SNL’s “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black” and How White America Went Nuts

By Angela Bronner Helm, theRoot.com

…there’s always been some speculation and lots of room for interpretation when it came to Beyoncé’s, um, ethnicity.

Beyonce with backup dancers dressed as Black Panthers during the Super Bowl halftime show.

Beyonce with backup dancers dressed as Black Panthers during the Super Bowl halftime show.

…between the blonde wigs, Creole propers and that L’Oreal ad where she self-identified as part French, Native American and black, well, one could comfortably assume that Queen Bey was just a shade black. Black-ish, even.

But all that changed the day before the Super Bowl when Yoncé dropped “Formation,” a brazen and unapologetic ode to Southern, African-American blackness and the militant love of such. The next day when she performed at the Super Bowl with her nod to the Black Panther Party and dropped the mic, Black America collectively lost its mind.

As “Formation”’s lyrics noted, “You know you that b–ch when you cause all this conversation”—there was no shortage of think pieces, critical analysis, and even criticism of the song and video…

Inevitably, there was some backlash when some people got wind of the fact that it wasn’t about them; that, and the Black Panther thing. There’s even a protest of sorts planned (and a counter protest), and silly articles and backlash against those.

Jumping right into the mix, last night Saturday Night Live inserted itself into the cultural conversation with the hilarious video, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black,” a dark, apocalyptic movie trailer that shows what happens when white America finds out that Beyonce is, gasp, black. Watch:

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Yes, These Babies Are Actually Twins

By Cavan Sieczkowski, the Huffington Post

Anaya and Myla are 10-month-old sisters, and they are also twins. 

“Kyle is mixed-race and I’m white, so from the word go, our friends joked: ‘What would you do if one came out dark and the other was fair,'” Hannah Yarker told local news outlets, per Metro UK.

The fraternal twins — meaning two separate eggs were fertilized by two separate sperm, and developed in separate amniotic sacs — were born last April.

“[A]fter two weeks, it was clear Myla takes after her dad with dark skin, brown eyes and brunette locks, while Anaya is more of a mummy’s girl with a pale complexion, fair hair and light eyes,” she said.

And people certainly are curious about the adorable babies. “I can’t walk down the aisle at the supermarket without getting stopped,” said the mom.

…An interracial couple expecting twins has about a 1 in 500 chance of the babies having different skin tones, according to the BBC…

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Unpublished Black History

By ,  and

In July 1967, Newark [New Jersey] erupted with violence after rumors circulated that a black cabdriver had been beaten and killed by white police

Armed soldiers of the National Guard patrol the streets of Newark, NJ.

Armed soldiers of the National Guard patrol the streets of Newark, NJ.

officers. He was actually alive — arrested and injured — but for many black residents, it was just another example of Newark’s systemic problems with police abuse, racism, and corruption.

After six days of unrest, 23 people were dead; 725 were injured.

We described the clashes between the National Guard and black residents with the language of war. One of the front-page headlines on July 15 read, “Negroes Battle With Guardsmen.” Another declared, “Sniper Slays Policeman.”

The main photo published that day showed National Guardsmen and police officers standing over black men face down on the ground, with a caption that said the authorities were “searching for weapons and stolen merchandise.”

The photo that was not published, above, shows a calmer scene that points to the wider trauma experienced by Newarkers who were not involved in the violence, but who watched their city burn and their neighbors bleed…

The questions linger. Robert Curvin, the civil rights leader in Newark who later worked for The New York Times and the Ford Foundation,told me in 2006 that he was still haunted by the experience of trying to keep the city calm, to no avail.

“Talking about it is one of the most traumatic and painful things in my life,” said Mr. Curvin, who died last year. “The destruction of human life that I saw in those very short few days, I will never get over.”

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President Proclaims National African American History Month 2016

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Harriet Tubman, "The Conductor," with fugitive slaves in Underground Railroad station

Harriet Tubman, “The Conductor,” with fugitive slaves in Underground Railroad station

America’s greatness is a testament to generations of courageous individuals who, in the face of uncomfortable truths, accepted that the work of perfecting our Nation is unending and strived to expand the reach of freedom to all. For too long, our most basic liberties had been denied to African Americans, and today, we pay tribute to countless good-hearted citizens — along the Underground Railroad, aboard a bus in Alabama, and all across our country — who stood up and sat in to help right the wrongs of our past and extend the promise of America to all our people. During National African American History Month, we recognize these champions of justice and the sacrifices they made to bring us to this point, we honor the contributions of African Americans since our country’s beginning, and we recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character.

John Lewis (l) and Jim Zwerg after being beaten on a Freedom Ride in Alabama in 1964. Lewis, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), later became a long-serving Member of Congress from Georgia.

John Lewis (l) and Jim Zwerg after they were beaten on a Freedom Ride in Alabama in 1964. Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Now he is a long-serving Member of Congress from Georgia.

From the Revolutionary War through the abolitionist movement, to marches from Selma to Montgomery and across America today, African Americans have remained devoted to the proposition that all of us are created equal, even when their own rights were denied. As we rejoice in the victories won by men and women who believed in the idea of a just and fair America, we remember that, throughout history, our success has been driven by bold individuals who were willing to speak out and change the status quo.

Refusing to accept our Nation’s original sin, African Americans bound by the chains of slavery broke free and headed North, and many others who knew slavery was antithetical to our country’s conception of human rights and dignity fought to bring their moral imagination to life. When Jim Crow mocked the advances made by the 13th Amendment, a new generation of men and women galvanized and organized with the same force of faith as their enslaved ancestors. Our Nation’s young people still echo the call for equality, bringing attention to disparities that continue to plague our society in ways that mirror the non-violent tactics of the civil rights movement while adapting to modern times. Let us also not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could make our voices heard by exercising our right to vote. Even in the face of legal challenges, every eligible voter should not take for granted what is our right to shape our democracy.

The "War on Drugs" begun by President Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a sudden steep rise in the number of Americans being jailed. The US now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

The “War on Drugs” begun by President Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a sudden steep rise in the number of Americans being jailed. The US now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

We have made great progress on the journey toward ensuring our ideals ring true for all people. Today, African American high school graduation and college enrollment rates are at an all-time high. The African-American unemployment rate has been halved since its Great Recession peak. More than 2 million African Americans gained health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The incarceration rates for African-American men and women fell during each year of this Administration and are at their lowest points in over two decades. Yet challenges persist and obstacles still stand in the way of becoming the country envisioned at our founding, and we would do a disservice to all who came before us if we remained blind to the way past injustices shape the present. The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners — a disproportionate number of whom are African American — so we must find ways to reform our criminal justice system and ensure that it is fairer and more effective. While we’ve seen unemployment rates decrease, many communities, particularly those of color, continue to experience significant gaps in educational and employment opportunities, causing too many young men and women to feel like no matter how hard they try, they may never achieve their dreams.

President Obama's slave ancestry has been uncovered

President Obama

Our responsibility as citizens is to address the inequalities and injustices that linger, and we must secure our birthright freedoms for all people. As we mark the 40th year of National African American History Month, let us reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans, and let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2016 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

Ex-Cop William Melendez Gets Up to 10 Years for Beating of Michigan Driver Floyd Dent

By Erik Ortiz, NBCNews.com

The ex-Michigan cop convicted in the beating of an unarmed driver during a traffic stop last year was sentenced Tuesday to 13 months to 10 years in prison.

Former Inkster, MI police officer William Melendez

Former Inkster, MI police officer William Melendez

William Melendez, 47, was caught on police dashboard camera in the January 2015 assault against driver Floyd Dent, who was hit 16 times and testified that he was choked so hard he passed out.

Melendez during his hearing was also sentenced to 90 days on a misconduct in office charge. He was given 85 days credit for time already served.

From the bench Tuesday, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans admonished Melendez for an incident that seemed to spiral out of control from a simple traffic stop.

“You were so into your bravado that you forgot the eye of justice was recording you,” Evans said. “You knew better. You were better trained than any of those officers out there. You were more experienced.”

Melendez, who was fired from the Inkster Police Department last April, was found guilty in November of misconduct in office and assault with intent to do great bodily harm…

Dent, a 58-year-old Ford Motor Co. worker, was initially charged with driving on a suspended license, possession of cocaine and assaulting or resisting a police officer. But those charges were later dropped.

Floyd Dent victim of a police beating during a traffic stop in November, 2015

Floyd Dent victim of a police beating during a traffic stop in November, 2015

Dent has maintained police planted the cocaine on him..

He settled a civil suit with the city of Inkster in May for $1.4 million, and amid the public outcry in the case, the city’s police chief resigned, two officers were suspended and Melendez was fired.

The incident was widely cited last year amid the renewed national focus on police brutality in minority communities…

Floyd later told WDIV-TV that he had hoped Melendez would have been thrown behind bars for longer than 10 years.

“If it was left up to me, I would give him 15 years,” Dent said. “All the lying and humiliation and everything he’s done — he’s supposed to be an officer of the law.”

Read the full article here.

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Jan Rodrigues: The First Black Man on the Island of Manhattan

By Steven J. Niven, theRoot.com

In 1613, seven years before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, and six years before a Dutch vessel sold 20 Africans to the Virginia colonists at Jamestown, a black man named Jan Rodrigues was the first non-Native American to settle and trade on what is now Manhattan Island.

Mural of Jan Rodrigues in Harlem River Park

Mural of Jan Rodrigues in Harlem River Park

Rodrigues, described in Dutch records as “Spanish” and a “black rascal,” was born in Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic) to a European (possibly Portuguese) father and a mother of African descent, and where he was presumably known as Juan Rodriguez.

Other than a fairly small number of Spanish bureaucrats and colonists, the majority of people on Santo Domingo were black or mixed race—some enslaved, some free—and many shared a culture that was influenced by the indigenous Taino population.

…Rodrigues, like much of the Santo Domingo population, began to make a living through smuggling, an occupation that became more lucrative after 1600, when Dutch, Portuguese, French and English vessels began arriving in the Caribbean in much greater numbers en route to their own planned colonies in North and South America…

At some point before the summer of 1613, Rodrigues joined the crew of the Dutch merchant shipJonge Tobias, captained by Thijs Mossel, on its voyage from the Caribbean to the East Coast of North America, including a journey up the Hudson River. The vessel anchored off Manhattan Island, where the crew traded furs with the native Lenape. Perhaps, like Mathieu da Costa, Rodrigues was an able linguist who could converse with them in pidgin. Several weeks later, Mossel commanded his crew to return to the Netherlands, but Rodrigues refused to leave, claiming that as a free man, he had a right to choose.

Mossel reluctantly agreed to leave him there and left him with 80 hatchets, some knives, a musket and a sword. Over several months, Rodrigues traded with various native bands and with other Dutch vessels in the region, including one captained by Adrian Block, who was mapping Long Island Sound. When Block returned to the Netherlands later that year, he discovered that Mossel was suing him in court. Mossel claimed that Rodrigues was his servant and that his presence on Manhattan was in service of protecting Mossel’s exclusive trading rights with the islanders. Block disagreed.

Block stated that Rodrigues was a free man, not a servant, and was acting on his own authority, not on Mossel’s behalf. Another Dutch captain, Hendrick Christiaensen, testified in support of Block’s claim that Rodrigues was a free man, based on his several months living with native groups as a translator for Christiaensen’s own negotiations with a band of Rockaway Indians.

Contemporary Dutch painting purported to be a likeness of Rodrigues

Contemporary Dutch painting purported to be a likeness of Rodrigues

Rodrigues did not testify in the case, but he made clear his views of his former ship captain when the Dutchman, Mossel, returned to Manhattan in April 1614 aboard a new vessel. Upon sighting Mossel, now captain of the Nachtegael, on the Hudson, Rodrigues fired his musket at the ship. The Dutch crew, armed with swords, guns and torches, responded by chasing him onto the island, where he was briefly wounded and captured. Rodrigues somehow managed to grab a sword from one of his pursuers and escaped to the safety of Christiaensen’s vessel. For Mossel, Rodrigues’ resistance proved his claim that he was a renegade “black rascal” and not free. The Dutch courts disagreed with him, however, and by not returning Rodrigues to Mossel, implicitly ruled that he was a free man.

With the conclusion of the court case, Rodrigues disappeared from the written historical record. Some accounts suggest that he remained in Manhattan and established a trading post, where he was supplied with axes, kettles and other metal tools to barter with the Lenape. As the first-known nonindigenous resident of the region, he had knowledge about local language, customs and values that was invaluable to the growing number of Dutch visitors and settlers. He may have married and had children with a local woman and was perhaps still in the region when the Dutch West India Company arrived in Manhattan in 1625…

Race-based slavery would gradually entrench itself in New Amsterdam, which would later become New York, as well as in all of the mainland Colonies, and the history of Manhattan’s first free black resident was largely forgotten until the late 1950s, when Dutch historians discovered his case in the Colonial archives. But it was not until 2013 that the English and Spanish translation of his court case became widely available through the Dominican Studies Institute at the City College of New York.

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