By Guest Contributor Brooke Binkowski, cross-posted from BrookeBinkowski.com
A rally at the U.S.-Mexico’s Otay border crossing Monday morning aimed to reunite families pulled apart by deportations.
First, the caveat: ANY entertainment industry awards show never gets anything right and really serves as an excuse for bigwigs to have one giant, self-celebratory circle jerk honoring the biggest sellers and most influential labels. That said, here’s the Latin Grammys’ dirty little secret: the vast majority of Latin music sold in the United States is Mexican regional music: banda, mariachi, ranchera, norteño, narcocorridos — all of it. It constantly counts for more than half of all Latin music sales in el Norte, per the figures of the Recording Industry of America, and is what has driven Spanish-language radio’s rise across nearly all the United States. Its artists are the ones continually, easily selling out Madison Square Garden and performing in the Rose Bowl at the same time they’re taking a bus to perform in tiny towns across the Midwest and South. Mexican regional’s reach makes it el rey of Latin music in the United States–no contest.
Yet the Latin Grammys always insults its industry’s biggest moneymaker. Case in point: the Mexi performers I mentioned earlier count as only three of the 15 scheduled performers for the evening (and if you take out Lafourcade, who’s not technically of the Mexican regional genre, it’s only two), accounting for a pathetic 20 percent of all performances in a country where people of Mexican descent make up more than 60 percent of the total Latino pozole pot. There are only five awards categories devoted to Mexican regional music — sh-t, more than five distinct musical genres exist in Mexico City alone, from sonidero to rock urbano — while seven are given to Brazil, a beautiful, sonically rich country that nevertheless sells sells as much music combined in the States as Vicente Fernández can sell in one night from a street corner in Huntington Park.
– From “Why the Latin Grammys Remain America’s Biggest Anti-Mexican Sham,” by Gustavo Arellano
[h/t Sara Inés Calderón]
By Arturo R. García
With All Saints Day & Día De Los Muertos approaching, Mayitzin’s 2012 look at the holiday is worth a look for anybody curious about how the tradition has evolved into the day of rememberance we know today. (Also, the musical selection that opens the video, the 4th Movement of “Noche de los Mayas” (Noche de encantamiento) as performed by Mexico City’s Philharmonic Orchestra, is definitely a compelling choice.)
Lastly, because the legend of La Llorona still rings out around this time of year, two versions of the song that bears her name, beginning with Chavela Vargas:
And a rendition by Lila Downs:
By Guest Contributor Brooke Binkowski, cross-posted from Brooke Binkowski.com
In early August, Mexico’s government destroyed the encampments in Tijuana’s riverbed after the notorious “El Bordo,” where homeless people had been living for years, became international news. A tent city soon sprang up nearby, in Tijuana’s Plaza Constitucion, and has housed homeless migrants, largely deportees, since.
Of these deportees, almost 40 percent have lived in the United States for several years and identify as at least partly American; at least 5 percent identify as indigenous Mexican and speak very little Spanish; many need mental health care or addiction treatment, and nobody wants to be there.
The encampment is administered by volunteers from Angeles Sin Fronteras, Angels Without Borders. They offer food, a temporary place to stay, bathrooms and makeshift showers, and free haircuts to those looking for work.
There are very few places that offer such services for the homeless and the “segun deportados,” the twice deported, who have absolutely nowhere else to go. The ones that do exist subsist on very little support from the Mexican government.
Everywhere, handwritten signs are tacked up that read: “No militarizar la frontera” – Don’t militarize the border.
Twitter and Facebook exploded with posts like ‘Our culture is not for sale’ and ‘Keep your corporate hands off.’
By late afternoon Disney released a statement saying it would withdraw its “Día de los Muertos” trademark applications.
Gustavo Arellano, author of the syndicated column “Ask a Mexican,” said, “The Latino market is such that already there were calls for protest, boycotts and all that and Disney knows better than to poke at the so-called ‘sleeping giant.’”
This is the story of modern Southern politics. From the end of Reconstruction through the civil rights revolution, the South was an almost uniformly Democratic region. In 1936, for example, Franklin Roosevelt won more than 98 percent of the vote in South Carolina. Race wasn’t the only reason for the South’s shift toward the GOP, but it was the biggest single driver. In 1948, northern liberals inserted a civil rights plank into the national Democratic platform, prompting a walkout of Southern delegations – which then coalesced around the third party Dixiecrat candidacy of Strom Thurmond. An uneasy truce between national and Southern Democrats was reached after that election, but it was untenable. When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the modern Southern GOP was born. Nationally, LBJ crushed Barry Goldwater in the fall of ’64, racking up more than 60 percent of the popular vote. But Goldwater carried five Southern states – winning 59 percent in South Carolina, 69 percent in Alabama and 87 percent in Mississippi.
It took a long time for the basic pattern established in ’64 to be reflected up and down the ballot, but today white Southerners are almost as loyal to the Republican Party as they once were to the Democrats. GOP presidential candidates customarily win more than 70 percent of the white vote in the South, success that in the past two decades has at last trickled down to the local and state legislative levels. This is particularly true in the Deep South, which encompasses South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Exit polling was intermittent last November, but in Mississippi Mitt Romney gobbled up 89 percent of the white vote; with Barack Obama winning 96 percent of the black vote, this translated into a 55-44 percent Romney win in the state.
In this environment, Democratic success in the Deep South is mostly limited to district-level races in majority black areas. A number of African-American Democrats represent the region in the U.S. House, with districts created and protected by the Voting Rights Act. But where white voters constitute majorities, affiliation with the Democratic Party is often the kiss of death for a candidate.
“So, you know, I figured it was a domestic-violence dispute,” Charles Ramsey told a reporterfor the ABC affiliate in Cleveland, explaining what happened after, as he put it, he “heard screaming. I’m eating McDonald’s. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house.” Ramsey, and others who gathered, helped her break open the door, kicking it from the bottom. She told them her name, Amanda Berry. She had been kidnapped at the age of seventeen, ten years ago. There were two other women in the house, Gina Dejesus, who is now twenty-three, and Michelle Knight, now thirty, who had also been held for a decade. There was at least one small child.
Ramsey’s 911 call is transfixing. “Yeah hey bro,” it begins, “hey, check this out.” His intensity, the McDonald’s shout-out, his undoubtedly loose paraphrase of Berry’s account (“This motherfucker done kidnapped me and my daughter”), and also his competence (he does a better job with the essentials like the address than the 911 operator) make him one of those instantly compelling figures who, in the middle of an American tragedy, just start talking—and then we can’t stop listening. (See Ruslan Tsarni, Ashley Smith.) But one phrase in particular, from the interview, is worth dwelling on: “I figured it was a domestic-violence dispute.” In many times and places, a line like that has been offered as an excuse for walking away, not for helping a woman break down your neighbor’s door.
This weekend, Cee found himself in the media again for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover cop, with conflicting reports on whether the officer was male or female. Monday morning, Cee went on Hot 97 to discuss the controversy. For over 40 minutes, Cee endured a verbal witch-hunt from his radio colleagues. Interviewed by Ebro Darden, and seemingly less concerned with the illegal activity of prostitution, Darden dramatically and repeatedly demanded to know if Cee was gay — as if he were accusing the deejay of murder. To soften the blow, Darden added, “we’re going to crack some jokes because you’re our brother.” And to mock Cee a bit more, another deejay, Cipha Sounds, played the house anthem “Follow Me,” a song known for its popularity in gay clubs.
Listening to the program, I thought to myself: If Cee is gay, embarrassment and a demand for the truth are not helpful. Who would shout they are “here and queer” during an interview like the one on Hot 97?
Clearly mocking their “brother” in crisis, the hosts sprinkled a little “we don’t care if you’re gay” babble — but it seemed as if they did care, all while enjoying interrogating Mister Cee, soaking up the glow of their “exclusive interview.” Cee sounded desperate, confused and weakly attempted to explain himself personally and legally. It was sad to hear; but this is the culture of hip-hop.
As deadly clashes between Islamist activists and authorities continue to escalate religious tensions in Bangladesh, the country’s telecommunications authority is making moves to silence bloggers deemed anti-Muslim or anti-state.
Award-winning blogger Asif Mohiuddin and three other bloggers have become the latest target of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, according to online news site online news siteTimesworld24.com [bn]. The commission recently contacted Somewhereinblog.net, the largest blogging platform in Bangladesh, requesting that the four blogs be taken down from the site.
In a report on its website, Somewhereinblog.net officially acknowledged that it had removed the four blogs in line with the government request.
The Bangladesh government formed [bn] a nine-member committee on March 13, 2013 to track bloggers and Facebook users who made derogatory remarks about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, a member of the committee, has requested information on a number of bloggers from different blogging platforms in an effort to ban certain writers considered insulting to Islam or anarchistic.
Conversations need to be had. But they’re not happening because the talking will be awkward, heated or uncomfortable. So, stupid me, I’ve been thinking about ways to start these dialogues. It seems to me that there’s a continuum of ways to talk about race, gender, class and other hot-button subjects. On one end, you have a sort of emphatic sincerity and on the other, you’ve got the sharp blade of satire.
The sincerity paradigm has manifested in things likeImitation of Life, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner orMenace II Society. Works in this tradition try to authentically highlight aspects of real life to create an enlightening melodrama. There’s an assumption of good faith that’s key to the success of this kind of work. Satirical creations throw good faith out the window. Things like The White Boy Shuffle, Bamboozled or Chappelle’s Show throw darts at the polite silence of mainstream culture’s inequalities. You may laugh, sure, but it’s always nervous chuckles that come with engaging with work like this. To some degree, the audience is a target of the joke, too.
What about games? One game that gets the sincerity angle right is Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. It doubles as an earnest look at a moment in history and a game that draws on real-world racial dynamics to shape its mechanics. So there’s something on the sincerity end of the spectrum. But I think the issues swirling around sincerity are stifling increased diversity in game creators and characters. People don’t want to be taken the wrong way, especially if they want to make games that somehow touch on race.
In a recent interview with UK Channel 4, Tarantino stated his goals and interpretation of the Oscar-nominated film’s impact: “I’ve always wanted to explore slavery … to give black American males a hero … and revenge. … I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they have not in 30 years.”
He went on, “Violence on slaves hasn’t been dealt with to the extent that I’ve dealt with it.”
My personal biracial experience growing up on both sides of segregated hoods, suburbs and backcountry taught me a lot about the coded language and arithmetic of racism. I was often invisible when topics of race arose, the racial adoptee that you spoke honestly in front of.
I grew up hearing the candid dirt from both sides, and I studied it. The conversation was almost always influenced by something people read or saw on a screen. Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret “otherness.” People see what they are shown, and little else.
It’s why my dad forced me to study and value history from an absurdly young age — to build a foundation solid enough to withstand cultural omissions from the curriculum and distortions from the media. It’s what led me to become a teacher of American and African history out of college. There is a glaring difference in outlook between those who have mined the rich, empowering truth about how we’ve come to be, and those who just accept that there’s only one or two people of African descent deemed worthy of entire history books.
If, like Tarantino, you show up with a megaphone and claim to be creating a real solution to a specific problem, I only ask that you not instead, construct something unnecessarily fake and then act like you’ve done us a favor.
Tuesday’s late-night TSN Sportscentre was hosted by Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim. There was a backlash on Twitter in 2012 when Ahluwalia and Karim, who are both brown men, debuted with the network. Tuesday was just as bad for comments that, rather than put a damning label on people, should just be called dumb.
One has to wonder where people are coming from when they cannot handle having two brown men narrating sports highlights. One can understand a disappointed reaction upon tuning in and not seeing the familiar faces of funnymen Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole at the anchor desk. But how does it go from that to this?
The report, released on Wednesday, said that the disappearances of some 149 people, many of them civilians, followed a pattern in which security forces detained them without warrants at checkpoints, homes or workplaces, or in public.
When families ask about their relatives, security forces deny that they were detained, or urge family members to look at police stations or army bases.
The group criticised former president Felipe Calderon for ignoring the problem, calling it “the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades.”
The report was a grim reminder of the dark side of the war on drug cartels that killed an estimated 70,000 people during Calderon’s six-year presidency. Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s current president, has vowed to take a different approach and focus on reducing violent crime and extortion rather than attacking the cartels directly.
“The Black and White Dialogue on race and culture in the United States has consistently ignored the existence of more than 150 million people of African ancestry in the other Americas. The total absence of Afro-Latinas/os from the Caribbean Mexico, Central America and South America in the consciousness of the national discourse in the United States, including in institutions that educate and inform the civil society of the nation, contributes to the absolute disregard of the presence and realities of African Diasporic communities within the U.S. national territory and aboard. This lack of recognition and omission of the history, contributions and lives of more than 150 million people of African ancestry, many of whom reside here in the United States renders their contributions and lives irrelevant.”
–Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora, “Afro-Boricua: Nuyorican de Pura Cepa,” page 75
“Of the estimated 11 million enslaved Africans brought to the New World from the late 1400s to the 1860s, most were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean, with only some 645,000 landing in the United States. “So when you’re talking about blackness, you’re really talking about Latin America.”
–Miriam Jimenez Roman
“¿Y Tu Abuela, Donde Está?: Multi-dimensional Afro-Latina/o Identities in the 21st Century” is an exhibition examining Afro-Latino identity and culture in a contemporary context. The title is appropriated from a popular phrase within the Spanish-speaking Latin American community that examines the racial and cultural heritage of people of African descent. Sometimes used as a biting remark towards Latinos who elect to identify racially and culturally as something other than “Black” or of African descent, the phrase alludes to the idea of individuals literally hiding their background by keeping their grandmother, presumably a dark-complexioned woman, in the back part of their homes where no one can see her. However, some Latinos have also appropriated the adage to proudly profess their African heritage. As North America’s population shifts and the rate of Latin Americans grows in the United States, there has been an increase in interest of the historical, cultural, cosmological and political narratives of Latina/os of African descent and those who racially identify as “Black.” But most importantly, there has also been a push by Afro-Latina/os for the acknowledgement of the existence of a population of millions of people of African descent living outside the U.S. in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The term “Afro-Latino” has also given rise to nuanced conversations about non-Spanish speaking Latin Americans from places such as Brasil and the Francophone Caribbean. CCCADI has been at the forefront of conversations about Afro-Latinos since its founding by Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, an Afro-Puerto Rican scholar, for the past three decades. As an institution, CCCADI is committed to delving deeper into this complex conversation to examine where Afro-Latina/os are today as individuals and as a community, particularly as younger generations boldly proclaim their Latino AND African identities.
HOW TO SUBMIT
By Arturo R. García
TRIGGER WARNING: Video contains footage from the shooting of Oscar Grant between :38-:58, between 3:25 and 4:02 and between 13:11 and 13:28.
Last week we mentioned that Ryan Coogler’s film Fruitvale had been picked up for distribution after becoming a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival. Now we know it’s leaving with the festival’s top honors, as well.