‘The Butler’: Lifting the Veil on Black Life

By Henry Louis Gates Jr., TheRoot.com

I watched Lee Daniels’ The Butler in a standing-room-only theater on Martha’s Vineyard, with a thoroughly integrated audience of well-educated black and white people, whose ages ranged from teenagers and college students to midcareer professionals and retirees. The audience sat riveted over the entire course of the film, alternatively moved to laugh at the intraracial humor, to cry at the frailties and foibles of the all-too-human characters so vividly brought to life and to sit in pained — sometimes stunned — silence at the film’s most poignant revelations about the mysteries and horrors of race and race relations in 20th-century America.(…)

2013-08-13-butler

Image from ‘The Butler’

There are several reasons that I was so engrossed with the film’s plot and the brilliantly subtle ways that Daniels brought Danny Strong’s extraordinary screenplay to life, but upon reflection, I think the most important of these is Daniels’ and Strong’s uncanny capacity to lift the veil, as W.E.B. Du Bois so famously put it, on how black people actually talk to one another behind closed doors, when they are free to speak unconsciously, without censoring themselves in front of white people or in the presence of the black thought police.(…)

But there is a second reason that I love this film: It achieves, implicitly, what so many black political figures and talking heads have been calling for since the George Zimmerman verdict was announced — that proverbial “conversation about race” called for, it seems, every time another racist incident is inflicted upon a black person.

images-5

Image from ‘The Butler’

Let me admit that I am dubious about “conversations about race” — not because we don’t need to continue to address how the historical or systematic manifestations of structural and institutional racism persist in affecting how each and every black person can conduct his or her daily life. We do. And not because I think that the other source of anti-black treatment of our people — individual attitudes, often unconscious ones, that reflect a deep-seated prejudice, rooted deep in the psyche — should not be analyzed and worked through in a collective, national therapy session. We so urgently need this kind of psychological cleansing of personal bias.(…)

To check out the entire article, click here.

For more breaking news, click here.

Politics Gets Its Own Cheerios Ad

The black son of a white candidate tackles stop and frisk in a campaign ad.

By Keli Goff, theRoot.com

Earlier this year, Cheerios generated extensive media attention — and countless racist comments online — for becoming the first major American brand to feature a mixed-race family in a television advertisement. Now an ad for a political campaign is poised to be just as groundbreaking, and potentially

Bill de Blasio with his wife and son in his "Cheerios"  campaign ad (www.billdeblasio.com)

Bill de Blasio with his wife and son in his “Cheerios” campaign ad (www.billdeblasio.com)

controversial.

This weekend television advertisements began airing starring the teenage son of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. De Blasio is white; his wife, Chirlane McCray, is black; and their son, Dante, sports a sizable Afro in the ad, in which he makes the case for why he believes that his father is the best candidate for mayor. You can watch the ad […] here.

While he touches upon a number of issues, including affordable housing, the ad’s most powerful moment comes when he talks about his father’s position on stop and frisk. The controversial practice has drawn extensive criticism from civil rights advocates who point to studies showing that the New York City Police Department disproportionately stops young, black and Latino men as proof that the practice is inherently discriminatory. The practice has been under renewed scrutiny now that the issue of racial profiling has sparked national conversation in the wake of the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida and President Obama’s acknowledgment of his own experiences with racial profiling.

Watching a young black teenager discuss stop and frisk, I found it impossible not to be reminded of all the young black men who face such issues every day, and hearing him give credit to his white father for being a leader on the issue may just turn the heads of some progressive voters, particularly progressive voters of color.

But what is also likely to turn voters’ heads is the novelty of the ad.

mixed race familyAs previously covered on The Root, while multiracial families are among the fastest-growing demographic groups in the nation, they remain a rarity among political candidates. Among the best-known interracial political couples are those who served in appointed or nominated roles, such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, who is white, and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who is white and whose wife, Janet Langhart, is black.

While still rare in the political sphere, families like the de Blasios represent the changing face of America, as evidenced by the immense popularity of the Cheerios ad. The de Blasios were so elated by the ad that they emailed supporters to say, “As an interracial couple, we sometimes felt conspicuous — which was painful,” Chirlane McCray wrote. “If you’re in love with someone, you’re in love with someone … That’s why the Cheerios ad is so refreshing.”

It’s likely the ad featuring their son will join the Cheerios ad as a major cultural turning point for mixed-race families.

Read more Breaking News here.

 

 

NAACP: Stop-and-frisk Ruling a ‘Groundbreaking Victory’

By Lily Workneh, TheGrio.com

Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Mondy morning that New York City’s Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practice violated constitutional rights – and the NAACP is pleased with her decision. (…) “This is a groundbreaking victory,” said NAACP President Ben Jealous.

images-4“Judge Scheindlin recognized what the NAACP has been saying for years: the racial profiling tactic of stop-and-frisk has no place in our enlightened society. We hope that Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly will heed this decision and end their crude and abusive policy. We will continue to stand up with the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who marched with us last June and fight for the protections of the Community Safety Act.” (…)

Over 532,000 people were stopped and questioned by the NYPD in 2012 alone, which is more than a 440 percent increase in the number of stops made since 2002. Eighty-seven percent of those who were stopped were either African-American or Latino, according to the NYCLU. (…)stopandfriskjm8

“This decision sadly confirms what was profoundly obvious. When the police stop tens of thousands of citizens who have done nothing wrong – the overwhelming number being young men of color – basic civil rights are being violated,” Weiner said. “The policy of using stop and frisk as a deterrent rather than a tool for the pursuit of actual criminals has to change.”

For more on this article, click here.

For more breaking news, click here.

‘Race-switch’ Robbers Found Guilty On All Counts

By Selim Agar, Nypost.com

thetown5

Image from the film ‘The Town’

The trio of black robbers who donned Hollywood-grade masks to appear Caucasian during the stickup of a Queens check cashing joint were found guilty on all counts in Brooklyn federal court today and each face life in prison. (…)Drawing their criminal inspiration from the Ben Affleck flick “The Town,” the crew shelled out nearly $3,000 for three masks and dressed up as cops during the heist that netted them a $200,000 windfall.

08-_Therobberymask-11-RH160018--415x415

The ‘Mac the Guy’ mask used during robbery.

The threesome immediately embarked on a coast to coast shopping spree from Manhattan to Beverly Hills as they gorged on luxury items including $1,600 Christian Louboutin shoes and $600 Louis Vuiton belts. The robbers managed to fool staffers at the check cashing store that they were white – but a trail of criminal miscues eventually led to their arrest and yesterday’s guilty verdict. (…) As in the film, the crew wore masks, doused the crime scene with bleach and intimidated staffers by announcing details of their personal lives. Prosecutors also revealed text message exchanges between the childhood buddies after the crime where they praised their collective handiwork and signaled a readiness for another heist.

To read the full article, click here.

For more breaking news, click here.

On This Date in History: Alex Haley Was Born

From the African American Registry

Alex Haley, author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots: Saga of an American Family

Alex Haley, author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots: Saga of an American Family

Alex Haley was born on this date in 1921. He was an African American author, whose books helped popularize the study of Black history and genealogy. Born in Ithaca, New York, Haley was educated at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College and at Elizabeth City Teachers College. He served in the United States Coast Guard, where he worked as a journalist. After retiring, Haley moved to New York City to pursue a writing career. As a journalist Haley was impacting. In 1962 he interviewed trumpeter Miles Davis for Playboy magazine. Soon after, he interviewed Malcolm X, with whom he later collaborated to write The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965. The book had a strong influence on black nationalists. It also received praise from critics and was widely read in colleges and universities.

Roots (1977), based on the book by Alex Haley, was a much-viewed dramatic tv series. It traced Haley's family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his descendants' liberation.

Roots (1977), based on the book by Alex Haley, was a much-viewed dramatic tv series. It traced Haley’s family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte’s enslavement to his descendants’ liberation.

Haley then began to research and write what would become his best-known work, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The book, a mixture of fact and fiction, chronicles Haley’s ancestral history and the methods he used to trace his lineage to a West African village. To write the work, Haley invented certain unknown details of his family history. The series of character portraits that he created caused many Americans to become interested in genealogy. Haley received special citations from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award committees for Roots.

Roots was translated into 26 languages and made into a television miniseries in 1977. An estimated 130 million Americans viewed at least one episode of the eight-part series. Alex Haley died in 1992.

Reference: The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage by Susan Altman

For more Breaking News, click here.

A Family Consents to a Medical Gift, 62 Years Later

By Carl Zimmer, New York Times

Henrietta Lacks had no control when doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital used her cells 62 years ago in research that led to groundbreaking medical advances. But now her descendants will.  The Lacks were never compensated financially by the institutions that used the cells. Now the family will be reimbursed for expenses related to serving on the NIH working group, but will not receive pay. "The main goal was science and being part of the conversation," said David Lacks Jr., a grandson who will sit on the working group with Henrietta Lacks' great-granddaughter Veronica Spencer.

Henrietta Lacks had no control when doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital used her cells 62 years ago in research that led to groundbreaking medical advances. But now her descendants will.
The Lacks were never compensated financially by the institutions that used the cells. Now the family will be reimbursed for expenses related to serving on the NIH working group, but will not receive pay.
“The main goal was science and being part of the conversation,” said David Lacks Jr., a grandson who will sit on the working group with Henrietta Lacks’ great-granddaughter Veronica Spencer.

Henrietta Lacks was only 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951 in a Baltimore hospital. Not long before her death, doctors removed some of her tumor cells. They later discovered that the cells could thrive in a lab, a feat no human cells had achieved before.

Soon the cells, called HeLa cells, were being shipped from Baltimore around the world. In the 62 years since — twice as long as Ms. Lacks’s own life — her cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer.

But Henrietta Lacks, who was poor, black and uneducated, never consented to her cells’ being studied. For 62 years, her family has been left out of the decision-making about that research. Now, over the past four months, the National Institutes of Health has come to an agreement with the Lacks family to grant them some control over how Henrietta Lacks’s genome is used. (…)

As the journalist Rebecca Skloot recounted in her 2010 best-seller, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” it was not until 1973, when a scientist called to ask for blood samples to study the genes her children had inherited from her, that Ms. Lacks’s family learned that their mother’s cells were, in effect, scattered across the planet.

Some members of the family tried to find more information. Some wanted a portion of the profits that companies were earning from research on HeLa cells. They were largely ignored for years.

The_Immortal_Life_Henrietta_Lacks_(cover)Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory published the genome of a line of HeLa cells, making it publicly available for downloading. Another study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health at the University of Washington, was about to be published in Nature. The Lacks family was made aware of neither project.

“I said, ‘No, this is not right,’ ” Jeri Lacks Whye, one of Henrietta Lacks’s grandchildren, said in an interview. “They should not have this up unless they have consent from the family.”

Read the full article here.

Learn about the HBO movie about this being made by Oprah.

Read more Breaking News here.

Ohio Organization Raising Funds to Buy George Zimmerman a New Gun

By Carrie Healey, TheGrio.com

The Buckeye Firearms Foundation started a fund to buy George Zimmermann “a new gun and fight attacks on the Second Amendment.” (…)

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

“This move to prevent Mr. Zimmerman from claiming his property is an unacceptable abuse of power,” the Buckeye Firearms Foundation wrote in their post. ”And the threats of federal charges on civil rights grounds is little more than blatant pandering for political gain.” The post says that the organization will be “purchasing a NEW FIREARM for [Zimmerman], including a holster, flashlight, and any other gear he wants.”

“It’s a travesty to keep harassing someone who didn’t do anything wrong in defending his life,” President of the Buckeye Firearms Association Jim Irvine told theGrio.

imgres-5

Irvine said they want to replace Zimmerman’s property because “it can cause some mental trauma to not be able to protect yourself.” He reports the group has raised over $5,000.”We didn’t set a specific goal,” Irvine said.“We just wanted to get him a gun, a holster, some ammunition, a belt to go with it if he needs.”

 

To read the full article, click here.

For more breaking news, click here.

Oprah: Trayvon Martin The ‘Same Thing’ As Emmett Till

By Jack Mirkinson, HuffingtonPost.com

In a brief clip that aired on Monday’s “Today”, Oprah Winfrey compared the killing of Trayvon Martin to that of Emmett Till, the young black boy whose brutal murderhelped fuel the civil rights movement. It was one of her first public

Trayvon Martin 1995-2012

Trayvon Martin 1995-2012

comments about the case, which has seen African Americans and whites sharply divided about whether George Zimmerman’s acquittal was just.

Emmet Till 1941-1955

Emmet Till 1941- 1955

“Trayvon Martin, parallel to Emmett Till,” Oprah told The Grio’s Chris Witherspoon. “Let me just tell you, in my mind, same thing. But you can stuck in that and not allow yourself to move forward and to see how far we’ve come.” In a previous interview with Diane Sawyer, she said her new movie, “The Butler,” could offer an answer to white people who were confused as to why African Americans were so outraged about Martin’s death.

Oprah also appeared on “CBS This Morning” for that show’s entire second hour, talking about things as varied as morning sex, her upcoming interview with Lindsay Lohan, and her network, OWN. “We’re having fun, we’re making money, we’re really in the business,” she said of OWN.


To read more on this article, click here.

For more breaking news, click here