Name (Calling)

By now, many of us have heard about the ugly insult hurled at the wonderful Quvenzhané Wallis, who, by virtue of being talented and Black at the same time, has become another symbol representing our society’s insufferable addiction to misogyny and racism (among other things). Even more unfortunately, what happened to Quvenzhané is not surprising, and some would say, in many cases expected. Frankly, our country, and accordingly its national consciousness, is afflicted with the diseases of racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and so violent jokes shrouded in the excuses of satire are merely symptomatic of deeper and more troubling issues that must be resolved. But what I think was so particularly insidious about what happened to Quvenzhané, and what struck a cord with many Black folks, was that she was slighted in a way that speaks to all of us. She was called “out of her name.”

Our names hold some of the greatest weight of who we are. Our names, like our race, are usually decided for us, and yet we come to love and cherish our names. Our names are often the first way we begin to share ourselves with the people in our lives. When we give our name, be it our birth name, a nickname, or a changed name, we are setting the terms and the standards by which people should interact with us.  It is our names, and our relationship to them, which allow us to apprehend the world. What I allow you to call me is a manifestation of how I behold myself.

Obama to File Brief Urging Supreme Court to Strike Down Proposition 8

The Obama Administration will be getting involved in the Supreme Court battle surrounding Proposition 8.

NBC News reports that the Justice Department will file a friend-of-the-courts brief urging the Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Thought the White House initially said they would not get involved in the case, it seems they’ve changed their mind.

Summer M.’s Requisite Black History Month Entry

Many of us have spent the last month celebrating the birthdays of awesome people (Toni Morrison, Nina Simone, Summer M., Erykah Badu), posting fake quotes attributed to someone featured on the Mount Rushmore of black leaders, wondering how many things George Washington Carver made with peanuts, and ruminating on the marriage of crunchiness and technology that is Jill Scott and Verizon. In retrospect, I did not adequately serve you, dear reader with proper Black History Month reflection in any of my last few posts. I have failed you. And I offer my sincerest apologies in the form of acknowledging some black visionaries–no, not a little known slave revolt–who have not gotten their due. What better way to end Black History Month than with a big up to a group that, Unsung episode notwithstanding, have not gotten proper due for its vision?

Every now and then, like during BHM, you’ll see an article on a site that otherwise pretends that black people don’t exist, about the dearth of black people in the Silicon Valley. These articles generally assume that since black people allegedly haven’t become bazillionaires creating microchips and iWhatevers, they don’t sort of engage technologies in the ways that nerdy white boys do. Because, I guess, the American way seems to think that if you haven’t made a gang of money doing it, then you must not be doing it. Or at least doing it right. Or at all. Of course we RT and Facebook the articles and pay scant attention to this “crisis” afterwards, all the while having very little to say about the visionary ways black people have imagined the very future we’re currently living in. Word to Sun Ra.

Congress Finally Passes Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act has finally been reauthorized. It will be sent to President Obama for his signature,

Though its been reauthorized without trouble in the past, the GOP decided to stall the proceedings because of new provisions that provided protection for LGBT people, immigrants, and Native American women.

Originally passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act “has set the standard for how to protect women, and some men, from domestic abuse and prosecute abusers.”

Openly Gay Mississippi Mayoral Candidate Found Dead

Openly gay mayoral candidate Marco McMillian was found dead near a Mississippi River levee.

Authorities had been searching for McMillian since his SUV had been crashed into another vehicle on U.S. highway 49. McMillian was not in the car.

His death is being investigated as a homicide, and resident of Clarkdale – the town in which McMillian was running for office – are stunned.

McMillian was the first openly gay person to be a viable candidate for public office in the state.

1965 Voting Rights Act Being Challenged in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s conservative justices have expressed skepticism regarding a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Specifically, they voiced displeasure with a provision that forces states with a history of discrimination to have changes to their election process approved.

Liberal and conservative justices went back and forth for a tense 70 minutes over the provison.

‘This American Life – Harper High School’ Takes Closer Look at Chicago Gun Violence

A recent installment of This American Life takes a closer look at the crisis of gun violence in Chicago’s South and West Sides.

A team of journalists spent five months at Harper High School in Englewood, following the lives of faculty and students immersed in the systemic obstacles that create and perpetuate the violence that is robbing us of our youth.

It’s an incredibly engrossing program that may raise eyebrows for some, or sound tragically familiar for others.

REPORT: Learning Gaps for Black Students Start in 2nd Grade

According to a recent report focused on education in Los Angeles, Black students display significant learning gaps by the 2nd grade, and they only grow larger with age.

Black students are less likely to take college preparatory courses necessary to attend a state university, and miss more school days due to suspensions.

If these trends persist, only 1 in 20 black kindergartners will go on to graduate from a 4-year university.

Zoe Saldana Responds to Nina Simone Controversy

When news first broke that Zoe Saldana would play the late, great Nina Simone in a forthcoming biopic, it ignited a firestorm of controversy.

Many saw the casting choice as a classic case of Hollywood colorism and whitewashing. Some argued it was a slap in the face to the legacy of Nina Simone (and the photos of Saldana essentially in blackface didn’t help).

Saldana finally addressed these sentiments in a recent interview.