The minstrel show comes to your toy store

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Buffoonery alert! This is one toy I won’t be buying for anyone. Check out this video about a new line of dolls called Frogz:

I found the company’s web site and the sales copy is even more barf-enducing:

Frogz Hip Hop – Ride Wit Me
These S’up, Playaz?! Check out who’s in the hizzy!! This FROG has got the clothes, the moves, and the style to buss a move on ya! Press the button, and watch ‘em dance to the funky beat.

Hat tip to AllHipHop.com.

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links for 2006-12-06

Interview with ‘The Wire’s’ Sonja Sohn: Not ‘Your Typical Black Girl’

by guest contributor Wah-Ming Chang, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey

Like all the characters on the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire, Lieutenant Kima Greggs is a fascinating mix: an ass-kicking black lesbian cop in a department dominated by men. And as it turns out, the actress who plays her—Sonja Sohn—is just as complicated. A husky-voiced woman of African American and Korean parentage, Sohn (who’s straight, in case you’re wondering) got her start in the New York slam-poetry circuit (including the Def Poetry Jam) before moving on to the TV and movie game (check her out in Shaft). TMM’s Wah-Ming Chang recently caught up with Sohn to pick her brain about poetry, gay cops and why she’s not “your typical quote-unquote black girl.”

TMM: One of the things that really distinguishes you is your voice. It’s so sexy and husky. Most of us can sound that way only when we have colds, but your voice is just so sexy. Does it help you get roles?

SS: I think that everyone has a certain kind of energy that places them, and I think that my voice helps me in how people perceive me in the business. So, I guess you can say that it does.

How do you use it for effect in slam poetry? Does it help you in your acting and your performance in having that background?

I think every poet, no matter what type of voice they have, has to use their voice for different kinds of emphasis. I just think that’s a part of performance they should own. When it comes to acting, though, I don’t think it can be a conscious kind of thing, unless you’re just having a problem with projection, unless it’s a technical issue, like working with mikes and in theater. Other than that, it can’t be something that you’re conscious of, otherwise you’re just taken out of the character and out of the moment. Depending on the kind of poet that you are and your material, you use your voice as an instrument, whereas in acting, you use your whole body. But you definitely use your voice as a tool.

You work with the mike when you’re doing poetry, you do have to know your voice, and you have to know how it carries over the mike and how close you should be to it, and how to work with the mike. Because all you have at the end of the day onstage is your voice. If you are someone who uses your body, uses a lot of body language, you have that, too, but I was pretty much just a vocal person. I was very dramatic, which is pretty much how I think I segued into acting. My type of performance lends itself to the craft of acting. Continue reading

Corbin Bleu and Brenda Song bring diversity to The Disney Channel

by guest contributor Karen Gilmore

corbin bleuThe Disney Channel is adding more diverse faces in its program line-up. Corbin Bleu and Brenda Song are ones to watch. Corbin Bleu is one of the stars of the Disney Channel’s break-away hit High School Musical. The half Jamaican, half Italian star has found his stride in the the ‘tween and teen audience. He stars in the upcoming Disney Channel movie “Jump In” opposite of Akeelah and the Bee’s, KeKe Palmer. He recently signed a record deal and has an album slated for Fall 2007 release.

I find it a little sad that a couple of the most asked questions he gets according to his journal are: 1.) What is your ethnicity? and 2.) How does he get his hair like that? In an interview Bleu was aked what are some of the struggles for him in the entertainment business? His answer:

…A lot of times, they’re not looking for your type, especially because I’m mixed, especially. A lot of times they either want to go full on Caucasian or they want to go full on black. They either want somebody who is really black and from the street, and urban, and a little bit ghetto, or they want a Caucasian. That’s probably one of the hardest struggles for me.

Then there’s Brenda Song. The leading Asian-American face on The Disney Channel. She’s Thai-American and Hmong according to her website. She’s a regular cast member on the Suite Life of Zack & Cody and she starred in the Disney Channel original movie “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior”.

Although it’s nice to see her get a leading role, it would have been better if it wasn’t a martial arts movie. Our minds won’t melt if we don’t see a predominantly Asian cast do backflips.

Since The Disney Channel seems to groom its stars the old Hollywood studio style, we’ll probably be seeing Bleu and Song in various Disney related projects. And if they’re really blessed, they’ll get Hilary Duff type success and hopefully more interesting parts will be developed for them.

Cartoon about biracial conjoined twins

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Today’s random YouTube find.

Conjoined twins, one black, one white. With a black mother and a white father. The white twin is a killer skateboarder. The black twin can dunk a basketball like nobody’s business.

Gee, wonder why this animated series pilot never got picked up? It takes the twins obsession to a whole new level.

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links for 2006-12-05

Jen transitions out of New Demographic Co-Director role

by Jen Chau

jen chauPlease scroll down to download or listen to our latest episode of Addicted to Race, in which Carmen and I discuss this news.

This is the hardest decision I have made in a while. After more than two years of working with Carmen, co-directing New Demographic, co-editing Mixed Media Watch (now Racialicious), and then creating Addicted to Race and many more fabulous blogs (Race Changers, Anti-Racist Parent), I have decided to transition out of my Co-Director role.

In the past several months, our work has intensified exponentially. With the addition of several new projects this fall, Carmen and I have been contacted by more media outlets for commentary, we have been approached by more organizations interested in our workshops, and we have had the pleasure of engaging with more and more of you, our readers and listeners. However, New Demographic is not the only thing in my life that has picked up the pace — my work with Swirl (the non-profit I founded 7 years ago) and New Leaders for New Schools (my full-time job) has also become more demanding. In an effort to really do a couple of things well instead of spreading myself too thin, I decided that it made sense to focus on my work with Swirl and New Leaders for New Schools, knowing that New Demographic would be carried on by the more-than-capable Carmen!

So, Carmen will continue on as the Director of New Demographic. Given her talents and knowledge, I am confident that New Demographic will only continue to grow by leaps and bounds. I am excited to stay abreast of all of New Demographic’s projects to see how they transform and grow.

I am going to continue to contribute to the work of challenging society’s ideas around race and identity through my role as Founder/Executive Director of Swirl and with my Human Resources Director role at New Leaders for New Schools.

Swirl (www.swirlinc.org) is a social justice organization building and serving a mixed heritage community through support, education and empowerment. We are focusing on the re-launch of our new website, growing and expanding to serve more cities across the country, and building more programs for our growing diverse communities. I am glad to be able to devote more attention to the organization, really building off of our past successes and taking the time to be strategic about shaping the work we do, moving forward.

I am also very excited to be a part of an educational reform movement through New Leaders for New Schools (www.nlns.org). For the past six years, this organization has mainly served as a training ground for exceptional teachers to become principals. They go into schools that are struggling, where children aren’t at the reading and math levels they need to be, and help to turn those schools around. New Leaders operates with the belief that all (every single) child can achieve at high levels. There is a built-in drive to reach equality in education in order to level the playing field for children — no matter what background (class, race, etc). This is an important mission, and one that I am committed to. A just education must be provided if we are going to chip away at the racial disparities that exist. I have been at New Leaders for about one and a half years now, working on the HR Team and I have just recently been promoted to Director. I am glad to be helping to provide strong systems and processes to an organization that is going to change education as we know it.

I may no longer be an official part of New Demographic (other than being one of its proud founders :)), but I will very much be a part of the work we are all doing to challenge the status quo and break the harmful stereotypes that fuel many of our interactions with one another.

The last couple of years have been fulfilling and exciting for me. Seeing the change that is possible through connecting people of different backgrounds and experiences, seeing how eyes are opened by the offering of new information, realizing how many like-minded people are out there willing to challenge the ways we think about race…it has made me very hopeful. I am looking forward to seeing not only how New Demographic grows, but how more and more people will become a part of our growing community of people dedicated to challenging racism, moving us forward, and connecting people of different ethnicities rather than separating us. I may not talk with you regularly (through Racialicious, ATR, ARP, etc.), but I will be right alongside you, working to educate and to break down the racist ideals that still plague us today.

Thanks for the learning and the laughter. I’ll see you all out there, making a difference,

Jen

(btw, I encourage all who are interested in continuing to stay in touch with me or those who are interested in getting involved in community organizing around race and identity, to reach me at jenchau@swirlinc.org.)

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More black men in jail than college? Actually, no.

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Check out this video (hat tip to Keith Boykin) that debunks oft-cited statistics about black men. Stats like 1 out of 2 black men doesn’t graduate from college. Or that there are more college-age black men in jail than in school. And visit out this page, where they compile links to all the sources they used for their research.

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World