Tag: youth

August 21, 2012 / / celebrities

by Guest Contributor Annita Lucchesi, originally published on Tumblr

**Video Slightly NSFW***

Perhaps distracted by the picturesque scenery or the flash and glamor of Carnival, music critics have yet to say anything substantial on Nicki Minaj’s new music video, “Pound the Alarm.” Indeed, the overwhelming response has been to dismiss both the song and video as “virtually indistinguishable” from her previous single, “Starships,” and nearly all reviews have nothing to say other than run-of-the-mill comments on the beauty of the setting and Minaj’s physical attributes (see: MTV, Billboard). Fuse even went so far as to describe Minaj as a “bikini wearer extraordinaire” who “made sure her goods were front and center,” and Perez Hilton’s first comment was to tell Minaj, “pound that alarm with your bombastic bosom!”

While Nicki Minaj is obviously exceptionally beautiful, these reviews are as vapid as they are repetitive. Minaj is routinely overlooked as a ‘conscious artist,’ despite the fact that many of her songs, as well as her carefully curated appearance, are politically charged. The vast majority of the narrative on her fame is centered on her body and relationships with male rappers, as if she isn’t an intelligent artist who is very intentional about her image and her work (much less one who attended performing arts school!). Anyone who has heard her more directly “conscious” tracks like “Autobiography” or her remix of “Sweetest Girl” knows that she can be a passionate performer and talented poet. Despite this, Minaj constantly gets criticized and dismissed as lacking substance, which I believe has more to do with the combined forces of racism and sexism in popular media and consumer consciousness than anything else. No matter how gorgeous you are, it can’t be easy to be a young Black West Indian woman in the US media, much less one who is so confident in her ownership of her body and sexuality as Nicki Minaj.

There is also a not-so-subtle unwillingness on behalf of many of her critics to dialogue with Minaj’s work on her own terms, which the “Pound the Alarm” reviews each fall prey to. Though most of them acknowledge that Minaj was born in Trinidad, the video’s location, none of them attempt to place the video within its context—Trinidadian party culture and national politics.

Trinidad & Tobago was in a state of emergency for a sizeable portion of 2011, and nightlife was forced underground after a curfew was imposed. Read the Post Nicki Minaj’s “Pound The Alarm” Reveals Trinidadian Party Politics

July 24, 2012 / / asian
February 22, 2012 / / LGBTQ

by Guest Contributor Sabia McCoy-Torres

Nicki Minaj got media circuits buzzing after performing alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl 2012 halftime show and then commanding the stage a week later at the Grammy Awards in a Catholic themed extravaganza. As usual, Minaj got people talking about sex(uality). After the halftime show, viewers jokingly wondered why a sensual kiss between Madonna and Minaj never transpired.

Meanwhile, Minaj’s Grammy performance included a mini-film depicting a priest making a house call to exorcise the demon possessing a child named Roman. Roman was referred to many times as “he” but when the child was revealed, rather than a boy we saw a tormented and psychotic Minaj with long blonde hair applying pink lipstick singing “I Feel Pretty.” Does the possessed boy become Nicki Minajwhen dressed in drag? Is Minaj possessed by Roman, a boy who likes pink lipstick and Broadway songs, or is she just trying to be as quirky as possible? Regardless of where Minaj was leading her audience, it was clear she was toying with gender presentation and interpretation, a hallmark of her persona that has an impact on her community of listeners.

I most recently noticed the impact that the openness of artists like Nicki Minaj to sexual ambiguity is having when I returned to my neighborhood in the Bronx after a two year stint living in Costa Rica. In that brief period away I realized much had changed: men in the hood were wearing tight jeans, 80s style had come back in full effect, and there was a growing visibility of what I dubbed “neo-soul Black hipsters.” I also noticed an abundance of pretty teenage girls on the 4, 6, and D trains to the Bronx with their equally handsome boyfriends who on second glance, and sometimes fourth and fifth, I realized were actually two beautiful girls unabashedly holding hands, in the midst of quiet embraces, or giving voyeuristic displays passionate kissing.

A friend recently asked me: “Remember back in the day when there were no gay youth?” And I had to agree that I shared that memory. Of course it wasn’t that there were no gay youth, rather it was that they weren’t as visible, especially in our predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods. It was clear to me that a shift had occurred while I was away. Gay openness was becoming not only a thing of adult men and women in the West Village but also of urban Black and Latina youth in inner-city New York. Read the Post Nicki Ménages Urban Black and Latina Sexual Identities

April 6, 2011 / / class

by Latoya Peterson

School to Prison Pipeline

A first grade teacher in Paterson, New Jersey was recently put on administrative leave after she took to the internet to vent her frustrations about work. According to NBC New York, the teacher was suspended for allegedly making Facebook comments that her six-year-old students are “future criminals” and referring to herself as a “warden,” according to school officials.”

Much of the handwringing over at Jezebel concerned the fate of the poor, poor teacher who probably just had a bad day. At Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann concludes her piece by saying:

It’s horrible to hear about an adult disrespecting the children in her care, but it also casts a bad light on teachers, who for the most part, got into the profession because they want to help children succeed. But that’s not news — that’s their job, and they do it every single day.

Are teachers definitely our undersung heroes? Yes.  Do they often work long hours at thankless tasks in order to make their children’s lives better?  Oh yes.

But do all teachers treat all children the same? No, no, no.

My radar pinged when I heard the term criminals employed, so I checked the demographics of Paterson.  And my suspicions were borne out.  According to Neighborhood Scout:

Paterson is a blue-collar town, with 35.4% of people working in blue-collar occupations, while the average in America is just 24.7%. Overall, Paterson is a city of sales and office workers, service providers, and production and manufacturing workers. There are especially a lot of people living in Paterson who work in office and administrative support jobs (18.20%), sales jobs (9.45%), and building maintenance and grounds keeping (6.25%).

The population of Paterson has a very low overall level of education: only 8.19% of people over 25 hold a 4-year college degree or higher.

The per capita income in Paterson in 2000 was $13,257, which is low income relative to New Jersey and the nation. This equates to an annual income of $53,028 for a family of four.

Paterson is an extremely ethnically-diverse city. The people who call Paterson home come from a variety of different races and ancestries. People of Hispanic or Latino origin are the most prevalent group in Paterson, accounting for 50.17% of the city’s residents (people of Hispanic or Latino origin can be of any race). The most prevalent race in Paterson is White, followed by Asian. Important ancestries of people in Paterson include Italian and Jamaican.

Paterson also has a high percentage of its population that was born in another country: 32.79%.

The most common language spoken in Paterson is Spanish. Some people also speak English.

But that’s just a coincidence, right? Read the Post On Teachers Calling Kids “Future Criminals” and the School to Prison Pipeline

February 1, 2011 / / Quoted
January 31, 2011 / / global issues
November 17, 2010 / / activism

by Anonymous Guest Contributor

To Whom it May Concern,

Hi. You may not know me – at least, not very well. You probably are not familiar with my experience, qualifications, or accomplishments. Which is ironic, to say the least, because I have worked for your organization for many years. What’s more ironic is that – at this point – a large portion of our policies, systems, and even curriculum have been created by me, and all the kids we work for know me by name; and yet – we have likely never even exchanged names or a handshake.

So you wouldn’t know that I’ve been working with youth professionally since I was a youth (over 15 years, to be more precise). That I have over six years of formal classroom teaching experience. That I train and mentor other teachers and youth workers (most importantly – your organization’s staff). That I have coordinated programs and workshops for groups ranging from 10 to 500 youth, covering topics from Identity, Culture, and Diversity to Conflict Resolution. That I have taught art, music, math, psychology, public speaking, English and many other subjects (with curriculum of my own design) to middle school and high school students. That I have been a case manager and family contact and support specialist. That I was managing a middle-school arts after-school program in my early twenties. That mentoring youth is just what I do.

Oh – and that I have dedicated myself to your organization for almost seven years.

All that said, though – you still don’t know me. And so it will be hard for you to know where I’m coming from with what I’m about to say. You don’t know how seriously I take my work, and how I’ve dedicated my life to doing it better. That I am willing to get over myself on any number of levels if it means better serving the youth I work for.

And that I speak to you now out of full respect for who you are and the good intentions I believe we all share.

But you don’t know these things, because you’re not involved at my level (nor I at yours). We do not interact. Your role on the board is not your main priority, as you hold other full-time positions. You just make some decisions from time to time about where the money goes, what programs we should be running, things like that. I get it. You’re not in the thick of it – you’ve got a lot of other things going on – so you just haven’t had the time to meet me, officially. That actually all makes sense to me. It does.

But this is where my problem lies – you have veto power over me and my peers. When it comes to the big decisions, you have final say. And that makes so little sense, it kind of blows my mind. Read the Post Broken System IV: An Open Letter to the Powers-that-Be