Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture http://www.racialicious.com Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World Thu, 28 May 2015 16:30:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.6 WNYC Presents: Funny Or Racist? http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/28/wnyc-presents-funny-or-racist/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/28/wnyc-presents-funny-or-racist/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 15:19:23 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39676 by Kendra James There was a lot of good discussion on racial comedy at last night’s panel featuring Arun Venugopal, Desus Nice, Crissle West, Jeff Yang and Guy Branum and we’ve summed a good deal of that up in our Livetweet Storify below. The panel was broken up into sections with each new topic introduced by a different […]

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by Kendra James

There was a lot of good discussion on racial comedy at last night’s panel featuring Arun Venugopal, Desus NiceCrissle West, Jeff Yang and Guy Branum and we’ve summed a good deal of that up in our Livetweet Storify below. The panel was broken up into sections with each new topic introduced by a different video or comedic soundbite, and everything was going along swimmingly with very thought provoking (and hilarious) banter tossed back and forth between the participants.

It was during the Q&A that things got, as one might say, quite real after a discussion about Sarah Silverman’s use of blackface on her Comedy Central show.  A realness which made for the highlight of the evening as West was forced to keep it all the way 100 with an audience member who really did try it. The exchange can be found around 1hr 19min in in the livestream link, but also transcribed in part below:

Audience Member: My name is Alan Rich, I’m a discrimination lawyer … Crissle, one thing that you said about Sarah Silverman– I get the impression that you take her work at face value.  And I think that so many comedians who are really funny — I don’t think that she’s making fun of black people in any way shape or form about black people when she does blackface. Because those of us who know the history of blackface is that not only white people did blackface, black entertainers had to do black face to get jobs.

Crissle: Wow, so you have to be really white to make that statement. That is just the whitest thing–

Audience Member: It’s a comment about how ridiculous we as a society can be.

Crissle: Can we not? I’m really not about to do this.

Audience Member: I’ve never walked out on Paul Mooney, so you have to give me a pass.

Crissle: And you’re a discrimination lawyer? Holy God. Sooo… I’m  gonna go ahead and address that by saying first of all that I can absolutely say that you’re racist for being a white woman in 2014 or whenever it was that she did this to put in blackface and go on television. Yes I can absolutely call you racist for that. you know the history behind it and you did it anyway. That is racist. I can say that. I’m a black woman, I’m gonna just go ahead and take my word over yours on that. That’s racist. And I don’t like her for it.

Audience Member: [Sic] Tell her! But you don’t know her. You don’t know what’s in her mind.

Crissle: Where is my access to Sarah Silverman? I don’t have to know her– I don’t have to know what’s inside Sarah Silverman’s head. I’m looking at her actions because her actions are what she’s presented to me. She didn’t put put a book called Sarah Silverman’s Diary here read my innermost thoughts and see how I came to these fuck ass conclusions that I have here today. She got on TV in blackface and decided that that was funny and it was not. And you as a white man trying to tell me that my feelings are invalid because I don’t know her is a crock of shit … and that’s why I get on my show every week and say what I need to say because white people like you feel like you have a goddamn point.

Panel Q&A sessions can be difficult for anyone with Acute Second Hand Embarrassment Syndrome (ASHES, in my opinion the worst kind of ashiness a Black person can get), so I really appreciated how the situation was handled. Plus, having only just started listening to West’s podcast The Read (which she records alongside Kid Fury) about a week ago, I felt particularly privileged to be able to hear her give a Read live and in public.

It is a nonnegotiable fact in  my life that white people in blackface constitutes a racist act.  Context, intent, the word ‘subversive’, and the names Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman do nothing to change my mind in that regard. Context and intent don’t change the fact that there comes a time in every Black parent’s life where, for instance, they have to do something like sit down and explain to their children why there are radically different pictures of Black celebrities such as this,why one image is better and more appropriate to imitate and aspire to, and why such a beautiful woman was forced to allow herself to be treated as such.

Josephine Baker

Hi.Lar.I.Ous. (Images of Josephine Baker)

I suppose things are funnier when you have the luxury of skipping conversations like that altogether.

Colour commentary aside, WNYC and The Greene Space hosted a great night for us and all in attendance for their continuing Micropolis series. Readers of The R can look forward to another livetweet from the space next week when we head back to cover a live recording of Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu’s podcast “Another Round,” which will also feature The Butter editor Roxane Gay.

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Memorial Day: Remembering Soldiers of Color [The Throwback] http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/25/memorial-day-remembering-soldiers-of-color-the-throwback-2/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/25/memorial-day-remembering-soldiers-of-color-the-throwback-2/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39670 In honor of the U.S. celebrating Memorial Day today, we are reprinting this 2012 piece featuring veterans from many of our communities We’ll begin with a video that was shown here in San Diego earlier this year, at a celebration of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded two years ago to the 100th Infantry Battalion and […]

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In honor of the U.S. celebrating Memorial Day today, we are reprinting this 2012 piece featuring veterans from many of our communities

We’ll begin with a video that was shown here in San Diego earlier this year, at a celebration of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded two years ago to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and and U.S. Military Intelligence Service (MIS). The unit, composed mostly of Japanese-Americans, would see heavy action during World War II in Europe, and would go on to produce 21 Medal of Honor recipients. This unit’s exploits were chronicled in fictional form in the film Only The Brave, the trailer of which can be seen here.

[Note: One video under the cut auto-plays, but is SFW.]

Shifting focus to Vietnam, here’s the trailer for As Long as I Remember: American Veteranos, Laura Varela’s documentary about Latino Vietnam veterans. While it focuses on three South Texas residents in particular, the statistics cited here reflect the sobering cost of duty in the conflict for many servicemen, particularly when it comes to PTSD.

Last year saw the birth of AIVMI – the American Indian Veterans Memorial Initiative, a campaign led by the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida to add a statue of a Native American soldier along the Vietnam Walkway near the Vietnam Wall on the National Mall in the nation’s capital. Here we have an interview regarding the issue conducted by Kimberlie Acosta at Native Country TV with Tina Osceola from the Seminole Tribe.

Finally, here’s the trailer for Veterans Of Color, a documentary focusing on black veterans from the Vietnam and Korea wars and World War II. The film, which is coming off a screening at the Sarasota Film Festival in Florida, is the result of a collaboration between the Association For the Study Of African American Life And History (ASALH) and the Veterans History Project.

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Quoted: Race + Waco, Texas’ Real Life FX Drama http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/19/quoted-race-waco-texas-real-life-fx-drama/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/19/quoted-race-waco-texas-real-life-fx-drama/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 19:04:46 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39664 One of the most distinct characteristics of white privilege is the privilege to be unique. When white people commit violent acts, they are treated as aberrations, slips described with adjectives that show they are unusual and in no way representative of the broader racial group to which they belong. In fact, in much of the coverage […]

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One of the most distinct characteristics of white privilege is the privilege to be unique. When white people commit violent acts, they are treated as aberrations, slips described with adjectives that show they are unusual and in no way representative of the broader racial group to which they belong.

In fact, in much of the coverage of the Waco shootings, the race of the gang members isn’t even mentioned, although pictures of the aftermath show groups of white bikers being held by police. By comparison, the day after Freddie Gray died in the custody of police officers in Baltimore, not only did most coverage mention that Gray was black, but also included a quote from the deputy police commissioner noting Gray was arrested in “a high-crime area known to have high narcotic incidents,” implicitly smearing Gray and the entire community.

How did press reports quote the police in Waco? “We’ve been made aware in the past few months of rival biker gangs … being here and causing issues,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said. Causing issues? Cops were reportedly so worried about the bikers gathering in the Waco strip mall that they had 12 officers as well as officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety stationed outside the restaurant.

Now there’s word that the biker gangs have issued repeated threats against the police in the aftermath of the Waco “melee” as The New York Times headline called it. During the uprisings in Baltimore, I saw a flurry of tweets about black people disrespecting property and throwing rocks at police. Now that these biker gangs have issued actual death threats, why am I not now seeing tons of Twitter posts about white people disrespecting the lives of police?

Waco Coverage Shows Double Standard on Race, by Sally Kohn; via CNN.com, May 19, 2015

 

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In His Own Words: B.B. King (1925-2015) http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/15/in-his-own-words-b-b-king-1925-2015/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/15/in-his-own-words-b-b-king-1925-2015/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39654 Compiled by Arturo R. García I would sit on the corners, and people would walk up to me and ask me to play a gospel song, and they’d pat me on the head and say, that’s nice, son – but they didn’t tip at all. But people who ask me to play the blues would […]

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Compiled by Arturo R. García

I would sit on the corners, and people would walk up to me and ask me to play a gospel song, and they’d pat me on the head and say, that’s nice, son – but they didn’t tip at all. But people who ask me to play the blues would always tip me. I’d make $40-50. Even as off in the head as I am, I could see it made better sense to be a blues singer.
The Telegraph, 2009

I used to play a place in Twist, Arkansas — it’s still there, Twist, Arkansas — and they used to have a little nightclub there that we played quite often. It used to get quite cold in Twist. And they used to take something that looked like a big garbage pail and set it in the middle of the floor, half-fill it with kerosene. They would light that fuel and that’s what we used for heat. And generally the people would dance around and they would disturb this container.

But this particular night, two guys started fighting, and one of them knocked the other one over on this container. And when they did, it spilled on the floor. Now, it was already burning, so when it spilled, it looked like a river of fire. And everybody ran for the front door, including yours truly. But when I got on the outside, I realized that I’d left my guitar inside.

I went back for it. The building was a wooden building, and it was burning so fast, when I got my guitar it started to collapse around me. So I almost lost my life trying to save the guitar. The next morning we found that these two guys was fightin’ about a lady. I never did meet the lady, but I learned that her name was Lucille. So I named my guitar Lucille to remind me not to do a thing like that again.

– Interview with Joe Smith, 1986; animation by ‘Blank on Blank,’ 2015.

I studied a little bit. I compose. I’ve been composing for years. I write a little bit. And people didn’t know it, but my early records, most of em I produced them myself. And then somebody said, when we did Blues on the Bayou or somethin, “Oh B.B. produced a record!” And I said, “Really?” Most of the things, I just didn’t get credit for the early ones. People would put names on my songs and I didn’t even know who they were. It would say The King and Ling. Who the hell is Ling? I don’t know, that was just the way they could claim part of the song. And so many of the things I produced, nobody mentioned it. I didn’t know then. I know today, but it doesn’t matter a lot. But it’s the way people make money off of em, which is fine. I feel that in this music business, everybody got to make their little taste. I just don’t want em to take mine.

Guitar Magazine

You’re mighty young to write such heavy lyrics.
– To U2 lead singer Bono, as seen in “Rattle & Hum,” 1988

Back when we was in school in Mississippi, we had Little Black Sambo. That’s what you learned: Anytime something was not good, or anytime something was bad in some kinda way, it had to be called black. Like, you had Black Monday, Black Friday, black sheep. … Of course, everything else, all the good stuff, is white. White Christmas and such. You got to pay attention to the language, hear what it’s really saying.

Esquire, 2006.

You continuously have to learn. If I — I’m off sometime like 2-3 weeks- I have to learn my routines in my head again or I’ll forget some of the songs. I forget. I have to go back and get them in my head again. Because I gotta have at least 14 or 15 songs to remember the lines in my head. It’s sort of like an actor or actress. I have to remember these lines and you kinda dramatize them you don’t just say them you know you got to make it make some sense. So to answer your question I have to practice just like everybody else. I don’t practice enough — never have.
MNBlues, 2000

I carried this song around in my head for seven or eight years. It was a different kind of blues ballad. I’d been arranging it in my head and had even tried a couple of different versions that didn’t work. But when I walked in to record on this night at the Hit Factory in New York, all the ideas came together. I changed the tune around to fit my style, and [producer] Bill Szymczyk set up the sound nice and mellow. We got through around 3 a.m. I was thrilled, but Bill wasn’t, so I just went home. Two hours later, Bill called and woke me up and said, ‘I think “The Thrill Is Gone” is a smash hit, and it would be even more of a hit if I added on strings. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’

– On the making of “The Thrill Is Gone,” Guitar World, 2013

Top image via B.B. King official Facebook page.

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The Hollow Promise of “Inclusivity”: Saida Grundy and Boston University http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/14/the-hollow-promise-of-inclusivity-saida-grundy-and-boston-university/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/14/the-hollow-promise-of-inclusivity-saida-grundy-and-boston-university/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39613 By Tope Fadiran It’s hard out there for white men on college campuses. At least, that’s what American media would have us believe, given its coverage of the current controversy swirling around Dr. Saida Grundy, a Black scholar recently hired (effective July 1, 2015) by Boston University as an assistant professor of Sociology and African […]

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By Tope Fadiran

It’s hard out there for white men on college campuses. At least, that’s what American media would have us believe, given its coverage of the current controversy swirling around Dr. Saida Grundy, a Black scholar recently hired (effective July 1, 2015) by Boston University as an assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies.

In reality, the way in which Dr. Grundy has been unceremoniously shoved into the spotlight proves the exact opposite: Black women on our campuses, even those who have reached the highest levels of educational achievement, are political and cultural targets simply for existing. There is no other explanation for the fact that this all began with a white man whose response to Grundy’s hiring was to go in search of something he could use to undermine her intellectual and professional standing.

Nick Pappas is a conservative student activist at University of Massachusetts Amherst (for those who aren’t familiar with my home state’s geography, that’s basically on the other side of the state from Boston). Pappas apparently saw BU’s hiring of Grundy as enough cause for concern that he decided to dig through her Twitter account. He then published some of her tweets online—taken out of their original context—to “expose the bias and factual problems with modern humanities classes, which are many, and common at colleges across the country.”

A sampling of what Pappas saw as evidence of Grundy’s “bias”:

Why is white America so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?

Deal with your white shit, white people. slavery is a *YALL* thing.

Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. And every year I find it nearly impossible.

White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges.

The rest is predictable: conservative media picked up Pappas’ post and ran with it, lambasting her as “anti-white,” “anti-male,” a “major-league-twit…[and] a certified, dyed-in-the-wool, four-square, in-your-face racist.” BU’s initial response to all this was tepid support—”free speech,” etc. etc. In the last few days though, the school has seemed increasingly spooked by the furor. BU issued two statements in rapid succession—one of them from university president Robert A. Brown—essentially validating right wing smears of Grundy as “racist.”

Long story short, BU threw Dr. Grundy under the bus in a scramble to prove that it is an “inclusive” institution that “does not condone racism or bigotry in any form.” The irony.

As for Grundy, these smears and the ensuing online attacks on her have forced her to make her Twitter account private. She has also released a statement expressing regret for “depriv[ing]” the issues she raised in her tweets “of the nuance and complexity that such subjects always deserve,” and assuring the BU community that she is ”professionally and ethically…unequivocally committed to ensuring that my classroom is a space where all students are welcomed.”

Dr. Saida Grundy

Dr. Saida Grundy. via Boston University

On the plus side: Grundy has gotten a wave of support online. #ISupportSaida and #IStandWithSaida have taken off on Twitter, and there’s a petition urging BU to stand behind her. There have also been several articles published in her defense.

It also looks like this controversy won’t cost Grundy the job she hasn’t even started yet, which, frankly, is a relief. It wouldn’t be the first time a scholar of color was denied a professional opportunity because of their inconvenient politics. Still, you can bet that Grundy will be under intense scrutiny and suspicion at BU, even beyond the already high levels that Black women academics routinely face.

Grundy earned her doctorate only last year; her job at BU would be her first appointment as a professor. Now, some might question the wisdom of posting the comments she did, in public, as a Black woman just starting her academic career. But so long as we recognize that white supremacy, patriarchy, and systemic racism are real forces in the world, the worst we can say of Grundy’s comments is that they were impolitic and arguably ill-advised.

It’s certainly the case that she didn’t use the often abstracted, punch-pulling language of academia. But it’s also the case that there’s a wide and deep body of scholarship that says exactly what Grundy said—white masculinity is a major source of societal dysfunction and violence—only more formally.

It’s also a mystery what is so “offensive” about a Black woman to choosing to exclusively support businesses owned by people of color, much less to do so for only one week out of the year. If only people were as scandalized by the fact that systemic racism makes building wealth and owning businesses a herculean task for many POC.

That’s not the world we live in. In this world, intentionally supporting POC businesses is “racist”; a system that entrenches whole communities of color in poverty is not. To add insult to injury, BU’s leaders have now signaled to students, staff, faculty, and the entire country that this perverse redefinition of “racism” is correct.

It’s worth looking a bit more closely at how right wing media especially have characterized Grundy’s comments to better understand what, exactly, BU’s leadership validated through its response.

Fox News’s Andrea Tantaros, for example, claimed Grundy’s tweets show that the “last acceptable [targets] of discrimination in this country” are “Christians…and white men.” Grundy can “get away” with such “discrimination,” she added, because there are no “organizations in defense of white men…Where are the marches? Where are the editorials penned?”

Hmm, organizations writing and marching in defense of white men. Gosh, what does that sound like? I’m drawing a blank…

Andrea Tantaros on Outnumbered, via Fox News

Lest we be confused about the intersection of anti-Blackness and misogyny here, Tantaros also connected Grundy’s tweets to Rolling Stone’s disastrous misreporting on rape at UVA. She suggested “rape culture,” is nothing more than a conspiracy to attack white men on college campuses, manufactured by an unspecified “they” who are also “feminizing [white men] even more to get rid of that masculinity.” In the same segment, Jedidiah Bila added that white men on American campuses “feel really unprotected, and Sandra Smith questioned whether Grundy can “subjectively [sic] grade white males in her class room” when “she’s got that kind of bias.”

Elsewhere Fox quoted notoriously anti-Black, anti-affirmative action, professional campus agitator David Horowitz: “I’m not surprised that Boston University is hiring a racist to teach African American Studies.” Why? Black Studies is apparently “rampant with anti-white racism” and “indoctrination programs in left-wing politics.” The kicker: “If she were a white racist rather than an anti-white racist, she would never be hired.”

So universities never hire racist white professors? I think more than a few schools might have missed that memo.

This is who Boston University’s leaders felt so compelled to appease:  racism and rape culture denialists who see any kind of “ethnic studies” as inherently invalid, who literally want to rewrite the history of this country to cover up our long, sordid history of white supremacist violence and oppression. In other words, misogynist white supremacists. Misogynoirists.

So there’s a bitter irony in BU’s scramble to say how “saddened” it is by Dr. Grundy’s “offensive” comments, and declare its “commit[ment] to maintaining an educational environment that is free from bias, fully inclusive, and open to wide-ranging discussions.” Because, y’know, distancing your institution from a Black woman scholar on account of the rantings of people who insist talking about racism is racist and talking about rape culture is anti-male, is kind of the opposite of maintaining an “inclusive” educational environment.

Boston University, via Facebook

In response to the railroading of Saida Grundy, current and former members of the BU community have been speaking out about exactly what kind of “educational environment” the university fosters for students of color.

Criticizing her alma mater for throwing Grundy under the bus, Michelle Huxtable notes the Boston Globe’s recent reporting on the overwhelming whiteness of higher education institutions in Boston. BU stands even out among its local peers on lack of representation:

  • Only 4% of the current student body is Black. In the Globe piece, BU’s provost justifies low Black enrollment with the argument that “the pool of academically qualified black students is slim.”
  • 2.8% of full-time faculty are Black, a number that has risen by a mere 1% in thirty years.
  • 7.4% of full-time faculty are from “underrepresented” racial or ethnic groups. The Globe adds: “Among local large private colleges, only Boston College had a smaller percentage of minority faculty.”

BU also recently announced that it would be closing its African Presidential Center for “fail[ing] to sustain itself financially,” a decision that “prompt[ed] the center’s director…to charge that the school lacks commitment to issues concerning black people.”

Alumna Huxtable charges the same, specifically calling the school out for profiting off its association with Dr. King (MLK earned his Ph.D. there) but failing to walk its talk on diversity:

Myself along with other Boston University alumni and current students have tried other methods. We’ve gone to the Dean of Students, Kenneth Elmore. In his own words, “I have tried – for a long time – to stay out of the conversations on races.”…We’ve tried running for office in the Student Government. We had a Black Student Body President. Not president of the Black Student Union. The Boston University Student Government. Nothing helped. So here we are. Cyberbullying Boston University into acting like they have some sense…

Boston University representative Colin Riley said, “The University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form and we are deeply saddened when anyone makes such offensive statements”…Didn’t Boston University’s Provost just make some racist, bigoted, offensive statements? Oh. She’s not a Black woman. Cool. As you were.

As does former BU employee Christian Cho:

When I used to work at BU, I was pulled into a superior’s office. At the time, I was writing rather directly about the ongoing civil unrest in Ferguson and New York, trying to articulate opinions not highly present online. I was warned not to write these opinions. When I asked if this was coming from a specific person or not, he told me that I was to be the Assistant Director for all students. In other words, I should be quiet and whitewash my opinions to make white people more comfortable.

Huxtable and Cho are not alone. Among the many people contributing to the #ISupportSaida hashtag are students of color currently enrolled at BU. Read their tweets about how isolated, demeaned, and poorly supported they feel on their own campus, then decide for yourself how strong BU’s commitment is to maintaining an inclusive and bias-free educational environment.

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Watch: Jay Smooth and Race Forward Break Down Systemic Racism http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/13/watch-jay-smooth-and-race-forward-break-down-systemic-racism/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/13/watch-jay-smooth-and-race-forward-break-down-systemic-racism/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39616 By Tope Fadiran Our colleagues at Race Forward, the racial justice organization that publishes Colorlines, was one of the organizations that pushed back against Starbucks’ hastily conceived “Race Together” initiative in March 2015. At the time, Executive Director Rinku Sen penned an open letter calling for a national conversation on race that centers systemic rather than individual forms of […]

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By Tope Fadiran

Our colleagues at Race Forward, the racial justice organization that publishes Colorlines, was one of the organizations that pushed back against Starbucks’ hastily conceived “Race Together” initiative in March 2015.

At the time, Executive Director Rinku Sen penned an open letter calling for a national conversation on race that centers systemic rather than individual forms of racism. Race Forward is now building on this statement with “What is Systemic Racism?,” a new 8-part video series.

The videos star, and were written by, Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine famewho does double duty as Race Forward’s Video and Multimedia Producer. In a minute or less, each video introduces a different facet of systemic racism in the United States: mass incarceration, housing discrimination, the race and gender wealth gap, infant mortality, and more.

Racialicious had the opportunity to ask Jay Smooth some questions about how the series came together and what he hopes viewers take from it. Our interview, edited for clarity, follows below.

Tope Fadiran: I’m curious how the series came into being, how you conceptualized it, and how you saw it working once it was out in the world.

Jay Smooth: Well, Race Forward’s been working for decades on various approaches to the issue of social justice, bringing attention to it and finding solutions. One of our primary solutions has—I don’t know about always, cause I haven’t been here for 30-plus years [laughs]—but since I’ve been here one of the focus has been shifting attention/constant focus from individual forms of racism towards the institutional and systemic.

We tend to be drawn towards thinking about whether individual people did or said something racist, whether Paula Deen said the n-word or not, or what have you. It takes attention from these systemic racism that in a lot of ways have a much bigger impact on our lives and are more important to address.

At Race Forward we’re always looking for new ways to bring people towards that concept. We’d been watching things like the DOJ report on Ferguson revealing how much systemic inequity was underneath what bubbled up there. The same thing with Baltimore—there’s been so much great reportage about the decades of injustice underneath the uprising there.

And watching things like the Starbucks initiative a couple months ago, it seemed to be a well-meaning effort, but really disproportionately focused on our individual thoughts and feelings towards each other instead of on seeing the bigger, more insidious forms of racism that really keep injustice and inequity in place. So we wanted something simple that we could get out there and just sort of spark conversations about that idea and give people something to think about.

T: What did the lead up to launching the series look like?

Jay: Kat Lazo—my partner with video projects here—and I had to work pretty quickly to bring something together. Race Forward collectively came up with the topics we would cover, then I wrote the scripts for the videos. I knew I wouldn’t have time to come up with eight different concepts, so I wanted some sort of simple, unifying premise that I could repeat and drive home.

I thought doing this sort of a play on the old “The More You Know” videos would be sort of a fun, engaging way to draw people in and drive the point home. So we worked pretty quickly, did most of them on the same day. From the experience that both Kat and I have sharing things on YouTube and seeing [the] response…You never know for sure, [but] we felt pretty confident that it would connect with people.

Race Forward, Via buzzfeed.com

T: That’s pretty amazing that you did them all in one day. I noticed the backgrounds are all different—did you stay in the same general area?

Jay: Yea, that was a big part of the work was finding different locations. I brought in three or four different button-down shirts, which is the entirety of my wardrobe, basically, into the office [laughs]. We were all around the Race Forward office, which is basically the Financial District, Battery Park area. We tried find different places to be, and different things I could be doing to sort of provide some variety.

T: Was there any particular thinking beind having the city be the setting for that?

Jay: It was more of a utilitarian thing than having any sort of symbolic purpose behind it—although you always hope that there’s some synchronicity where things will also be communicated on that level. But it was basically, I wanted it to be differentiated visually and stylistically from my usual Ill Doctrine videos where I’m just talking into the camera at home. So being outdoors was an easy way to distinguish it.

Also giving it some sort of different energy, like that sort of Mr. Rogers style, “Hey, I’m your friend who’s out and about and wants to talk to you about this stuff!” For a topic that’s usually really intimidating and we’d be really serious and angry about it, I felt like being outside in the sun doing sort of various activities would lend to the semi-sarcastic happiness of the videos.

T: You mentioned that you all brainstormed the topics together. I’m curious how that process went. Were there any topics that ended up being left out just because of time? Are you thinking about doing more in the future?

Jay: I definitely hope that we get to do more in the future. There’s always so many topics that you want to get to. I think we originally had a longer list of maybe 10 or 12 topics. Just so that we’d have time to film them all, it got cut down to the final number of 8.

We wanted to make sure not to fall into the rut of making everything a Black/white issue and diversify it on that level. I was hoping to do even more reflection on intersectionality, show how this stuff intersects with LGBTQ issues, things like that. So I’m hoping we’ll do more so we can cover more of those layers.

Some topics just lend themselves to a punchy 30 second video more than others. Like housing discrimination—I was glad we still got it in, but that’s an issue where discrimination is usually taking place in sort of covert ways that don’t produce really clear cut statistics the way that something like mass incarceration does. So it was tricky to find an easy, punchy way to demonstrate that.

A couple of things like that, and also the immigration one we tried a different approach just to make sure we still got the issue in. But there’s definitely lots more we could do, and I’m hoping we will just because such a big part of the story of systemic racism lies not just in any single topic but in how they all sort of intertwine and come out of each other. So I’m hoping we can sort of reflect that a little more too.

T: What’s the response been? Have you gotten feedback?

Jay: I haven’t really kept track, but we got picked up on Buzzfeed, which was great, and got a lot of positive response from that. On a more interpersonal level, I’ve heard from a number of educators that they’re already finding ways to use this in their curriculum, which is my favorite sort of feedback to get for things like this. I’ve been really honored and I think Race Forward as an org has been really honored and psyched about the response that we’ve gotten.

And it’s tricky because, you know, humor and sarcasm can be tricky. People might not read the intent you’re going for. But it seems to have communicated pretty clearly and sparked good conversation. So we’re hoping it’ll push the tide a little bit more towards people being systemically aware in thinking about some of these things.

T: Where do you want people to go next with these videos? Someone watches these videos, they maybe want to learn more or start a conversation—how do you envision them continuing on that path?

Jay: Well, I made sure to provide footnotes that give our sources for each topic, where you can dig in a little deeper and see where the cited information comes from. You can dig deeper in the history and see how you might be able to join in making a difference on these issues.

And Race Forward, if you come to our site raceforward.org, we’ve always got other initiatives going on that you can keep track of and support. And of course people should be reading Racialicious! [Awww, thanks Jay!]

I think the more we can encourage people to look a little deeper and look at the big picture beyond those surface celebrity gaffes—and even issues we’ve seen so much in the news, and in the streets, about police brutality—the more we can shift our attentions towards the fact that they are all, whether they hate us or not, part of a system that’s not set up to treat us fairly and humanely [the better]. There may well be officers that don’t consciously hate us, but they’re still a cog in the wheel and perpetuating the system that we need to change, or else we’re never going to get the treatment that we’re supposed to get from that institution. I hope it plays a little bit of a part in making us all try to be more systemically aware when we grapple with these issues that are out here every day.


 

Check out the full series from Race Forward: “What is Systemic Racism?” You can also follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #SystemicRacismIs.

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Why History Supports The #DiversifyAgentCarter Campaign http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/11/why-history-supports-the-diversifyagentcarter-campaign/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/11/why-history-supports-the-diversifyagentcarter-campaign/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 12:00:37 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39599 By Arturo R. García It’s telling that, within minutes of ABC quelling weeks of suspense and announcing that Marvel’s Agent Carter was getting a second season, many of the well-wishes were mixed with a call for the show to introduce more characters who weren’t cis-white hetero, a campaign that quickly gained traction under the tag […]

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By Arturo R. García

It’s telling that, within minutes of ABC quelling weeks of suspense and announcing that Marvel’s Agent Carter was getting a second season, many of the well-wishes were mixed with a call for the show to introduce more characters who weren’t cis-white hetero, a campaign that quickly gained traction under the tag #DiversifyAgentCarter.

It’s also telling that “fans” of Marvel Entertainment and/or the show quickly rolled out the same tired, insidious arguments against it becoming more diverse: that it would be “diversity for diversity’s sake;” or even worse, that it would be “historically inaccurate.”

We say “fans” because, even if you don’t question their enthusiasm for the show or for star Hayley Atwell, you have to wonder what kind of fandom they inhabit when they insist that people of color would be “unrealistic” in what Anna Cabe rightfully described last week as a show that was originated by the fight between a chemically-enhanced US serviceman and a German antagonist with his own altered skull exposed to the world.

You also have to wonder about their particular worldview when they argue that seeing of people of color would be “unrealistic” in New York City at any point in recorded history — let alone the period following post-World War II.

On one level, the tag has already helped the public discourse outside of fandom by providing a window into the oft-forgotten sacrifices made by communities of color during the war. Looking at any number of posts from the campaign, and you see Asian-American female pilots, Arab-American female detectives, gay and lesbian service members, the “Women Guerrillas” and the “Harlem Hellraisers.”

Restaurant in “Little Syria,” circa 1910-1915. Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress via Flickr Creative Commons.

In that light, the most sci-fi thing about Agent Carter is a lily-white vision of the city that pales — literally — compared to its actual setting. By the time we first see Atwell’s titular heroine enter the Strategic Scientific Reserve’s NYC office, the city had both been a part of the First and Second Great Migrations — the exodus of more than 5 million black Americans from the South to other regions of the country — and seen the rise and fall of Little Syria in Manhattan, to name just two demographic shifts.

Even allowing for the show’s focus on Carter’s missions and struggle to assert herself within the chauvinistic world of the SSR, it’s tough to blame fans of color for feeling excluded when the show’s take on the city is less diverse than the one rendered in, say, West Side Story:

After the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of young Puerto Ricans and African Americans, from the country’s southern states, had poured into New York looking for a brighter future, and ended up competing with each other, and with the white working class, for jobs and homes. Certain areas of the city became almost exclusively black or ‘Spanish’. But, in every case, the communities felt boxed in – by each other and by existing Irish, Italian or Jewish communities. African-Americans living in West Harlem, for example, had Central Park to their south, Italian and ‘Spanish’ Harlem to the east, Washington Heights (which was predominantly Irish) to the north and Manhattanville (where Puerto Ricans lived) to their west.

This siege mentality, combined with a lack of working-class jobs, cramped living conditions and widespread racism, left many adolescents feeling vulnerable, frustrated and angry. They asserted themselves and proved their manhood by forming gangs and fighting. So Puerto Ricans in the Viceroys waged war against the mostly Italian Red Wings, who ‘owned’ a neighbouring area of Harlem, while the Irish Jesters in Washington Heights fought running battles with black gangs based next to them in the Bronx.

As the program moves forward, one would think that ABC has realized by this point that diversity offers tangible benefits to Agent Carter. It would not hurt the show for it to embrace the well-rounded type of cast seen on not only its Marvel stablemate Agents of SHIELD, but the works of Shonda Rhimes, as well as Fresh Off The Boat, and Black-ish. (Alas, poor Cristela. But we digress.)

And it’s not like there’s not enough in-canon and historical material for the show to — pardon the term — integrate. Supporters have already mentioned Gabe Jones and Jim Morita from the first Captain America film. As far as comics characters, Jimmy Woo and the Agents of Atlas are also in play during this time period, as is Azzuri, the original Black Panther, who can provide a link to the upcoming Chadwick Boseman movie.

Author Saladin Ahmed offered up another potential coup for Marvel:

The character, who debuted in 1942, is not only available — she’s public domain, as are the Native American adventurer Starlight and the South Asian villainess Baroness Taklachak, among others.

Steve Rogers looks at the legacy of Isaiah Bradley in “Truth: Red, White and Black.” Image via Comics Alliance.

Racialicious’ own Kendra James had a particularly inspired suggestion during a recent podcast appearance: what if we saw Peggy Carter meet Isaiah Bradley, the Captain America we saw in Robert Morales’ seminal Truth: Red White and Black? Besides adding another layer to the series’ on-screen history, it would be a great way to honor the miniseries’ writer, Robert Morales, who passed away just over two years ago.

In the long run, one has to consider #DiversifyAgentCarter something more than just wishful thinking; it’s the crystallization of the belief that the show can and should have the chance to evolve from whitewashed “Americana” to something truly American.

Top image via Agent Carter Wikia

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Unburied but Forgotten: Asian Bodies in Agent Carter http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/08/unburied-but-forgotten-asian-bodies-in-agent-carter/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/08/unburied-but-forgotten-asian-bodies-in-agent-carter/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39566 By Guest Contributor Anna Cabe Like many feminist-cum-superhero fanatics, I eagerly awaited the Marvel Cinematic Universe mini-series, Agent Carter, the company’s first real attempt at a female hero-driven property. In many ways, it delivers. The show makes good use of its 1940’s setting with strong costume and set design and snappy period music. The cast […]

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By Guest Contributor Anna Cabe

Like many feminist-cum-superhero fanatics, I eagerly awaited the Marvel Cinematic Universe mini-series, Agent Carter, the company’s first real attempt at a female hero-driven property. In many ways, it delivers. The show makes good use of its 1940’s setting with strong costume and set design and snappy period music. The cast are mostly wonderful and show great chemistry—with the standout, of course, being Hayley Atwell, the titular Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.S.R.) Agent Peggy Carter.

Agent Carter Premiere Poster

Agent Carter Premiere Poster, via Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia.

As Agent Carter, Atwell kicks multiple men’s (and one equally badass woman’s) asses, wrings tears from viewers’ eyes, makes us laugh with an archly delivered quip, and looks smashing in an evening gown and red lipstick. She flips the script of the superhero’s girlfriend—She doesn’t die! She isn’t always being rescued!—and has her own adventures after her boyfriend, Captain America, “dies.” When I finally finished the season (I live overseas with sketchy Internet so I’m slow to catch up to broadcast shows), I sang its praises all over Twitter and Facebook.

That said, Agent Carter has not escaped criticism for limitations when it comes to both race and gender, namely a painfully white and very male cast. Defenders of the casting have deflected this criticism in the name of “historical accuracy,” as though American history is exclusively white unless the subject is slavery, immigration, and the Civil Rights Movement. And of course, this is a show set in an alternate timeline in which superhuman Captain America is the United States’ first line of defense against a Nazi supervillain named Red Skull. A few substantial brown characters hardly seems a stretch of credibility or a distortion of history by comparison.

Indeed, Agent Carter’s roster represents a lost opportunity to cast meaty roles for Black actors in particular, as the New York City of the era had a vibrant Black culture and societybarely touched in the series. Building on this criticism, in this piece I explore how Agent Carter also marginalizes Asians.

Firstly, there aren’t many Asian faces on the cast. Only two Asian characters get any significant screen-time: a woman who is one of Howard Stark’s many former conquests and is unnamed onscreen in episode 6, “A Sin to Err,” and S.S.R. Agent Mike Li, introduced—and promptly killed off—in episode 5, “The Iron Ceiling.” To put it concisely, one is a red-shirt, killed off to show the danger the main characters are in, and the other merely more evidence of Howard Stark’s raging libido and callousness towards women. At least we know Stark’s pecker is #YesAllWomen. Okay, gotcha.

Edith Oberon in

Edith Oberon, Howard Stark’s former paramour, in “A Sin to Err” (1.6). via Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia.

In the “The Iron Ceiling,” Peggy, Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), and the Howling Commandos go into the U.S.S.R. to track a lead on Howard Stark. S.S.R. believes Stark has committed treason by selling his dangerous inventions to enemy powers. By this point, we know Agent Thompson as a competent agent and a Navy Cross winner but also an arch-chauvinist, having told Peggy in the last episode, “The Blitzkrieg Button,” that no man would ever see her as an equal and believing up until the mission really goes underway in the U.S.S.R that Peggy will be a burden and not an asset. We also know Thompson received his Navy Cross for service in the Pacific Theater in World War II, after he killed six Japanese soldiers about to attack his sleeping camp in Okinawa.

As it turns out, however, Agent Thompson isn’t the hero his country thinks he is. At the end of “The Iron Ceiling,” Thompson—who has showed signs of PTSD throughout the episode—admits to Peggy that the soldiers he killed had come to his camp to surrender. He hadn’t noticed their white flag until it was too late.

“I’ve been trying to tell that story since I came home from war,” he says to Peggy.

“You just did,” she answers sympathetically.

Agent Thompson confesses to Agent Carter in

Agent Thompson confesses to Agent Carter in “The Iron Ceiling,” via Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia.

The exchange is meant to be a tender moment of bonding between two people who, up to this point, have been antagonistic; it’s a moment of character-deepening vulnerability for Agent Thompson. Both Atwell and Murray sell the hell out of the scene.

And yet, it doesn’t completely work for me.

The problem: humanizing Agent Thompson’s character comes, as it so often does in TV storytelling, at the cost of treating people of color as marginal and purely instrumental bodies. Time and again we see how the deaths of people of color or white women are used to generate sympathy for white male characters, to give their seemingly impermeable armor a few cracks. The viewer is invited to lament—oh no! They died because of him? Because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Let’s pity the man for his mistake. To err is to be human.

But “human” is a label rarely afforded those whose deaths are used to create a tragic backstory for more central, white characters. Agent Thompson’s Japanese victims aren’t given the time or space to be human, much less superhuman; they are mere specters that haunt Thompson’s past. What’s more, the kinds of bodies that too often serve this narrative function belong to the already marginalized, to those already denied anything resembling significant, nuanced characterization in television and other media.

The cheap tragedy of Agent Thompson’s backstory is highlighted by the fact that the incident isn’t meaningfully brought up again in Agent Carter. Thompson is nicer to Peggy after confiding in her, but to the show’s credit, he doesn’t really change substantially by the end. When Peggy, Howard Stark, Stark’s butler and Peggy’s sidekick Jarvis, and a team of S.S.R.  agents, who finally recognize Peggy’s worth, save the day, Thompson takes all the credit and buries any mention of Peggy’s or the disabled Agent Sousa’s contributions. Because if he already lied about the much bigger problem of having murdered six surrendering soldiers, why not lie again for another prize?

There’s really no one on the show to push back against Agent Thompson’s lying. Peggy chose compassion, and as I mentioned before, there’s no developed Asian, much less specifically Japanese, character in the show who might challenge Thompson on that count. Hell, the only Asian agent with a name, Agent Li, dies in the same episode Agent Thompson confesses that he isn’t a WWII hero.

This episode is especially galling given the historical setting of the show. The United States imprisoned Japanese-American citizens in internment camps all along the West Coast because they might be “dangerous,” just as Agent Thompson assumed the soldiers approaching his camp to be. There are also troubling echoes of all-too-real coverups of U.S. military atrocities, and the lack of consequences for those responsible when such atrocities are brought to light. When American soldiers murdered about 500 Vietnamese people in My Lai hamlet, mostly women, children, and the elderly, on March 16, 1968, claiming, incorrectly, they were harboring Viet Cong, the murders were covered up for nearly a year by high-ranking officials. The eventual leak of the story led to such outrage that 14 officers were charged with the crime in 1970.

Only one was convicted.

This history of the U.S. government and its military abducting, detaining, killing, and hiding from sight the Asian bodies they fear and call enemy makes the erasures of Agent Carter all the more painful. This is the history in which the bodies are buried and forgotten.

With yesterday’s announcement Agent Carter has been renewed for a second season, its creators have a new opportunity to respond to this and other criticisms. Let us hope that the bodies they uncover in the future—Asian bodies and all the bodies of the marginalized—stay unburied and unforgotten.


Anna Cabe lives, teaches, and writes in Indonesia. Her work appears or is upcoming in The Hairpin, The Toast, the Atticus Review, and Pink Pangea, among others. She will be attending Indiana University-Bloomington’s MFA program as a fiction candidate in the fall. In her spare time, she’s either ranting about movies on Twitter  (@annablabs) or killing it at karaoke.

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R-oundtable: Avengers – Age of Ultron http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/06/r-oundtable-avengers-age-of-ultron/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/06/r-oundtable-avengers-age-of-ultron/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39572 Much like one of its action set-pieces, the discussion around the latest Avengers film has blown up in multiple directions: In the week since its US release, the discussion surrounding Age of Ultron has veered from its massive box-office haul to cast members slut-shaming Black Widow off-screen to Black Widow’s portrayal on it to, finally, […]

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Much like one of its action set-pieces, the discussion around the latest Avengers film has blown up in multiple directions: In the week since its US release, the discussion surrounding Age of Ultron has veered from its massive box-office haul to cast members slut-shaming Black Widow off-screen to Black Widow’s portrayal on it to, finally, writer/director Joss Whedon leaving Twitter because of comments that have been attributed to overzealous “feminists.” (SPOILERS: No, it wasn’t because of that.)

Thinkpieces abound on each of these topics, no doubt, and our own trio of Kendra, Tope and Arturo will touch on some of these issues, while also looking at how the movie’s few — and seemingly far-between — POC fared in Marvel’s latest mega-ensemble story.

SPOILERS under the cut

Kendra: Let’s start off with a softball before the dissection: Where does Avengers: Age of Ultron rank in the MCU for you? Did you enjoy it overall?

Personally, I’d watch two entire hours of Thor’s facial reactions and Tony Stark and Steve Rogers snarking at each other and chopping firewood, but that’s just me. Casting has been such an important factor in these movies. Tony is kind of the worst (as we’ll get to later), but he’s still my favourite and I blame Robert Downey Jr. for that entirely. I enjoyed AoU, but found a lot of it to be personality and quip driven rather than bolstered by a completely sensical plot.

Tope: My viewing history in the MCU is super choppy—haven’t seen CA:The First Avenger (and probably never will tbh. I find Cap boring), IM3, Guardians, or Thor: The Dark World, so…yea. But of what I’ve seen, I think I’d say it was about middling? I enjoyed it, but I agree with Kendra that this wasn’t the most coherent plot. The plotting and narrative editing were kind of uneven. On the plus side, I dig Ultron as a villain. A worthy successor to Loki. I enjoyed the classic Whedonesque dialogue.

Arturo: I’m also going to have to go with “middling.” Some of that is due to its placement in this round of Marvel offerings. Beyond that, it felt like Whedon literally revisited the first Avengers film beat-by-beat. So this was came off very much like a mid-season episode of [insert your sci-fi/police procedural of choice here]. Not a bad one, mind. But still. Tough to shake some of the doldrums amid the glitz here as a viewer.

Source: Mashable.com

K: Art, you’re the comic historian in our group. Would you like to give us a comic primer on Helen Cho– if there is one to give? It would be interesting to know whether or not she’s ever had a role beyond fawning over Thor and getting mind controlled into helping Ultron destroy the world. I was hoping for more from the first WOC on the big screen in the Avengers ‘verse.

A: So if you thought Dr. Cho just kinda showed up out of nowhere in AOU, you’re not wrong; it’s her first appearance in the MCU.

But, fans of the comics realm will recognize her in part thanks to her son, Amadeus — the 7th smartest person in the 616. Amadeus Cho became a major ally for both the Hulk and Hercules. Hitflix has speculated that Helen could assume a similar role in this universe, which would point to Claudia Kim getting more visibility in Civil War and probably beyond.

T: As the resident Korean drama fanatic in the group, gotta say I was really disappointed by Claudia Kim’s (the other Kim Soo Hyun for Korean entertainment fans) role. There hardly seemed to be any point to casting a Korean speaker since she had all of two (untranslated) lines in Korean, and it’s not as though she had many more English lines, either. As for Dr. Cho…she seemed to be there just to conveniently provide the tech Ultron needed to build a body. She could have been anyone. But in general the movie seemed to have more it wanted to do with the characters than it had time to do, so perhaps that was at work with Dr. Cho as well.

A: Let’s just hope this doesn’t mean a side-eye duel with Jane Foster over Thor. (Or even worse, that she was only included in this film to justify getting funding from South Korea.)

Source: Dailymail.co.uk

K: But that would play so well with the Natasha/Bruce romance that was shoehorned in. I’m due for a Winter Soldier rewatch, but man did she seem like a completely different character in this A:AoU. I thought at first it was just a factor of the films being two very different entities– Winter Soldier was a stripped down, political action thriller whereas A:AoU was much more the summer blockbuster. That’s the challenge of anthology film-making, isn’t it? Each writer/director pairing is going to have their own ideas and take on the series. But everyone else (aside from Clint) has made it through this franchise with their personalities and backstories intact and mostly making sense.

T: I think I’d agree re: Black Widow’s personality transplant with respect to the romance especially. And honestly it seemed that way with Bruce as well. I didn’t quite buy him as the bumbling, awkward nerd with a crush who doesn’t know what to do with Natasha’s advances, and the romance seemed to come out of nowhere. The random, weirdly brief conversation about not being able to have children was super uncomfortable and seemed to belong in a whole other movie. I’m not complaining, since their chemistry was amazing, but I’m not feeling how their relationship was just dropped into the movie and not fully developed on top of that. And c’mon, you’ve got ScarJo and Mark Ruffalo playing like they have the hots for each other and that little kiss was the best they could do? I felt cheated.

A: A solo BW film placed, let’s say after Winter Soldier but before AOU, would’ve made for a more elegant platform to introduce and explore that pairing. This is where I have to agree with the fans arguing that Marvel has burned up some goodwill not showcasing a superheroine until Captain Marvel eventually arrives. In-canon, I’m in Steve’s boat on these two characters getting together; it’d be nice for them to get a win. But I also get the sense that this SNL sketch was perhaps a little cathartic for Johansson:

 

K: Yeah, it’s odd– I care about as much about a BW film as I do a Wonder Woman movie (which is to say, not much at all), but I agree we needed a larger span of time to explore, especially, her sterilization– a topic that seemed to come and go too quickly and too lightly.

A: “I can’t have kids — I’m the Hulk.”
“I REALLY can’t have kids.”
“Oh [awkward pause] Welp, look at the time, gotta go to Slovokia!”

Source: NDTV.com

K: While I think Iron Man vs. The Hulk was the best fight sequence in the film, I do find it odd that T’Challa (The Black Panther, and king of Wakanda) had zero response to The Avengers completely destroying a city that was if not in Wakanda, ostensibly fairly close by since they were in that area of Africa searching for Vibranium smugglers. We’re not getting the Panther’s solo film until 2018 (don’t even get me started on that…) but the casting announcement was made back in October. Hollywood works quickly when they want to– there certainly would have been enough time for a short end credit stinger giving us some kind of reaction. It would have been a better use of time than three seconds of Thanos pulling on the gauntlet, which we’ve seen more than enough of.

A: The original Infinity Gauntlet series knocked my socks off the first time I read it.  Watching that stinger I laughed at the idea of Thanos going to the cosmic equivalent of a grill manufacturer with some old glove and asking them to rock it out for him. Will they reveal his lair with a Cribs-like montage next?

As far as the fight, I thought it gave us another, somewhat unexpected example of how the MCU treats its devastation with at least a little bit more gravitas than DC has thus far. Hulk doesn’t get “beaten up”; he only loses focus when he sees people hurt and scared by his presence, making him susceptible to Tony’s knock-out punch. Hopefully touches like that stick around even after Whedon’s departure from the franchise.

K: Of the other Black men in the MCU (other than Fury), I have to say it was nice to see Rhodey and Sam again even if it was brief. They, along with Selvig, got more attention as supporting characters than any of the MCU women. Where were Pepper, Darcy, Jane, or Betsy? Is RDJ’s salary really that inflated?

T: I would have loved to have seen Jane and Darcy. Better than a silly fight between Thor and Stark over whose lady is better, however cute it was.

A: On one hand, I did like that Rhodey and Sam were shown as independent entities; they weren’t instantly thrown together or opposite one another. (Although, poor Sam, off chasing Bucky while Rhodey gets to knock out some Ultrons in the field.) On the other hand, we’d better see some quality interactions — even if it’s arguments — between them as they’re featured more often. I am wondering how Rhodey will work with Steve, too, if Tony can stay away from the team for a minute.

ALSO, WHERE ARE THE HEROINES OF COLOR IN YOUR MOVIES, MARVEL? Prime opportunity here for an Agent May cameo and nothing.

K: RDJ’s IMDB Page goes straight from Ultron to Civil War, so don’t hold your breath.

I’m still hoping (though not overly optimistic) that Misty and Colleen show up for Luke Cage in the MCU’s Netflix run. It’s not the equivalent of a cinematic outing, but given the connections I feel like the Netflix shows will eventually have to have to Civil War (more on that later) it could be a good start.

A: Maria Hill’s remark at the party stuck out for me as a major lampshading moment, if not an outright acknowledgement by Whedon that it’s almost nothing but bros in the clubhouse. Also, anybody up for a roadtrip comedy flick with Darcy, Pepper, Jane, Sif, Agent May, and Maria? Like The Hangover, but, you know, funny.

K: I wonder how much of that is Whedon and how much of that is Fiege et. al, given Whedon’s everlong claims of feminism.

Oh– and while we’re on the subject of Whedon Tropes, did you applaud silently at his restraint in allowing Clint’s wife to make it through the movie alive? I did. The Whedon of 10 years ago would have Tara-ed her half way through the third act.

A: Luckily for Linda Cardellini, the films are out of the Ultimate Universe realm; Hawkeye’s wife … ah, doesn’t do so well in that one. The other side-effect of Laura’s introduction is that we can definitively rule out a Hawkeye/Bobbi Morse relationship in this universe.

K: At least now we know where Clint was during all of Winter Soldier while his work place burned to the ground. I guess a field needed plowing.

A: As far as Hill’s line, I’m willing to bet that was Whedon setting us up for the team we get at the end, with BW and Dark Will-uh, Wanda, Rhodey and Sam, and Vision joining Cap.

Now, if you read the comics you know that’s a Perfectly Acceptable Avengers Team. But as I left the theater on Saturday I heard somebody say, “This new team looks weak.” Well of course they do; they haven’t had 10 hours of movies building them up.

What is strange to me, though, is how far in limbo Agents of SHIELD is now. Whedon seems to be ignoring the show for now for the sake of keeping the films streamlined. But you would think that if Fury and Hill are working with Cap full-time now — I guess Tony will be fronting the cash in absentia — that Agent May would be on-board, even as a consultant to the new squad. (Also, Thor didn’t get Sif to pinch-hit for him? Boo.)

Hopefully Civil War will, if nothing else, clarify how this new operation would even be allowed to proceed after SHIELD was humiliated in Winter Soldier. You get a sense for Steve’s vision (not The Vision) for the group when he tells Pietro, “This is what it’s supposed to be” — maybe something closer to those vacationing Swedish cops as opposed to Tony’s Metal Militia.

Source: Superherohype.com

K: Oh, Tony. Tony, Tony, Tony…

T: Tony sucks. Majorly.

K: So, Tony Stark is my fave, but also the prime example of how a privileged, straight, white man who has literally never had anyone tell him ‘no’ will ultimately be the downfall of modern civilization. The allegory shouldn’t be as funny to me as it is, but well– the entire plot of Age of Ultron is built around the fact that Tony Stark refuses to stop, think, and listen to reason. I wish they’d taken the metaphor further, or even mentioned it at all– taking it beyond the ‘messing with AI tech is a horrible idea’. It’s impossible for me to separate Tony’s privilege and upbringing from his actions in this movie especially.

Tony’s been afforded the luxury of going through life not having to consider how his actions affect others until they also affect him directly  (see: Iron Man 1 ) . Straight White Male Privilege is a hell of a drug– and the only one that explains why he’s had to learn the same lesson about rash technology choices twice over now. A:AoU kind of erases all the growth he experienced during IM1.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of complaints about Ultron’s lack of motivation as a villain. I didn’t see it that way at all. Like father, like son: Ultron inherited all of Tony’s arrogance, lack of forethought, and SWMP, and that was coupled with a weaponised robot body. No one was going to tell him no, and as far as he was concerned he could do whatever he wanted. I mean– what is Tony’s motivation half the time aside from the fact that he’s a bored genius with all the resources in the world?

A: Tony is basically the MCU version of those tech bros who tried to kick a bunch of young POC off a soccer field because they rented it out.

K: I think that city they destroyed in Wakanda would agree. So would Harlem. And Midtown New York.

Civil War is going to be interesting depending on how closely it follows the comic arc. If you weren’t reading back in ‘06, allow me to quickly quote Wikipedia:

The plot of the series follows a framework storyline in which the U.S. government passes a Superhero Registration Act ostensibly designed to have superpowered characters act under official regulation, somewhat akin to police officers. However, those opposed to the act, led by Captain America, find themselves in conflict with those in support of the act, led by Iron Man, with Spider-Man caught in the middle; the X-Men take a neutral stance. The pro-Government superheroes led by Iron Man, Dr Reed Richards and Ms Marvel increasingly become autocratic and evil, eventually leading to the murder of Captain America.”

As an average, non-powered civilian I actually agree with Tony and his support of the Registration Act. One of my main issues with that arc was that he and his supporters were so demonised by the writing and plot for wanting vigilantes –who were consistently destroying cities, causing civilian casualties, and generally being menaces to society while attempting to save society– to be registered and easily identifiable so that they could be held accountable for their actions if need be. Bruce literally says in the first Avengers, “Thanks, but the last time I was in New York I kind of broke… Harlem.”

I’ve lived in Harlem since leaving college. If the Avengers had destroyed my rent stabilized apartment you’d best believe I’d be all for the Registration Act.

A: Daredevil also touched on this; one of the reasons Wilson Fisk was able to Starbucks his way through Hell’s Kitchen was the havoc the events of the first movie wreaked on the local housing market.

K: We should retitle the third movie Avengers: Harbingers of Gentrification

A: “No matter who wins, the Rent Will Be Too Damn High”

K: Anyway– I feel as though Tony’s going to have to go through another major character development process to steer him back towards being a person I might believe could have an idea that actually benefit society and not just his own ego. Because that’s all Ultron was– Tony wanting to prove that he could do it.

A: The Civil War movie is going to have to thread the same needle the comics version couldn’t (at least for me) and from an even tougher position, given the popularity of RDJ’s version of Stark. Doing the SHRA angle here also strikes me as harder here because up until now, every costumed operative except for Daredevil has operated under SHIELD’s jurisdiction. Installing Spider-Man as the fulcrum here is trickier because his kind of worldview hasn’t been accepted as part of the superhero conversation.

K: Which again begs the question of why Pietro and Wanda were chosen to debut here instead of introducing two more ‘traditional’ vigilante type heroes in the vein of your Spider-Man, Daredevil, or any more of the NYC crew. But I guess that’s being left to Netflix.

A: But getting back to Tony, what was left unsaid was this: if there were people calling for Bruce to be arrested because of the Hulk’s rampage, then — and maybe this is the thread Civil War will pick up — Tony has to be facing that same type of pressure if word gets out that Ultron came about because of his unilateral move to create artificial intelligence — twice! — for the purposes of developing a privatized army. And he never exhibited any remorse for doing so.

K: Yeah, but Tony destroyed a tiny Eastern European country. The Hulk destroyed the neighbourhood Neil Patrick Harris has decided to call home. Who do you think’s gonna get dragged away in cuffs?

Source: Eggplante.com

A: OK, important question: Which did you prefer, Avengers Quicksilver or X-Men Quicksilver?

K: Yikes, is that even a question? Whedon didn’t manage to do anything with Quicksilver that came close to Bryan Singer’s ‘Time in a Bottle’ montage from  Days of Future Past. I’m still confused why, knowing that he couldn’t even say the word ‘mutant’, Whedon was so dead set on using the twins. He could have molded someone else into his River Tim dream girl. The Avengers comic roster is huge.

A: I partially agree; nothing’s going to touch that scene for awhile. But I do think having Pietro and Wanda together was a good way of avoiding having to top it. I will say it was interesting seeing Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen get more chances to show chemistry as siblings here than Gareth Edwards gave their married couple in Godzilla.

Ultimately I think I have to give ATJ the nod here, if only because he got to hang around the whole movie and show more of Pietro’s cockiness; the audience at my matinee screaming was affected when he took the bullet for Clint. (And as jerky as Jeremy Renner has behaved lately, gotta give the man his due; he did well under the increased spotlight on Clint here.)

And it’s definitely a trope-twister to see a male character near-fridged for the sake of an ascending woman character. I joked about Wanda going Dark Willow earlier, but it’s tough not to make the comparison with her adjusted power set here. That said, if she ends up closer to Willow than River, it’s not a bad direction for her to go. And the Vision/Wanda ‘ship here is already developing nicely, no?

K: The Clint storyline hit all my deep idyllic Americana feels, which made Renner’s non-apology spiral all the more annoying.

The other aspect of the Wanda/Pietro casting worth mentioning was the racial/ethnic aspects of the casting. Canonly, of course, they’re the children of Erik Lensherr (Magneto) who we’ve already seen depicted on screen with an incredible emphasis placed on his Jewish background and his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Unable to say the word ‘mutant’ much less the name Magneto may take away from some of that history and how it would affect the twins. ATJ is Jewish, but I definitely don’t see it as an excuse to WASP-ify Wanda’s casting.  Reader thoughts?

 

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New Netflix Documentary Could Have Nina Simone Fans Feelin’ Good http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/04/new-netflix-documentary-could-have-nina-simone-fans-feelin-good/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/04/new-netflix-documentary-could-have-nina-simone-fans-feelin-good/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:48 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39562 By Arturo R. García Nina Simone fans who are leery of the Zoe Saldana biopic Nina take heart: Netflix quietly posted the trailer for What Happened, Miss Simone?, a documentary that has the support of the singer’s estate and features her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly. “People think that when she went out on stage, she […]

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By Arturo R. García

Nina Simone fans who are leery of the Zoe Saldana biopic Nina take heart: Netflix quietly posted the trailer for What Happened, Miss Simone?, a documentary that has the support of the singer’s estate and features her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.

“People think that when she went out on stage, she became Nina Simone,” Kelly says. “My mother was Nina Simone 24-7. And that’s where it became a problem.”

Directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus, the film — which is coming off an appearance at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — promises to feature rare and never-before-seen footage and tapes as part of a comprehensive look at not only Simone’s professional life, but her activism.

“I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself,” Simone says, amid chillingly-timely footage of police brutality and Black activists marching. “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”

The trailer, as posted late last week, can be seen below.

[h/t Paper]

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Nerd Roundup: Brief Dispatches From C2E2 http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/01/nerd-roundup-brief-dispatches-from-c2e2/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/05/01/nerd-roundup-brief-dispatches-from-c2e2/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 16:30:00 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39554 C2E2 earns the honour of being the only con I have ever attended where I’ve not felt that personal space and air to breathe were an inevitable sacrifice in a battle to the top of Nerd Mordor. Arriving late on Saturday, about two hours after the convention had already begun, I marveled at the amount […]

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C2E2 earns the honour of being the only con I have ever attended where I’ve not felt that personal space and air to breathe were an inevitable sacrifice in a battle to the top of Nerd Mordor. Arriving late on Saturday, about two hours after the convention had already begun, I marveled at the amount of space between aisles and booths. Most of the big cons are ADA accessible at this point, but this is the only con I’ve attended where someone with, say, a wheelchair looked to be able to navigate somewhat freely throughout a show floor also accommodating a fair amount of service animals, helicarrier sized strollers, and the drunkenly zig-zagging paths of  the toddlers who had escaped them.

Despite Chicago being a massive and sprawling city, C2E2 seemed smaller than its sister-con in New York (both produced by ReedPop Entertainment). So in addition to the extra breathing room in aisles for multiple tentacled Doc Ock cosplays, the con had had something of a personal touch. Casual conversation with creators was much more readily available than at NYCC or SDCC (for instance, multiple people were lucky enough to simply bump into Sex Criminals artist Chip Zdarsky who was wandering around the Image booth), and I personally found that responses to issues like harassment, offensive costumes, and abuse were nearly instantaneous compared to NYCC.

So while C2E2 is the only con where I’ve seen someone cosplaying as not a Death Eater, a member of Hydra, or some other fictional Nazi allegory, but an actual Nazi (a cross-dressing Nazi, but a Nazi never the less), I can at least say that representatives from C2E2 responded to my tweets seconds after I made the complaint public. There was a concerted effort to try and locate the man and remove him from the convention. That was bolstering as safety is always an issue at these events whether one is in cosplay or not.

It’s unfortunate that incidents like that can completely mar a con experience, and equally unfortunate that panels like The Fangirl’s Guide To: Surviving Online have to exist. With the era of Gamergate and Doxxing upon us, panelists Sam Maggs, Amy Chu, Jen Aprahamian, Stephanie Cook, Cara McGee, and Gita Jackson gathered together to discuss how something as simple as having your email posted for professional inquiries can lead to a downward spiral of online harassment that can spill into the real world.

Racialicious did not attend as press this year and since I was there ‘on business’ I didn’t get to attend as many panels as I would have liked,  thus there is less the wrap! But even though I was only in attendance for Saturday and Sunday, I still managed to grab a few pics of the best (and youngest) cosplayers at the con.  After all, it’s always best to end on a cute note.

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Black Lives Matter Minneapolis activist: Authorities ‘sent cops to our houses’ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/29/black-lives-matter-minneapolis-activist-authorities-sent-cops-to-our-houses/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/29/black-lives-matter-minneapolis-activist-authorities-sent-cops-to-our-houses/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39542 By Guest Contributor Karĩ Mugo Civil disobedience is what America is created on. It’s the foundation of our country so the fact that someone is trying to persecute us for performing civil disobedience just shows that they don’t know their own history and they don’t know how history is going to remember them in the […]

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By Guest Contributor Karĩ Mugo

Civil disobedience is what America is created on. It’s the foundation of our country so the fact that someone is trying to persecute us for performing civil disobedience just shows that they don’t know their own history and they don’t know how history is going to remember them in the future.
– Mica Grimm

When I first saw Mica Grimm, she was an unrepentant head of curly hair with a bull ringed nose and an alluring husky voice that forced you to lean in. Her slight slouch lead you to believe that she was both at ease and staggered by the agenda before her, as she and the other Black Lives Matter (BLM) Minneapolis organizers took to the floor. Over 100 people were gathered on a dusty floor in South Minneapolis to prep for an anti-police brutality demonstration by the group at the Mall of America (MOA). Weeks after the 1,500+ strong protest, I sat down for an interview with Mica. By then, her and 10 other members of Black Lives Matter were facing criminal charges for their role in organizing the protest.

The protest, but more so the law enforcement response to it, resulted in a partial shutdown of the largest North American mall on one of the busiest shopping days; the Saturday before Christmas. Though largely peaceful and carried out in the public eye, the criminal case brought against the organizers revealed an uncomfortable degree of collaboration between the Mall’s corporate owners, the Bloomington City Attorney (where the mall is located), and law enforcement in the lead up to the protest and after.

Leaked from City Attorney Sandra Johnson’s office present a chummy relationship with the Mall Of America Corporate Counsel. In the emails, Johnson suggested that the mall wait for the criminal cases against alleged protest leaders to play out before pursuing civil action, writing, “It’s the prosecution’s job to be the enforcer and MOA needs to continue to put on a positive, safe face.” Documents found elsewhere also show a feverish monitoring of the group, and attempts by mall security to involve the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in policing what was billed by organizers as a peaceful gathering of hymn singing in the Mall’s rotunda.

Mica is one in a series of young, black women at the helm of an attempt to create dialogue around blackness in America. In a quick survey of the country, from Ferguson to New Orleans, D.C. to Minneapolis, you will find an overwhelming number of women leading the organizing around Black Lives Matter. These women are giving voice to black issues and black female expression, yet the media focus that began with the shooting of Michael Brown has largely fixated on black men. Intent on exploring the untold narratives behind Black Lives Matter, and its larger goals, Mica and I discussed her involvement with Black Lives Matter, and the criminal charges facing her.

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a black mother and a white father, Mica has always been conscious about race and found herself balancing between two worlds from an early age, “The area that I lived in was on the border between this affluent South Minneapolis, and the inner-cities of Minneapolis. I could bike one direction and go hang out with my friends, have a whole different experience, then bike in the other direction and hang out with my friends on that side of town.” Beginning in high school, and finding itself cemented in college, Mica began to realize that there was little space given to black issues or representation in her classes and schools. Slowly, the imagined line between her two sets of friends and neighborhoods became more real and rigid.

It was these experiences as a black-identified person in a place that is often overlooked in discussions on racism, that led her into a social justice career, where she currently works at a local non-profit. When I ask her what it means to be black in Minnesota, she replies “Being black in Minnesota is hard… it means never having your own space. I think it means that you’ve learned to accommodate white comfort a lot. Minnesota is a very ironic place, because, how do I say this? We’re this bastion of Democrat-Progressiveness, we’re this fantastic Blue State, yet we have the largest racial disparities. Minnesota’s about people being perceived as progressive but not necessarily knowing or acting on that in a way that’s actually equitable for everyone.”

As a black person living in Minnesota, I can attest to this; Minnesota is a state that is ideologically diverse and lawfully progressive, but fails to accomplish this in a real sense. The state remains largely segregated in housing, schooling, and socialization, with study after study showing some of the highest, if not the highest racial disparities when it comes to measures of success. Mica and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis aim to harness the progressive nature of the state’s population to create real change, “We know that people want to help, we know that they think there’s this glass wall keeping them from doing it, so we’re really trying to bridge that gap and saying, “Okay this is not about just knowing about this, and this is not about being perceived as this, but now we have to get our hands dirty and do this work.”

All images by Patience Zalanga.

The group seeks more than just an end to police brutality, and its demands reveal this vision to improve the standing and quality of life for all black Minnesotans. “The way we’ve been looking at this entire issue is that it’s systemic. It’s not just about police brutality and police on their own. There’s a lot of things that go into making a bad police officer and those are the things that we have to look at too. For example, media bias. There’s a reason why people are immediately intimidated by black people and it’s not like they’re inherently racist, it’s that they’re taught to be afraid of black people.”

Mica also sees violence against the black community manifesting in different ways, “we know that people are brutalized throughout the system; the education system, we know that young men and women are taken out of the education system and put directly into jails. We know that our system thrives on putting black bodies at risk.” For her, “just hitting from one corner isn’t gonna be enough to create equality and change.” Which bring us to her involvement in Black Lives Mater Minneapolis and how the Minneapolis chapter came to be.

Like many young black people today, Mica felt frustrated and affected by events happening nationally, and Black Lives Matter represents, “a group of young people that decided that they were tired of the status quo and they were sick of their brothers and sisters being killed in the streets with no repercussions, so we all decided to take action.” Mica shies away from taking any credit for building the Minneapolis chapter, instead she feels that “the community is creating BLM,” and that as an organizer she merely helped create “a space for them to have one name to go towards the movement.”

Indeed Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has dug itself into its immediate community, responding to the communities needs for representation on issues locally. Their most recent success and rallying point has been the police shooting of 18-year-old high school student Tania Harris. Shot in the abdomen twice by police officers responding to a call from the teen’s mother that her daughter was being threatened by people who wanted to fight her, the group organized a march to allow the family access to their daughter who was been treated at a local hospital. Incidents like this have kept the Minneapolis group busy since its inception last fall, but it was the events following the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the non-indictment of Officer Dan Wilson that initially galvanized Mica to act.

She recalls the evening when the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Dan Wilson on murder charges was released, “I was sitting at home feeling very traumatized and very emotional, with my little brother, he’s 12. He’s trying to comprehend all these things and he’s telling me, “You know, it’s gonna be okay.” I’m just sitting there feeling all these emotions, and I remember thinking, “I can’t be the only person feeling this way.” I need to go to a space where I can try to heal and build with other people, and I don’t know where that space is.”

As she sat watching the news, Mica received a message from a friend asking her to meet at a local community organization where people were gathering. When she arrived she found “a lot of young black people sitting around looking on Twitter, watching the newsfeed and saying “What are we gonna do? Is Minneapolis gonna do something?” Basically expecting someone to know that there’s a call out there and take advantage of it.” The group spent the night discussing how they could show support for the protests in Ferguson and around the country, and began to see people in Ohio shutting down highways, taking on Michael Brown’s father’s call to “shut it down.” At around 1 am, Mica received another message from a friend asking if she wanted to shut down a highway the next day. She was on board.

“We just looked at it as an opportunity; look at all these people who are also feeling the same way that we feel and need some way to channel that in a positive way.” In a fury of emails, phone calls, and meetings, Mica and a group of other organizers with affiliations to local community organizations began planning to shut down a local highway. Enlisting the help of Communities United Against Police Brutality, which had been planning a march for that day, they were able to draw an energized crowd on a cold November evening, halting traffic in both directions of Minneapolis’ Highway 55.

“It was really cool to see something happen so quickly and so organically. None of us had ever worked together. We all knew each other or had worked together, some of us, but a lot of people were just meeting each other in these rooms. The beautiful thing about that march was that we created this space, when people didn’t have any way to direct their energy. It became so apparent because we were meant to walk maybe a mile at the most, and we couldn’t control the crowd. We could direct the crowd, but we couldn’t stop them. We ended up trying to end the march at one place and we realized after we’d ended it, that everyone had just kept marching. So people ended up marching 6 miles! Once people got started it was like, “No, this is real, people have been feeling this,” and then we thought it was this one time thing, and a week later the Eric Gardner non-indictment happened.”

During our conversations, Mica talks often about creating this “space” to heal, to process. For many in the black community who have witnessed their loved ones meet death prematurely for no other reason other than being black, this space in which to commune publicly is something that has been greatly lacking; instead reserved for conversations behind closed doors. It has been a well known secret in the black community that violence against black bodies has never ceased, merely taking on new forms in each generation. Perhaps this is what accounts to the success and proliferation of Black Lives Matter, whether as a movement organizing protests and rallies on the ground, or as a hashtag to rally around on social media. Black Lives Matter represents a refusal to be silent about an epidemic, and an opportunity to converse publicly about the state of Black America.

It was this desire to engage the public, while creating a safe and positive space for the community to express their feelings, that led to the Mall of America protest. According to Mica, “It (the protest) really wasn’t gonna be that big of a deal, and then we had the cops come to our house.” Mica describes the police visits to her and the organizers homes as the turning point for the group, who saw their actions as an attempt at intimidation.

“They sent cops to our houses and that was scary because I know stories like this. This just happened this last year, Al Flowers, who’s a vocal member of the community, was beat at his doorstep. With that happening, it shifted the attitude a little bit more. It made us wanna push a little bit farther. That’s when we decided to bring the media attention to it and start to talk about what was happening.

We looked at it as a way to not only promote this event to a larger audience that we can’t reach, but also prove, one, that we are peaceful and that this is a family event, but also, for protection. If cops come to your house, unfortunately at that point, I have to become more visible as a form of protection. We need more people to know who we are so that if something does happen, other people know that there’s more to the story than whatever happened.”

Mica never spoke with the police officer(s) who came to her door, in fact no one was home when they paid her a visit. Instead they left a card from the Bloomington Sheriff’s Department that said, “Please call, thanks.” Mica lives in Minneapolis, twenty minutes away from the city of Bloomington and outside of the Bloomington Sheriff Department’s jurisdiction and wondered, “What are you even doing in Minneapolis?” That’s how you know it was intimidation because it clearly was about showing we know where you live. No, you don’t wanna just talk to us, because we did talk to them before our action.”

According to Mica, the police department and the Mall were aware of the group’s intentions from the onset, and had tried to dissuade them from protesting inside the mall. They tried to steer the group towards an empty lot adjacent to the Mall’s series of parking ramps and surface lots, well away from the public eye. The group declined the offer and went ahead with their planning. Aside from the obvious fact that they wanted to make a visible statement, it was December in Minnesota, one of the coldest months of the year when temperatures regularly top out in the teens and low twenties. That the Mall would expect protestors to stand outside in the cold of winter was absurd.

As they persisted with their plans, the group sent a police liaison, who is among those charged, to meet with the Bloomington Police Department and representatives from the Mall to ensure that their protest would be safe and peaceful. The group was informed that they would be allowed twenty minutes for their protest before they received their first “trespass warning”, five minutes later they would receive a second warning and it was then that the organizers would tell the protesters to leave the Mall’s rotunda so as to avoid arrest. On the day of the protest, the Mall and Bloomington Police Department changed tactics on the group.

“When we got there, they had locked down the whole mall. Then they called the first trespassing warning after about 5 minutes. They were not trying to cooperate with us at all. It sent everything a little bit more into a state of a frenzy.” As someone who attended the protest, I remember the Mall being in complete chaos; adjacent entrances to the Mall’s rotunda had been barricaded, leaving shoppers and protestors trapped in sections of the mall, unable to exit or move about freely as police clad in riot gear, backed by mall security, created a perimeter around the protesters who had managed to make it to the rotunda. Twenty-five people were arrested for trespassing at the protest, but charges against the organizers did not come until January following much speculation over what the City Attorney would do.

When I interviewed Mica, she had not yet appeared in court to face the charges, and had this to say, “My personal feeling is that they actually helped our movement farther by filing charges. We’re protesting inequity and awful treatment towards black people and you look at this group, as a group of black people caring about black stuff and you decide to sue them?” Mica is also weary of the influence the Mall has in the city of Bloomington, which derives huge revenues from the massive shopping complex, stating “If MOA didn’t want these charges pressed, these charges wouldn’t be pressed right now. That’s how much control that corporation has in that town and it becomes really obvious.”

But more concerning to her was the “constitutional issue” at play as the City Attorney sought to pursue “reparations for the businesses” that had lost revenue during the protest. I attempted to clarify with Mica that she meant ‘restitution’, to which she replied “No. She (the Bloomington City Attorney) used the word ‘reparations’. You’re literally trolling us! You did not have to use that word. Restitution makes more sense than reparations. She said, ‘reparations.’”

While the use of the word ‘reparations’ has largely been associated with rectifying injustices suffered by one group at the hands of another, and is a charged word within the black community, it is also a legal term allowing more room for claims of loss than restitution does; where restitution seeks to reimburse measurable financial losses, reparations are more punitive for pain and suffering. In the last week, the mall issued a statement that they would not pursue $40,000 in restitution claims against protesters, however the city itself still intends to seek to $25,000 in restitution for police overtime in response to the protest.

Mica continues, “So you’re looking for reparations for these businesses, and for the police presence. Police we did not ask for. If people can all of a sudden charge people looking for reparations for police presence that they didn’t ask for, that stops people from being able to protest. That impedes upon people’s right to protest because all of a sudden people have this fear that they could have to pay for police presence that they didn’t ask for. On top of that, there was no property damage. Nothing was done to the mall.” This is the “constitutional issue” that worries Mica and that she says has drawn support from the ACLU which, “wrote a letter of support” and has talked about supporting the group on “the constitutional implications of the charges.”

Outside of the ACLU’s backing, Mica and the other organizers charged received a flood of support from attorneys who wanted to represent the group pro bono. This may prove a winning tactic for them ensuring that they do not have to worry about the cost of legal fees if the charges result in a lengthy, drawn out trial. There was also a legal fund set up in the planning stages of the protest that is helping to defray legal costs, “There’s been so much support and I think people recognize we were trying to do something good and create a safe, healing space. That’s what I care about at the end of the day. We never come together as a community and feel each other and feel our emotions and work through them. That’s what this is about.”

I asked Mica how she responds to the charge that the group had been warned by the Mall and the Bloomington Police Department that their protest was unlawful, and the criminal charges she now faces are the logical result, “Well, most people’s arguments are based off the fact that the mall is private property. There’s so many reasons why that’s just not true. Number one, it gets huge public subsidies, so if it’s private property that means I paid for part of that mall, I own part of that property. Number two, and there’s been cases on this across the country, malls are often considered the modern day town squares, they are places for people to congregate and meet that are safe and clean, and also we’re in Minnesota! We wanted to have an event for families, that’s why it was on a Saturday, that’s why it was in the mall, we knew people could get to it easily and you want little babies outside in December? Are you joking? MOA shouldn’t be considered private property, and if it is, then it should be considered a town square.”

Mica is fiery in her defense of her actions while ruminating on the meaning of “the law” as it exists in society; laws which black people find themselves on the wrong side of in statistically higher numbers, “To be honest with you, I feel like laws that are unjust are not laws. It really is that simple. I don’t know who said that originally, but if I see someone telling me that I can’t do something that I know is my constitutional right to be able to do, and this person is telling me I can’t do it because I have ulterior motives than trying to keep the community safe, or trying to promote a healthy society, but that’s what I’m doing. So if that’s what I’m doing, what are you doing actually that you’re trying to stop me?”

So, where does Black Lives Matter Minneapolis go from here, I ask Mica, “That’s a good question. I think BLM can become multiple things. I’m not sure what it’s going to become, but I would love to see a really strong community that takes care of each other, helps each other heal, finds power in each other, and builds with each other to the point where ideas can come to fruition, and really break down these systems from a lot of different areas and make the world better for us.”

On March 10th, Mica and 10 other defendants pleaded not guilty to charges ranging from trespassing, and disorderly conduct, to unlawful assembly. They will appear in court next on May 1st. The organizers continue to maintain that the charges against them are trumped up, and a misallocation of public funds in the interests of a private corporation. In the meantime, the group has launched a successful assault on the Mall’s public image. Most notably through an immediate call for a national boycott of the Mall, and an embarrassing Twitter takeover of the #ItsMyMall hashtag it created.

While the City Attorney and the Mall continue to insist that the criminal charges are valid and meant as a deterrent against such future demonstrations, I can’t help but wonder if the group’s message was really the problem, rather than the action itself. The case many people return to is the 5,000 strong gathering held peaceably in the mall’s rotunda in December 2013 to honor a Minnesota teen who died of cancer. Why was one met peaceably and the other clamped down on from its early days of planning? After all both demonstrations were in solidarity of lives lost too soon.

To stay up to date with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, join their Facebook page, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, or find them on Twitter. Donations to their legal fund can be made here.

Kari is a queer writer who was born and raised in Nairobi and spent her formative years in the Midwest. She is a Third Culture Kid trying to find the balance in 3. Her work has appeared on Autostraddle.com, Curve Magazine and TheToast.net. She is also entertainment contributor for Mshale.com, an African community newspaper. Follow her on Twitter @the_warm_fruit.

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‘Hey Adam … Let’s Talk’: The #NotYourHollywoodIndian Q&A http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/29/hey-adam-lets-talk-the-notyourhollywoodindian-qa/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/29/hey-adam-lets-talk-the-notyourhollywoodindian-qa/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:00:21 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39546 By Arturo R. García Earlier this week we covered the burgeoning campaign against Adam Sandler, Netflix, and their Ridiculous 6 project. During our coverage, we caught up to Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who devised the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag in the wake of the mass walkout by a group of Native American performers, and talked about how the […]

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By Arturo R. García

Earlier this week we covered the burgeoning campaign against Adam Sandler, Netflix, and their Ridiculous 6 project.

During our coverage, we caught up to Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who devised the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag in the wake of the mass walkout by a group of Native American performers, and talked about how the tag came together, how she feels about the defense of the film as “satire,” and where the campaign goes from here.

Let’s start at the beginning: describe, if you would, the moments when you first heard about the actors walking off the Sandler set. How did you go from there to getting the tag together?

Megan Red-Shirt Shaw: I was definitely upset, but also empowered by their decision to take a stand. It’s really difficult to hear that people within our communities are being dishonored – especially in ways that seem like “vintage” issues — the old Western and “Cowboys and Indians” films we’ve come to know really well. I went on Twitter to see what different voices were talking about and realized there wasn’t a hashtag consolidating the ideas. I looked through the original article by Vince Schilling and saw the quotation by Allie Young about being a “Hollywood Indian.” I knew that was what we had to get trending.

What was your reaction to seeing the tag and the story begin to spread?

Red-Shirt Shaw: The story had already started to grow but again, I thought everyone’s amazing ideas needed to be existing under one moniker –I still can’t believe how epic it’s become overnight. Twitter literally exploded. My phone went crazy. It’s really remarkable to see the ideas grow and who it’s connected me to – I was most recently put in touch with an activist named Nicholas Reville who started a Change.org petition that has come out of all of this conversation, and he asked me to co-author it with him. Change is planning on featuring it on their website this week, so we’re really excited to see the even more consolidated outcome of those signatures. I feel humbled. I feel hopeful. I am overall really proud of the world in helping this conversation ignite.

What kind of responses have you received from within Native communities?

Red-Shirt Shaw: Overall, the responses have been really positive and I have to say a huge thank you to all those who shared this effort — so much love to the activists I connected with who really started pushing it after I first tweeted it out. At the end of the day, we never want this to take away from the bravery exhibited by the actors who decided to walk off set — they are the true heroes here. My hope for all of this was that we could get the conversation rolling to the point where people logging in would see the hashtag #NotYourHollywoodIndian and wonder what it was all about. I think the most powerful piece has been the Native people who have tweeted to me sharing that they’ve cancelled their Netflix accounts. That is truly activism at its finest.

What’s your take on the response from Netflix?

Red-Shirt Shaw: I continue to stand in solidarity with the actors, it doesn’t make me feel one way or the other because I know they’re protecting their money, and I understand that’s all they’re seeing out of cancelling this movie. Reading some of the clips from the scripts, I don’t think Netflix has any educated idea about the implications of what the script is mocking — peace pipes, the role of women, the role of elders. I’m Lakota — these three things are integral to our identity as people. We’re not being oversensitive, Netflix. Please don’t belittle the importance of our identity and culture.

Did you see the video taken on the set where the producer tells an actor that Sandler’s character “loves you guys”?

Red-Shirt Shaw: Honestly, I don’t know how Adam Sandler feels, because he still hasn’t said anything. I’ll listen to him and have an open heart if he decides to come forward, but he hasn’t yet. I also think it’s really important that no one make any assumptions one way or another until we hear directly from him. I always try to approach activism giving people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this is all he’s ever known — how can we productively teach him? How do we know if it’ll make a difference unless we try?

Much like Netflix, defenders of Sandler and the film’s material will say, “It’s just satire.” How do you respond?

Red-Shirt Shaw: I’ve definitely gotten those responses online –I think there needs to be room for dialogue on this and why it was offensive. We want Native actors and actresses in Native roles across all genres — but we also want to be on the end where we get to help produce the content. Native jokes are amazing — we specialize in a very particular type of humor that I think a lot of people would really enjoy. It doesn’t need to be slapstick with teepees and “ugg-a-wugg” names. Get us on the other side of the table and let us help these Hollywood leaders produce really good comedy.

What, if anything, could Sandler and Netflix do to help remedy the situation?

Red-Shirt Shaw: I would be lying if I didn’t say I hope they cancel this film – but I’m also still waiting to hear from the comedian himself. Until then, let’s keep telling him “Hey Adam, we’re #NotYourHollywoodIndian — let’s talk.”

What happens next, both for this campaign and Native In America?

Red-Shirt Shaw: I hope that #NotYourHollywoodIndian changes the conversation in the film industry about Indigenous identity and that the movement is productive, that ultimately people are using their positivity and power to educate. I hope that Natives In America takes over the world. Period. On a smaller scale … I hope the entire amazing NIA team knows how much they are surprising and inspiring people with their stories about being Native in the 21st century. Until we break through that glass ceiling of who America thinks we are, we have to keep telling our tales. And we will.

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Unhappy Gilmore: Native American Actors and Activists Protest New Adam Sandler Project http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/27/unhappy-gilmore-native-american-actors-and-activists-protest-new-adam-sandler-project/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/27/unhappy-gilmore-native-american-actors-and-activists-protest-new-adam-sandler-project/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39535 By Arturo R. García If Adam Sandler thought his brand of “humor” would keep getting a pass in 2015, the past few days have surely disabused him of that notion. As Indian Country Today Media Network reported, about a dozen Native American actors on his upcoming Netflix film, The Ridiculous Six, abandoned the production over […]

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By Arturo R. García

If Adam Sandler thought his brand of “humor” would keep getting a pass in 2015, the past few days have surely disabused him of that notion.

As Indian Country Today Media Network reported, about a dozen Native American actors on his upcoming Netflix film, The Ridiculous Six, abandoned the production over the material.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” said actor Loren Anthony, a Navajo Nation member. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?’”

ICTMN also posted video taken on the set from another performer, Goldie Tom, showing actors voicing their concerns to an unidentified producer.

“We don’t need to sell out our people,” one actor says in the footage.

“I understand completely,” the producer replies. “But we’re not gonna change ‘Beaver Breath.’”

Defamer’s Jordan Sargent posted excerpts from a version of the script, which featured characters named Sits-On-Face, Never-Wears-Bra and Smoking Fox.

“It’s no surprise, of course, that Adam Sandler has written another movie overflowing with the kinds of jokes that might feel edgy to an 11-year-old who finally understands what sex is,” Sargent observed.

The story quickly picked up traction nationally, blossoming into a rare public blunder for Netflix, which was just coming off the largely-favorable reception for Marvel’s new Daredevil series. And the budding broadcast hub chose to address the issue with a somewhat warmed-over statement.

“The movie has Ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous,” the company stated. “It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke.”

While Sandler himself has not weighed in, the chorus of Native Americans supporting the actors has only grown. Natives In America founder Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a past Racialicious contributor, organized the #NotYourHollywoodIndian tag to rally attention to the incident.

And Netflix itself now faces the prospect of a boycott, as the #WalkOffNetflix campaign is also gaining steam. Online supporters are threatening to abandon the streaming service if it does not cancel Sandler’s project.

Meanwhile, the production staff has reportedly reached out to the actors who left the set, including 74-year-old Choctaw performer David Hill.

“I hope they will listen to us,” said Hill, a member of the American Indian Movement. “We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie — I said I would knock his ass out. This isn’t my first rodeo, if someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”

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Racialicious In Chicago: A C2E2 Preview http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/24/racialicious-in-chicago-a-c2e2-preview/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/24/racialicious-in-chicago-a-c2e2-preview/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 07:00:25 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39530 I’ve never been to C2E2 before and know very little about what to expect– beyond the fact that there is a Brony fan meetup that I will be doing my utmost to avoid. Luckily, C2E2 also features a decently sized list of other panels and screenings that deal with race, gender, sexuality, fandom, and all […]

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I’ve never been to C2E2 before and know very little about what to expect– beyond the fact that there is a Brony fan meetup that I will be doing my utmost to avoid. Luckily, C2E2 also features a decently sized list of other panels and screenings that deal with race, gender, sexuality, fandom, and all the intersectionalities between them. I’ll only be attending the con Saturday and Sunday, so I won’t have time to see everything (and I’m incredibly sad to be missing Friday’s Racebending.com panel!), but I’ll be livetweeting as many panels as one person can reasonably make.

Last year in San Diego Arturo managed to profile quite a few artists and writers of colour during our time at the con. Reaching out to me @wriglied or via the team@racialicious.com email could yeild the same results, if  you’re a creator of colour who’d like to meet and chat about your work on Saturday or Sunday. Drop me a line, I’ll find your booth. And if you’re just a reader who just wants to say hi, don’t be shy! I won’t be in costume, but there’s a good chance you’ll see me at any of the Saturday or Sunday panels listed below.

FRIDAY

Through Brightest Days And Blackest Nights — A Black Nerd Girl’s Journey: 5:30-6:30; S405b: This is no longer Heinlein’s Nerdom. The white-skinned, flowing haired Damsel in Distress is more likely to be the dark-skinned, kinky haired Reluctant Hero. The chiseled, blue-eyed avatar is more likely to have brown eyes and rounded features. As the Geekverse grows, so do representations of black women within it. Unfortunately, black women still face many barriers towards being accepted as “real nerds.” Our discussion will focus on the past, present and future of the black nerd girl and her place in the ‘Verse. This Panel is sponsored in part by the Chicago Nerd Social Club.

Racebending.com Presents: Creating Diverse Characters: 2:45-3:45; S403: Racebending.com presents a diverse array of Novelists, Playwrights, Editors and Comics Authors who have crafted equally diverse characters across those mediums. Featuring Babs Tarr, Wesley Chu, Michi Trota, Mary Robinette Kowal, Gabrial Canada, Professor Turtel Onli and Danny Bernardo.

SATURDAY

From the Top Down: Creating Space for Diverse Voices: 2:45-3:45; S403: The desire for wider representation in geek culture has never been higher, but Artists and Creators aren’t the only ones who bear responsibility for creating more diverse work. This Panel will explore the role of traditional gatekeepers – Editors, Publishers and other media Professionals – in promoting greater visibility for minority Creators and different perspectives, whether you’re creating an anthology, choosing Guests for a Podcast or Panel or searching for new Writers and Artists. Panel sponsored in part by the Chicago Nerd Social Club.

Yellow Fever, Yellow Peril and the Yellow Ranger: Asian Americans in Geek Culture & History: 4:00-5:00; S405A: From otaku Fan culture to the myth of the “model minority,” there’s a rising interest in, enthusiasm for and host of assumptions about Asian Americans in geek culture. How have Asian Americans been represented in popular culture? What effect does this have on Creators and Fans? How does one’s ethnic identity affect the art we create and the way we consume it? Join Asian American Comic Writers, Geek Enthusiasts, Bloggers and Musicians for an interactive discussion on Asian Americans in geek history. Panel sponsored in part by the Chicago Nerd Social Club.

Hip-Hop & Comics: Cultures Combining: 7:15-8:15; S404: Hip-Hop and comics reflect each other in many ways – graffiti and album covers incorporate superheroic imagery, Rappers adopt secret identities and grandiose aliases, Writers base their characters in urban settings and Artists draw on Hip-Hop’s rich visual vocabulary. Here, Patrick A. Reed (of Depth Of Field Magazine and ComicsAlliance) brings together Graphic Artists and musical luminaries to discuss the deep ties between these two creative cultures.

SUNDAY

Coming Out Cosplay – LGBT Community Panel: 1:30-2:30; S405B: Alexa Heart, a transgender cosplay model, will discuss her decision to transition with the support of the cosplay and geek communities. She’ll cover the obstacles she’s faced and how she has used these challenges to help push for equality for everyone in the geek community and beyond.

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Mea Culpa: Let’s Try This Again… http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/22/mea-culpa-lets-try-this-again/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/22/mea-culpa-lets-try-this-again/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39524 by The Racialicious Team Yeah, we know. You can say it– we won’t be insulted: It’s been a pretty quiet few months here at Racialicious. And by ‘quiet’ we really mean dead aside from the occasional burst of entertainment driven genius from our managing editor, Arturo Garcia. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, if you like things like […]

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by The Racialicious Team

Yeah, we know. You can say it– we won’t be insulted: It’s been a pretty quiet few months here at Racialicious. And by ‘quiet’ we really mean dead aside from the occasional burst of entertainment driven genius from our managing editor, Arturo Garcia. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, if you like things like paying rent and somehow living in three major cities) all of us, Latoya, Kendra, and Arturo, have full time day jobs in various fields and didn’t have the time to dedicate to daily posting on The R like we’d had in the past. So while Latoya’s been killing it at Fusion, bringing us things like this mental map with Carl Jones, while Art’s been writing daily at Raw Story, and while Kendra’s been making stupid youtube videos with her college friends, Racialicious has laid dormant.

In an effort to change that –starting with Monday’s post on Netflix’s Daredevil (spoiler alert)– Kendra and Art are happy to welcome Tope Fadiran on board as our new contributing and submissions editor. Tope (@graceishuman) has joined us before for chats on Scandal and protecting white kids from history, and can be found on other corners of the internet like Time.com  or her own blog Are Women Human. Your submissions should still go to team@racialicious.com, but for the most part you’ll now be hearing back from Tope. You’re all in great hands.

You’ll notice that I said ‘your submissions’. First, an apology to those who have been diligently emailing us over the past 2-3 months. As mentioned above, the Racialicious Team has been pretty busy with our daily lives and our response and edit rate has been deplorable. We love our readers and our contributors too much to let this go by without acknowledgement and a huge mea culpa. We’re sorry and we’re going to do better.

With Tope jumping aboard we are happy to announce that we are actively accepting, editing, and posting submissions. Again. You’re going to want to check out our submission guidelines (here) before you hit send, but rest assured you’ll hear back from the team.

We’re looking forward to spending the summer reconnecting with our readers, starting with a trip out to C2E2 in Chicago this weekend with Kendra. A con preview post will be up tomorrow, and we’ll be back on a regular posting schedule starting in May– more details to come! In the meantime, let’s all make Tope feel welcome with a hearty applause and a  flood of incoming submissions.

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A Fridge Grows In Hell’s Kitchen: On Daredevil’s Major Misstep http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/20/a-fridge-grows-in-hells-kitchen-on-daredevils-major-misstep/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/20/a-fridge-grows-in-hells-kitchen-on-daredevils-major-misstep/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39500 By Arturo R. Garcia Enough time has probably passed that most of us can now consider Marvel’s new Daredevil adaptation in full — both the good and the bad. And make no mistake, the good has been very good at times. In fact, I suggested on the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast that this show, […]

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By Arturo R. Garcia

Enough time has probably passed that most of us can now consider Marvel’s new Daredevil adaptation in full — both the good and the bad. And make no mistake, the good has been very good at times.

In fact, I suggested on the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast that this show, along with Orphan Black, The Flash and arguably Arrow, has introduced enough non-mainstream “prestige” shows that calls for a set of separate sci-fi/fantasy Emmys should be taken seriously.

But, like a hurdler tripping and landing chin-first near the finish line, Daredevil’s 12th episode closes on a note that is less “shocking” than it is disappointing. And par for the course with the comics industry in all the wrong ways.

SPOILERS under the cut.

The goal of the final few minutes in “The Ones We Leave Behind” isn’t hard to imagine: as the conflict between Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) intensifies, showing casualties on each side is probably to be expected.

Vondie Curtis-Hall as reporter Ben Urich in “Daredevil.”

But following up the deaths of Fisk’s attendant Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) and Murdock’s client Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado) by killing off Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) is a miscalculation. Worse yet, it’s one that was apparently ordered capriciously.

“I wish I had claimed responsibility for that,” showrunner Steven DeKnight told IGN. “I thought it was a very powerful decision. It was a Marvel idea. When I came in and took over the show from Drew [Goddard], they pitched me the broad strokes of the season. And towards the end of the season it was always written in code: ‘Wilson Fisk sends Ben Urich on vacation.’ I had the same reaction; I go, ‘Wow, killing Ben Urich, such a mainstay of the Marvel Universe.’ And they told me, ‘Yeah, Marvel asked to kill Ben Urich because they wanted to set up the feel that, despite everything you know about the comics that in this world, it’s very much everything goes.’”

The first, more immediate issue with this creative choice is the aftermath. After Urich’s death, this is the most charitable portrait of the show’s core ensemble:

(L-R): Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), Claire (Rosario Dawson), Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson).

We say “charitable” because Rosario Dawson was really more of a guest star. She only appeared in a handful of episodes. Take her out of that picture and you have a New York City-based show in 2015 that is virtually all-white. How unique.

The issue is compounded when the deaths of both Urich and Cardenas are used as fodder for Karen Page’s (Deborah Ann Woll) grief and Murdock and partner Foggy Nelson’s (Elden Henson) resolve. In a way, it’s a backhanded achievement: the show hands viewers a more diverse version of the trope Gail Simone famously dubbed Women In Refrigerators.

Urich’s death is the exclamation point on the show’s lackluster — bordering on misinformed — treatment of journalism as a profession. Put bluntly, the complaints from Urich and his editor about the divide between print and online media seem tone-deaf. Not only would the Bulletin have an online presence in today’s landscape, but stories like Urich’s reporting on the Union Allied corruption scandal would be a selling point. Did someone inform DeKnight and Goddard that there are still Pulitzers for investigative reporting?

Moreover, even listicle-friendly sites like Buzzfeed place investigative reporting at a premium, alongside new political mainstays like Politico, Talking Points Memo, and Think Progress, to name just a few. So a seasoned journalist like Urich wouldn’t absolutely need to start his own blog — a story on Fisk’s dealing would draw attention from the very platform the Bulletin likes to malign. And it takes a lot for any reporter not to be aware of that these days.

This is one instance where it’s unfortunate that DeKnight didn’t push back against the Marvel mandate, because he’s correct in saying that Urich delivers something valuable in Marvel’s cast of characters: a POV figure who is just independent enough from the heroes’ entanglements to not only guide readers/viewers, and credible enough to ask the right questions of anyone from heroes like Daredevil:

… to less-scrupulous media figures like J. Jonah Jameson:

Viewed through this lens, the new Urich could have become the successor to Phil Coulson’s position as the MCU’s top non-powered character. But now we’ll never know, because contrary to DeKnight’s assertion, that’s not “powerful,” it’s perplexing. And if that’s the kind of worth we’re going to see for characters of color not named Luke Cage in Marvel’s slate of Netflix-only series, it’s not going to differentiate it very much from regular television.

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Event + Podcast Spotlight: The Soul Glo Project http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/16/event-podcast-spotlight-the-soul-glo-project/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/04/16/event-podcast-spotlight-the-soul-glo-project/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:00:23 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39508 By Emily Schorr Lesnick Walk into a comedy club or watch a Comedy Central  special and you might drown in a sea of Whiteness; a sea of White maleness. With Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah hosting late night shows, the tide is turning, but those two shows stick out as anomalies because of the overwhelming […]

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The-Soul-Glo-Project

By Emily Schorr Lesnick

Walk into a comedy club or watch a Comedy Central  special and you might drown in a sea of Whiteness; a sea of White maleness. With Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah hosting late night shows, the tide is turning, but those two shows stick out as anomalies because of the overwhelming presence of White faces. While there is certainly diversity within White men, there can also be a lot of similarity.

Six years ago, Keisha Zollar, a New York comedian and actor, set out to create other pools of comedy. She created The Soul Glo Project, a diversity variety show whose title is a nod to the jeri curl product in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America. “Soul Glo was a show built on diversity that started in the East Village of New York,” says Zollar. “It was often a complaint of many performers who didn’t fit the strict, improv or sketch aesthetic that they wouldn’t get stage time.  The Soul Glo Project was born out of myself, Rob King and Horse Trade Theater wanting to make a more diverse performing community.”

Soul Glo is an inclusive comedy variety show, featuring diversity in the type of acts and the background of performers. “As an immigrant whose first culture is not American, I found some comedy shows and their themes to be alienating,” said NYC-based comedy performer and Soul Glo co-host, Anna Suzuki. “But when I joined the Soul Glo team as a producer, I was immediately embraced as a vital part of the mission; my voice mattered. It’s been a very gratifying experience.”

Soul Glo started in the East Village at Under St. Marks in 2009, moved to the Upright Citizens Brigade in 2011, and is now moving to Silvana in Harlem for a renaissance. “We hope to create an positive, low cost comedy experience to build a sense of community in Harlem,” shares Zollar.

Soul Glo prides itself on its range of performers, from folks getting on stage for the first time to more well-known performers, like Roc Nation’s Cipha Sounds, SNL’s Natasha Rothwell, Mulaney’s Seaton Smith and performers you don’t know (yet) who got on our stage and said “this is my first time doing stand up.” Audience member Johnnie Jackow reflected on the show: “Each performer shared his/her comedic talents that was not only incredibly funny but also so relatable. Its truly amazing to see how a packed house can roar with laughter from each performance. Yes the show highlights diversity in comedy but how our experiences cross color lines I think shows how more alike we are than different.”

The Soul Glo Project also launched a podcast as a forum for longer conversations about diversity and identity in comedy. The podcast, available on iTunes and Soundcloud, has featured comic Hari Kondabolu, Racialicious’ Kendra James, reality TV star Sabrina Vance, creator and actor Jen Bartels from TruTV’s Friends of the People, and The Experiment Comedy’s Mo Fathelbab.

The Soul Glo Project has a free live show coming up on Monday, April 20 at 7PM at Silvana in Harlem, NY. The show, celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, will feature stand-up comic Sheng Wang, spoken word artist Kelly Tsai, J-pop group Azn Pop and have improv led by Catherine Wing and Nicole Lee.

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An Empty Panel: On The Nightly Show’s Diversity In Comics Discussion http://www.racialicious.com/2015/03/23/an-empty-panel-on-the-nightly-shows-diversity-in-comics-discussion/ http://www.racialicious.com/2015/03/23/an-empty-panel-on-the-nightly-shows-diversity-in-comics-discussion/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:00:31 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=39477 By Arturo R. García You would think that a discussion of comics and diversity on The Nightly Show would be a home run. You would be wrong. We hate to call into question fine sites like Remezcla and The Mary Sue. But after watching the episode twice, it’s hard to imagine what show they were […]

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By Arturo R. García

You would think that a discussion of comics and diversity on The Nightly Show would be a home run.

You would be wrong.

We hate to call into question fine sites like Remezcla and The Mary Sue. But after watching the episode twice, it’s hard to imagine what show they were watching this past Thursday.

Larry Wilmore’s introduction sets the uneven tone for the rest of the episode. While he rightly describes the crux of the discussion — race, gender and pop culture — he refuses to do so without regurgitating the most played-out stereotypes about people with geeky interests, with lines like, “Hey basement dwellers, tell mom she can tuck you in later” and a banner reading Dork Diversity behind him.

On the bright side, panelist and renowned artist Phil Jimenez inadvertently(?) undermines Wilmore’s material during the discussion.

“It seems strange to me that we would partition race, gender and nerd, as if they were distinct things. All human beings are this combination of experiences and ideologies,” Jimenez says. “The idea that somehow being a nerd is separate from one’s religious or moral or political beliefs is strange to me. We all bring everything to our decision-making on a daily basis.”

Wilmore’s Othering of fandom bigots/misogynists hurts the discussion on multiple levels. His insistence on attributing their violence to “fear of change,” for example, minimizes the very real threats and abuse levied against fans who are not cis-white hetero males — like Batgirl fans, most recently, Batgirl fans. As Vox reported, it’s tough to describe offenders as outliers when white people in the U.S. already think race is discussed “too much.”

Marvel Content and Character Development Director Sana Amanat runs with the “fear of change” theory during the discussion.

“They don’t like it when their toys are played with,” she explains. “I don’t. I like my Barbies. I still have them. I’m okay with that … We’re just trying to show that we’re not trying to take away your toys, we’re just trying to show them in a different light.”

While the successes of not only Ms. Marvel, but the new woman Thor are commendable, it must be pointed out: one of the reasons white fans feel entitled to keeping “their toys” intact is because Amanat’s company, along with DC Comics, chose to build their part of the comics industry by making the white toys seem more important.

For decades, white characters, creators and executives have been placed at the forefront of both companies. And when called on it, the company line went something like this:

Without acknowledging that context, corporate comics makers can’t be trusted to lead discussions on race any more than, say, coffee-making conglomerates

To be fair, the episode didn’t seem built to handle this. With roughly 7 minutes of panel time to spread among four guests plus Wilmore, there was no chance to follow up on Jean Grae’s remarks on being introduced to comics by her older brother, emphasis mine:

“I didn’t really get to see anyone who looked like me or represented me,” Grae said. “I’m from South Africa, so everyone was like, ‘Right, right, Storm, Africa,’ which is kind of the reason why I didn’t choose that as my name.”

That’s a great starting point for talking about why that matters to fans of any age and any community. But it gets lost as the show transitions to the “Keep It 100″ segment, which took it easy on the panel, compared to other installments.

At the same time, Wilmore provided the show’s strongest moment early on when he takes down Michelle Rodríguez’s decision to join the Patricia Arquette Corps, as well as her laughable attempt to claim she was taken “out of context” when she said POC should “stop stealing all white peoples’ superheroes.”

“I do see your point,” Wilmore says. “Minorities should come up with original projects, instead of relying on lazy franchises. And by the way, make sure you catch Michelle in the seventh installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, Furious 7.

At a time when race-related panels at conventions can get awfully 101 awfully fast, some of that kind of justifiable bite might have boosted Thursday’s discussion and forced the Big Two to truly Keep It 100 regarding some of their past choices. Let’s hope that, like anything fandom-related, we get a sequel to Thursday’s show that’s closer to Wrath of Khan than Into Darkness.

The panel discussion can be seen in its entirety below.

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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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