ICYMI: John Legend Launches Campaign to End Mass Incarceration

johnlegend

On Monday, John Legend launched FREE AMERICA, an initiative to end mass incarceration, reports the Huffington Post.

“We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country. It’s destroying families, it’s destroying communities and we’re the most incarcerated country in the world, and when you look deeper and look at the reasons we got to this place, we as a society made some choices politically and legislatively, culturally to deal with poverty, deal with mental illness in a certain way and that way usually involves using incarceration,” Legend told the Huffington Post.

Read more.

Photo: John Legend/Instagram

Survivors of Chicago Police Torture Will Receive Reparations

chicago reparations

From Project NIA:

This morning, members of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Amnesty International, USA and representatives of the Mayor’s Office announced an agreement on a reparations package for survivors of torture by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command before a special session of the City Council Finance Committee.

The package, based on the Reparations Ordinance introduced in October of 2013 by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward), provides concrete redress to the torture survivors and their family members, which includes: a formal apology for the torture; specialized counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members on the South side; free enrollment and job training in City Colleges for survivors and family members; a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools; a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and it sets aside $5.5 million for a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims that will allow the Burge torture survivors with us today to receive financial compensation for the torture they endured.

This historic agreement is the product of decades of organizing for justice in these cases, and represents the culmination of a concerted six-month campaign led by CTJM, Amnesty International – USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, with the help of actions from several other organizations including BYP100, Chicago Light Brigade and the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

Photo: Project NIA

Janelle Monáe’s Perfect Twitter Clapback

Queen Carefree Black Girl Janelle Monáe shut down this Twitter user and his unsolicited misogynist two-cents very quickly yesterday. It’s safe to say, don’t come for Janelle unless she sends for you and even then you should stay in your lane.

Photo: Janelle Monáe /Screenshot

Get Off Him Miss Ann; or Why Madonna Needs a Seat

DrakeMadonna

By Jay Dodd

We shouldn’t be laughing at Drake right now. Like for real.

Say what you want about the memes, and lists, and tweets reacting to Madonna’s latest shock attempt, but it’s not funny yet. Madonna can’t perform that type of “domination” in such a public forum without critique. His face said it all. Drake’s face was of disgust and shock. Madonna’s arrogance gleaming, almost grotesque, beside him. But she stay doing this. Madonna stay exploiting Black men/of color who serve as sexual prop for her own attempts at taboo. She stay attempting to politicized her body by positioning it near and around Blackness. She stay having this history of Black men she attempts to keep in her wake. Whether this Cochella “highlight” was rehearsed or not, the optics of this kind of dynamic is troubling.

Madonna has been on a crusade to be the most un-self aware White woman of the century. From calling her son “#disnigga” on Instagram andcomparing her oeuvre to Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley. She is one of the original modern appropriators and has exploited popular Black bodies before (see: Tupac). Her most recent quips declaring ageism as the new “Black” of sorts, positioning it as “the worst thing” we casually allow. (Because they aren’t killing Black people of all ages right now in America). Madonna’s flippant ignorance sets an uncomfortable stage for her interaction with Drake. She is clearly trying to assert a power. Her power as a woman is unquestioned, but she too is White, and has a dynamic power in relation to Drake.

While (Black) men are complicit in misogyny against all women, White women have a different conversation. White women have participated in anti-Blackness in ways only they can. They have been unjustly positioned as the pure and fragile and Blackness, her enemy. White supremacy positions white women as the most vulnerable to threat of Black men; we feel this weight. Some Black men prize White women as sign of “making it” —that’s both misogynist and a colonial thought. Other Black men know the danger White women could bring. Black mothers warn of white women with white fathers. For many Black men, a White woman is just as terrifying as a White man.

We also are complicit in misogyny and must complicate our “distrust” of any woman. We must locate any violence as it is. But there is a dynamic here.

There is a dynamic between Drake and Madonna. What could he do? On a global stage with a powerful woman with significantly more capital? He was, in many ways, powerless. She really could have taken that as far as she wanted. His face said it all. Whatever could have been planned was not that.

There is so much more (Black) men need to be doing to combat misogyny and sexism, and we must also acknowledge subjugation as it appears. We need language to call out White women for their complicity in racism against Black men/of color. That language needs not to reproduce misogynistic violence.That language needs to find a word for the emotions Drake must of felt as Madonna strutted off.

If I had read Harry Potter, I’d make a better dementor joke.

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Jay Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.

Black Youth Project 100 Debuts Video Highlighting Impact of Low-Wage Jobs on the Black Community

CHICAGO –The Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) highlights the impact of fast food jobs and other low wage occupations on Black youth in a new video released yesterday morning.

The video, titled Black Work Matters: The Fight for $15, calls sharp attention to the experiences of young Black people who are disproportionately trapped in fast food and other low wage service sector jobs, and the billion-dollar companies that refuse to pay them fairly for their work or allow them to unionize to fight for better working conditions.

To amplify the demands of the Fight for $15, a national movement to demand fair wages and union rights to fast food and other low-wage workers, the video includes testimonials from young Black activists and fast food employees describing their experiences with unsafe work environments and the impact of low wage work.

“The fact that there are so many of us that are not making a living wage, that aren’t making enough money to comfortably put food in the refrigerator, comfortably pay for child care – it’s inhumane. It’s not just,” says Janae Bonsu, co-chair of BYP100’s Chicago chapter.

Jessica Davis, a current fast food employee profiled in the video, describes the hard, sometimes painful reality that many Black youth face at their fast food jobs.

“When our child gets sick, we have to debate if we’re going to go to work or take our child to the doctor because you know missing that day at work will have a big impact on our check,” Davis shares candidly. “I didn’t think I had the right to stand up to my employer. I thought being a single mother of two children that the pay and the disrespect [I experience] was something I deserved,” adds Davis in another segment.

Low wage work and lack of access to union rights is a national problem, but presents a unique challenge to Black workers. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 Black people made up only 11.4% of the national employed population, but represented 20.5% of fast food workers. Additionally,Black workers are over-represented in low-wage work overall. In 2011, 36 percent of Blacks, including 38 percent of Black women, were employed in low-wage jobs.

The video features clips of actual demonstrations from direct action protests being led by BYP100, SOUL, the Worker Center for Racial Justice and Chicago Fight for $15 leaders. For Charlene Carruthers, National Director of BYP100, the fight for higher wages and collective bargaining rights for Black people is a long time coming and hits especially close to home.

“My mother has been a low wage worker for most of my childhood and most of my life. The wages she received didn’t match up with the work that she puts in every day,” says Carruthers in the video.

Black people are disproportionately impacted by falling wages and lack of access to union rights. In the video, Carruthers underlines the importance of fair wages and union rights for the liberation of Black people and Black youth.

“It’s a fight for the dignity of workers. It’s a fight for the right for workers to collectively bargain. It’s a fight for workers to actually be in safe environments where their grievances and their issues can be heard,” Carruthers states in the video.

On Wednesday, April 15th, BYP100 members in Chicago, New Orleans and NYC will be leading direct actions in solidarity with Fight for $15’s national Day of Action to demand fair wages and union rights for fast food workers.

“The Fight for $15’s demand for a union [for fast food workers] is absolutely crucial. Low wage workers, particularly workers in the fast food industry, deserve to actually be able to create the kind of workplace that they want to create,” stresses Carruthers in the video.

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 Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. On April 15, BYP100 will join the#Fightfor15 national day of action, dubbed the largest low-wage protest in modern American history, with events in Chicago, New Orleans and New York City. For more information, visit: bit.ly/BYP415

[Individuals featured in video available for additional comment by request. Please contact Michael J. Brewer, National Press Contact, for more details.]

 

Shuck and Jive 2.0: The Epidemic of New Blacks

Raven-Symone

By Jay Dodd 

 

Among Azealia Banks’ unfortunately few poignant and meaningful clap-backs is the occasion she came for Clifford “TI” Harris’s life for defending Igloo.In her 140-character shade, she called TI a coon. A humorously archaic  “slur” is made relevant again as we see its residual mindset permeating many Black men in the music industry. Black folk have created many languages for folks found betraying Blackness. Coon is Uncle Tom isDon Lemon— Black folk who have taken on an ahistorical burden of appealing to White supremacy. Coons not only embarrass but reaffirm systemic erasure. As high profile pop cultural makers have proven, from the minstrel to the misinformed, wealth and access for Black folk does not always benefit Blackness. New Blacks, as (Black) Twitter has masterfully coined, perform these jigs away from more “controversial” Blacknesses as a symbol of progress. The shuck and jive for maintaining accepted (read: White) norms of success. Now, as per usual, our faves provide necessary complications to these narratives. While some attempt to gain access to wealth as success from erasing black folk, there is also an unfortunate erasure is Black exceptionalism. Our faves do a work for radical aspiration but their successes are often uncomplicated as markers of progress.

Erasure does a work in both, the embarrassing acts of Black minstrelsy and mythic post race neo-Blackness; we have many scripts for the former.  The latter is born of respectability politics (the recurring impossibility). The heartbreaking crutch of respectability politics relies on the fear Black folk have of being embarrassed; in “being” the way White folk think “we all are”. These stratifications of acceptable Blacknesses only reproduce widely (mis)understood structures of power. While for some, Black folks of a particular demeanor, dress, or class location can embarrass, others see the greater disappointment, appealing to White values. It is when Don Lemon, though a potentially historic figure for Black queer men in popular media, seems to go light years out of his way to undermine and disarm Blackness. When Bill Cosby, on top of completely benefitting from White fandom and a culture of misogyny, can be defended as a trailblazer. When notable Black figures create abandon against Blackness, they embarrass because we are fighting so intently to be seen as human. When not undermining Blackness directly, the 21st century coons among us strap on the most luxurious capes for Whiteness.

Returning to my early statements around TI’s coon-dom, we have seen an overwhelming number of Black folk violently dismiss histories, facts and generations of  Blackness in this country, (read: Kendrick). Like some toxic elixir has made them drunk on the realities of Black America. In his measly defense, TI even offered that because of Itchy’s Australian heritage, she is somehow placed outside of racism and white supremacy. Noting the clear ignorance around how global both settler colonialism and anti-Blackness is, Brother Harris is quite literally just wrong. However, our faves don’t always embarrass with ahistorical nonsense.

Our modern era of the #NewBlack can be marked by the litany of often ridiculous yet ultimately dangerous quips of Black celebrities essentializing or minimizing Blackness, it’s rage and celebration. Notable grievances include: Common’s extended hand in love to white folk “finally” getting to the root of racism, Raven’s colorless Americana, and Pharrell’s whole Other movement. Black folks who achieve some cross-cultural notoriety make lavish attempts to re-sale or re-package Blackness. It becomes just an aesthetic, a check box, a coffee order. In what seems like the most cognitively dissonant rhetoric I’ve heard in this era, Isaiah Washington, noted homophobe and “newest” Black, says that the best way for Black folk to survive is to #adapt. As splashed across Twitter, Washington confessed to changing one’s life style is the only way to stay safe. These cultural figures have the semi-awareness of the danger but choose to take the onus of attempting humanity in the eyes of folk refuse to see you. When we position, modify, perform our beings for the gaze of whiteness, we are doing a violence to ourselves.

And, for the rafters, hurting our people.

However? Our faves are doing much for us either.

The press conference forTidal was in many ways a collection of some of the most excellent Blackness this world has documented. Favorites from across the board gathered to “begin a moment” and combat the status quo. In days previous, Twitter and Facebook washed over in the ugliest aquamarine announcing Tidal’s arrival. The mantra #TidalforAll rang from update to retweet and the mobilization sprang up from nowhere. One of the centrally important things about Tidal is that the owners are Black folk. Few enterprises as lucrative and culturally relevant as Tidal are owned and connected to Black people who look like Nicki, Rihanna, and Kanye. They are Black people getting necessary coins, and we should imagine translating this on our bodies. Still, a dissonance forms when our favorites who have been (un) remarkably distant from current movements around anti-Blackness and institutional violence can so quickly mobilizing around retaining wealth. While they are committing to expanding iconography of black excellence, their location in the out cry for Black humanity is ambiguous, if not destructive? Though there is a power in Black folk using this language of resistance and independence, to mobilize around retaining wealth while across the nation Black folk are mobilizing for their humanity. In the way that Black folk who take on the values of White folk disarm our diaspora, our faves stand in the place of folks who require conversations of liberation. To use the mediums, rhetoric and framework of subversive resistance, in this season, for anything but the movement, hurts.

Blackness is expanding. Blackness is speaking across the globe, building new worlds and conversations around solidarity. In the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement has centered Black Trans/ Queer folk in ways earlier iterations were lacking. Blackness is speaking in more tongues and we are seeing shifts from appeals to White supremacy. We have a wealth of popular Black icons who disrupt spaces of white power and popular culture. Unfortunately, white supremacy still seeps in to many a Black conscious. It’s patriarchy instills misogynoir in BM. It’s sexual morality polices queer and trans Black bodies. It’s promise of relative power siphons Blackness of its exponential potential. If we could consider this an era of “New” Blackness, we must continue to imagine greater for ourselves.

 

Photo: Instagram