Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture http://www.racialicious.com Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:00:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 The Racialicious Live-Tweet For The 2015 Oscars http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/23/the-racialicious-live-tweet-for-the-2015-oscars/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/23/the-racialicious-live-tweet-for-the-2015-oscars/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33717 If you skipped last night’s ceremony, we certainly don’t blame you. But, Kendra and Arturo were live-snarking throughout the night, and you can catch their recap of the highs and awkward lows under the cut. [View the story “The Racialicious Live-Tweet For The 2015 Oscars” on Storify]

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If you skipped last night’s ceremony, we certainly don’t blame you. But, Kendra and Arturo were live-snarking throughout the night, and you can catch their recap of the highs and awkward lows under the cut.

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In Conversation: Fresh Off The Boat http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/10/in-conversation-fresh-off-the-boat/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/10/in-conversation-fresh-off-the-boat/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 06:15:32 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33709 by Kendra James WNYC was kind enough to invite us here at the R to their screening and talkback of ABC’s new sitcom Fresh Off The Boat, based on Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name. After screening episodes 3 and 4, Jeff Yang (Wall Street Journal Columnist and father of the show’s star, Hudson Yang) led […]

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by Kendra James

WNYC was kind enough to invite us here at the R to their screening and talkback of ABC’s new sitcom Fresh Off The Boat, based on Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name. After screening episodes 3 and 4, Jeff Yang (Wall Street Journal Columnist and father of the show’s star, Hudson Yang) led a discussion of the show, its themes, and its importance featuring vlogger Jay Smooth,  rapper Awkwafina, and author Amy Chua.

While I captured snippets of the conversation in our livetweet from The Greene Space last night, it’s worth watching the entire video of the discussion embedded below. With  some of the points made focusing  on the series’ third episode, it may even be beneficial to wait until both episodes air tonight on ABC.  I particularly appreciated the debate centered around (the character) Eddie’s relationship with hip-hop and whether or not it’s yet been fleshed out to make it seem more than shallow. The show’s use of Hip-hop as a seemingly permanent status as a punchline rather than a cultural and social movement to be taken seriously has been for me, in an age of Iggy Azalea, harder to see as humorous instead of appropriative.

The Q&A session prompted great questions (“not diatribes!” Jeff Yang requested) including one about the accents and presence of Mandarin in the show, and a question about the use of slurs during the first episode. For a brief recap before tonight’s episodes air, check out our Storify of the event below.

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The Grammys Have An Awkward Brush With Social Justice http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/09/the-grammys-have-an-awkward-brush-with-social-justice/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/09/the-grammys-have-an-awkward-brush-with-social-justice/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33701 By Arturo R. García In the midst of a show that was downright turgid at times, there were glimpses of social relevance during Sunday night’s Grammys. You had Sam Smith openly thank an old boyfriend on national television while celebrating winning four awards. And the award’s outright hypocrisy in honoring abusive cis-males was only exposed […]

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By Arturo R. García

In the midst of a show that was downright turgid at times, there were glimpses of social relevance during Sunday night’s Grammys. You had Sam Smith openly thank an old boyfriend on national television while celebrating winning four awards. And the award’s outright hypocrisy in honoring abusive cis-males was only exposed further with remarks on domestic violence from President Barack Obama and activist Brooke Axtell:

After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter. This conversation saved my life.

And then, of course, you had Prince. With one simple remark — “like books and Black lives, albums still matter” — His Purpleness made explicit a message that Beyoncé and Pharrell attempted to express visually. But while seeing Hands Up Don’t Shoot on the Grammy stage was worth noting, those two moments weren’t without their own problematic undertones.

Pharrell and backup dancers during their performance of “Happy” on Feb. 8, 2015.

One might have missed the gesture being used — by dancers in hoodies, no less — during Pharrell’s reinterpretation of “Happy.” But what several online observers did not miss was his remarks regarding Michael Brown to Ebony magazine last November:

Ebony: Did you see the video allegedly showing Michael Brown stealing from a convenience store minutes before his death?

PW: It looked very bully-ish; that in itself I had a problem with. Not with the kid, but with whatever happened in his life for him to arrive at a place where that behavior is OK. Why aren’t we talking about that?

Ebony: You can almost hear the gnashing of Bill Cosby’s teeth.

PW: And I agree with him. When Cosby said it back then, I understood; I got it. Listen, we have to look at ourselves and take action for ourselves. Cosby can talk that talk because he created Fat Albert, he tried to buy NBC, he portrayed a doctor on “The Cosby Show” and had all of us wearing Coogi sweaters. You’ve got to respect him. I believe that Ferguson officer should be punished and serve time. He used excessive force on a human being who was merely a child. He was a baby, man. The boy was walking in the middle of the street when the police supposedly told him to ‘get the f–k on the sidewalk.’ If you don’t listen to that, after just having pushed a storeowner, you’re asking for trouble. But you’re not asking to be killed. Some of these youth feel hunted and preyed upon, and that’s why that officer needs to be punished.

Beyoncé performs “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” during the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2015.

Meanwhile, Beyoncé followed up on three Grammys of her own — and being slighted in the Album of the Year category — with a performance of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” during the show’s final segment focusing on Ava DuVernay’s Selma. But as Entertainment Tonight reported, she was in that position in place of Ledisi, who did the song for the movie’s soundtrack. Worse yet, Ledisi said she “had no clue” about being snubbed.

“What I will say and what I’m excited about is that I had the pleasure of playing an iconic figure in Selma,” Ledisi said. “The song, ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord,’ it’s been going on forever – starting with the queen Mahalia [Jackson], the queen of soul Aretha Franklin. Then, I was able to portray and sing my version of the song, and now we have Beyonce. Her generation will now know the song, so I’m a part of history.”

Beyoncé’s performance segued into John Legend and Common closing the show with “Glory,” their Oscar-nominated duet from the film. According to Legend, Beyoncé was the one who proposed the segment.

“She wanted to do an intro to our performance and introduce us,” Legend said. “You don’t really say no to Beyoncé if she asks to perform with you.”

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The Stories That Shape Us [Essay] http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/04/the-stories-that-shape-us-essay/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/02/04/the-stories-that-shape-us-essay/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 15:00:45 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33692 by Guest Contributor THE STORIES THAT SHAPE US The only Nigerian Nobel Prize winner was Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright and poet who was recognised for his contribution to literature in 1986. Clearly, Nigeria is not lacking in literary talent, yet books written by national authors and published by Nigerian publishing houses are shockingly scarce. […]

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by Guest Contributor

THE STORIES THAT SHAPE US

The only Nigerian Nobel Prize winner was Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright and poet who was recognised for his contribution to literature in 1986. Clearly, Nigeria is not lacking in literary talent, yet books written by national authors and published by Nigerian publishing houses are shockingly scarce. The authors are far more likely to be picked up by Western publishing houses before they have a chance to become successful back home.

Such was the story with globally acclaimed authors such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Wole Soyinka himself. “The best writing is not about the writer, the best writing is absolutely not about the writer, it’s about us, it’s about the reader,” – Ben Okri, Nigerian poet and novelist. So why must the most relatable stories be road-tested on a western audience before being released for whom they were intended?

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Literature knows no bounds. The range in style and substance varies massively, which means there are countless levels on which a story can appeal to a reader. An individual’s go-to genre might be fantasy or sci-fi, books that give them the chance to escape into a world which is completely alien to their own. However, reading about even the most fantastical of worlds doesn’t measure up to the thrill of reading about the city and even the streets you grew up around. The familiarity and intimacy you feel with the text when the characters are travelling a road you too know so well is entirely different – it’s a melancholic sort of pride like reminiscing about old times with a dear old friend.

During an inspirational talk at the TED conference in 2009, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talked about how Nigerians (and people of colour in general) struggle to find other ethnic characters that they can identify with.

Ms. Adichie spoke passionately of the literary awakening she experienced when she found her own cultural subtleties in the fiction she was reading. Listening to her compelling account of how this changed her perspective on what literature could be truly brought home the power of connecting on a cultural and geographical level with the stories we read.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.04.27 AM

To gather a more accurate picture of the issue, we interviewed Nigerian readers and the widespread nature of this phenomenon became clearer. In the words of Zainab, 26, a GP: “I don’t really recall any Nigerian literature up until my late teens when I read Chimamanda’s books like ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’, which I found a lot more captivating because I could relate to the story a lot more.”

Zuby, 24, a law student, added that there was “more Western Literature available for young people than Nigerian or, at least, we were more exposed to the Western ones. I particularly remember reading Enid Blyton’s books.” More specifically, 29 year old sound designer Leke talked of the lack of diversity in genres. “I would have liked to read more books from Nigeria but where my interests lay when I was living in Nigeria there was not that type of book being written. In my early
teens I wanted to read about spies and detectives and there were no books about that. I am still not sure if there are [Nigerian] books written for teenage boys with overactive imaginations.”

(RE)PUBLISHING HOUSES

It seems that a large proportion of publishing troubles lie with the Nigerian infrastructure itself. It is difficult to find a publisher when they are so few and far between. It is harder still to be published when the few who do exist have come to expect poor quality and are subsequently reluctant to publish anything unknown. The absence of supply has not caused decreased demand; those who want literature simply find other means of getting it. A comment on a popular forum thread, started by a user desperately looking for a way to get published in Nigeria, reads “You want to know why there are no literary agents and authentic publishers in Nigeria? Check-out this and see the reason for yourself.” Below this comment is a link to a website where one can download ebooks of pirated novels. Piracy is a problem on the rise and it is increasing that much faster thanks to the Internet.

Back in the 1980’s, the economic downturn in Nigeria put an end to the hopes of a thriving, self-sufficient book publishing industry as all the tentatively erected paper and pulp making factories went under almost immediately. This was not a creative famine but a material shortage, which still has an effect on the Nigerian publishing world today. Now, for books to be made in the country all the materials must be imported, which drives the price right up, putting books out of reach for many.

Adewale Maja-Pearce, the Nigerian writer, critic and editor emphasised that “The problem is the affordability of books, and their availability… Publishers just don’t have the infrastructure”. The problems of infrastructure are just as significant as economic factors. The publishing industry is mostly privatised and so there is little or no regulation, which essentially means anyone and their aunty could call themselves publishers. It is not surprising therefore that “most Nigerian writers hanker to be published abroad” said Adewale.

“Unfortunately, we have yet to develop a decent book-reviewing culture in the national papers. People just tend to puff each other’s books.” What it boils down to is authors have no faith in publishers, as they are fully aware their reviews mean nothing, and publishers have no faith in authors, fearing their writing quality is too poor to sell.

CURRENT TRENDS IN LITERATURE

The traditions and the trends of Nigerian literature are, arguably, almost synonymous.

According to Isidore Diala, Professor of African literature at Imo State University in Nigeria, the published novels that are successful today are those that handle the same themes as the classics, namely politics, contesting colonial myths and the struggle for independence – be it as a country, as a woman or simply as a Nigerian citizen. Of course, the occasional fantasy or romance novel gets published, for example The Palm-Wine Drinkard</em> by Amos Tutuola, but these do not receive nearly as much coverage and the memory of their release quickly fades from the minds of potential readers. In all likelihood, the reason for the lack of diversity of genre in Nigerian literature is again down to the publishing system. When a new writer with an unusual story attempts to get published on home soil they will likely be unsuccessful.

Therefore, they approach Western publishers, who will only publish what they believe will appeal to Western readers, and this is where the downfall occurs. Just like Ms. Adichie discussed in the TED conference, the western audience often has a preconception about African culture. Africa is frequently seen as a country of tribal nations, beautiful nature, poverty and violence. We often forget that Africa is a large continent, like Europe, where every country has its unique heritage, language and political structure. The consequence of this is that in the Western world the most successful books by Nigerian authors are the ones that conform to the stereotype, as those that don’t (absurdly) are seen to lack authenticity.

AN AUTHOR’S TALE

The dream of becoming an author in Nigeria can be a difficult one to achieve. To find out exactly what barriers might be expected, we spoke to Ifeoma Okoye, the Award Winning author of Behind the Clouds. When Ifeoma started writing she “didn’t know of any solely indigenous publishers in Nigeria.” To break into the world of writing, Ifeoma entered a writing competition set up by Macmillan and won. The prize was to be published.

Following this success, she published several children books with Tana Press, a Nigeria based publishing house. “Tana Press approached me personally and asked me to write some children’s books for them and I did.” Ifeoma’s past success carried her forward, so she never had the choice of whether to publish in Nigeria or the West. In line with the common view, Ifeoma does not recall reading any Nigerian literature before her teenage years and also reported the infrastructure to be lacking. “There is, to my knowledge, no bookshop in the country that has a branch in all the state capitals and in other important towns. The postal services are slow and unreliable. Distribution of books by public transport is slow and costly.” Add to this as well that access to the internet is not a widespread luxury and the explanation for the lack of book sales becomes painfully clear.

The poor infrastructure also partially accounts for the limited number of books that are published; there simply isn’t space on the few existing bookshelves to accommodate them.

On the subject of Nigerians interest in reading, Ifeoma’s view is that Nigerians don’t often read for fun. “Most read only to pass examinations [and this means that] publishers here publish more textbooks or what I choose to call ‘compulsory reading’ than they publish books that we read for pleasure.”

For her most recent novel, The Fourth World, Ifeoma chose to self-publish, but only after contacting several literary agents and publishers in the West and remaining unsatisfied with what they could offer.

IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

Whilst the outlook may seem bleak for Nigerian literature from some of the quotes and issues discussed above, light is breaking over a new trend that continues the grand tradition of storytelling in Nigeria: Nollywood. This is the name that Nigerian cinema has been dubbed with and, as of 2013, it is the third most valuable film industry in the world, behind only India and the US.

For Nigerians, the authentic representation that they yearn for in literature is abundantly present in the films produced in Nollywood. Therefore, although books and the stories they tell are an integral part of culture that should not ever be lost, perhaps physical books are simply not a practical solution for a country with an infrastructure like Nigeria’s.

However, storytelling is a robust tradition that won’t and should never die out. Storytelling is an inherent part of being human and therefore, just like humans, it is capable of standing up to times of great change and is adaptable to any situation. Stories will always find a way to be told, whether that be through oral traditions, literature or film.

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Endangered by the Moving Image: The Criminalization of Black and Brown Bodies [Panel] http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/29/endangered-by-the-moving-image-the-criminalization-of-black-and-brown-bodies-panel/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/29/endangered-by-the-moving-image-the-criminalization-of-black-and-brown-bodies-panel/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33684 This looks amazing, happening in NYC on February 1st at the Museum of the Moving Image: Do ​media depictions of African Americans influence the way they are treated by the police, the criminal justice system, and by society at large? In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in […]

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This looks amazing, happening in NYC on February 1st at the Museum of the Moving Image:

Do ​media depictions of African Americans influence the way they are treated by the police, the criminal justice system, and by society at large? In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, protests have once again raised questions about the criminalization of the black image on screen. This program will bring together a group of leading African-American cultural commentators to look at the history of how African Americans are represented in film and television, beginning with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.

Panelists include:

William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, is the director of the Africana Studies Institute, University of Connecticut, and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and commentator for National Public Radio.

Mia Mask, film professor at Vassar College, is the co-editor of the recent books Poitier Revisited: Reconsidering a Black Icon in the Obama Age, and Black American Cinema Reconsidered. She is the author of Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film.

Greg Tate is a writer, musician, and producer whose writing has focused on African-American music and culture. He was a long-time staff writer for The Village Voice and his books include Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America and Everything but the Burden.

Tickets: $12 ($9 for senior citizens and students / free for members at the Film Lover level and above). Order tickets online.

More information here.

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Denying Racism in Cape Town Is About Lack of Empathy http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/20/denying-racism-in-cape-town-is-about-lack-of-empathy/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/20/denying-racism-in-cape-town-is-about-lack-of-empathy/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:00:20 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33676 by Guest Contributor Luso Mnthali, originally published at AfriPop I was on radio the other day, trying to explain to Shado Twala, well-known radio and television personality here in South Africa, how racism personally affects me. I had this great chance to finally tell a wider audience what it feels like to live in a […]

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by Guest Contributor Luso Mnthali, originally published at AfriPop

I was on radio the other day, trying to explain to Shado Twala, well-known radio and television personality here in South Africa, how racism personally affects me. I had this great chance to finally tell a wider audience what it feels like to live in a city that denies you so much because you’re black. But I focused too much on how I’d been getting hostile looks from strangers, and being shoved and bumped into a couple of times while walking in my predominantly white neighbourhood.

I felt like I blew it.

Gone was the experience I had on my first date with the man who would later become my boyfriend. It was here in Cape Town, years ago, when another white man lunged at me and spat out some ugly racist words at me. I won’t say publicly what they are, not now anyway. Because he wasn’t aware of it at the time, I only told my man this had happened years later. It’s not something I want to remember, or talk about, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Possibly because there have been so many incidents of racism in the Cape in recent months. And it’s happened not only when the tourists flood in during the month we all lovingly call Dezemba. Even though, during my conversation with uMam’Shado, we were slightly glib about how the tourists from other provinces annually bring with them a spate of complaints about the ‘Mother City’ as it is known to some. My black South African friends have asked: “Mother to whom, this city? Who does it mother and who is the mother?”

So I felt that, during that conversation, gone were the experiences of friends trying to rent apartments, but being disappointed because of race-based selection or denial. Of friends leaving their jobs and packing up to go back to Joburg after a year or two. Gone were the stories of how even academia works to keep black people out. Gone were the myriad instances of microagression and hostility in a place that renders you both visible and invisible. You’re visible when you’ve clearly transgressed – how dare you walk around with a white man who clearly adores you? What are you doing with him? Or, as some women from a white-owned mainly white-staffed media house asked my friend about me – “How did she get a white guy?”

You’re invisible when you are the street cleaner, or the domestic worker who has now changed out of her servant’s uniform and is chatting with other domestic workers on the bus or in the cramped taxi for the long trip heading home. Or when you’re the black nanny meeting up with other black nannies as you push the strollers and prams of your white charges up the hill, so you can take them to the park with the water feature and guinea fowl running around in the mountain neighbourhood. Your own children, where do they play?

When you’ve been explaining what it is that ails you, what really troubles you about a place, for years and years, it gets hard to do so in a radio interview. It’s what you’ve been talking about for so long that you almost don’t know how to put into words so that they get it. And finally people are listening and seem to understand what’s been going on. It’s in all the papers for heavens sake, you’re not making things up. Finally people believe you. Or do they?

With all the gaslighting that goes on, that sense that the abuse you thought was real all along actually isn’t, because someone can make you doubt it – the real toll it can take has yet to be thoroughly examined. And it is not easy to talk about. So I need people to understand this – the racism we experience in Cape Town as black people is real. We are not making it up. So stop gaslighting us. Stop denying that these experiences happen. Stop placing doubt on our experiences every time an incident occurs. The solution to racism is simple – stop being racist.

As a black woman, an immigrant from Malawi, I have faced countless challenges. One that stands clearly in my mind is when after being told it was ready and had my new permit in it, the man behind the desk at Home Affairs wouldn’t give it to me. I had to have my tall blond German-accented boyfriend stride in and demand my passport back from the person because that person swore at me (yes, swore at me. the F word was used by a male government official dealing with a woman who merely wanted her passport back.)

I was so ashamed. To be black in a country that respects white people’s authority over the actual black owner of a passport. To have had to call on my white boyfriend to help me in that instance. I was ashamed, saddened, disgusted and scared that I would have to live in a place that would constantly ask me to go through such humiliations. And it did. Many times over, in many other ways. We won’t talk about the bullying in the workplace, the being followed around a shop, meanwhile the white person this black security guard has left alone is beeping at the shop entrance. We won’t talk about the things people say as I walk past them, holding hands with a white man. Not just ugly looks sometimes, but also ugly comments. We won’t talk about the concert at Kirstenbosch Gardens where a white gay couple seated in front of us on the lawn, instead of facing the stage, stared back at us directly for five long minutes until we started talking about them: “look at these guys, so lacking inner beauty they must just stare at us” “these people have everything, yet they won’t share a simple lawn with black people” (ja, neh. they ended up turning around, defeated, and we enjoyed the concert without further incident) (but still, hey)

We won’t talk about the many instances of racism and the microaggressions which I have had to scream about alone at home, or rant about on Twitter, or also hear of from friends. And sometimes see those friends leave, go back to Joburg after a couple of years, in sadness and disgust over a place that is so unwelcoming. Where even the Premier can call black people refugees. We won’t talk about it because it is as droplets of water are in an ocean we see every day here in Koloni, the other name for Cape Town.

So here I was on radio being asked to have a larger conversation about the things I and many others experience in this city. As black people we are constantly asked for proof of this racism we talk about. To be asked for proof assumes that I don’t know my own mind, or that this thing isn’t in the news constantly, not just in December. It assumes that there must automatically be a distrust of the message and the messenger. To be honest I’ve talked enough. Many have also talked. And some keep talking in very nuanced, intelligent ways. They are better at explaining what ails us all than I am. There are also those that have enough empathy or self-reflection to say that things must change, and that the responsibility lies with them. Some can surprise you. But isn’t that the whole point of this exercise? To not throw people away as hopelessly mired in a system of thought, in a greedy and odious, rejecting and exclusive, backward mindset that results in treating other humans as lesser beings.

We as black people everywhere, and as media practitioners, keep writing about our condition. But I always wonder who is listening. Some are playing to the gallery, but some are seriously trying to make a difference with their cerebral, well-researched and considerably more erudite arguments. We talk of racism as a global phenomenon, we see people are being killed in the US, denied jobs and opportunities there, denied the right to live in dignity, to own the spaces they simply walk in – simply because, they are told, that by virtue of being black, they don’t belong. In the US the young people in the movement are trying to figure out new tools with which to dismantle the hold of racism there, but in the local context we have not tried to use new tools with which to dismantle it.

When we get emotional it feeds into an outrage loop, losing impact. It is as though we’re supposed to be unemotional, clinical, scientific and data-driven even about something that affects us not only psychologically, but economically, physically and emotionally. It affects where we live, how we live and love, and who we are as human beings. I realise that those racism denialists care not a jot about this, so they ask for proof and data, clinically and coldly, as though they themselves are involved in great scientific analyses of their own lives, especially as lay persons. Their experiences are said to be valid just because they breathe, or say they feel pain. We are there, black women and men in Cape Town, and until someone dons blackface to caricature us, urinates on us, klaps us or beats, or pangas us or denies us a seat at a table in a restaurant somewhere, and the media picks it up, we apparently have not actually experienced what we are experiencing. It is the most frustrating thing to be told you are not in pain, or you have not been affected, or are being tormented by something, when in reality you are. This is called gaslighting, and it is a tool of oppressors the world over. When we are told the city doesn’t have a race problem, this is gaslighting – denying racism and denying the pain that this causes the people who live in this city. Because it’s not only black people who feel this pain, it’s white people also who know that there is a problem here, and who are in solidarity and who also do not want to be accused or also seen to be in league with the racists. All this racism, yet there are no racists? How is that possible?

And that is the heart of the matter. We have a general lack of sympathy for others, and more importantly a lack of empathy, in this country. However, in Cape Town there’s an acute case of this ailment. An admission that these things occur, and at too frequent a rate and too high a volume, shows empathy. Not guilt – empathy.

The conversation we should continue to have is one that includes those who exclude us. One that says the people who are the problem have to be part of the solution. Black people may not have entirely forgiven, and nor will they ever forget and shouldn’t ever be asked to forget. That is also a problem in this country – white people telling black people to forget what was clearly a crime against humanity. This certainly makes it seem that enough white people have little empathy for those who do not look like them. They need to do better. Can we have that discussion about greater empathy, not only of whites for blacks, but of all of us for all of us?

About Luso Mnthali: Born in Malawi, grew up in Gaborone, Botswana. Called the US home for a decade, currently live in Cape Town, South Africa. Books and travel, arts and culture addict.

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Reddit AMA: James Mickens on Being Black and STEM http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/19/reddit-ama-james-mickens-on-being-black-and-stem/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/19/reddit-ama-james-mickens-on-being-black-and-stem/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 17:00:17 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33680 Enjoying MLK Day? Please join us over at Reddit at 2 PM ET where we will talk to James Mickens: On MLK Day (1/19) at 2 p.m. computer scientist James Mickens will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA), where he’ll field questions about his work, how he got into STEMs, and what it’s […]

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Enjoying MLK Day? Please join us over at Reddit at 2 PM ET where we will talk to James Mickens:

On MLK Day (1/19) at 2 p.m. computer scientist James Mickens will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA), where he’ll field questions about his work, how he got into STEMs, and what it’s like to be a person of color in computer science.

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Are You Ready for #TheTalk? http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/19/are-you-ready-for-thetalk/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/19/are-you-ready-for-thetalk/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33671 MTV’s Look Different campaign is doing a full multiscreen take over for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, According to a 2014 MTV study*, 73% of Millennials believe having more open constructive conversations about bias would help people become less prejudiced. “Millennials believe strongly in fairness, but they can also find it difficult to talk openly […]

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MTV’s Look Different campaign is doing a full multiscreen take over for Martin Luther King Jr. Day,

According to a 2014 MTV study*, 73% of Millennials believe having more open constructive conversations about bias would help people become less prejudiced.

“Millennials believe strongly in fairness, but they can also find it difficult to talk openly about race – to be not simply ‘color blind’ but ‘color brave,’ said Stephen Friedman, President of MTV. “Our audience is looking for a way to bring the national conversation on race into their homes and this campaign will give them a forum to express true color bravery.”

#TheTalk will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET/PT on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day when MTV will kick off a 12-hour period in which all programming will air in black and white for the first time in the network’s history. Every commercial block will begin with personal reflections on race from luminaries including Kendrick Lamar, Common, Big Sean, Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo, Penn Badgley, Jordin Sparks, Pete Wentz, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. John Lewis, Sen. Cory Booker and more.

One of the ideas they referenced, “color brave,” is from Melody Hobson’s TED Talk:

Read MTV’s study on Millennials and Bias here.

Share your experiences with #TheTalk here.

(Easter Egg: I’m in the “activist” video on the site.)

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Dr. King on Optimism, Pessimism, and Race Relations http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/19/dr-king-on-optimism-pessimism-and-race-relations/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/19/dr-king-on-optimism-pessimism-and-race-relations/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 12:01:02 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33665 “There are three basic attitudes that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations. And the first attitude that can be taken is that of extreme optimism. Now the extreme optimist would argue that we have come a long, long way in the area of race relations. He would […]

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“There are three basic attitudes that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations. And the first attitude that can be taken is that of extreme optimism. Now the extreme optimist would argue that we have come a long, long way in the area of race relations. He would point proudly to the marvelous strides that have been made in the area of civil rights over the last few decades. From this he would conclude that the problem is just about solved, and that we can sit comfortably by the wayside and wait on the coming of the inevitable.

The second attitude that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations is that of extreme pessimism. The extreme pessimist would argue that we have made only minor strides in the area of race relations. He would argue that the rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent that we hear from the Southland today is indicative of the fact that we have created more problems than we have solved. He would say that we are retrogressing instead of progressing. He might even turn to the realms of an orthodox theology and argue that hovering over every man is the tragic taint of original sin and that at bottom human nature cannot be changed. He might even turn to the realms of modern psychology and seek to show the determinative effects of habit structures and the inflexibility of certain attitudes that once become molded in one’s being.

From all of this he would conclude that there can be no progress in the area of race relations.

Now you will notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme pessimist have at least one thing in common: they both agree that we must sit down and do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says do nothing because integration is inevitable. The extreme pessimist says do nothing because integration is impossible. But there is a third position, there is another attitude that can be taken, and it is what I would like to call the realistic position. The realist in the area of race relations seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites while avoiding the extremes of both.

So the realist would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way. But, he would go on to balance that by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way to go. And it is this basic theme that I would like to set forth this evening. We have come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,” delivered April 10, 1957 in St. Louis, MO

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Did Paramount Cost Selma The Golden Globes? http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/12/did-paramount-cost-selma-the-golden-globes/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/12/did-paramount-cost-selma-the-golden-globes/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33660 By Arturo R. García How to describe the reaction to Boyhood winning the Best Picture (Drama) award over Selma at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards? Let Lance Reddick sum it up: And it’s hard to argue. At a time when Ava DuVernay’s look at the Civil Rights Movement is resonating almost eerily with the atmosphere surrounding […]

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By Arturo R. García

How to describe the reaction to Boyhood winning the Best Picture (Drama) award over Selma at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards? Let Lance Reddick sum it up:

And it’s hard to argue. At a time when Ava DuVernay’s look at the Civil Rights Movement is resonating almost eerily with the atmosphere surrounding social justice fights today, it lost out to a Coming-Of-Age Story. David Oyelowo, who led the film’s ensemble cast as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lost the Best Actor (Drama) award to Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.

So in the aftermath of the show, when people were wondering how Selma could have been shut out of the major awards, it was interesting to get this nugget from Vox culture editor Todd VanDerWerff:

VanDerWerff followed it up by saying this was a rumor. But just the thought is mind-boggling: If the theory holds up, Paramount Pictures basically punted on its own potential Golden Globes contender for the sake of taking a shot at the Oscars.

So now, when the movie is getting raked over the coals for being “historically inaccurate” — because James Cameron’s Titanic and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator were documentaries, don’t you know — it’s already losing ground in the Academy Awards horse race to Boyhood.

The lone bright spot for the film on Sunday was Common and John Legend’s win in the Best Original Song category for their collaboration on “Glory.” The victory was capped off by one of the best acceptance speeches of the evening.

“As I got to know the people of the Civil Rights Movement, I realized I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote,” Common said. “I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. Selma has awakened my humanity.”

The speech, as posted online, can be seen below.

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Cultural Petiton: Help Save The Renny http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/05/cultural-petiton-help-save-the-renny/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/01/05/cultural-petiton-help-save-the-renny/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:30:32 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33652 Gentrification continues to seem inevitable in city like New York were real estate . At only four years of residency, I’m still a recent transplant to Harlem and, with the numerous Oberlin grads I’ve talked into following me to the area, technically part of the gentrification problem.  I struggle with what that means, knowing that […]

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Gentrification continues to seem inevitable in city like New York were real estate . At only four years of residency, I’m still a recent transplant to Harlem and, with the numerous Oberlin grads I’ve talked into following me to the area, technically part of the gentrification problem.  I struggle with what that means, knowing that change can be good, but that in Harlem it’s often coming at a cost.

This time change wants to destroy one of my favourite buildings. The dilapidated Harlem Renaissance Ballroom, also known as ‘The Renny’, should have been preserved years ago. Completed in 1922, the building hosted everyone from Duke Ellington to Zora Neal Hurston to Cab Calloway. The Times gives further details:

Owned by William H. Roach, the Renaissance was a leading hot spot in Harlem and the city. Known as the Renny, it hosted Joe Louis fights. Big bands led by Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Duke Ellington performed on its stage. The Renaissance was also the home court, at a time when blacks were barred from the National Basketball Association, for the Black Fivesbasketball team known as the Harlem Rens, regarded as one of the best of its time. The adjacent 900-seat theater featured movies by Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American to produce a feature-length film. The casino was used for a 1923 anti-lynching meeting held by the N.A.A.C.P.  In 1953, David N. Dinkins, who went on to become the city’s first black mayor, and his bride held their wedding reception there. 

A rendering of the replacement complex via Curbed

Like the former Savoy Ballroom (just over and up a few blocks),  the ballroom is scheduled to be razed and replaced by an apartment complex that, as far as the renderings show, retain nothing of the original structure, historical or cultural value.

A campaign to save the ballroom has been started with a petition here that I’m encouraging anyone who gives a damn about cultural preservation to go ahead and sign. Pictures below will show that the building needs a lot of work, but it’s also so easy to imagine what it once was and what it could be again with even half the care I’m sure they’d put into the apartment complex that’s currently meant to replace it. Such an important building should never have been allowed to get to this condition in the first place.

The ballroom from behind, where it’s often used as a parking lot for church on Sundays

What’s left of one of two chandeliers hanging on the second floor

The full ballroom

The main stage with a scale comparison for size.

The Renny needs a lot of work put into preservation, but you can definitely see what it once was.

 

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Video: Jay Smooth On The Importance Of Protesting Against Police Violence http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/26/video-jay-smooth-on-the-importance-of-protesting-against-police-violence/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/26/video-jay-smooth-on-the-importance-of-protesting-against-police-violence/#comments Fri, 26 Dec 2014 14:00:24 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33640 The holiday season began on a distressing note late Tuesday night, when a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri — two miles from Ferguson — shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a local gas station. Authorities have released security camera footage they say justifies the shooting. They say the footage shows Martin pointing a gun […]

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The holiday season began on a distressing note late Tuesday night, when a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri — two miles from Ferguson — shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a local gas station.

Authorities have released security camera footage they say justifies the shooting. They say the footage shows Martin pointing a gun at the officer. But the footage is grainy and only barely shows Martin, and was immediately questioned by residents and critics. Not only was there a demonstration within hours of Martin’s death, but protesters took to the city’s streets and a nearby interstate the following evening.

Martin’s death came not long after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged demonstrators in his city to postpone further actions in the wake of the fatal shootings of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu, Rafael Ramos. Their attacker, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, ambushed the two officers in their patrol car after coming to the city from Baltimore, where he shot his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson.

As Jay Smooth explains in this episode of The Illipsis for Fusion, while there are police doing good work in their communities, the choice by people representing them to adopt “wartime” rhetoric has only exacerbated tensions between them and the people they are supposed to protect and serve.

“People are not angry at police because of these protests,” he says. “People have been angry at the police for decades because the system is broken, and these protests represent people trying, once and for all, to change that system so they don’t have to be so angry all the time.”

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Assimilation Aesthetic http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/23/assimilation-aesthetic/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/23/assimilation-aesthetic/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33637 By Guest Contributor Ruth Hopkins, cross-posted from Last Real Indians … And Native appropriation continues to evolve in ever more bizarre ‘fashion.’ Apparently putting scantily clad white women in warbonnets is losing its shock value, because designers are moving into a new phase of cultural assassination, in hopes of making genocide doubly lucrative. Imagine my […]

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By Guest Contributor Ruth Hopkins, cross-posted from Last Real Indians

… And Native appropriation continues to evolve in ever more bizarre ‘fashion.’

Apparently putting scantily clad white women in warbonnets is losing its shock value, because designers are moving into a new phase of cultural assassination, in hopes of making genocide doubly lucrative.

Imagine my horror this morning, upon discovering Ralph Lauren’s latest venture. Let’s call it Assimiliation Era Chic.

Old portraits of Native men from the Allotment and Assimilation Era (1887–1943) are displayed like cover models among Ralph Lauren’s latest line for the 2014 Holiday season. I did a double take for an instant, because one of the men pictured looked like my ancestor.

Mr. Lauren, you can’t hide behind words like ‘vintage inspired’ and ‘rustic’ anymore. It’s plain to see that you’re right back in your comfort zone; the one where Natives are oppressed, voiceless, and extinct, to be used at your leisure to feed the beast that is pop culture consumerism and line your silken pockets.

You see, Ralph Lauren is a repeat offender. He’s been unapologetically making bank off American Indians for years. Just last Spring, we collectively cringed at Ralph Lauren shirts brandishing skulls bedecked in warbonnets, and lest we forget, old Ralphy welcomed Oprah herself into his tipi festooned RL Ranch back in 2012. He seeks to champion classic Americana. Fine. So be it. But, there’s one problem. We aren’t your token Indians.

Stop trying to put a price tag on our heritage and sell us, and make a mockery of the genocide our Native ancestors suffered at the hands of your forefathers, by forcing them to represent you just to boost holiday sales.

Mr. Lauren, these stylish Native men in your pictures are not your employees, nor your slaves. They lived. They have names. They come from a proud lineage of Native peoples older than America. Each warrior pictured is someone’s grandfather, and I guarantee they suffered mightily just to survive the genocidal holocaust European invaders inflicted upon them. Why do they look so stoic? They were brave Native warriors who witnessed the massacre of innocents, had their lands stolen from them, and faced an uncertain future after the Federal government broke every treaty they ever made with Native nations in this country. They were fighting for the survival of our kind.

What many people alive today fail to realize is Natives of the Assimilation Era wore western clothes because they were forced to do so. We were hunted by cavalry soldiers and made to give up our freedom and live on reservations. Our culture and language was ripped from us. Our ceremonies and religious practices were declared illegal. My own father and uncles, who were torn from their mother’s embrace and put in boarding school, were mercilessly beaten for speaking their Native tongue. They didn’t want to wear itchy woolen vests and tight narrow shoes made for white children. They had no choice. The fashion Ralph Lauren glorifies arose from oppression.

This is perhaps the worst kind of Native appropriation, where Native imagery and the seasons and cycles of assimilation and erasure are being used out of greed and avarice. A hard working Native from the Reservation couldn’t afford this clothing, yet Ralph Lauren exploits his ancestor’s memory to realize a profit that same Native, and his progeny, will never see.

Ralph Lauren’s romanticized genocide aids no one but himself and the purveyors of manifest destiny. His colonial wet dream harms Natives by dehumanizing us and once again, those in the fashion industry are attempting to appropriate Native culture while leaving Native people completely out of the equation. Native people have the right to show the world who we are. No one speaks for us but ourselves. There are Natives who are fashion designers. Why not work with them? Unlike the ‘Pawnee jacket’ in your collection, there are actual Pawnee alive today who make goods and provide services. Lastly, Ralph Lauren, if you love Natives so much, why not donate a portion of your profits to help Native peoples, many of whom live in abject poverty?

Such behavior is the very epitome of white privilege. Ralph Lauren is not committing an act of ignorance. This is willful exploitation of Native culture and heritage. One also questions whether Ralph Lauren is being intentionally offensive, to garner more attention. If so, this is racist and also exploits Native heritage.

Tell Ralph Lauren how you feel. Tweet him at @ralphlauren, or leave a comment here.

You can also call 1-800-377-7656 or 212-318-7000 and let them know how you feel.

Enough is enough, serial appropriator Ralph Lauren.

There is one thing we can agree on. Our Native ancestors were pretty damn cool.

#BoycottRalphLauren

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What I Learned About Tech and Business from Tyler Perry http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/22/what-i-learned-about-tech-and-business-from-tyler-perry/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/22/what-i-learned-about-tech-and-business-from-tyler-perry/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 15:00:53 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33618 by Guest Contributor Jon Gosier, originally published at Gosier.org When I tell people I used to work for Tyler Perry there are overwhelmingly two reactions. The first is the number of people around the world who haven’t ever heard of him or his work. The second reaction is laughter or condescension: “The guy who dresses […]

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by Guest Contributor Jon Gosier, originally published at Gosier.org

When I tell people I used to work for Tyler Perry there are overwhelmingly two reactions. The first is the number of people around the world who haven’t ever heard of him or his work. The second reaction is laughter or condescension:

“The guy who dresses like a woman?”

“The guy who makes those black films?”

“The guy who puts his name in the title of all his films?”

Yes. That guy.

Regardless of whether or not you think he’s a creative genius, he is a genius of a different type and a lot smarter than people seem to give him credit for, especially when it comes to business.

First, some background. I only worked for Tyler Perry Studios briefly from 2006 to 2007. It was just after he had closed a deal for $200 million dollars to build his studio in Atlanta and produce his first set of TV Shows, HOUSE OF PAYNE and MEET THE BROWNS, for TBS. I was a Sound Designer and Audio Engineer at the time and not involved in any business dealings so nothing I’m saying here is confidential. In fact, much of what I write here can be discovered through a few searches on Google, Wikipedia or Variety.com.

In any case, through following Perry over the years and reflecting on my own observations at his studio, I learned a lot that I later used to find success in the tech industry. What are some of these lessons?

1- He Knows the Business He’s In

The secret to Tyler Perry’s success is really in that second group of people I mentioned. The smug people who underestimate him.

The first lesson I learned is, rarely are successful people in the business of the things their critics think they are.

People think Tyler Perry is in the business of pleasing the public or critics. He’s not. He’s not even in the business of speaking to his ‘niche’ audience. No, Tyler Perry is in the business of making movies that earn returns for his financiers. Yes, he speaks to an audience he understands but he’s always been smart enough to focus on what matters most which is the bottom-line.

But what makes him stand out, is that people at every level are always underestimating his ability to do one thing because of their opinion about how poorly they feel he does another. In this case, because they don’t get or simply don’t like his films, they often assume they will flop. When they don’t, not only has he succeeded, but he’s surpassed expectations that were probably unfairly low to begin with. He knows this and uses it to his advantage.

2 – He’s Bankable

At Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses they use the term ‘bankable’ to describe people and companies who are attractive to investors. In other words, people who prove they will use money wisely and therefore attract more money.

There is a saying that goes, “A good engineer is someone who can do for $1 what any idiot can do for $2”. In this regard, Tyler Perry is a good engineer.

His first film DIARY OF MAD BLACK WOMAN woman only cost $5.5 million dollars to make. It went on to gross over $50 million.

Many of the methodologies Steve Blank described in ‘The Lean Startup”, I watched Perry apply to his work in TV and Film. Prior to having the money to actually produce feature films, he just set up a camera and FILMED THE PLAYS ON STAGE!! Frugal innovation that would make even Navi Radjou proud. It was the sale of those homegrown DVDs and related merchandise and tickets that originally gave him his first big financial successes. This also proved he had an audience that was hungry and unspoken to.

It was these numbers that convinced Lionsgate to back him for his first few films. It was the success of those films that lead TBS to back him for TV syndication deal for his first two TV Shows, which lead his deal with Oprah’s OWN network and so on.

He essentially sold his first TV Show, HOUSE OF PAYNE, into syndication before he produced a single episode. This was smart for many reasons. First, it gave him the money up front to produce the show, which would go on to build his brand over the next five years. Second, because his deal with Lionsgate also underwrote his studio, this asset dramatically cut costs on producing the TV show (and all his subsequent TV shows and movies). Third, because TBS put the money up for a syndicated show, we ended up shooting and editing the entire series (which ended up being 7 seasons long) in just over a year. One year!

Why? Because the longer you shot a show, the more costs you have. Staff, insurance, on screen talent, if it took 7 years to produce the show, you’d have to pay for all of those for 7 years. By doing it all in barely over one year, that’s essentially 1/7th the cost for the same amount of money. That money he reinvested into producing other content which at that point could be sold for all profit.

The fourth amazing thing about that deal was the fact that he completely de-risked the entire process of launching a successful TV show in the first place.

Syndication means that a TV show will go on to air and ideally generate profit for the TV Network that purchased it for years. Usually syndication deals only work with popular, proven shows that have amassed huge followings when they originally aired. Shows like BIG BANG THEORY, SEINFELD, and CHEERS. Rather than run the risk of HOUSE OF PAYNE airing and not being that successful, by selling it directly into syndication he ensured that, regardless, his product was sold. It’s a bit like starting a business with a guaranteed exit.

There are a lot of people who try to argue away Tyler Perry’s success because of they don’t like his creative choices. But they fail to realize that there are plenty of people who have talent who don’t survive in business. Talent isn’t always bankable, generating profit is.

3 – He’s Consistent

More than the fact that he knows how to operate leanly and still generate profit, the reason why investors continue to back his projects is the fact that he’s so amazingly consistent. He has NEVER lost money on a film. Not a single one. In fact, almost all of his films made all their money back on the first weekend, Which is crazy given that in Hollywood’s eyes he’s still relatively ‘new’ (he’s only been directing for around 12 years). This is in comparison to an industry full of big name directors who have lost tons of money on various projects.

Here is a list of the movies Tyler Perry has made throughout his career and their box respective office earnings (and cost where I could find it):

Title / Budget / Opening Weekend / Total Earnings (in millions)

MADEA GOES TO JAIL Unknown/$41M/$90.4M
MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION $20M/$25.3M/$65.6M
MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION $6M/$30M/$63.3M
WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO? $20M/$29.2M/$60M
WHY DID I GET MARRIED? $15M/$21.3M/$55.1M
MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY $25M/$25M/$53.3M
A MADEA CHRISTMAS Unknown/$16M/$52M
TEMPTATION Unknown/$21.6M/$51.9M
I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF $13M/$23.4M/$51.6M
DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN $5.5M/$21.9M/$50.3M
MEET THE BROWNS Unknown/$20M/$41.9M
FOR COLORED GIRLS Unknown/$19.4M/$37.7M
THE FAMILY THAT PREYS Unknown/$17.3M/$37M
GOOD DEEDS Unknown/$15.5M/$35M
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS $10M/$13M/$31.3M
THE SINGLE MOM’S CLUB Unknown/$8M/$15.9M

This data is gathered from the IMDB page on Perry.

My initial reaction is holy cow, MADEA GOES TO JAIL made $90 million dollars! Combined his movies have made $792.3 million dollars. That’s just theatrical releases and doesn’t include merchandise, DVDs and Blueray, his TV and licensing deals etc. No wonder he keeps making Madea movies!

Beyond that, if he were an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist Perry’s track record would be the equivalent of a like 9.3 of 10. (This assumes THE SINGLE MOM’S CLUB may have lost money since it was a theatrical release with big talent but relatively low earnings. The rest almost certainly did not lose money based on what they ultimately earned.)

It’s actually stupid to bet against a guy who performs this consistently.

4 – He Bets on Himself

I’ve talked a lot about how much money Tyler’s work generates in this post. While the arts aren’t always about profit, being able to finance your own work means you don’t need anyone’s approval to get stuff done.

From what I understand, Tyler Perry is still 100% in control of all his own work. This is similar to how Mark Zuckerberg has built Facebook into a public company valued at over $50 billion dollars without ever giving up more than 51% ownership. It means that nothing happens at Facebook without Mark’s say. He controls the show.

Likewise, with Tyler Perry, he’s the world’s most successful independent film-maker. He never gave up control. Lionsgate is an independent film distribution company and it largely backs independent film projects. By working with them instead of anyone else, Tyler insured that he never really gives up creative control of his work.

This means he doesn’t have to go to the Weinstein Company or Sony or anyone else to ask for money to produce anything. He has enough personal wealth, and enough credibility and success to convince people to back his projects himself.

In fact, the way Tyler’s films are backed tend to resemble venture capital deals more than typical film deals. He proposes a project, investors put up money, he does the project and returns their capital at some multiple of what they originally gave him. That’s the whole bankability thing at play. But because he reinvested his early money to build his own studio, there are far fewer middle men to pay. This means the costs of making a film or show are far lower for him than they would be for anyone else not in his position which allows him to take greater risks on projects.

If he was working within the studio system, he’d have a much harder time convincing “The Studio” that his projects were the right movies to make in the first place. Studios tend to want to make a lot of changes to scripts and they inflate costs because to them, putting more money into fewer projects is more efficient. But what that does is greatly diminish their tolerance for risk. This is why they spend even more money developing and retaining A-List stars who they then cast. The assumption is that A-List talent leading well financed film projects is far more likely to succeed than a bunch of unknowns in smaller budget films. This, as a rule, is usually true. Unfortunately for writers and directors, this ultimately means they have less control over projects that are backed by big Studios. When you hear some directors talking about how hard it is to get controversial films made, it’s because they are asking permission from people at major film studios who are inherently risk-adverse. The Studios want to finance money makers, and they will do everything in their power to ensure everything they produce is such. For them ‘controversial’ means alienating, and alienating audiences isn’t helpful if you’re trying to get the most people possible to go see a film.

The equivalent in the startup world would be the entrepreneur who successfully bootstraps a series of companies, versus entrepreneurs who only rely on venture capital. Neither way is wrong and both can lead to great success but the boot-strapper can take greater risks because he or she has less people to answer to.

5- He’s Obsessive and Detail Oriented

Now you might ask yourself how on earth I could learn anything from a film director if I was working in the audio department. At most film studios, you’d be right. The sound designers usually don’t work too closely with the director.

I’m not sure what it’s like at his studio now but back then, initially I probably saw Tyler Perry once a week (which is a lot). He wanted to change the music, he hated the laugh tracks I added, he wanted some dialogue to be louder, he made suggestions on sound effects. It wasn’t just the audio department, he’d go into the writers room and rewrite portions of the script himself. He’d be on stage with the actors helping them with their performance. He’d supervise video edits. He was in accounting. He was in props. He was the lunchroom with the interns.

The point is, he wanted to know what was going on at every level of his business. While it sometimes it felt like micromanagement, it was ultimately because he cared.

On top of that, he was used to doing a lot with a little. When you build something from nothing, you aren’t used to the people around you chipping in to make things happen. This is because people tend to assume you’re going to fail, and therefore you aren’t worth going out on a limb for. As the founder you know differently, you bet on yourself and you double-down on yourself. This means you’re going to make sure everything gets done.

At Tyler Perry’s studio I saw both sides. Initially he was always there making sure everyone was doing everything. This is completely unsustainable for any business. You have to delegate to scale. As he got more comfortable with the people around him, and saw that we were all actually doing good work (and better work if he left us alone ;-) he backed off. He was able to delegate and ultimately start doing multiple things at the same time.

While that ‘founder anxiety’ probably still rears its head every now and then, to be successful at his level you have to learn to let go. Regardless of the business you’re in, this is a good management skill to develop.

6 – When the Rules Aren’t in Your Favor, Make New Rules

While Hollywood has about 100 years on Silicon Valley, the film and tech industries have a lot in common. Both have very insular communities at “the top” which make it hard for newcomers to break in, both require access to capital or financing that not everyone has access to, both require more than just creative talent to be successful, and whether it’s intentional or not, a lot of people feel like many forces conspire to keep them out of the industry at all.

When faced with a tough environment like this, there are two options: fight the system or work outside of it. As far as I’m concerned, Tyler Perry provides one of this generations best examples of a businessman who worked completely outside of the system until the system couldn’t ignore his potential for profit. At that point he had the leverage to basically do whatever he wanted.

From what I can see of his career, Tyler Perry rewrote all the rules that lead to his success because the old rules would have completely prevented it. While that isn’t always easy, it’s necessary for anyone who wants to succeed when the odds are stacked against them.

Sometimes fighting the system in place is a futile effort because you as a lone individual usually can’t change an establishment fast enough to also benefit from the change. If your goal is to make it easier for the next generation that’s one thing, but if your goal is to change it and play in it at the same time, that’s almost sisyphean.

So the lesson here is that when you feel the rules of a system are working against you, one option is to stop working in the system altogether. There is more than one way to do anything.

If you can’t raise venture capital as an entrepreneur perhaps because you feel decimated against or any other reason, then double-down on what you do have. Changing the entire venture capital industry is hard, it’s not impossible but it’s likely not going to be a battle worth fighting if you need capital tomorrow.

If you have an idea for a product or company, bootstrap as far as you can. Do what you can to prove that customers are ready for that product. If you still can’t convince investors to back you, then use that demand to partner with other businesses who can help you get your own to the next level. You never know, you might build a massive business without backing, in which case you’re in the best place to be.

But most importantly, don’t let the fact that the system wasn’t designed in your favor prevent you from trying at all. Not trying is not challenging and not being challenged is exactly what any establishment requires to preserve its status quo.

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Janet Mock and Maria Teresa Kumar Launch MSNBC Shows http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/19/janet-mock-and-maria-teresa-kumar-launch-msnbc-shows/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/19/janet-mock-and-maria-teresa-kumar-launch-msnbc-shows/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:00:25 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33623 Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Melissa Harris Perry, two more braincrushes just launched shows on MSNBC’s Shift streaming media brand. Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson, is now anchoring “Changing America.” And Janet Mock, the queen of Redefining Realness, is set to launch her progressive pop culture show this week. […]

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Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Melissa Harris Perry, two more braincrushes just launched shows on MSNBC’s Shift streaming media brand.

Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson, is now anchoring “Changing America.

And Janet Mock, the queen of Redefining Realness, is set to launch her progressive pop culture show this week. We will update here when the clip is available.

Congratulations!

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What’s the Verdict? Racism and the Case Against Serial http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/18/whats-the-verdict-racism-and-the-case-against-serial/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/18/whats-the-verdict-racism-and-the-case-against-serial/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:30:04 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33629 By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial. Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an […]

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By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious

A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial.

Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an eighteen year-old Korean American girl was found strangled after she went missing. Her then eighteen year-old Pakistani American ex-boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. He has been in prison since 2000, all the while maintaining his innocence.

Specifically, my friend and I had different responses to an article by Jay Caspain Kang accusing Koenig of “white reporter privilege.” She felt that Kang was too quick to read an exoticizing impulse into Koenig’s reactions when, for example, Koenig was probably startled by how “normal” a young woman’s diary seemed on the eve of its author meeting a violent death. Also, she said, Koenig the storyteller has to make her characters relatable to her listeners. But “relatability” is precisely what Kang problematizes, I replied, it assumes an underlying “colorblind ideal” that “reads ‘white.’” I brought up Julia Carrie Wong’s charge that Koenig “fail[s] to draw an distinctions between…. a first-generation Korean immigrant [experience] and [a] second-generation life in a Pakistani-American family,” and that she gives her subjects “model minority treatment.” But then… the descriptions Koenig uses were offered by the people she interviewed, not ones she coined.

So is she accountable for them?

A colleague joined in: Koenig probably assumes her audience has racial sensitivity.

I disagreed: Kang is right that the journalist comes “from the same demographic as her ‘intended audience’” in a context where “staffs of radio stations, newspapers, and magazines tend to be overwhelmingly white.”

But if being white is the fact of her experience, this colleague said, do we hold it against her?

As I walked home in the Brooklyn cold, I was thinking about this, and thinking hard. I thought about it when I passed a block away from the hospital where I was born. It was where my parents first worked when they immigrated to this country in the early 1970s, and it played an important role in the once poor neighborhood that was mostly African American, Dominican, and Puerto Rican until it was shut down because of urban disinvestment; now it’s an apartment building housing mostly white tenants on a block with skyrocketing rents. And I kept thinking about it throughout that week.

Then at a conference on the Black Radical Tradition and Cultures of Liberation, Cedric Robinson, historian and author of Black Marxism, said he believed that just because playwright Eugene O’Neill was white didn’t mean he couldn’t write about African Americans because “race is a fiction [though racism is not], while humans are incredibly complex.” In other words, questions of ethics or solidarity might have less to do with categories of identity than with what activist-scholars Gina Dent and Angela Davis suggested the next day – how you go about your work, the “questions you ask,” and your positional “reflexivity.”

The conversation with my friend made me consider Koenig as a person with a daunting project and good intentions. But I also remembered how, years ago, this same friend sent me a speech called “To Hell with Good Intentions.” It was almost fifty years ago when Ivan Illich had stood before an audience of US Peace Corps volunteers and students in Mexico and basically said, come to learn or to face yourselves, but don’t come to help. Remembering Illich made me realize that what is troubling about Serial is only partially encompassed by Kang’s and Wong’s critiques. Illich was disrupting a narrative that appeared innocuous and good even as it perpetuated social and economic hierarchies. On a far smaller scale, Serial is such a narrative.

It’s not the details in Serial per se, but how these details function in combination with what is left unsaid that unsettles. Koenig and her team do not play a thoughtful role in mediating the effects of their production on their audience and their subjects. Koenig seems largely unaware that people’s observations aren’t just objective or subjective, but shaped by ways they have internalized circulating stereotypes.

This brings me back to a few years before the tragic events of this podcast, to a suburban high school in Long Island, New York, and to a sociology teacher calling a brown girl – me — to the front of the room. He then asked the mostly white class, “Who’s her closest friend?” With hardly any debate the class came to consensus that it was another South Asian girl. Someone I couldn’t stand.

My teacher’s using me to illustrate his point made a bigger impression than his subsequent lecture about stereotypes. Or rather: together these two elements comprised a masterful lesson on how to use someone’s “difference” while simultaneously speaking about equality and “sameness.” I don’t think my teacher meant to humiliate me. He was trying to create a narrative and, in his mind I guess, needed to insert me into it to move along the plot. But that he chose me out of everyone in the class and didn’t ask me beforehand is no coincidence. And his having chose me had consequences.

In Serial, even initial observations of friends, acquaintances, and teachers were likely shaped by model minority tropes; but Koenig doesn’t acknowledge that. If my teacher used me as a kind of teaching tool, it feels like Koenig uses a teenage girl who died as the necessary victim in her mystery plot. The problem isn’t that Koenig doesn’t tell the audience more about her (she does try to pepper in a few details), but that she doesn’t lead the audience to imagine that there is. As countless writers, musicians, artists, directors, journalists, etc. have shown: rendering someone human isn’t about making them “relatable” through sameness; it’s about tapping into the complex, contradictory, fullness of someone’s being.

The “model minority” myth to which Wong alludes didn’t appear out of thin air, and it was a sharp turn from how, for example, Chinese factory and railroad laborers of earlier eras were racialized.

The term itself began to circulate in media and political discourse just around the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which wedged open a door to immigrants from the “darker nations.” That this legislation even came into being had to do with the tremendous effect of the Civil Rights Movement on challenging and broadening who could be deemed “American” and what it meant to claim that identity.

However, it wasn’t just motivated by progressive thought, but also by “professional” labor shortages (particularly in urban areas in part due to white flight into suburbs after desegregation) and efforts to forge geopolitical alliances with countries like Pakistan during the Cold War years. In the initial waves, many new immigrants had class or social privilege in their home countries and institutional connections here. My parents, for example, were given labor contracts to be medical residents and their flights were paid for as a salary advance; if they started on the ground and without money in their pockets, they were also given a ladder and the security of a paycheck. Like my parents, many post-1965 immigrants initially lived in close proximity to minorities who came from lineages of slavery, segregation, lynchings, exploitation, subjugation, and/or exclusion within the US only to find that hard-won battles like school desegregation wouldn’t initiate change without more struggle ( the Baltimore Superintendent maintained de facto segregation after the mid-1950s through districting). If democratic antiracist and antiwar upsurges within the US connected with anticolonial struggles in some of the very countries from which new immigrants came, racial divisions could also be exploited by harnessing the various prejudices and insecurities new immigrants brought with them (in part an effect of colonialism) and the way in which the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Japanese internment, and decades of excluding Asians from entering the US imprinted the psyche of differently positioned Americans just as national, state, and municipal governments were setting on devastating course of disinvestment from public infrastructures and launching a highly racialized “War on Drugs” (consider here, the main witness’s fear about being arrested).

In this churning cauldron, “model minorities” became a foil for “bad minorities.” Media promulgated “success stories” insinuated that class mobility was the product of hard work and the right attitude – not made in the trenches of history.

I don’t expect Serial to take all this on. But – dates, names, and a few exceptions aside – it’s like the podcast could have happened almost anywhere. Been about almost anyone. Taken place at almost any time. It portrays a world of relationships that don’t have social and historical density, a world in which these aforementioned events never happened – but for the way the consequences of their having happened surface unreflexively.

Moreover, in Serial, “model minority” descriptions are also “good girl” images, with unexamined misogynistic undertones. What does it mean that our shock about a murder of a teenage girl depends upon her seeming “normal” (to an imagined white middle/upper middle class audience)? Women and girls, as well as people who contest boundaries of gender and sexual “norms” in this country and beyond are habitually persecuted for acts of violence perpetrated on them. This is why it’s dangerous to hitch your audience’s sense of injustice to tropes of “relative innocence” – to borrow a term from Geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore. At one point, Koenig uses a clip to illustrate a potential juror’s prejudicial beliefs about how Muslim men treat women. But she never touches the fact that violence against women and intimate murders such as this happen all the time in the United States across every kind of demographic; it is as “American” as pie.

What Kang calls “white reporter privilege” I call weak storytelling. This weakness is accompanied by ethical oversights. I have wondered many times what it’s like for this girl’s loved ones to be subjected to widespread serial speculation about her death by people who don’t really care about her. Or what it would be like for them to walk by someone wearing a tee shirt from the subreddit Serial “community?” No doubt, addressing miscarriages of justice can hurt victims’ families, and this is not a reason to turn the other way. But it can and should frame how we take on such projects – both content and form. I stopped listening to Serial a while ago, in part because of my discomfort with how my sense of suspense and entertainment was predicated on (and simultaneously dissassociated from) people’s real pain. (I recently listened to the last few episodes in one stretch in order to update this commentary).

In our conversation, my friend had reminded me that the UVA Innocence Project is now investigating the case (friends and family of the accused attempted to solicit them earlier and failed) and that there are literally thousands of people who have signed an online petition to “free” the convicted ex-boyfriend. Now there is also a crowd source webpage to solve the crime. And listeners on reddit are raising funds for a scholarship in the victim’s name (without asking her family about using her name). I will be heartened if good comes out of these campaigns, but I am not heartened by what compels them.

Obsessive scrutiny of whether or not this young man is “guilty” of this crime circumscribes a paper thin vision of justice. It hinges on how Koenig, her team, and their listeners should stand in judgment of a Muslim American man in a post-September 11, 2001 era of rampant surveillance of Muslim Americans. It articulates with representations of dark people as strangers who white people (or “good Americans” of all fabricated “races”) must recognize, fear, or save. It depoliticizes and individualizes major social problems, and suggests the relationship between truth and justice is simply subjective at a time when private prisons are expanding exponentially and more people are caged in the United States than anywhere else on earth.

And they are predominantly people of color.

An article in Bloomberg Business Week estimates that Koenig probably paid about $2500 in phone bills to Global Tel-Link, a company which preys on incarcerated people and their families to make a profit. She doesn’t once contexualize her calls in this reality, and yet every episode opens with a recording that states the company’s name, in essence giving it free advertising. The problem isn’t that Serial centers on an individual case but the myopic manner in which it does so. When Koenig, to her credit, finally gives examples of how racism, Islamaphobia, and problems with the defense might have led to a false conviction, she brackets these details with a statement (at the beginning) that she doesn’t “buy” that racism was a determining issue even if it “crept in” and the comment (at the end) that “maybe he’s a sociopath.” In this episode, she chooses interview clips that reinforce Islamaphobic stereotypes without doing the work necessary to destabilize them.

Moreover, an episode that “deals with race” in a series whose metanarrative relies on using, scrutinizing, individualizing, and judging people who aren’t white is kind of like the difference between my teacher’s words and his real lesson.

The limitations of Serial’s narrative-ethical scope has led listeners to dig intrusively into other people’s Facebook accounts and posit speculations. The impulse to free someone might seem like an uncomplicatedly good thing.

But, many of recipients of humanitarian “aid” have spoken about the negative consequences of “good intentions” when givers don’t understand the social situation into which they are intervening. Furthermore, Michael Brown’s parents in Ferguson, Missouri or the parents of a fourteen-year old child killed in by US drones in Zowi Sidgi, Pakistan might remind us that just knowing who did it – who killed the child you raised — does not mean you get justice.

It might mean you get more injustice.

What can we make of Serial’s incredible fanfare at this particular moment in the history of race in the US? On the one hand, the non-indictment charges for policemen Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York have sparked protests throughout the country about state violence on black and brown bodies, as well as a wider public conversation about the need for systematic change. On the other hand, “Band Aid 30” has just put out a new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that presents an image of black people and “Africans” as frightening, contagious, and deathly in order to raise funds to stop the spread of ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia (thirty years ago it was about famine and “poverty” in Ethiopia): “There’s a world outside your window – and it’s a world of dread and fear/Where a kiss of love can kill you – and there’s death in every tear.”

In the midst of this – as a subsequent conversation with my friend helped me to see – Serial has seized upon a general disillusionment in this country with the (political, economic, justice) system and the desire of people with privilege to keep that world “of dread and fear” outside their windows. After all, change is hard.

So I guess it’s not a surprise that Serial has been hailed as innovative. Most truly innovative things today are labeled crazy, impractical, or too…something. That is, if they rise above the economic impediments to see the light of day. “Innovative” has somehow come to mean a new way of packaging what writer Amiri Baraka called the “changing same.”

Serial is innovative in how it invites listeners to feel sympathy, antipathy, and the desire to prove what they have figured out.

But innovations in ethical thought and action reside elsewhere – as theorist Judith Butler reminds us in the movie Imagined Life – in sites of discomfort, uncertainty, and internal struggle.

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Quoted: Carvell Wallace on Run-D.M.C. and Personal Revolution http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/17/quoted-carvell-wallace-on-run-d-m-c-and-personal-revolution/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/17/quoted-carvell-wallace-on-run-d-m-c-and-personal-revolution/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:27:23 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33610 Something else happened that day. I realized that I really liked being an anonymous kid on a street corner in L.A. I realized that I really liked not giving a solitary fuck about what anyone was doing, not even myself. I realized that in some way it was my natural state. Two days later, I […]

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Something else happened that day. I realized that I really liked being an anonymous kid on a street corner in L.A. I realized that I really liked not giving a solitary fuck about what anyone was doing, not even myself. I realized that in some way it was my natural state.

Two days later, I started dressing differently.

I cut my own hair into a weird nappy mushroom top. I took this goofy trench coat I had and sliced it at the waist with a pair of scissors. On the chest I sewed the patch that I earned in a middle school spelling bee. I wrote graffiti on the sleeve in Sharpie. I took to wearing pajama bottoms and black chucks.

In short, the combination of Parliament and Hollywood had instantly funked me out.

And it worked, because the first time I left the house in this new uniform, I experienced something that I never had before. You might call it freedom. Abandon. Cultural immunity. I had a self. It was adolescent and awkward and trying too hard. But it was my very own self. It was a me that was all mine. It didn’t matter what anyone thought about it. For a brief moment in time, I simply didn’t give a fuck.

And that’s an important thing. When you have come to regard your very skin color as an insufferable disease, when you have to punch other people in the mouth just so you can be ok with who you are, not giving a fuck is the single most divine experience you can ever have.

- Carvell Wallace, “How to Raise Hell in Three Steps: on RUN-D.M.C, Parliament, Blackness and Revolution,” Pitchfork

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On Not Breathing Due to Failures of Democracy http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/10/on-not-breathing-due-to-failures-of-democracy/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/10/on-not-breathing-due-to-failures-of-democracy/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 10:38:30 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33605 Media is a grind. I’ve been out of the game for a little while, working mostly, so it’s been 18 months of learning how to make the news and how to make TV, and less of actually being on air, on camera, providing commentary. While in New York, on unrelated business, I get a call […]

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Media is a grind.

I’ve been out of the game for a little while, working mostly, so it’s been 18 months of learning how to make the news and how to make TV, and less of actually being on air, on camera, providing commentary.

While in New York, on unrelated business, I get a call from a producer friend – can I provide a voice on a Google Hangout with Katie Couric about the ongoing violence against black men? Later that day, the request changes. The Eric Garner decision rolls in, protestors are rolling out, New Yorkers are in the streets asking why. The segment has been upgraded to an actual panel – would I mind coming to the studio?

I prep, like usual. I look at outfits to see what I have that might translate well on television. I slide on BB cream in case there’s no makeup artist available. I rehearse talking points in my head, major points I want to make in the conversation. I ask my breakfast companion if she wants a ride into the city since they are sending a car.

The producer pushes back – I can’t share the car. Why not? I’m not asking for another stop, I’m still having a conversation.

The terse answer comes back: No one is supposed to know, and it just got confirmed, but my driver needs to pick up Eric Garner’s daughter as well. All the carefully crafted sound bytes exited my mind – what was I supposed to say to her?

Erica Garner is 24. She is in the middle of a national conversation, an amazingly normal person who lost her father in a horrific incident, an incident that was recorded, televised and played in a loop over and over. “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for activists, a hashtag, cultural shorthand.

Her father died for this conversation, these actions taking place now, all our loving commentary and sharing and social media tributes.

All the words I had felt inadequate.

“I’m sorry for your loss” didn’t begin to cut it.

There is something very, very humbling about riding with someone who is at the center of a media storm. There’s a communication snafu – the driver doesn’t know who he’s picking up. I don’t know that part of NYC. We arrive out front of a normal looking complex in a normal looking day, the shiny ass black car standing out against the background.

Erica enters. She’s wearing red. She tells me she was laying down when they call and her hair isn’t done. This isn’t her first media rodeo – she was used to the constant blitz when the incident first happened, and then four months of silence ensued before producers picked up the phone again after the decision.

She seemed shell-shocked. She’s talking. We’re both nervous. I want her to talk. She seems like she wants a cigarette. She talks to me about all the protests since her father died that the media didn’t cover, her weekly pilgrimage with her family and the community to keep her father’s story at the forefront of people’s minds.

She tells me love stories. About how there was only her mother for her father. How she had no half siblings or step siblings, how everyone was together in the house. In love. Later, on the broadcast, her brother says he misses fighting with their father, and she will clarify petty day to day nitpicks that are also love. Fighting over the TV channel with two dueling remote controls

Inside (and on twitter) I’m starting to freak out. Because it is easy to prepare for anger, rage, hostility. It is much harder to deal with loss. Humanity. The strange, sick kinship of a shared tragedy, my grief about the implications writ large and her grief because her life was made smaller.

Intimacy will break you down far worse than anger ever will.

She shows me a video on her cell phone. It’s a birthday celebration for her father, a celebration of life. Dozens of people cram into the frame to sing happy birthday and release balloons. She tells me that her grandfather just wanted to feed people all day, feed the community. He fried fish from morning till night. She remembers this, a little ray of light in six months of darkness.

We’re still in the car. Traffic is at a standstill in Manhattan. The producers are freaking out, wondering where we are. Erica isn’t on Twitter, so she didn’t understand what I was saying when I told her #ICan’tBreathe was trending nation wide. We looked through the hashtag. She talks about how much the support means to her. We get the link to our segment. I pull it up and see that Ray Kelly is going to be there.

The live stream points us to his press conference about the grand jury decision. I click on it and watch in silence. Next to me, I feel Erica go cold. “If I knew he would be there,” she says to me, “I wouldn’t have come.” Later, W. Kamau Bell will say the same thing to Kelly’s face on the panel.

We talk, a little more animated now. She tells me that the numbers they are reporting are bullshit. “Arrested 31 times? I always remember my father home with us, how could he be arrested that much?” We discuss semantics and word choice – how someone could be arrested but not booked or charged. You could be arrested in the morning and back out in the world in the afternoon, I say. We talk about word choices and framing. She talks about details of the case. I remind her to say these things on air. She says she tries to but it’s too much to remember in the moment.

We arrive at 1pm, the time the livestream is supposed to start. The driver can’t find the building entrance. They hustle us through security, up to hair and makeup, micing and sound check and all the usual chaos that accompanies a broadcast. I feel drained. Erica reunites with her brother so they peel off to talk to Katie Couric before air time. I see Franchesca Ramsey, give her a hug, stand up under the lights, wait for our turn to talk.

I don’t need to talk about Ray Keller. Arturo posted the video while I was still processing what had happened. If I was in a better mood, I’d make a denialist drinking game. But it’s been a week and I still feel like a media nihilist. What the fuck are we doing?

The protests will remain news for a while though it may fade from headline news to tiny stings. Today, the torture report is the lead story. Tomorrow it will be something else. Where will Erica Garner be? Still picking up the pieces, I suppose.

Today, The Guardian published an opinion on what the CIA’s torture report means for the U.S., saying (emphasis mine):

The Senate intelligence committee’s report is a landmark in accountability. Yet it also shows how much remains to be done to tighten the rule of law over the necessary secret agencies of the state, and not only in America. The report provides devastating evidence of the CIA’s consistent and deliberate recourse to torture, with the blessing of the Bush administration, following the 9/11 attack, and in pursuit of the so-called war on terror. It pulls few punches as it details the conscious and repeated subversion of law and justice by a state that is justly proud to be rooted in those very ideals. It is one of the most shocking documents ever produced by any modern democracy about its own abuses of its own highest principles.

Apparently, there was some scattered chatter about the redacted report. There were reported (but unconfirmed) fears that officials believed the full report may lead to global protests toward the United States and it’s practices.

But at this point, isn’t the cat out of the bag?

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Up To Speed: Why We Hope The Flash Hands The Wests A ‘Zeppo’ Episode http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/up-to-speed-why-we-hope-the-flash-hands-the-wests-a-zeppo-episode/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/up-to-speed-why-we-hope-the-flash-hands-the-wests-a-zeppo-episode/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:00:12 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33597 By Arturo R. García Just eight episodes into its debut season, The Flash has established itself as a viable long-term investment for Warner Brothers and the CW Network — we just hope that the show does some investing of its own not just in Team Flash, but in Iris and Joe West.* Coming off a […]

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By Arturo R. García

Just eight episodes into its debut season, The Flash has established itself as a viable long-term investment for Warner Brothers and the CW Network — we just hope that the show does some investing of its own not just in Team Flash, but in Iris and Joe West.*

Coming off a satisfying crossover with its sister show, Arrow, there’s signs that Flash is ready to start tweaking its superhero-procedural formula. And one thing we’d love to see would be a “Zeppo” episode giving the Wests a bigger share of the spotlight as the show wraps up the first half of the season.

* Unless one of them gets killed off first.

SPOILERS under the cut

Fans of the Whedonverse will recognize the term Zeppo, of course, from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This episode, which put perennial sidekick Xander at the forefront and relegated the Apocalypse of the Week to fleeting glimpses and side chatter, earned critical acclaim and fandom love.

Think of this, first of all, as a much-needed step in building an Irisverse. As the series’ female lead, Iris is, in theory, the show’s second-most important character. But thus far we’ve only seen her in connection with male characters: She’s Joe’s daughter, she’s Detective Eddie Thawne’s girlfriend, and she’s the object of Barry’s unrequited crush. But she’s still closer to an ideal than a fully-developed person at this point, and there’s every indication thus far to suspect that Candice Patton can rise to the occasion if she’s given a heartier story to develop.

This week’s episode of Flash, which saw her crush on Barry’s secret identity finally begin to falter after her encounter with a rage-induced Flash, opens the door for more moments of independence. Barry already has Joe as his own father figure, and his own support team in the STAR Labs gang; it would be nice to see Iris, even for a little while, with her own friends and interests other than her job and her Flash blog.

Barry (Grant Gustin) only has eyes for Iris (Candice Patton) — but the feeling isn’t quite mutual. Images via Flash Wikia.

It was even more promising to see Oliver Queen advise Barry to move on from his infatuation with Iris this week, even if such a move can only last for so long in canon. Because, while it is a “classic” superhero trope that his love interest be attracted more to the mask than the man, it’s also painfully reactionary heading into 2015. Considering that Iris fell for blond-haired, blue-eyed stubbly Eddie and is attracted to blond-haired, blue-eyed and stubbly Oliver, a forensic scientist like Barry should be able to recognize the pattern here.

The show’s suggestion that Iris is only going out with Eddie because Barry never asked her out is also problematic, and not just because Joe has acted as Barry’s surrogate father in raising the two of them together. Forget Barry’s super-speed; the idea that Iris either never noticed his feelings or never discussed them with him over the course of two-plus decades is more sci-fi. This illustrates another benefit to giving Iris her own friends: you don’t think somebody would have tipped her off to this by now?

Meanwhile, Joe (the ever-reliable Jesse L. Martin) is in a slightly better position; his vow to find the man who really killed Barry’s mother gives him more of his own subplot, as we saw in his early attempt to wrest information from Barry’s other mentor, Harrison Wells (Joe Cavanaugh).

The Flash (Grant Gustin) coming to Joe’s (Jesse L. Martin) rescue? Must be Tuesday.

But, as is often the case in superhero stories, the arrival of not only The Flash, but superhuman criminals lands the man we presume is Central City’s top cop out of his depth more often than not. So the upside of a “Zeppo” here is that Joe can actually make his own collar without relying on his speedy friend to bail him out. A Joe/Iris team-up also has potential, since Iris has already done well enough for herself against not only Girder but the Clock King.

That Flash is apparently willing to both shed more light on the mysterious Man in Yellow who killed Barry’s mother and bring Mark Hamill in to play a new incarnation of the Trickster this soon is good. But fans should also encouraging the showrunners to step outside supertropes more often, not to mention making greater use of its rather diverse ensemble. Having a Black father and daughter tandem, a Latino character, and a gay South Asian-American captain is a heck of an asset for any TV show these days, let alone one aimed this directly at the fandomsphere. Since the show clearly isn’t in danger of going anywhere for a while, there’s plenty of opportunity for them all to be developed to the fullest, starting with the Wests.

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Quoted: Brentin Mock on Racism and Why We Can’t Breathe http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/quoted-brentin-mock-on-racism-and-why-we-cant-breathe/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/quoted-brentin-mock-on-racism-and-why-we-cant-breathe/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33593 Eddie Bautista, the longtime environmental justice advocate and director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, was quoted in the article saying about Garner’s death, “There are [a] number of ways that racism plays out … The asthma is just one more example.” I thought the article used a poor occasion to illuminate racial […]

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Eddie Bautista, the longtime environmental justice advocate and director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, was quoted in the article saying about Garner’s death, “There are [a] number of ways that racism plays out … The asthma is just one more example.”

I thought the article used a poor occasion to illuminate racial asthma disparities. Bautista explained the larger context to me, though, saying, “The [article] doesn’t take the cops off the hook; on the contrary, it further indicts institutionalized racism in the U.S. for permeating the very air we breathe.”

I initially resisted this notion, refusing to see the connection. In my mind, there was the cop killing Garner in one hand, and Garner’s asthma in another — unrelated. And despite the millions of words I’ve spent over the years showing natural linkage between environmental problems, health problems, and racial justice, my anger with the Garner tragedy only allowed me to realize the police racism and violence. Just because I couldn’t see, or refused to see, the asthma link, though, did not mean it didn’t matter.

“Limiting the conversation about racism to just about how we’re policed is a lost opportunity,” Bautista wrote to me. “Folks should care not only about how racism kills quickly (via the police), but how racism also kills slowly and insidiously. ”

- Brentin Mock, “Why environmentalists should support the Black Lives Matter protests

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