Tag Archives: Brooklyn

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Always Foreign, Always Brown: Crown Heights-based activist DJ Ushka on growing up in Thailand, gentrification, global bass, and Edward Said

By Guest Contributor Rishi Nath, cross-posted from Open City Magazine

Crown Heights-based activist DJ Ushka. All images by Nabil Rahman.

[Editor's Note: This is Open City's second installment of "Lyrics To Go," a collaboration between writer Rishi Nath and multimedia journalist Nabil Rahman . The series features conversations with contemporary musicians whose life and work intersects both Asian-American communities and New York City neighborhoods. Click here for DJ Ushka's special mix for Open City readers.]

These days, DJ Ushka seems to be everywhere at once. She is all over Brooklyn, whether opening for Sundanese vocalist Alsarah in Stuyvesant Heights, deejaying and booking the monthly iBomba party in Williamsburg, or swooping in to save the AAWW PageTurner Festival party after a booked act canceled last minute. She also zig-zags the country, appearing at gigs in Boston, Philadelphia and Oakland. And that’s just weekends. During the day, she is a full-time staff member at the New York Immigration Coalition , where she handles communications and youth development.

Born Thanu Yakupitiyage, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Ushka grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. She attended college in western Massachusetts, where she was turned on to post-colonial theory. From her spacious, dimly lit living room in Crown Heights, she described how that experience, a decade ago, changed her.

“It was the first time that I really started to understand concepts such as Orientalism, through Edward Said,” she said. Her laptop, attached to speakers and headphones, was open and glowing on the coffee table in front of her as she spoke. A poster proclaiming “Stop Racial Profiling,” hung on the wall behind her.
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Red Hook Summer: On Post-Soul Culture And Spike Lee Talkin’ Smack

By Guest Contributor Naomi Extra

What shocked me most while watching Red Hook Summer was its striking similarity to the films of Tyler Perry and T.D. Jakes whose work Lee has openly criticized. In fact, many reviewers have put the film right in line with Perry’s films by describing it as a church movie. Red Hook has been criticized as preachy, messy in narrative structure and development, and sensationalist. All are valid critiques. They also seem ironic in light of the ongoing beef between Perry and Lee, which was ignited when Lee referred to the films of Perry and the like as “coonery and buffoonery.” And of course, the media loves this sort of melodrama.

Jules Brown as Flik in Red Hook Summer. Courtesy: aceshowbiz.com

Spike Lee’s newest film takes place in the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn, where Flik (Jules Brown), a teenage boy from Atlanta, goes to stay with his grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters) for the summer. Flik is a teenage Afro-Punk type: vegan, middle-class, afro-hawk, suburban speak. In contrast, Bishop Enoch is a Bible-thumping preacher and active member of his community. Amidst heavier themes of class, politics, religion, and generational difference, a budding romance between Flik and Chazz (Toni Lysaith) is also threaded through the film.

The question is, could Red Hook be Spike talking more smack, mocking the immensely popular church films of Tyler Perry and the like? I wouldn’t put it past him. When recently asked about the ongoing feud, Lee responded with a request: “No more Tyler Perry questions please” and later “peace and love, leave it at that.” And although he doesn’t speak of Perry directly, in a radio interview, Lee describes the film’s inception as a conversation between him and writer James Mc Bride. The two were discussing what they “felt was a sorry state of African American cinema.” With this film, Lee seems to have found a way to squash the beef and have the last word.

Mild SPOILER ALERT under the cut.
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Dating a Trans Man: Negotiating Queerness And Privilege [Love, Anonymously]

Courtesy: The Aggressives and Elixher.com

By Guest Contributor Aja Worthy-Davis, cross-posted from Elixher

“Such a Black man.”

It has become a catchphrase around my house. Guaranteed to elicit an amused (and possibly annoyed) eyeroll from my partner. An inside joke that might seem odd to someone who didn’t know us–a Black heterosexually-presenting couple. Those who do know us know there’s more to the story.

I’m a queer Black femme prone to dating middle-aged divorced hippie White guys due in equal parts to my upbringing, my personality, and my personal baggage. He’s a Black man who has dated more than his share of middle-aged divorced hippie White lesbians. And (I guess this is the kicker) when we met in our staunchly Catholic high school over a decade ago, he was a girl. He was also my laid-back butch best friend I couldn’t stop thinking about when I kissed my boyfriend. We skipped after-school activities and hung out in the Village holding hands. We giddily queered-up our Drama Club performances to culturally-sheltered teenagers who wouldn’t recognize queer if the Gay Pride Parade marched in front of them. We identified with Willow and Tara, which I think says it all. Watching Pariah was like watching our relationship played back at us, only we were Annie On My Mind chaste.

Skip eleven years later, my Black butch Dawson Leery is now a man. A boxers-wearing, heavy-things-carrying, messy, shaving, will-you-buy-me-a-wave-brush-Honey Black man.  When he made the physical transition, it was not all that surprising to me—he was never really comfortable in a woman’s body.  And he had long been identifying as “genderqueer” in LGBTQ spaces. This seemed like the logical next step, and I was happy for him.

But that’s easy to say because we weren’t in a monogamous domestic partnership (complete with the gentrified-Brooklyn condo and standard lesbian cats) back then. Even three years ago, it seemed like our story had forever to unfold. But once we were on the same wavelength, things moved quickly. My personal life sped up to where I thought it would slowly lead, and my mind was so wrapped-up in the practical questions (Where will we live? When will we go to graduate school? Who will do the cooking?), that it totally bypassed the more personal introspective question about how it would change my personal and relationship identity to be perceived as straight and be with a Black man.

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Dear Lena Dunham: I Exist

By Guest Contributor Kendra James

Lena Dunham (third from left) and cast of Girls. Courtesy: Rolling Stone.

The advertisements for the new HBO series Girls presented us with main character Hannah referring to herself (while on drugs) as “The Voice of a Generation.” Salon calls the show a “generational event,” and other reviewers rave over the series’ realism and call it “spot on,” and the characters’ feature by Emily Nassbaum in New York Magazine refers to it as “FUBU: For Us, By Us.”

But which “us” are you talking about? And how is this a realistic? I asked myself, as I struggled to figure out exactly what I had in common with these four white girls.

I only became more confused when I remembered what Dunham and I actually do share.
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‘It Did Not Start With Stonewall’ Resurfaces After Five Years

By Arturo R. García

Over the past month, this video, “It Did Not Start With Stonewall,” has been picking up steam online – we first saw it on Elixher – which is curious, given that it was originally uploaded in 2007. In the clip, a group of black women offers perspectives on life in the LGBT community in New York City in the era surrounding the seminal Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

But it cuts off just after the three-minute mark, leaving people wondering where it came from – and whether there are more interviews like these out there. Racialicious contacted the person who uploaded the video Wednesday night, so we hope to have an update soon. In the meantime, the transcript to the video is under the cut.

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Welcome to East Willy B! [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Sometimes there’s love in laughter. And the cast and crew bringing the new web series East Willy B have a lot of love for the real-life neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and (most) of the fictional characters.

The series’ heart is Willie Reyes, Jr. (Flaco Navaja) the 30-something Puerto Rican-proud bar owner who inherited the business from his dad, including the barfly crushing on him, Giselle (Caridad “La Bruja” de la Cruz). Wille is trying to keep his bar, which has served as the nabe’s hangout and nerve center, from closing down due gentrification in the form of his ex-girlfriend Maggie (April Hernandez) and her new white beau (and Willie’s longtime rival), Albert (Danny Hoch), and the incoming white hipsters looking for cheap(er) rent.

Transcript of the premiere episode after the jump.

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The Latoya Tour: “Ain’t I a Woman” In Brooklyn

If you’re in the area tonight, please check out Latoya–who’s teaming up with Elizabeth Mendez Berry–refusing the silence about race, feminism, and activism. :-)

Galapagos Art Space
16 Main Street
Brooklyn, NY

Ain’t I A Woman: Women of Color Speak On Activism
April 11th, 2011, 6PM – 12AM
Mixer 6PM ** Panel 7-9PM ** Party 9-12AM

Long after Sojourner Truth pondered the question – “Aint I A Woman?” we continue to face a white supremacist culture that undermines women of color, young women, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. We’re convening this panel to ignite a discourse about the experiences of women of color in the feminist movement and beyond. On this night, six outstanding feminists and activists will go head-to-head to discuss race in the feminist movement today.

We know that the movements to eradicate racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism are inextricably connected. We reject the silencing and subjugation of women of color and aim to create a safe and courageous space to raise our voices, confront tensions, celebrate our triumphs, create collective solutions and share our stories. Through this sharing, we can create a united front so that, instead of surviving through silence, there can be a dialogue on how to battle institutionalized oppression.

Speaking our truth is crucial to our survival. By gathering together and learning from our shared and individual tales of love and struggle, we will each emerge with new perspectives that will enable us to engender the change we envision for the world.

In the words of bell hooks, “There can be no feminist revolution without an end to racism, classism, ageism…”

Round One: Latoya Peterson, Founder of Racialicious
Elizabeth Mendez Berry, Journalist

Round Two: Lori Adelman, Program Associate at International Women’s Health Coalition
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, Reproductive Rights Activist

Round Three: Jessie Daniels, PhD, Author and Sociology Professor at Hunter College
Anna Holmes, Jezebel Founding Editor

Music by DJ Lobotomy Copter throughout the night, http://on.fb.me/gRnBsN

**$10 Suggested Donation (but no one turned away for lack of funds)
**We encourage live tweeting during the event using the hastag, #AIAW

** For more info, contact Morgane at refusethesilence@gmail.com with the subject line: “Ain’t I A Woman”

Price: $10 to help us cover reservation costs, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Culturelicious Open Thread: Lauryn Hill and Fan Expectations In A Down Economy

We do the best we can with what we have. All those who aren’t happy, you’re always to go back and ask for a refund … I apologize for being late, but there’s a lot that goes on to get this out to you.
- Lauryn Hill, Dec. 28 performance in Brooklyn

By Arturo R. García

While not being race-centric per se, I did want to hear from the Lauryn Hill fans among us – especially if you went to the Dec. 28 show that started more than three hours late.

After some fans booed Hill when she finally took the stage – On The Red Carpet has video here – she said, “I spent my entire 20s sacrificing my life to give you love. So when I hear people complain, I don’t know what to tell you.”

But the question that’s been sticking in my mind since reading about that show is this: given that people went to see her in the wake of the snowstorm that hit New York over Christmas weekend, and the economy being what it is, when does fan expectation become entitlement? And when does showmanship cross over into self-indulgence?

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