Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.15.07 PM

“We Build Our Village” – Ava Duvernay

[O]ur conversation shouldn’t be consumed with what he’s not doing or what they don’t value. We value us. We build our village. We grow stronger. We testify in commissions, and we write our own op-eds, and we push at every turn that’s necessary. We also blossom because we nourish one another. We focus on her—​the woman sitting right next to you. We focus on us. It’s equally as important. If we don’t do both, I think we lose. Toni Morrison, a prophet that I really admire, said the function of racism is distraction to keep you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining your reason for being. I think sexism is the same. Patriarchy is the same thing—​constantly having to justify our very presence. It’s something to think about. I believe that there are multiple ways we can attack the problems that we face as women in this industry. And fortifying one another and being food and fuel and fire for one another is one of those things.

– Ava DuVernay​, speaking at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.05.52 PM

Chescaleigh Breaks Down the Problems with Fetishizing Biracial Babies

Franchesca Ramsey is doing an interesting series for MTV called Decoded, debunking all kinds of racial stereotypes. This week, Ramsey takes on the racial bias that occurs when people think they are being complimentary. Explaining why people projecting their own thoughts on mixed race children is problematic, Ramsey also opens the floor to biracial people on Snapchat, allowing them to add their stories to the narrative.

When your transracially adopted child needs help…

Do not let the first person to show support be a peer or teacher. Your child should be getting emotional and psychological support at home. When your child comes home crying and tells you that a kid teased him/her about their skin color, facial features, hair texture, etc. PLEASE DO NOT respond with, “Just ignore them” or “It’s okay, Jesus loves you.” Call it what it is. VALIDATE your child’s experience. It’s called racism and it is unacceptable. Then discuss appropriate ways to respond to ignorant people.

From “Top Ten List for Transracial Adoptive Parents” by Joy Lynn Song Hoffman, 2013,  adopted through Holt International, 1968

(via AAWW_NYC Tumblr account)


Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 9.13.25 AM

Friday Hotness: The Hamilton Cypher

Words cannot express how hyped I am for Hamilton: An American Musical.

The sold out show (seriously y’all, all the tickets left are resales and they start around $350) is setting records on Broadway thanks to MacArthur winner Lin-Manuel Miranda’s defiant interpretation of Hamilton’s story.

Our own Kendra James reviews the play on the Toast:

This is part musical, part protest music; characters rap their way through songs with themes and lines that wouldn’t be entirely out of place at a Black Lives Matter protest (“and though I’ll never be truly free / until those in bondage got the same rights as you and me”) or a Bernie Sanders rally (“They tax us unrelentlessly / Then King George turns around and has a spending spree”). Both lyrics come from “My Shot,” a song that turns into a rallying cry for protest and revolution: “Rise up / when you’re living on your knees / you rise up / tell your brother that he’s gotta / rise up / tell you sister that she’s gotta / rise up.” In 2015, it was hard for me to watch so many brown bodies play this scene out onstage and not immediately think of the images that came out of Ferguson.

If Alexander Hamilton is the show’s protester/agitator, then Aaron Burr — with his advice of “talk less / smile more” — is the show’s Respectability Politic. Burr’s lines are quieter, more spoken word than the driving raps performed by Hamilton and the other revolutionaries like Lafayette, Hannibal, and Laurens. In “Farmer Refuted,” Hamilton shouts down the Tory representative Seabury rather like Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford with Bernie Sanders in Seattle, while Burr urges “let him be.” Burr’s philosophy is mapped out perfectly here: “Geniuses, lower your voices / You keep out of trouble and you double your choices / I’m with you but the situation is fraught / You’ve got to be carefully taught / If you talk you’re gonna get shot.” It’s a “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” strategy that mirrors accusations from GOP candidates like Ben Carson that the Black Lives Matter movement is too “divisive.”

And after the jump, more reading on Hamilton, including the inspiration behind the work and how the money flows. Continue reading

Rihanna's profile pic from the New York Times T Magazine.

#AskHerMore: On Rihanna and interviewing Black celebrities

Over on Clutch, the staff responded to a recent T Magazine profile of Rihanna with dismay, noting that the interview really isn’t about Ms. Fenty. The profile was written by artist and actress Miranda July, and appears to be more about July’s feelings about meeting Rihanna then the “revealing” conversation teased in the headline. Clutch explains:

For instance, when Rihanna recalls being sent to America as a teen, admitting, ‘That’s something I don’t think I could ever do. Send my only girl to another random country to live with people she’d just met,” July doesn’t ask what it felt like, or if she ever asked her mother about how she was able to let her baby go. Instead, we get a tidbit about a then-27-year-old July trying to figure out what to do with her life. […] I seriously doubt most people cared July “dressed for Rihanna” or that Uber Black was the “highest level of Uber [she’s] ridden” in.

The staffer also drew attention to the September New York Times Sunday* Magazine profile of Nicki Minaj, also noting the interview left much to be desired.

Reading the full profile, July is fangirling hard for Rihanna in the piece, so much so that that outside of breathless descriptions of all the other people she encounters on the way to Rihanna, it takes almost half the piece to get to Rihanna actually talking. (The same thing happened with Nicki’s interview – you are almost half-way through the piece before she speaks a word.) Some commenters, familiar with July’s work, praised the piece as yet another piece of performance art from an undoubtedly quirky artist making a larger point about society.

But part of me wonders if this is too generous of a reading. If this is the case, then July’s art came at the expense of the subject: Rihanna. This kind of treatment is frustrating because the writers don’t seem too concerned with understanding the core or essence of the celebrity they profile.

The number of celebrity “interviews” that offer little insight into the person while providing long indulgences of the writer’s stream of consciousness is an annoying trend. I felt a vague sense of deja vu while reading the T Magazine piece, and realized The Fader’s cover interview (that wasn’t) had the same problem – I have no more insight about Rihanna then I did when I started.

I wonder if that “omg can you believe I get to interview this person?” trope is just another kind of racially influenced narcissism – why center the words of the black woman I am speaking to when my inner dialogue is so much more interesting? There can’t be two subjects of a profile piece. And, interestingly enough, it’s anathema to the entire celebrity journalist code – the first rule is that you do not fan out, because it obscures your subject. If you are too busy fawning, you don’t ask follow up questions, and you don’t reveal anything new to your readers/viewers. (There are many issues with celebrity rags, but this sort of thing would not fly in People Magazine.)

July is also candid about the questions she backs away from, saying:

I wanted to ask her about being a young black woman with power in America but it seemed somehow wrong to speak of this; maybe she was postracial now. So I directed my question to a younger Rihanna, and asked if she had suddenly felt aware of race in a different way when she moved to New York.

But this too is a cop-out. I don’t think a journalist from Essence or Ebony would have shied away from this question. And I can understand a discomfort with asking questions about race, but why do a profile if you aren’t going to ask questions? Rihanna’s answer was still interesting but the writer left so much unexplored. I’m glad Miranda July got a few good selfies out of this, but the interview reads like one long missed opportunity.

This type of breathless coverage robs Rihanna of her voice. And when we take into consideration the swirl of stereotypes surrounding black female celebrities in particular, one would hope that interviewers would try harder to illuminate more of the inner lives of these successful and often misunderstood women.

*Corrected with correct magazine, thanks to @DearSpelenda on Twitter.


Amadeus, Amadeus!: Marvel’s Asian-American Whiz Kid Is The New Totally Awesome Hulk

By Arturo R. García

While it may not be that surprising to see that Amadeus Cho will be the title character in Marvel’s Totally Awesome Hulk series, it’s still an intriguing premise, especially considering this updated presentation of the character.

Continue reading

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 5.10.00 AM

“Nothing is more punk rock than surviving in a hungry sea of white noise:” Reflections on Afropunk

It’s hard not to feel something for Afropunk, even if your punk days were long behind you (if they ever existed at all.)

For me, a DC girl raised on hip-hop with a twist of go-go (but with enough friends drawing Xs on their hands to dabble a bit into other people’s rebellions), Afropunk is like gazing into the looking glass. I’ve never been, though I love that it exists. For me, Afropunk came a little too late – my black friends who were into skating and punk rock were memories long before James Spooner pulled the original film out of his mind and on to celluloid. I would have loved Afropunk when I was young, but grew up fine without it. At some point, we sort out who we are supposed to be – Afropunk wasn’t an identity then the way it is now. And after my friend Tiff sent three essays around the Afropunk festival, which happened last weekend in Brooklyn, NYC, I’m not sure what the Afropunk identity means anymore – and I’m honestly wondering if it was supposed to be an identity at all.

Over at Pitchfork, Hanif Abdurraqib bared his soul in a beautiful, moving essay on being black in punk space. You don’t need to identify with the music to feel what he’s saying. It opens with the kind of moment most of us have experienced:

I don’t remember the first time I heard a racist joke at a punk rock show. Rather, I don’t remember the first time I was grabbed into a sweaty half-hug by one of the laughing white members of my Midwest punk scene and told don’t worry about it. We don’t think of you that way. I don’t remember the first time I saw a teenage girl shoved out of the way so that a teenage boy her size, or greater, could have a better view of a stage. I don’t remember the first time that I made an excuse for being a silent witness.

And passages like this one hit home, cutting almost to the bone:

It is a luxury to romanticize blood, especially your own. It is a luxury to be able to fetishize violence, especially the violence that you inflict upon others. To use it as a bond, or to call it church, or to build an identity around it while knowing that everyone you can send home bloody will not come back for revenge. To walk home bloody. To walk home at night. At the time of writing this, a video is circulating of a black man being killed by police, on camera. Before this, there was another black man. And a black boy. And black women vanishing in jail. And black trans women vanishing into the night. I do not blame punk rock for this. I instead ask to consider the impact of continuing to glorify a very specific type of white violence and invisibility of all others in an era where there is a very real and very violent erasure of the bodies most frequently excluded from the language, culture, and visuals of punk rock. I ask myself who it serves when I see countless images showing examples of why “punk rock is a family”, images with only white men. It does no good to point at a neighborhood of burning houses while also standing in a house on fire. It is true, in 2015, the flames in the house of punk may climb up the walls more slowly than, say, the flames in the Fox News building. But the house is still on fire. Too often, the choice in punk rock and D.I.Y. spaces for non-white men is a choice between being tokenized, or being invisible.

Continue reading

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World