Tag Archives: New Orleans

The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.16.13

Years after Katrina, I lived in Evanston, Illinois and learned about the warm weather massacres in Chicago that happen every spring break or beginning of summer where dozens of high school kids get shot within matters of hours. And how nobody seemed to care. Living in New Orleans and near Chicago has left me jaded to what America prioritizes or chooses to ignore.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that the Mother’s Day Parade shooting has largely been forgotten. On Sunday, shots were fired into a crowd during a parade in the New Orleans 7th ward. Police said they saw three suspects running from the scene.

This is the largest mass shooting in the United States where the shooters were still at large after the crime was committed. Think about that for a minute. From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Fort Hill to Aurora, all the shooters were either killed or apprehended on site. But the person or people responsible for shooting 19 Americans are still free.

So why am I allowed to go outside? Where’s the city quarantine or FBI and Homeland Security presence for this act of “terrorism”?

This milestone is the result of a long-term increase in Hispanic college-going that accelerated with the onset of the recession in 2008 (Fry and Lopez, 2012). The rate among white high school graduates, by contrast, has declined slightly since 2008.

The positive trends in Hispanic educational indicators also extend to high school. The most recent available data show that in 2011 only 14% of Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds were high school dropouts, half the level in 2000 (28%). Starting from a much lower base, the high school dropout rate among whites also declined during that period (from 7% in 2000 to 5% in 2011), but did not fall by as much.

Despite the narrowing of some of these long-standing educational attainment gaps, Hispanics continue to lag whites in a number of key higher education measures. Young Hispanic college students are less likely than their white counterparts to enroll in a four-year college (56% versus 72%), they are less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to be enrolled in college full time, and less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree.

In the future, Roddenberry envisioned race and gender as non-issues. He put Japanese-American George Takei, as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, at the helm; African-American Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura, in the communications chair; and even attempted to make the Enterprise’s first officer a woman (studio executives rejected that unsavory idea, so the alien Spock took the job). The equality on the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge was a watershed moment, both in television history and in Americans’ understanding of social equality.

“Most television shows, at best, follow cultural trends. Star Trek had clear-cut ideals of its own,” wrote Joan Winston, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Sondra Marshak in their 1975 book Star Trek Lives!, the first and most definitive chronicle of the early years of Trek fandom. “No one would claim that Star Trek was the cause of all the improvement [we've made with problems like racism and sexism]. But it is still harder to believe that it had no effect, when twenty million people tuned in to Star Trek and saw Mr. Spock being treated as friend and brother by Captain Kirk, saw the black and the Russian and the Oriental [sic] and the Southerner and the others treating each other with respect and love.”

This heritage makes it all the more unfortunate that the progressive values of the original series seem to have faltered—and even begun trailing the mainstream—with the increasingly pointed absence of LGBT members in later iterations of the franchise, and their failure to treat sexual orientation like the same sort of non-issue that Roddenberry once envisioned for race and gender on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Remember, this isn’t an idle accusation—Richwine is part of a community of race and IQ researchers who maintain that IQ differences between racial groups are partially explained by genetics, despite the fact that there’s nothing genetic that makes someone “black” or “white.” It’s historical and social circumstance that places Barack Obama and Denzel Washington (or Ted Cruz and George Lopez) into the same category, not biology.

In other words, Richwine’s work—his premise that racial IQ differences have biological origins tied to the particular “races”—is racist by definition. There’s no other way to describe it.

It’s not yet halftime in another 13-hour workday for the hottest woman in American television: having a dress-fitting for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; picking songs and approving script edits for two of the most watched programs in prime time; taking her 1-year-old daughter to the doctor to investigate a mysterious bump.

And, most important of all, she’s got to finish writing the season finale to ABC’s hit Scandal, which draws 8.3 million viewers each week and brought in an estimated $100 million in ad revenue this season.

“If I don’t get the finale written today, someone’s going to blow my head off,” Shonda Rhimes jokes. It’s an apology for cutting short an interview at Sunset Gower Studios, the Hollywood lot where the show–about a Washington, D.C. “fixer” who’s sleeping with the President–is shot.

But the truth is they’ll wait as long as they have to for Rhimes–and for good reason. At 43 this single mother of two has become the Walt Disney Co.’s indispensable creator of an increasingly dispensable product: network television.

5 Questions For: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, On Political Diversity And Being “Better Off” [#DNC2012]

By Arturo R. García; cross-posted from Raw Story

This year’s political convention season, says MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, got complicated. Although she is in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention this week, she missed going to Tampa, FL, last week for its Republican counterpart because real life got in the way. Hurricane Isaac’s path, which initially threatened the convention before tearing through New Orleans, meant the Tulane University professor and her family had to evacuate their home, which they subsequently lost.

“In a certain way, the personal drama, set against the backdrop of the convention, helps to remind us that the personal is political,” she told Raw Story Wednesday. “On the one hand, we were having our own personal issues about wind and rain and a hurricane, but the fact is, levees are political, and disasters–whether or not aid is going to come to your community–has to do with who is making those choices from a political position. And so, certainly it’s been hard, but it’s helped to crystallize why elections really do matter.”
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Healing Histories Project Shows New Orleans Working Its Way Back

Tamara Jackson, president of SAPC Task Force Second Line. Courtesy: Healing Histories.

By Arturo R. García

A new interactive documentary is helping residents of the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans tell their stories of recovery–their own and their community’s.

Healing Histories is part of the America Healing initiative, launched by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation two years ago working with various organizations around the country. The documentary allows viewers to follow a group of residents involved in projects around Central City, like Tamara Jackson (pictured at right), who heads the SAPC Task Force Second Line brass band, fulfilling a dream she says she’s nurtured since watching them as a child.

“The brass bands give off a feeling that’s almost undescribable,” she says. “Usually when you hear the horn blow, people open their windows, open their doors, the anticipation is so great, it’s hard to describe. It’s the heartbeat of New Orleans.”

Formed during the Jim Crow era, Jackson says, Second Line has evolved from being a resource for raising burial funds for residents of color into helping raise awareness on a number of issues in post-Katrina Central City.

“Healthcare is an issue, crime is an issue. People are still trying to come back home, rebuilding has become a challenge. Our educational system is broken,” she says. “We advocate on behalf of the communities we parade in.”

There’s no YouTube links for the documentary, but the various short stories can be seen at the Healing Histories website.

Full disclosure: Racialicious’ publisher, Latoya Peterson, has worked for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

‘Ain’t Is A Real Word’: The Rise Of The MelaNated Writers Collective [Culturelicious]

Members of the MelaNated Writers Collective. Courtesy: Kristina F. Robinson

By Guest Contributor Kristina K. Robinson

In the few years preceding my acceptance into a Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, I had been a Katrina refugee, had a baby, grieved the death of his father and more. I had a thick skin and a lot to say. I couldn’t think of a better time to dedicate myself to my writing. I felt prepared to be critiqued. I was self-aware and detached from taking criticism of my work personally. I had done this as an undergraduate; it was all constructive; I was ready.

A friend of mine from college, already waist-deep in an MFA program in New York, warned me …

“I was fine, till the day this guy said my work was didactic and particularly concerned with victimhood. I cried afterwards. They are going to get you,” she said.

We laughed and I waited for my turn.

It came. A rare poem of mine that features dialect, received the royal treatment from a professor. She decided to take command of the workshop by asking if anyone would like to discuss the dialect. I was aware of the consequences of writing a poem filled with dialect for a majority-white audience. I was prepared for all the most critical things I thought I would hear.

I was ready to listen to people debate whether or not it is acceptable to write something that is hard for white people to understand. I was ready to hear that a person who spoke that way wasn’t someone they imagined would have high-brow ideas or spend time meditating the on the meaning of life. I was even prepared to hear someone say that dialect didn’t belong in poetry.

I was not prepared to hear this:

“I’m going to go out on a limb,” the professor began, “and say that I found the dialect phony, and therefore I didn’t believe the rest of the poem. The dialect isn’t even consistent, sometimes this speaker says gon’, sometimes she says gonna’…didn’t buy it.”

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Carnival Time With The Baby Doll Ladies

By Guest Contributor Jaz

New Orleans and Mardi Gras has fascinated me since my first trip to the Crescent City for Mardi Gras in 2008. While many people associate beads, booze, balconies and Bourbon Street with it, some local friends (thankfully!) exposed me to a rich tradition and history, particularly in the African-American community, that has nothing to do with “showing tits” for plastic trinkets.

The Baby Doll Ladies. Courtesy: Jaz

When I returned  to New York after that trip, I learned a bit about the sassy Baby Dolls in the documentary, All On A Mardi Gras Day, about black Mardi Gras, but I never found too much else. Fast forward to September, 2011: I heard Millisia White, founderof the New Orleans Society of Dance, on the New Orleans local radio station WWOZ (I listen online) discuss their upcoming 2012 Baby Dolls Centennial. They were looking for “women of excellence” to mask with them for Mardi Gras and join them throughout the year. I reached out to Millisia…and Chicava HoneyChild and I were chosen! We represented our own sassy troupe of women of color, Brown Girls Burlesque.

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The Racialicious Review of If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, Part 1

By Arturo R. García

The best, most brutal thing about Spike Lee’s If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise is how it flows, showing us not just how the various residents and systems in New Orleans are connected, but how the breakdown of help for it and the state of Louisiana in the wake of both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill has infected the community on a variety of levels.

To do this, Lee brings back many of the residents viewers met in his last foray to the Crescent City, When The Levees Broke; Phyllis Montana-Leblanc (who also appears in Treme) opens the film with the eponymous poem seen above. From there, Lee veers into what might have been used as a “happy ending” for another film: a look at the local celebration of the New Orlean Saints’ Super Bowl win. From there, the bloom off the rose starts falling, and the reality of the situation is brought home by local activist M. Endesha Jukali: “After the Superbowl on that Sunday,” he tells us. “I was gonna have to get up and figure out how I was gonna eat the next morning, how I was gonna pay my bills, how I was gonna be able to survive. I’m not a who dat. I’m a who is that?”

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“We Get Shit Done to Us:” Economic and State Sponsored Violence in Treme

by Latoya Peterson

*Spoilers Ahead*

Stiffer stipulations attached to each sentence
Budget cutbacks but increased police presence
And even if you get out of prison still livin
join the other five million under state supervision
This is business, no faces just lines and statistics
from your phone, your zip code, to S-S-I digits
The system break man child and women into figures
Two columns for who is, and who ain’t niggaz
Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
but you push too hard, even numbers got limits
Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret:
the million other straws underneath it – it’s all mathematics

—”Mathematics,” Mos Def, Black on Both Sides

STATE VIOLENCE

Near the beginning of the episode, Davis is in lock up after being harassed by the National Guard. Still, he yelled “Go the fuck back to Fallujah!” and got put in lock up as Toni tries to calm him down. Her grim reminder that the police and the guard are on edge serves as foreshadowing for later events – it is worthwhile to note that Davis is still more or less in one piece after the altercation.

Later on, Antoine is not so fortunate. After singing on the street with Annie and Sonny after his gig at the strip club, he drunkenly stumbles into a police car. The police react swiftly and brutally, kicking Antoine’s horn and punching him in the face. Horrified, Annie and Sonny look on, but cannot protest much for fear of retribution. The SMO squad is especially effective in this portrayal: at this point in the series, a police car in the background of a shot provides a sense of fear and foreboding. None of the characters as of yet have had a positive interaction with the police, which mimics the dynamics in a lot of communities of color – instead of a welcome sight, police presence means something horrible is about to happen -not crime prevention.

The concept of state violence extends further throughout the episode – Ladonna’s struggle to locate her brother within the criminal justice system, and being stymied at every turn also demonstrates the pernicious nature of state control over incarcerated citizens. Law enforcement appears to be unconcerned with who they have in custody and why – only that a prisoner is accounted for.

It’s understood that the police are under pressure – but what about the other citizens? Continue reading

Going Down to Treme

by Latoya Peterson

Last night, the first episode of Treme premiered on HBO.

I’ve already weighed in over at the Atlantic with my thoughts. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Watching the first two episodes of Treme, the meandering focus of the pilot quietly overshadows the revolutionary nature of the show. David Simon, David Mills, and Eric Overmeyer created a television drama showing working class and racial narratives that dare to reveal the perspectives of those involved. Known for breaking racial casting norms on television, The Wire introduced a cast of color to the overwhlemingly white ranks of a mainstream cable. The SMO squad recreated this dynamic again within Treme, placing the lives of affluent professors and investigators alongside musicians and bartenders, all making their way through the post-storm landscape.

As a viewer, Treme has the same feel as the critically acclaimed 90s comedy Roc, or August Wilson’s stage play Jitney–these works reveal the reality of African American lives, but are conducted with a measure of dignity, something that is hard to come by. One of Treme’s lead characters is named Ladonna, a Pam Grier type who is allowed to be both hard and vulnerable, shown as neighborhood enforcer, devoted daughter and sister, and loving mother, all during the same episode. These types of shows are about affirmation in a vacuum of constructed portrayals, of individually truthful narratives where people only expect to see pathology.

However, as a side bar to Racialicious readers, I watched the show with a group of other culture writers and bloggers – and their reactions were interesting to me in many ways. I’m still developing my thoughts on this, but I am wondering why there is an assumed cultural reference point for critique (most folks based theirs around the Wire, while I reached back to Roc and Jitney). I’m also suppressing the urge to randomly accost white people I see consuming media created by POC and ask them what they are getting out of it and why…not in a confrontational way, but wondering what conclusions they are drawing from the material.

But I digress.

Readers, did you tune into Treme? What were your thoughts?