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Dr. King on Optimism, Pessimism, and Race Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Did Paramount Cost Selma The Golden Globes?

By Arturo R. García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cultural Petiton: Help Save The Renny

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

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

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

A rendering of the replacement complex via Curbed

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

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

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

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

The full ballroom

The main stage with a scale comparison for size.

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

 

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Video: Jay Smooth On The Importance Of Protesting Against Police Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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Assimilation Aesthetic

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

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

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

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

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What I Learned About Tech and Business from Tyler Perry

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

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

“The guy who dresses like a woman?”

“The guy who makes those black films?”

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

Yes. That guy.

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

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

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

1- He Knows the Business He’s In

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

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

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

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Janet Mock and Maria Teresa Kumar Launch MSNBC Shows

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

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

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

Congratulations!

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What’s the Verdict? Racism and the Case Against Serial

By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious

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

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

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

So is she accountable for them?

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

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

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

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World