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In His Own Words: B.B. King (1925-2015)

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

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Henry Zbyszynski, via Flickr

The Hollow Promise of “Inclusivity”: Saida Grundy and Boston University

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.

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Watch: Jay Smooth and Race Forward Break Down Systemic Racism

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.

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Why History Supports The #DiversifyAgentCarter Campaign

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.
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JAMES AUSTIN KERR, HAYLEY ATWELL, NEAL MCDONOUGH, EDDIE SHIN

Unburied but Forgotten: Asian Bodies in Agent Carter

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. Continue reading

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R-oundtable: Avengers – Age of Ultron

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.

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New Netflix Documentary Could Have Nina Simone Fans Feelin’ Good

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]

Nerd Roundup: Brief Dispatches From C2E2

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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Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World