that cultural honorific: “The accent’s good, but you can always spot the aristocracy. It’s in the … attitude.”

Danny also delivers what ends up being the most prescient line of the season.

“I know men like him,” the former military man tells Clara. “I’ve served under them. They push you and make you stronger, ’til you’re doing things you never thought you could. I saw you tonight. You did exactly what he told you. You weren’t even scared … and you should have been.”

We’ve seen what Danny is talking about play out in past seasons, of course. But with Twelve’s immediate predecessors, this change was marked by the companions becoming better people during their travels with their Doctor. This year, we saw Clara and the Doctor bring out the worst in one another; you got the sense that Clara really does want to be the Doctor — or at least, be able to wield his kind of influence, even if it ultimately alienates him from everyone around him.

So with Twelve succumbing to the melancholy that plagued him after the Time War, and Clara taking the wrong part of this to heart, Danny embodied not only the best qualities of a standard Companion, but provided the needed counter-weight to their increasingly questionable choices. If the Ponds were The Girl And Boy Who Waited, Danny chose to be The One Who Stayed Behind, literally the element keeping Clara grounded and connected to the Earth.

In this light, Anderson’s (and Danny’s) contributions are easier to appreciate. Maybe the biggest casualty of this season’s turn toward a “darker” Doctor has been the show’s optimistic core. Even if the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor, in particular, were prone to histrionics, one always got the sense that they were smart people who enjoyed using their talents in the pursuit of good. We learn at the end of Capaldi’s second episode that Twelve isn’t willing to give himself that much credit, as his Doctor asks Clara, “Am I a good man?”

Not that Capaldi and Coleman didn’t perform well with this type of material; each found moments to shine, to be sure. But the show’s new tone ultimately makes the revived Doctor Who just a bit less unique: It’s now one of several shows built around protagonists who are Talented But Ethically Questionable. And the conclusion to the season finale, in which both Twelve and Clara split up lying to each other, figures to preserve that feeling through the next Christmas special, at least.

In the end, it fell to Danny once again to provide moral clarity to “Death in Heaven,” as his death and “resurrection” as a Cyberman leads him to one final confrontation with the Doctor, who must literally delete Danny’s emotions if he hopes to get the information he needs to save the planet:

Clara, watch this. This is who The Doctor is. Watch the blood-soaked old general in action. I can’t see properly, sir, because this needs activating. If you want to know what’s coming, you have to switch it on. Didn’t all of those beautiful speeches disappear in the face of a tactical advantage? Sir.

After a shocking death, Danny is “resurrected” as a Cyberman in “Death in Heaven.”

It turns out that not even losing his emotions can make Danny hurt Clara. And in a singularly apropos moment — the finale aired the day before the UK marked Rememberance Day — it’s Danny who takes command of the Cyberman army to end their threat:

Attention! This is not a good day. This is earth’s darkest hour! And look at you miserable lot. We are the fallen and today we shall rise, the Army of the Dead shall save the Land of the Living. This is not the order of a general, nor the whim of a lunatic. This is a promise! The promise of a soldier! You will sleep safe tonight.

Danny also finds a measure of peace (we think) in the afterlife in getting to atone for his greatest regret: the accidental killing of a Middle Eastern boy during his service in the Middle East. He gives up a chance to reunite with Clara and sends the boy back to the land of the living. (This prompts the question: why didn’t Clara ask Twelve to take the boy home? But that’s for another time, perhaps.)

If this truly is the end for Mr. Pink, then it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the loss of a romantic male lead of color (two, if you count John Cho’s recently canceled Henry Higgins) who defied not only commonplace stereotypes but got to upend some of Who‘s own tropes along the way. Danny’s departure leaves a bigger gap than even the show’s fans might realize for days to come.

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Quoted: Is Sephora Targeting Certain Accounts For Cancellation? http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/10/quoted-is-sephora-targeting-certain-accounts-for-cancellation/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/10/quoted-is-sephora-targeting-certain-accounts-for-cancellation/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 15:00:30 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33470 If you’re a makeup junkie like me (and spent a ridiculous amount at Sephora last year to be eligible), then this notification for Sephora’s 20% off sale event had you squealing. Unfortunately, as many major companies are wont to do, they ruined the excitement almost immediately with some questionable solutions to their makeup resale problem. […]

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If you’re a makeup junkie like me (and spent a ridiculous amount at Sephora last year to be eligible), then this notification for Sephora’s 20% off sale event had you squealing. Unfortunately, as many major companies are wont to do, they ruined the excitement almost immediately with some questionable solutions to their makeup resale problem.

Reselling would be the process of buying the makeup at the offered discounted price and then selling it of again at the original price for profit. Sephora doesn’t have sales often, so it might not be out of the question to assume that when they do, the issue might come up. What is out of the question is to assume that their Asian customers are doing it exclusively and cancelling their accounts because of it.

Jezebel reported:

But numerous customers on Sephora’s Facebook page and on a reddit thread allege that they’ve been locked out of their VIB accounts because they have Asian last names and/or international email addresses. Customers say that after finding themselves unable to purchase products on the Sephora website, they called Sephora’s customer service line, where they were told they had been permanently blocked from using their accounts for trying to buy products (according to their terms of service, Sephora has the right to do this without providing cause). The current consensus among many shoppers is that in order to prevent reselling of makeup overseas at a lower cost (which is a serious issue for retailers), the company is blocking customers from purchasing during this sale. Specifically, customers allege that this is happening most often to Asian customers.

It doesn’t take much to find a variety of complaints on Sephora’s Facebook page confirming the accusations:

sephora

Sephora released a statement on the 7th, though a quick scroll through the page confirms that many customers still don’t have access to their accounts needed to shop the sale which ends today. There is no mention of a sale extension, or any offer, to make up for the lost time or discriminatory practices.

A Message To Our Clients:
Sephora is dedicated to providing an exciting and reliable shopping experience and we sincerely apologize to our loyal clients who were impacted by the website outage that occurred yesterday.

Our website is incredibly robust and designed to withstand a tremendous amount of volume. What caused the disruption yesterday was a high level of bulk buys and automated accounts for reselling purposes from North America and multiple countries outside the US. The technical difficulties that impacted the site are actively being addressed and our desktop US website is now functioning normally. We are actively working to restore our Canadian, mobile website, and international shipping where applicable. There has been no impact on the security and privacy of our clients’ data.

The reality is that in taking steps to restore website functionality, some of our loyal North American and international clients got temporarily blocked. We understand how frustrating it is and are deeply sorry for the disruption to your shopping experience.

However, in some instances we have, indeed, de-activated accounts due to reselling — a pervasive issue throughout the industry and the world. As part of our ongoing commitment to protecting our clients and our brands, we have identified certain entities who take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website and re-sell them through other channels. After careful consideration, we have deactivated these accounts in order to optimize product availability for the majority of our clients, as well as ensure that consumers are not subject to increased prices or products that are not being handled or stored properly.

We have established a VIB hotline to ensure that if we are able to verify that your account was erroneously deactivated, it is reactivated immediately. Please call 877-VIB-ONLY (1-877-842-6659)

If you experience any difficulties placing your order please contact us at 1-877-SEPHORA (1-877-737-4672) or email us at client.service@sephora.com.

Our VIB 20% off promotion runs through Monday, November 10th and our VIB and VIB Rouge clients have several days left to take advantage of this exclusive holiday shopping event.

The obvious solution would have been to simply limit the number of each product that a customer could buy. Your average customer probably would have been fine to know that they could buy no more than ten Stilla eyeliners or what have you. Instead, in a move that can’t possibly be worth the PR fallout, Sephora chose the lazy racist’s way out and went after the surnames (and apparently email domains commonly used in East Asian countries) they decided seemed suspicious.

Just imagine what they’ll do when they find out that the Lot-Less on 40th and 7th is reselling their nail polish. (Probably nothing. That might take a well thought out effort.)

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Event: The Afrofuturist Affair in Philadelphia, PA http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/07/event-the-afrofuturist-affair-in-philadelphia-pa/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/07/event-the-afrofuturist-affair-in-philadelphia-pa/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33452 This looks so, so cool: This year, The AfroFuturist Affair Annual Charity & Costume Ball has expanded space-time from one evening to a month-long celebration of Afrofuturism. In addition to the 4th Annual Costume Ball on Saturday, November 8 2014, we will have events throughout November, including workshops, dance party, readings, book club, film screenings, […]

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This looks so, so cool:

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This year, The AfroFuturist Affair Annual Charity & Costume Ball has expanded space-time from one evening to a month-long celebration of Afrofuturism. In addition to the 4th Annual Costume Ball on Saturday, November 8 2014, we will have events throughout November, including workshops, dance party, readings, book club, film screenings, art exhibit, and more. We are seeking self-identified AfroFuturists to perform or display their Black sci-fi, spec-fic, and Afrofuturistic themed work at the Ball. We are also seeking submissions for workshops and presentations.

More here.

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I Used To Be Excited for Big Hero 6: An Asian-American’s Perspective http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/07/i-used-to-be-excited-for-big-hero-6-an-asian-americans-perspective/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/07/i-used-to-be-excited-for-big-hero-6-an-asian-americans-perspective/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33462 By Guest Contributor Sunny Huang Two weeks ago, Big Hero 6 premiered to critical acclaim at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Even earlier, it made a big splash at New York Comic Con. And it will open tomorrow as a likely box-office success — a projected $51 million in its first weekend — in the […]

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By Guest Contributor Sunny Huang

Two weeks ago, Big Hero 6 premiered to critical acclaim at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Even earlier, it made a big splash at New York Comic Con. And it will open tomorrow as a likely box-office success — a projected $51 million in its first weekend — in the U.S. But with less than a full day to go, I am surprised by the lack of substantial criticism for it.

Frozen generateda firestorm of controversybefore it was released in mass and niche publications, yet there is little for Big Hero 6, which goes to show just how much Asians and Asian-inspired media are pushed out of the conversation. And the only criticisms that have appeared focus on the film’s episodic storytelling and choice of Fall Out Boy for the soundtrack, instead of its lackluster Asian representation and continued cultural appropriation by Disney. In fact, Big Hero 6 is being lauded for transcending these problems, when it is the very embodiment.

Don’t get me wrong. I used to be excited for Big Hero 6.When the first trailer and voice cast were released, I cried.

After spending my childhood barely seeing myself and my people represented on screen, I immediately made my brother watch the trailer. As a 20-year old, I was so happy that my 10-year old brother would have the chance to grow up without self-resentment. I was so grateful to know he would have the chance to not loathe his race because he would see characters who looked like him be appreciated. It was a chance I did not have.

When the trailer was over, I yelled at him. Look, look!An Asian character! Another character who’s Asian besides Mulan! From the biggest animation studio today! Do you know how many people like us will see how progressive this movie is?! To that, he just stared at me and said—

What? I thought he was white.

It was then I realized something was wrong. This movie was being marketed as progressive and beyond its time for giving its studio the opportunity to address “its historical reputation for ethnic homogeneity and cultural appropriation.” But if an Asian-American kid could not identify the main character as Asian, as part of his own group, then what else was wrong?

Turns out, a lot. The protagonist’s racial ambiguity just started the conversation.

The film is based off the Marvel Comics characters of the same name, but with major differences—many of them questionable, and some of them outright wrong.

SPOILERS for both the movie and the comic under the cut.

Hiro is Not the Asian or Biracial Hero We Deserve

Unlike the original version of the character, Hiro Hamada is not Japanese, but a biracial Asian-American. Aside from his westernized last name—which they “Americanized” from the already manageable “Takachiho” for easier pronunciation for the West—apparently making the main character and his brother completely Asian was too controversial to do. With this decision, we can assume that according to Disney, 2014 American audiences wouldn’t have the cultural capacity to accept a lead who isn’t at least part-white for once.

Despite its cast voicing their appreciation for the movie’s progressiveness, it can be said that the studio resorted to racebending to fulfill its apparent belief that this movie with a 100 percent Asian lead would not perform as well in the market as 2016’s Moana, which will feature a Pacific Islander female lead. In this vein, Disney is no better than Universal Studios, which chose to shoehorn a biracial hero into 47 Ronin’s historically Japanese setting.

No wonder my brother couldn’t identify Hiro as Asian. Because like Tiana’s original natural hair in The Princess and the Frog, his physical features were changed. Some have applauded the choice to round out Hiro’s eyes, as not all Asians possess Mulan’s eyes and we shouldn’t police how Asians are “supposed to look.”

However, there is nothing inherently wrong with portraying Asian eyes as Western animation has traditionally drawn them, as long as it isn’t outright racist and deliberately turned into caricatures in the name of offensive “humor.” There is a history of using those physical traits to mark Asians as “the Other,” but in the modern age, it is generally accepted that this is how Asian appearances are depicted by the Western mass media. These design elements are so ingrained that they are no longer used to “Other” Asians. It is what it is.

Before more diverse diversities in race can be represented, there first needs to be a set precedent for Asian representation on screen. To achieve that, I suggest that Asians first need to be more clearly established on the big screen before they can be expanded and reimagined, even if it means retaining older designs. Here, Disney tried to introduce an element of interracial families, biraciality, and diverse appearances, but it is unfortunate that its representation of Hapa characters, which is needed, is not sincere or respectful.

Hiro’s Asian parentage and overall experience as a mixed character are not explored. Rather, the film capitalizes upon the whiteness and “exotic” qualities his mixed background offers to fulfill his role as a tokenized character for the “diversity quota.” In the context of the entire film and its problems, erasing Hiro’s Asian background, removing his physical markers, and killing his brother with the more “Asian” features” are not only deliberate attempts to erase the main character’s heritage, but to dilute the Asian presence in the media.

Anti-Asianness in the “Asian” San Fransokyo

There is a noticeably disproportionate representation of whiteness in a supposedly Asian-centric film.

Hiro and Tadashi’s Asian parents, relatives, or any other sign of that part of their heritage are not to be seen. Even when orphaned, they are being cared for by their white Aunt Cass instead of their Asian relatives. Perhaps the Hamada brothers were made biracial to negate the possibility of a completely Asian family and more Asian characters.

In a “shimmering hybrid city called San Fransokyo” that is praised for its Japanese inspiration, the two brothers are mentored by Professor Robert Callaghan, the head of the robotics department at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Yet another white character in a substantially Asian technology field. Apparently it was too ridiculous to make the leader of a prestigious robotics department in an Asian-modeled city Asian.

Despite Disney’s Trailblazing, GoGo and Asian Characters Are Still a No Go

Surely, a hybrid between Tokyo and San Francisco, where 98 percent and 33 percent of their respective populations are Asian, must have more than one supporting character of Asian or part-Asian descent who isn’t killed like Tadashi. Unfortunately, there is only one other Asian character in the movie, GoGo Tomago, compared to five in the original version. Even then, she is given little thought compared to the robot Baymax, which was “so special to the creators” that they did considerable research for it and promoted the movie heavily on its “cute factor.” Meanwhile, GoGo was given “paper-thin characterization” and a low-key personality that excused her from being written with a substantial speaking role.

I won’t, however, deny that GoGo, along with Hiro and Tadashi, is a testimony to the leadership and non-kung fu battle potential Asian characters possess, but are rarely permitted to exhibit on screen. Not only is her intelligence not grossly stereotyped and admired instead, she is described by her voice actress Jamie Chung as “the only one who really can hold her own and catch the villain off-guard [before the transformation],” and “the other characters [look] towards her for strength” versus being written with a weak resolve. This portrayal of an Asian woman does deserve recognition for transcending the dehumanized and sexualized cunning stock dragon lady and submissive China doll. But why doesn’t she have many lines?

From every official description of her, GoGo is described and depicted as “tough, athletic, and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist.” In fact, director and storywriter Don Hall wanted a “woman of few words for the group,” who just happened to be the only significant Asian woman on set. But of course, GoGo is not significant enough, as her dialogue is axed in order to give the two white supporting characters, who just happened to have more vibrant personalities more time to talk, as if white protagonists haven’t talked enough already.

The Dynamics of Negative Change in Whitewashing Minorities

In the comics, chatty, sunny Honey Lemon, or Aiko Miyazaki, has blonde hair, but it is repeatedly emphasized that she is Japanese. After all, like any group that can dye their hair, the Japanese don’t have to stick with black. Honey Lemon has been identified as Latina, but that is the result of a seemingly arbitrary decision to fill a diversity quota rather than a sincere and respectful one.

Interviews with the cast suggest that only after she was designed—with Disney’s same face syndrome that has been strongly associated with whiteness—did Big Hero 6 make her Latina after voice actress Genesis Rodriguez rehearsed scenes with and without an accent, where using the former apparently makes her Latina by default. Furthermore, the lack of thought put into her design and the movie’s diversity is reflected in a colorist choice to give her light skin and hair, running with a light-skinned Latina instead of a “morena,” and ultimately privileging whiteness over color, her heritage, and her original Japanese ancestry.

But the white character who was given the most lines out of the entire diverse supporting cast, is Fred, or “Fredzilla.” After four consecutive years of films featuring all-white casts after all-white casts, it is interesting to see that the movie Disney chose to “diversify” is Big Hero 6, which was adapted from an already diverse origin story. Paradoxically, the studio was so preoccupied with “diversifying” the already diverse Hiro to make him multiracial, yet ignored the possibility of a non-white multiracial Honey Lemon and Fredzilla. Still not a good route, given the original Fredzilla’s background, but better than what they chose to do.

In the comics, “Fred” is part of the Ainu, a Japanese minority that has been persecuted for hundreds of years and largely ignored by the world. This deliberate oversight in changing an indigenous character to an overly represented race is not “diversifying” the characters, but contributes to the erasure of the minimum representation they have in media, just to appeal to an American audience when they don’t need a white character to relate to. A friend put it another way—”We’ve already let the half-Japanese be in our movies. Don’t make us exercise our cultural open-mindedness and learn about another ethnic group we’d have to accommodate.”

Yet in these changes, Big Hero 6 somehow did not change what needed to be changed, such as Wasabi’s name. The comic was written in 1998, during a time of racial ignorance where food stereotypes that are problematic today were not back then. Despite multiple consultation, design, and editing sessions where racebending and exoticizing were approved in the spirit of “progressiveness,” Wasabi’s name was not listed as a problem when Fredzilla’s Ainu lineage apparently was. In the end, it is less about “violating and adhering to lore” but “providing more representation” that “evolv[es] stories and lore.” Changes from a twentieth to a twenty-first century story are to be expected, but make sure we keep representation that reflects the evolution of society in mind.

San Fransokyo is Not a Creative Justification, But Instead the Latest in Disney’s Uncreative Appropriation

But of course, perhaps Disney believed this whitewashing to be justified because it incorrectly viewed the exotification of the movie’s location—called “San Fransokyo”—as “cultural exchange.” Not only is the Americanized setting disrespectful to history, since the original story took place in Japan and featured a villain created from the souls of atomic bomb victims, but it exotifies a city that could have been totally Asian.

Rather than taking time to perform substantial research that would respectfully represent Asian culture and architecture, like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Disney decided to tokenize Japanese elements to proudly demonstrate—and market—how drastically “unique” Big Hero 6’s setting is compared to other movies. The streetcars have paper lanterns, the Golden Gate Bridge is “Asian-fied,” and the logo itself could liken itself to a Chinese take-out box. Cultural inspiration should be encouraged, but not outright stereotyping, fetishism, and appropriation.

Like the racially appropriative Halloween costumes that Americans wear, out of a mix of ignorance and apathy, Big Hero 6’s setting and the film overall are difficult to be labeled as cultural appreciation, or a “love letter to Japan,” as director Don Hall puts it.

Even if San Fransokyo was an ode to Tokyo and Japan, it would be problematic to know that the team dedicated more respect to an object location over the actual people with Asian backgrounds. When drawing from anime for inspiration, which should not be the sole descriptor of an entire culture in the first place, the movie took what it wanted to use and added an Americanized white influence to what it didn’t like. San Fransokyo is a far cry from cultural appreciation when Tokyo’s very own culture and people that serve as its core aren’t rightfully acknowledged. In fact, it wouldn’t be a reach to deduce that the hybrid city was created in the first place to excuse the changes in the original characters’ races.

Big Hero 6 Does Not Represent Us—Or the Media Potential of the 21st Century

As an Asian American, I can sadly say that Big Hero 6 is simply the latest Disney movie to indulge in homogeneity and cultural appropriation. Clearly, in spite of the glowing reviews, Disney is no more ready for Asia or Asian Americans than the rest of Hollywood. Big Hero 6 is better than the incredibly racebent casting for the live-action Ghost in the Shell and the one-dimensional misrepresentation of Asians in this summer’s Lucy. Big Hero 6 did develop an adequate number of Asian characters and matched them with diverse voice actors, and it did cast them as heroes in a quasi-Asian universe when the exact opposite is frequently employed. Big Hero 6 has some strengths. But they are strengths for audiences and critics with low standards.

To the entertainment industry and to the viewers, I implore you—why must we continue to support whitewashed films yet ignore their very real problems that dismiss the importance of world cultures and peoples to our international storytelling language? Why must we settle for “colorblind” casts that are still used to fulfill diversity quotas when diverse people and cultures of color reinvent and enrich our media?

It is unfortunate that though Big Hero 6 touches upon a lot of mature themes, its “wonderfully color-blind” characters and settings—which were truly color-blind because of the non-acknowledgments of their races—are the new immature ideal to strive for in the twenty-first century, when colorblindness has little merit in an increasingly globalized and diverse society. Colorblindness is not true diversity, and we should be demanding sincere, substantial diversity for our children, so we can teach the new generations that differences are natural and should be respected. After all, the majority of our U.S. audiences—which boast about its heterogeneity—are no longer white men, and are kids who deserve to be see people who look like them on screen. These beautiful children’s stories deserve to be reflected, and children should be confident when viewing the media and viewing themselves.

One of the biggest groups that still has to be prominently represented is Asian Americans, who only had five percent of speaking roles—major and minor—among the five hundred top-grossing U.S. films between 2007 and 2012. Big Hero 6 had a prime opportunity to transcend these boundaries, yet its marginalization, racebending, and homogenization to whiteness are less than progressive. It should have clearly and deliberately chosen to present Hiro and the other characters as Asian to contribute a richer, colorful story, and firmly establish that yellowface need not happen anymore because Asians can top the box office and they can deliver.

As Cate Blanchett noted in her 2014 Oscar acceptance speech, if Hollywood movies starring minorities like women can make money, then the next logical step would be to cast away the bamboo ceiling and actively support movies starring Asians.. After all, if Mulan, Hero, The Joy Luck Club, The Last Emperor, House of Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and hundreds of anime could do well and become American cultural icons without a whitewashed Asian cast, then we should continue this progress in Disney.

This movie’s take on  “progress” is not enough for our Asian and Asian American children, and we need to demand more. Disney is our kids’ first introduction to the media, and their characters help develop their first perceptions of themselves, and become their first heroes and culturalicons that stay with them through adulthood. Big Hero 6 and its characters and world will become one of them. This story of representation is likely not foreign to you, especially in a country created by immigrants, so let us not blindly praise what is not worth praising, but critique and recommend for the future. After all, like Disney, we should view ourselves as trailblazers in a world that is less than entertainment and more of a reflection of life itself. Disney, let us do better, and let us do right for Asia and Asian America. Let us do right so the first Pacific Islander feature, Moana, rings true.

I used to be excited for Big Hero 6.

But on No. 7, I will take my brother to see it. And I will note to him, and to you all, that this is only a small step. A future with better Disney Asian representation is coming, I will tell him. Because Disney wanted to help a lot of people.

Sunny Huang is an Asian American college student by day, and wannabe social scientist and activist 24/7. When she isn’t trying to find her path through the universe, she geeks out over intersectionality and sociology, and performs media analysis with a race and feminist lens on the fly, much to the consternation of her peers. More formally, she is a junior Eckardt Scholar at Lehigh University studying sociology with a focus on the intersections between media and its effects on children. Although she has experience in government, grassroots movements, and traditional modes of education, she believes that change can begin in how we develop our youth to view themselves, other peoples, and the world through reimaged media. You can follow her thoughts and meanderings through life on Tumblr.

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Race + Politics: Undocumented Activists Slam Democrats After Midterm Elections Losses http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/05/race-politics-undocumented-activists-slam-democrats-after-midterm-elections-losses/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/05/race-politics-undocumented-activists-slam-democrats-after-midterm-elections-losses/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33458 By Arturo R. García Tuesday night’s midterm elections brought with them the worst-case scenario for the Democratic Party: Not only did they lose control of the Senate to the Republicans, but the GOP added to its control of the House of Representatives. But while many observers blamed Democrats’ decision to distance themselves from President Barack […]

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By Arturo R. García

Tuesday night’s midterm elections brought with them the worst-case scenario for the Democratic Party: Not only did they lose control of the Senate to the Republicans, but the GOP added to its control of the House of Representatives. But while many observers blamed Democrats’ decision to distance themselves from President Barack Obama, immigrant activists also want the party to consider the cost of Obama’s move to delay immigration reform.

“Prioritizing Senate seats over keeping families together was bad politics,” Dream Action Coalition (DRM) co-directors Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas said in a statement late Tuesday night. “Tonight, when the Democrats were hoping to keep the Senate despite the President’s delay on immigration, we saw Latino voters rebuke Democrats at the polls, either opting to stay home or voting for another party.”

The schism has been building since September, when Obama held off on implementing an executive order ameliorating the deportation of undocumented immigrants from the country. As the International Business Times reported last week, the effects were already there: an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only half of Latino respondents said it would not matter which of the country’s two dominant parties left the election controlling the Senate.

Considering that Obama amassed the support of 71 percent of the Latino electorate during his successful re-election bid in 2012, many of those voters had come to believe they were being asked to choose between a GOP openly running on anti-immigrant positions and a Democratic Party that was putting them off. And some groups, like Presente Action, opted to punish Democrats for their inaction.

“This was not an easy step for us,” Presente executive director Arturo Carmona told The Atlantic. “But we believe it is necessary if we are ever going to see politicians of any party approach the Latino constituency as one to be catered to, not spat on.”

The coalition sent a more blunt message following incumbent Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) loss:

These reactions suggest that Democrats did not just ignore the warning from civic groups, but those from within their own party ranks, like Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), who told The Guardian about the lack of enthusiasm Obama’s inaction had generated.

“This problem that you see, politically, is nothing in comparison to the civil war that will be created politically in the Democratic party should the president not be broad and generous in his use of prosecutorial discretion,” Gutiérrez said. “Because Latinos will not be deciding whether or not they vote, but whether or not they are in the Democratic party.”

[Top image: Immigration march in Washington, D.C. in March 2010. Photo by SEIU via Flickr Creative Commons]

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