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Today on the R we’re discussing what makes a ‘black film’ a black film. Leave your thoughts here or over on the main site:

Every so often it pays to check in on the current “Black Film” rubric– ie, What makes a Black Film a Black Film? It’s a question I found myself struggling with as I wrote about Dear White People last week and realised that I couldn’t bring myself (and director Justin Simien didn’t want his audience) to stick it in the same category of Madea’s kooky and poorly directed adventures. But why is that?

Like a lot of popular movies that fall into the Black Film category Dear White People has a majority black cast, a black director, and deals with subject matter meant to resonate with a Black audience. Yet even beyond being an Indie, it’s clearly a different beast than 2014′s well performing Ride Along which seems to more easily fall into the traditional Black Film category. Making comparison and thinking about other movies that also seem to fall without question into that category -let’s consider movies like The Best Man series, theBarbershop series, and romcoms in the vein of Think Like a Man or Why Did I Get Married- I started to wonder if maybe it becomes a question of quality.

To include quality on the rubric is clearly problematic, leaning towards the implication that to be placed in the Black Film means to be a bad film. But do we place 12 Years A Slave in that same Black Film category? What about The Butler? They fall under the drama genre, but so do movies like Stomp The Yard, ATLCoach Carter, or The Inkwell; a group of enjoyable, if otherwise unnotable films, with black directors and casts found under the “Urban Drama” category on Amazon . (Urban Drama being another way of saying “a drama with Black people in it.”)

Does it really come down to a question of quality with, perhaps, a side of pedigree- films nominated for multiple awards in various categories? It’s a tricky qualifier. Stomp The Yard with white protagonists is called Bring It On and it’s a comedy or a teen movie, not a “white film”. Coach Carter is called Hoosiers or Miracle and again it’s not a white film, it’s a sports drama. The Inkwell becomes a drama/romantic comedy directed by Nancy Meyers, starring Meryl Streep, and… well, you can see the trend. There’s no real need to recategorise any of these films as “Black” or “Urban”, but for some reason we do.

But what if beyond the merits of the cast, director, subject matter, and relative quality, it’s a simple matter of character relateability? White viewers are conditioned with the societal requirement that it’s necessary to at least pretend to empathise with the Solomon Northups of the world. The Kenya McQueens? Not so much. With that we’re left with a qualifier almost more insulting than the question of quality. While Black audiences are expected to relate and empathize with white characters in films regularly, the moment we ask them to do the same for us suddenly it’s a Black Film. In that case, the categorization is almost left up to the white viewer alone.

So is it cast/director, subject matter, quality, or a question of white audiences being unable to empathise with characters who look nothing like them? What actually makes a Black Film? Thoughts?



A Taste of Indian Country: New Magazine Dishes Up Native Cuisine, Health and Food Sovereignty

Sassy, friendly, erudite, helpful: Native Foodways is a handsome new food magazine from food-and-health nonprofit Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), in Sells, Arizona. The publication dishes up, and dishes on, food-related topics from around Indian country.

ooooohhhh i would love to get a copy of this!!

(via ethiopienne)


Today is the LAST DAY to support this great project! We Want the Airwaves isa podcast showcasing the work of queer & trans art activists of color. They’re still not at their goal, so share and donate! Just $5 will get you a zine!


More good news from the West Coast! From Greg Moore, Editor-In-Chief:

During the past decade I have had several conversations with groups and individuals that eventually landed on use of the term  to describe those who have unlawfully come to the United States. I have heard all kinds of arguments. I always tensed up when someone argued was the same as racial epithets used to describe blacks and Jews. I still believe those comparisons are wrongheaded. But other examples stayed with me. I remember once being told that a young girl cried upon seeing a relative described as an .

Yesterday, I decided The Denver Post will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant” when describing a person in the country unlawfully. If we know the actual circumstances we will describe them. The word “illegal” will not be applied to a person, only an action.

We began discussing this issue about a month ago after The Associated Press changed its policy. The AP’s action followed a number of other news organizations, such as NBC News, that had long abandoned the use of “illegal immigrant.” A cross section of staff was invited to discuss their views, and then we reviewed the usage in our own news organization. There were not many instances outside of quotations where we described a person as an illegal immigrant, and even rarer in a headline. Why? Because we generally don’t know a person’s status and it is not our practice to ask.

Some people say you can never win an argument with a newspaper. We certainly believe in what we do. But we also believe in listening and learning. We appreciate all of the thoughtful arguments mustered over these many years.

I feel good about how we got here. I am also thinking about that little girl I heard about a while back. She can wipe away those tears.



The Los Angeles Times will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant.” 


The Los Angeles Times will no longer use the terms “illegal immigrant” or “undocumented immigrant,” the paper announced Wednesday. While the Times has generally avoided such terms for some time, the new guidelines make the policy official. 

Read More

Now, if we can get the New York Times to get with the times and drop the i-word…


As a survivor of campus sexual assault, and as someone who became a feminist and an activist after my own experience of institutional apathy towards my attacks, I feel conflicted. I am so glad that this serious issue is getting more attention, but I am increasingly frustrated and almost scared by the lack of diversity that I see in the survivors receiving national media attention. As I look at photos and watch the media appearances of these resilient, brave survivors I can’t help to feel invisible. I browse a network of campus rape survivors who are working to combat institutional apathy towards rape victims and struggle to find other women of color who are like me.

Why does the representation of survivors in the media matter? Validation of black women of survivors would go against the jezebel stereotype that, in fact, black women are not all sexually insatiable creatures and can be raped. It would challenge attitudes that black women are more to blame for being survivors of sexual and domestic violence and that being raped is just as serious as if they were any other color. An important message that media attention on rape survivors means that “you matter.” Do not other survivors — whether they are men, of color, poor, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming matter, too?

What has contributed to young white women being the face of rape survivors in media? I do not know. It may be a reflection of our culture to be more sympathetic to white female survivors as talking about rape and rape culture in mainstream media becomes more prevalent (a sort of extension of “missing white woman syndrome”). It could be general distrust or fear of the mainstream media to properly tell our stories. Or maybe no one wants to listen. When I first was trying to get attention to my story, I remember reporters, producers, and magazines alike asking me to rehash the painful details of my story only to pick to feature other survivors: all of them pretty, female, and white.

Reporters approach weary runners, either politely or idiotically request interviews, and get rejected, only to beg for forgiveness. That’s clearly how it should be; while our jobs as news hunters and disseminators is to first gather info–often amidst pandemonium–it’s also important to swallow our pride sometimes, and to acknowledge the feelings of whoever has our pens, pads, and microphones jammed in their face. But the more of these civil exchanges that I witness, the more I cringe at the double-standard in practice.

Imagine, for a moment, that instead of a bombing on Marathon Monday, the media swarm was over a multiple homicide in one of Boston’s neighborhoods of color. The reporting process would have likely gone down differently. Whether gun violence or terrorism deserve more or less attention than the other is a debate all in itself; relatedly, there’s been some healthy chatter in the past few days–particularly by international outlets like the BBC–about the amount of Boston bombing coverage relative to larger tragedies that regularly shatter nations elsewhere. What’s also important, however, is the way in which reporters treat subjects in these moments of despair.

Unlike in Back Bay, where marathoners and their families have been hanging out since Monday, reporters tend to take a harsher tone in black, Latino, and Cape Verdean neighborhoods. One instance that comes to mind was immediately following the horrific earthquake in Haiti two years ago. Journalists flooded Caribbean enclaves in and around Blue Hill Avenue, scraping whatever heartfelt quotes they could out of people in anguish. Yet little sympathy was shown. Rather, as all too often happens in disparate communities everywhere, journalists pushed past acceptable limits, and in the face of reluctance, backed off swiftly and unapologetically.

It doesn’t take a Harvard sociologist to see what’s happening here. Generally speaking, most folks who have the time and resources to train, travel, and compete in a marathon are at least middle class, if not upwardly mobile or quite fortunate. In other words: unlike so many families that are devastated by routine urban violence, the people in track jackets around Back Bay this week are in many ways peers of the college-educated reporters interviewing them. In my observation, while a great many journalists are well-spirited deep-down, they’re also condescending asses for whom stories trump sensitivity in the event that subjects exist on a lower socio-economic rung.

The web channel Animal does a bit of culture-jamming by writing the apology the New York Post should have written for its racist, Islamophobic coverage of the Boston bombings. Here’s the text (h/t Disgrasian):

Animal's New York Post apology


it’s important for Black people to be able to represent ourselves. fortunately, with the internet, websites such as Youtube seem to be the place to do that considering we are quite far from owning our own images in popular television and film. internet webseries have much more ownership over their series than those on television or in theaters, and thus more flexibility, diversity, and a closer connection to feedback from the targeted audience (i.e. other Black people). 

here’s a list of a few i’ve found on youtube:

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Ask A Black Man

The Unwritten Rules

Brothers with No Game

Afro City

Milk + Honey

Between Women


All About the McKenzies

The Couple

The Number



PuNanny Diaries

Makutano Junction


Venus vs Mars

Black and Single

Single Until Proven Guilty

some are good and some are not so good. but this is simply to put them out there. also, feel free to add to the list….

(via sourcedumal)

Information is currency. But, just like cash, it can prove elusive for some and plentiful for others. In our increasingly digital era, the ability to access the Internet is the key to greater opportunities. And yet, the digital divide persists, meaning that citizens from different groups are missing out on the Internet revolution.

One glaring example of the information disconnect revolved around Internet access at public libraries. The free service is one of the few ways low-income residents of communities receive access to the Internet. According to “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at Libraries,” 77 million people use libraries to access the Internet annually, and 44% of people below the federal poverty line relied on public access terminals. In addition, 26 million people used public library terminals for government or legal services. Still, demand vastly outstrips supply.

Unfortunately, wait times for terminals can stretch across hours, and if the computers go down, there is no way to alert people beforehand. This caused patrons endless distress; many used public transportation or scheduled their library usage around their work schedules, which meant a wasted trip.

I discussed with a library staffer creating a simple SMS alert (text message) that people could subscribe to that would notify them of the status of the computers. The idea was well received, but stalled in the implementation phase.

Another moment I kept returning to when conceiving this project was working with local teens – and how they had absolutely no idea that legislation for a nightly curfew and restrictions to public space were being debated. When they heard the news, they were outraged. One boy got out of his chair yelling, “I would like to testify!” But the week before, I had watched a Washington Post reporter try to find teens to comment on a story, and tweet about his inability to find someone to go on record.

Latoya Peterson*, “Making Sure News And Information Gets To All The Public,” JSK: John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford 2/8/13

*yep, as in the Owner/Editor of Racialicious!