2014

Kanye West & Common to Help Create Jobs for Chicago Youth

by SHABAZZ | published: Apr 21, 2014

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Chicago Urban League have teamed up with Common and Kanye West‘s Donda’s House charity organization — led by Rhymefest and his wife — to announce the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative. The movement is a youth-centered initiative that focuses on securing year-round employment opportunities for youth ages 16 to 24.

“With the joining of these organizations, we hope to continue the efforts of so many other organizations and the City of Chicago to create opportunities throughout the year for our youth and challenge our city to do even more on the ground. Our efforts will culminate in a musical celebration every year that will include resources offered to Chicago kids, directly related to placing them with an opportunity that can provide them hope and stability,” said Common during a press conference held at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

Launching in this upcoming fall, The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative aims to provide employment opportunities to a minimum of 1,000 youth, with intent to increase job availability by one thousand per year over the next four years. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced on Wednesday that the partnership would offer 22,000 youth jobs this summer.

In a January report from FOX News, figures indicate that 92% of African American male teenagers in Chicago are unemployed. Furthermore, a study released by the Urban League reported a 17% nationwide employment rate for black males; 12% in Illinois; and only 8% in Chicago. The Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative project will work with public, private, and non-profit sectors to advocate resources and support services to address youth-employment needs.

In addition to providing employment opportunities, the project will also launch the AAHH! Music Festival held September 20-21, 2014 at 6300 S. Hayes Drive. Day one will feature an all-star lineup from talents across the country, and day two will allow youth a chance to showcase their talents and juxtapose the city’s’ “Chi-raq” stereotypes. Proceeds from the festival will support the Common Ground Foundation, Donda’s House Inc., Arts Education in Chicago Schools, and Year-Round Jobs initiatives. While a Common and Kanye musical collaboration would have been nice, the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaboration project is just as incredible.

For more information on the AAHH! Music Festival, check out dondashouseinc.org and thinkcommon.com.

via Chicago Sun Times

2014

Drake Surprises Terminally Ill Teen in Houston

by SHABAZZ | published: Apr 14, 2014

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Photo: Instagram

Drizzy Drake got the chance to bask in the presence of a very special young woman this weekend in Houston, Texas. After falling victim to an inoperable brain cancer, 15-year-old Kennedy Brown was forced out of her Carnegie Vanguard High School due to her terminal illness. In addition to arranging a prom and graduation for the teen, Kennedy’s friends united through social media to gain the rapper’s attention, employing the hashtag #KenforDrake. Once he took note of Kennedy’s story, Drake said he would surprise her with a personalized video, but an even bigger surprise occurred when the Toronto native stopped by Kennedy’s Houston home for a special visit.

Drake shared his experience via Instagram, featuring smiling photos and captions that read “incredible day,” and “I am so happy.” After being “granted access” to touch Drizzy’s infamous eyebrows, Kennedy received an extra special kiss on the cheek from the rapper. The initial #KenforDrake campaign transformed into something even better — more like, #DrakeforKen. Who said rappers can’t make wishes come true?

2014

Spike Lee Rages Against Gentrification

by SHABAZZ | published: Feb 27, 2014

Tuesday night, Spike Lee spoke at Pratt Institute. A curious mind asked Spike Lee if he can consider “the other side” — in other words — the good side of Brooklyn’s gentrification. The question triggered the director to respond with “Lemme just kill you right now,” an epic introduction to his now viral rant. The ether continued to include deep passion on the touchy subject, featuring a hefty amount of f-bombs, yet sensible humor from Lee.

Read the transcript of the speech below and follow with the audio below:

Here’s the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.

[Audience member: And I don’t dispute that … ]

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. And even more. Let me kill you some more.

[Audience member: Can I talk about something?]

Not yet.

Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherfuckin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherfuckin’-sixty-eight, and the motherfuckin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherfuckin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherfuckin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the fuck outta here!

Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.

You can’t just — here’s another thing: When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, “Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.” Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around. Whoa. So we had to move it to Prospect Park!

I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!

And then! [to audience member] Whoa whoa whoa. And then! So you’re talking about the people’s property change? But what about the people who are renting? They can’t afford it anymore! You can’t afford it. People want live in Fort Greene. People wanna live in Clinton Hill. The Lower East Side, they move to Williamsburg, they can’t even afford fuckin’, motherfuckin’ Williamsburg now because of motherfuckin’ hipsters. What do they call Bushwick now? What’s the word?

[Audience: East Williamsburg]

That’s another thing: Motherfuckin’… These real estate motherfuckers are changing names! Stuyvestant Heights? 110th to 125th, there’s another name for Harlem. What is it? What? What is it? No, no, not Morningside Heights. There’s a new one.

[Audience: SpaHa]

What the fuck is that? How you changin’ names?

And we had the crystal ball, motherfuckin’ Do the Right Thing with John Savage’s character, when he rolled his bike over Buggin’ Out’s sneaker. I wrote that script in 1988. He was the first one. How you walking around Brooklyn with a Larry Bird jersey on? You can’t do that. Not in Bed Stuy.

So, look, you might say, “Well, there’s more police protection. The public schools are better.” Why are the public schools better? First of all, everybody can’t afford — even if you have money it’s still hard to get your kids into private school. Everybody wants to go to Saint Ann’s — you can’t get into Saint Ann’s. You can’t get into Friends. What’s the other one? In Brooklyn Heights. Packer. If you can’t get your child into there … It’s crazy. There’s a business now where people — you pay — people don’t even have kids yet and they’re taking this course about how to get your kid into private school. I’m not lying! If you can’t get your kid into private school and you’re white here, what’s the next best thing? All right, now we’re gonna go to public schools.

So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!

All right, go ahead. Let’s see you come back to that.

Bonus: Spike Lee Explains His Gentrification Rant (Video)

2014

Diggin’ In The Crates: Jazz & Justice

by Elise Peterson | published: Jan 20, 2014

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In his 1964 address at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. poignantly opened with,

“God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.”

The Civil Rights Movement captured worldwide attention throughout the 1960s. Synonymous with social and political radicalism and heavily weighted in the shared mission and struggle of the African American community and its supporters, inherently, cross-genreley, the music of the ’60s reflected the ethos of said community. Fittingly, jazz, an American institution with its origin woven into the fabric of the African American community, was of no exception in unraveling the narrative of the revolution. Dr. King continues,

“Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.”

Although the Civil Rights Movement was still very much in its nascent stages, there were several social tragedies and political injustices that acted as the catalyst for Dr. King’s speech at the Berlin Jazz Festival in ’64. In 1963, legendary jazz musician, John Coltrane, composed “Alabama” in response to the 16th St Baptist Church bombing, an act of white supremacist terrorism, lead by the Ku Klux Klan resulting in the death of four little girls. Coltrane’s solo was patterned upon King’s “Eulogy for the Martyred Children,” the speech Dr. King gave at the girls’ funeral. Coltrane later performed the emotive euphonious composition to a captive audience on the televised Jazz Casual.

 

2014

Read Beyoncé’s Essay on Gender Equality

by SHABAZZ | published: Jan 13, 2014

After her flossed feminism on “Flawless,” it’s not surprising that Beyoncé has taken a her stance for women in her newly penned an essay, “Gender Equality Is a Myth!“. The thesis is for Maria Shriver’s new installment, Shriver Report, a study that will be published alongside the Center for American Progress. The singer compares women and men pay in the workforce, presenting how classic ways of gender oppression still affect humanity today.

Her piece will is featured in “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink” is also featuring entries from Hillary Clinton, LeBron James and many others. Read what Beyoncé had to say below:

We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.

Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.

We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together. Women are more than 50 percent of the population and more than 50 percent of the voters. We must demand that we all receive 100 percent of the opportunities.

2013

Tupac’s ‘2Pacalypse Now’ Album Hits Adulthood While Keeping Cultural Relevancy

by Christina Coleman | published: Nov 22, 2013

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It wasn’t his greatest. It’s not even his most popular. But what is clear about Tupac Shakur’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, is that it remains just as relevant as it was when we were wearing cross-colours and overalls in 1991.

Now was a deliberate first-person experience of life for a black person in America. Every word was calculated, every bar had purpose. And whether or not a 20-year-old Shakur understood the real significance of titling his debut after the critically acclaimed 1979 film Apocalypse Now, is assumed.

Tupac isn’t hip-hop’s most lyrically loaded artist of all time because he’s frivolous.

And revisiting what critics would call a “mediocre” album two decades later, having scratched the trifecta of Tupac’s greatest works from too much play (Me Against the World, All Eyez On Me, and the 7 Day Theory), there’s something just as unequivocal about the 13-track hood story that wasn’t so evident when he introduced his less than polished baby to the world in 1991.

For starters, that title.

Like Francis Ford Coppola’s prodigious production about the Vietnam War experience, 2Pac, as simplicity would spell it in the early 90’s, reimagined his own internal war as a “Young Black Male” in America – the brutality, the gruesomeness, the divide that both of those experiences carved between Americans. And, just as polarizing. Both provoking strong criticism. Both being described as emotionally obtuse experiences that were pro-violence in a society that was just starting to take their ratings and parental advisory’s serious.

There is, however, a clear difference between both of these pieces of art, post-apocalypse.

The level of acclaim.

And in a year that saw Ice Cube’s racially-charged and highly anticipated album, Death Certificate, 2Pac’s Now was leveled as an artist first attempt, a decent try, a poor production with rough construction.

Not for me. It’s hard to say what the world in 1991 took from Now, other than evidence that 2Pac was a talent rough around the edges, but what 2Pac did for a young girl caught up in a cycle of inner-city themes that were pervasively visible yet still very taboo was, as cliché as it is, life-changing.

I was five. And my mother, a 25-year-old young woman with three kids and a baby on the way, was bumping “Violent” in her boyfriend’s Crown Victoria. I remember how the speakers, one blown out, released the vibration of that first beat.

Again and again and again. It felt powerful and comforting and I knew something was coming but my 5-year-old mind couldn’t anticipate what.

Boom boom boom boom boom

Pac’s voice rang from the speakers in the front of the large sedan.

They claim that I’m violent/Just ‘cause I refuse to be silent/These hypocrites are having fits/Cause I’m not buying it/Defying it/Envious because I will rebel against/Any oppressor/And this is known as self-defense

It’s simple – I was young and I liked it. My brother and I memorized the words, performed the song over and over again for a delighted crowd who enjoyed watching children recite adult lyrics. I can’t say that in that moment I understood Pac’s rebellious nature and who exactly was oppressing. I moved on to “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” because the video played out like a sad movie I had seen before. Somehow I knew that girl, felt like she lived next door in our housing projects. In all reality, that teen mom was my own.

But the realization of just how germane these songs were to my everyday experiences didn’t come until years later when I was a black teenager in America going through my nigga-wake-up-call — that point in your young life when you fully grasp the inequalities of society, whether through education or personal experiences.

It clicked.

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

That was James Baldwin. But it was that second listen to 2Pac’s Now as a young adult that truly vocalized my frustrations as an inner-city black kid growing up in poverty.

And that relevancy kept on going.

In a year where we’ve witnessed a man get cleared of murdering a black child he followed home, police shoot another black male 10 times after he crashed his vehicle, and an entire police department’s success at disenfranchising marginalized communities by taking away their right to walk down the street without being stopped and frisked, it’s clear, upon giving Now a yet another spin, that its relevancy as a griot’s tool to relay the black experience today is authentic.

In fact, compared to Cube’s second studio sounds, it was also as overtly political. The societal conversations Tupac delivers in each track are both disheartening and perpetual and champions Now as a significant black cultural relic.

That is, if you can look over the repetitive and busy beats, the rudimentary flows, the production and the numbers that critics like to use to compare Now with other ’91 albums like Death Certificate, De La Soul Is Dead, or Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory.

What they overlooked is 2Pac’s political prowess, which he delivers right at the start with “Young Black Male,” signaling his intent from the beginning.

Hard like an erection/Young black male/Go nigga go/Young black male/I try to affect by kicking the facts

Whether 2Pac meant to align the sexual and often celebrated anatomy of man with the black man’s psyche or if he just intended to let us know he was about to hit hard with his knowledge as the son of a Black Panther, he succeeded in both.

And he continues throughout the song, offering a glimpse into the daily struggle of the pathological violence society sees and the “necessary” violence he results to in order to survive the haunts of a poverty-stricken community.

The rest of that intro is as provocative as it is apposite for life in the hood. A conversation that starts off with a clear spelling of the word “nigga” and a stream of crackling voices of young black males talking shit about potent weed, Old E, Hennessey and disrespect. Make no mistake. 2pac didn’t mean to celebrate the vices. He meant to bring them to your attention.

Skip to the stand out song on the album, “Trapped,” and delve into a conversation about the hyper-incarceration of black males and the racial profiling tactics meant to instill fear in black communities.

They got me trapped/Can barely walk the city streets/Without a cop harassing me, searching me/Then asking my identity

Was Pac aware that come 2013, the U.S. would lock up more people than Russia and China combined? Probably not. But the foresight that the lockup of so many brothers in our communities was going to be a theme for years to come was evident. We, as Pac pointed out, do not live in a post-racial society despite the assertion from paramilitary forces, the government and even the media.

Blow up on this society/Why did ya lie to me?/I couldn’t find a trace of equality…Too many brothers daily heading for the big pen/Niggas comin’ out worse off than when they went it

It’s a reoccurring message. The cycle is vicious. And not just for those literally stuck behind iron cells. The mentality, the ideologies, the circumstances of living as a black individual in America is just as stifling.

I know, you’ve heard it all before. What rapper isn’t delivering commentary on ‘hood life and metaphorical poetry on what it’s like to be a black male in America. But what catapults Now into cultural relevancy forever is how encompassing it was. Pac wasn’t harping on his own experiences, he was inclusive to mothers and daughters, criminals and survivors, drug dealers and book readers. What Pac did was make an album that, for all intents and purposes, is a legit document of black life that is still being referenced today.

Cluttered beats and all, what Now did on its birthday this month is what we all strive to do as we approach our own monumental celebrations.

Stay alive.

 

2013

Solange Announces Sneaker Collaboration with PUMA

by SHABAZZ | published: Nov 20, 2013

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Solange took to her Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr to announce her new position as Art Director & Creative Consultant for PUMA.

Read her personal announcement here:

After years of art directing my own projects and visuals, including music videos, photo shoots, album artwork and web content among many others, I am extremely excited to announce that I am now able to apply my passion for all things design into my new roll as an Art Director for the iconic PUMA!!! 

It is in my new role that I am able to express my love for not only design but the conception of creative ideas, and the execution of them by curating amazingly talented teams. I’ve had so much fun producing special content, ad campaigns, events, and working alongside the awesome Puma team with some of my favorite emerging artists, photographers, graphic designers to create activations that really celebrates both mine and PUMA’s approach and philosophies.

Over the summer, I paired four incredible designers (GERLAN, WILLIAM OKPO, HISHAM BAROOCHA) to interpret a personal favorite of mine, the classic Puma Disc. Each designer incorporated and infused it with their own distinctive aesthetic to present our collection, “GIRLS OF BLAZE”, inspired by the sights and sounds of Brazil. I couldn’t be more excited about the results. The shit is wild, and come February I hope you will be just as in love as I am. This has been a dream job, and the ride has just begun! 

Solange recently directed an exclusive campaign for the brand, tapping her four favorite It girls — including Saint Heron Content Director Saada Ahmed and Arts and Culture editor Marjon Carlos — to model different styles. The ladies also share their personal fashion-savvy insights in a roundtable chat with Who What Wear.

Read the discussion here and view the photos below:

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2013

The Spirituality Of Black College Homecoming

by Christina Coleman | published: Nov 19, 2013

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It’s the same every year.

When the leaves start to turn a fiery auburn and the weather just cool enough to still wear skirts bare-legged, I engage in weekly debates to anyone dubious enough to question the legendary status of my alma mater’s homecoming.

Armed with a storied past, I whip out ammunition powerful enough to knock any other historically black college homecoming off of whatever fabled pedestal they stand on. Did Biggie perform at yours? I wasn’t there – I’m pretty sure I was sitting in Mrs. Tinsky’s class in 1995 without a thought of the yearly exodus I would make as an adult, but still, it happened. It’s fair game to use.

Did Drake ever perform at your homecoming IN THE RAIN? I was there, oscillating with the audience in a perfectly synced crowd surf as the rain started to drizzle down on our heads. In retrospect it didn’t matter that Drizzy was on stage with HOWARD emblazoned across his chest.  It didn’t matter that he and 2 Chainz were exchanging bars in front of our iconic library. That energy that made us forget the pelting rain was otherworldly. We were home. And it felt good.

Howard University Homecoming Parade 2013 from Ruqayyah Albaari on Vimeo.

That’s the spirituality of any black homecoming.  The exodus  – that time of year with bright leaves, cool weather and still bare legs – when we come down in droves, driving, flying and all but running towards the halls where we learned about the Souls of Black Folk and the complexity of Pecola Breedlove’s desire for the bluest eyes.

The sermon – whether it’s the word from chapel that kicks off the week of festivities, or the gathering on the university’s main yard, looking towards the stage as we yell affirmations and sing songs created a century ago that illustrate the history behind the brick and mortar.

The tithing — putting money into the school and nearby businesses to prevent the gentrification that will surely monetize and dilute the culture of the university and the surrounding areas.

The gathering — reconvening with old classmates, friends and family to remember the importance of coming home.

To remember that as much as any black homecoming is about the fashion, the new artists, the old artists, the libations and the parties, it’s just as much about the communalism and returning from a world not necessarily designed for us, to a place that was carved out of the need to educate and cultivate our minds.

Private: The Spirituality Of Black Homecomings

So welcome home, brothers and sisters. ‘Tis the season to celebrate…us.

Amen.

2013

Home Depot Posts Racist Tweet

by SHABAZZ | published: Nov 08, 2013

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Perhaps Home Depot should stick to hardware and garden ornaments for house design. The company made headlines yesterday (Nov. 7) afternoon after posting a racially insensitive tweet. Home Depot’s Twitter account posted a tweet featuring two black men accompanied by a man in a monkey costume as a bucket-drumming trio for its “HDGameday” college football promotion. The caption for the photo tweet read, “Which drummer is not like the others?” and of course, the monkey character in the middle stood out immediately. After Twitter  — let’s not even mention “Black Twitter” — became hip to the buffoonery, a whirlwind of responses swept in and the company deleted the tweet following a prompt apology. It’s also noted that the company fired the individual who posted the tweet, and they dismissed the creative agency that organized the photo shoot. Home Depot did go on an apology spree this morning on Twitter but…

Take a look at some of the backlash responses the tweet received on Twitter via HipHopWired.

2013

Video: Woman Dances To Beyonce Moments Before Surgery

by SHABAZZ | published: Nov 08, 2013

Need a picker-upper? Start your day off with a visual of sunshine. Meet Deborah Cohan, a woman that faced a double mastectomy the other day. Moments before going into surgery to have her breasts removed, Cohan and her medical team held an exclusive dance party  in the operating room of Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco. This surgery takes a lot of courage and should surely serve as inspiration to all.

This inspiring 6-minute-long video, posted on YouTube, shows Cohan busting some serious moves as she wiggles and twerks to Beyonce’s hit “Get Me Bodied.” Cohan requested that friends and family make videos of themselves dancing to Bey too so that she could watch them during her recovery. “I have visions of a healing video montage,” she wrote. “Nothing brings me greater joy than catalyzing others to dance, move, be in their bodies. Are you with me people?”

Read more via Huffington Post.

 

2013

Responsibility of The Artist: Apology Culture, Stereotypes & The Demonization of Black Culture

by Christina Coleman | published: Nov 05, 2013

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This summer when Paula Deen appeared across television screens offering a tearful mea culpa for her use of the n-word, it was all America needed to forget it ever happened.

The nocuous apology culture that allows the most serious of offenses to be ramified by a “sorry” was enough to garner the support of other famed chefs and celebrities…and even her shocked fans. Forget the buttering — Deen served up a steaming hot platter of regret, ignorance and southern charm that made America remember why we loved her.

She was just a bumbling southern belle who didn’t know better.

But let’s examine the truth. Deen, 66, admitted that the use of the word was due to her being absorbed in a southern culture where the deplorable and degrading racial epithets were admissible. She used that reasoning to mollify her own demonization, placing blame not on her own failure to revisit those values but on American history. Throw in a story of her own racial sorrow – a violent encounter with a black robber who has since haunted her dreams – and you have a woman who by all means was both justified in her use of the slur and her affinity for beautifying the enslavement of humans to decorate her brother, Bubba’s, wedding.

America had to decide her penance. Faultless as she was, she was sorry. That had to count for something, no?

It’s no surprise, however, that a different community didn’t quite gobble up what Deen was serving; a bowl of coagulated excuses that (for many) confirmed that white people who grew up respecting a confederated south have never quite augmented their skewed views. And that, paired with the use of the n-word in America that is controversial (but not unforgivable) at best, the fact that it was another balance-story that the media would trump for a few days to symmetrize their own discriminative coverage, and the tearful misappropriation of blame set forth by Deen is more than enough to not let her slide through this scandal unscathed.

Deen’s “mistake” wasn’t a “mistake” at all. It was her honest point of view that just happened to be exposed.

But then there was this. A drawing by West Coast artist Brendan Donnelly that served Deen’s contrition in another provocative way – a chicken dinner.

As if the idea that Deen’s bigoted tirades in her kitchen could all be forgiven with stereotypical fare wasn’t enough, Donnelly’s drawing set forth levels of unabashed references in what I believe to be his own platter of common misconceptions that in his world, are truths.

We’ll never know for sure. When we contacted Donnelly to explain the complexities of the art he at first agreed to a discourse on what he called a “fun,” if not visually stimulating, piece. A few days later he abruptly pulled out.

What is clear, however is that we’re exploring apology culture again through a different set of eyes that aren’t so quick to take Deen’s tears as repentance. What Donnelly does is offensively suggest that while tears and public appearances may not do the job, even the most “extreme” of groups, in this case the Black Israelites and Black Panthers, would pardon a sexualized cartoonish Deen if, and only if, they had their pacifiers.

Fried Chicken. Ciroc. St. Ides. Cornbread. The recognition of a black holiday that gets very little recognition at all. African colors. All of which are Deen’s odes to a fallacious black culture…all of which are Donnelly’s demonization and illustrated destruction of black people.

Could it be that Donnelly was simply making a point that Deen and others like her are easily forgiven by black communities. Maybe? But then we’re left to wonder why Donnelly would feel authorized to culture cross and his use of blatantly stereotypical themes to make that point. Authorization that we can clearly see through his depiction of black culture was adopted and not earned.

Could Donnelly be suggesting in the most unpalatable of ways that apology culture has allowed Deen to easily salvage her career and maintain her racist tinge? Possibly. But that doesn’t explain why Donnelly used these degrading images to represent the whole of America.

In the end, it could be l’art pour l’art. The idea that art is created for arts sake. That it needs no justification, it need not serve a political or didactic need.

But we know that’s not true. Art isn’t created for the sake of nothingness. In the most basic explanation, everything happens for a reason.

And the irresponsibility of Donnelly’s piece, a piece that was “fun” for him to produce and then shared hundreds of times, makes it clear that Paula Deen’s n-word slip up is the the least of our worries.

No matter how unforgiving it was.

 

2013

Interview: Janet Mock, A Transgender Advocate

by Christina Coleman | published: Oct 24, 2013

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Janet Mock is a writer who broke into the limelight in 2011 with a GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) nominated profile on her remarkable journey to womanhood in Marie Claire. In a society that is still grappling with same-sex marriage and full acceptance of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Janet’s decision to come out as a trans woman of color was courageous. Too often trans women — especially those that live at the intersection of gender identity — and race are relegated to the shadows and margins of our society. With her social media project #GirlsLikeUs aiming to raise visibility for her stance, and upcoming memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and so Much More set for an upcoming February 4 release, Janet is defying stereotypes of trans women and shifting culture.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. Acceptance, love and respect are steeped in our ability to listen and recognize our individual journey.  Janet provides a beacon of hope to young transsexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. Her “no regrets” bold attitude also promotes that the struggle will get better — because incredible women like Janet are paving the way for them.

We had the opportunity to take five with Janet and learn her take on coming out, living with purpose, and the responsibility of public figures.

Two years ago you came out as a trans woman in a very public way after living a fairly private life.  What prompted your decision to come out?

Janet Mock: Simply put, I shared my story because not enough of our stories are told. I believe that when we see ourselves reflected through storytelling we can know how better to live and to dream, as Barbara Smith once wrote. Growing up, I wished that someone who looked like me would step forward and tell her story so I would not feel so alone. After more than twenty years of wishing, I decided that I guess I needed to be the story that I wished I had growing up as a brown trans girl.

While I believe that coming out is a very personal decision what responsibility if any do you think public figures have in coming out? 

JM: It is a deeply personal decision with political and social ramifications, no matter your level of celebrity. I would never push someone to disclose that they are trans if they are not ready to or are not in a safe enough space to do so. Our society has yet to fully recognize trans people as people and continually discounts the womanhood of trans women so it’s a hostile place for a young women, especially one from low-income and/or people of color communities, to step forward as trans. What I’d like to see is a world in which we can all be ourselves freely, without judgment, stigma or violence.

What advice do you give to trans women about coming out given that it’s not always safe for trans women to live openly and unapologetically?   

JM: I try not to offer advice because I am limited by my own experiences with privilege and oppression. All I can do is lend my story and my experience as one possible example. I choose to live openly as a trans woman of color because I find nothing shameful about who I am. My hope is that by living visibly, I empower other young woman, whether they are trans or not, of color or not, poor or not, to own who they are and hopefully find a comfortable enough space in their lives to share themselves – wholly – with those they love.

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Photo Janet Mock

Hot 97 DJ Mr. Cee recently admitted to having sexual relationships with trans women.  In response to his admission you wrote and incredibly powerful piece on your website.  How do you think his admission will expand the dialogue around trans issues in the black community?

JM: I think his “admission” (I hate that being attracted to trans women must be seen as an “admission”) raises visibility of the heightened stigma our community has in regards to trans women specifically. I’m glad that he was able to have support from his colleagues and the wider hip hop community to share his sexuality, but at the same time I have been deeply disturbed by his and others’ lack of knowledge and education about the women he desires. Trans women are women, we are not wearing a costume, we are not pretending to be something we are not. It’s quite simple and I hope that we continue to elevate the conversation beyond this man and his sexual preferences. Trans women are not here merely to operate as secret, shameful sexual objects; we are people.

What steps do we need to take to continue an open dialogue about acceptance, love and sexuality in our community?

JM: We need to truly embrace and educate ourselves about diversity, which does exist in people of color communities. We, people of color, are not the same. We are not identical. Many of us, especially trans women and queer people of color, carry multiple identities in our bodies, therefore black communities must open up their minds about the idea of blackness, and embrace and learn from all of our siblings, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Learn more about Janet Mock and her work at www.janetmock.com