Friday, August 31, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
(CBS/AP) A new government survey shows 12 states now have very high obesity rates among its adult residents.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered a nationally representative rate of Americans across the U.S. by calling 400,000 Americans in 2011, asking them about their height and weight.
What did the survey show? Overall, more than a third of adults are obese, similar to earlier reports, but rates differ by state.
State rates remained about the same although the number of those with very high rates went from nine to 12. That signifies that at least 30 percent of adults are obese in Alabama (32 percent), Arkansas (30.9 percent), Indiana (30.8 percent), Kentucky (30.4 percent), Louisiana (33.4 percent), Michigan (31.3 percent), Mississippi (34.9 percent), Missouri (30.3 percent), Oklahoma (31.1 percent), South Carolina (30.8 percent), Texas (30.4 percent) and West Virginia (32.4 percent).
CDC: Less than half of Americans get enough physical activity
Fewer U.S. kids have high cholesterol, gov't study finds
Colorado was lowest, at just under 21 percent obesity, and Mississippi was highest at nearly 36 percent. No state had obesity prevalence under 20 percent and 39 states had a prevalence of 25 percent or more.
The CDC released the figures Monday. The new obesity map of 2011 rates was created using a different set of methodology from earlier maps, namely the inclusion of cell-phone only households into the data. That means the data can't be scientifically compared to earlier obesity rates, and this new map will serve as a baseline reading of national obesity rates for years to come
A time-lapse map on the CDC's website shows obesity in America dating back to 1985 through 2010 - the map over time becomes more colorful as it approaches current rates of the obesity epidemic.
To see where your state stacks up, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I will say that it is a film worth seeing and it's all too disgustingly real, with characters that seemed very familiar to me.
by Ricardo A. Hazell
*Spike Lee has been the preeminent director of films geared toward African American audiences for almost 30 years and we’ve come to expect a certain level of Lee’s signature craftsmanship ever since his very first big screen release, “She’s Gotta Have It.” His “40 Acres and a Mule” production company has rolled out over 35 films since 1983.
Recently I was invited down to the Directors Guild of America theater in Manhattan on 57th st to a screening of Lee’s most recent offering, “Red Hook Summer.”
It may be one of his most highly anticipated films in recent memory as it continues on his catalog of films that are based in Brooklyn. It tells the tale of a young man named Flik Royale, played by Jules Brown, whose mother sends him to spend the summer with his grandfather the good Bishop Enoch Rouse, played by Clarke Peters, in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn. Flik is 13 years old and is meeting his grandfather for the very first time. The two immediately begin falling out, as was to be expected, over Bishop Enoch’s insistence upon making Flik a devout Christian. Bishop Enoch, not unlike many old school grandfathers, doesn’t believe that Flik should be allowed to simply run free of his own accord. He puts Flik to work down at the Lil’ Peace of Heaven Church to help prepare for the upcoming Seniors’ Day.
It is there he meets Deacon Zee, played magnificently by Thomas Jefferson Byrd, a tragic yet comical drunk who is also Bishop Enoch’s right hand man. He also meets his antagonist/childhood sweetheart in the form of Chazz Morningstarr, played by Toni Lysaith. She and Flik are together through out the film and, had one not been paying attention, you would almost think “Red Hook Summer” was going to be a relatively light-hearted coming of age story. The common themes are all there for one to make that assumption: a stubborn yet brilliant child, a stern yet loving disciplinarian, a free spirited female companion and a dangerous potential adversary in the gang leader Box, played by Nate Parker.
But as the film progresses we begin to realize that, while there may indeed be elements of a coming of age story in the film, it’s really a story of deception, abuse of power, secrets and revelations. The audience is given hints throughout the film but it all comes to a climatic and masterfully acted crescendo in the pulpit. That’s when all of those hints come together in the mind’s eye. We now know why Bishop Enoch’s daughter Colleen Royale, played by De’Adre Aziza, showed great concern when initially dropping her only child of at her father’s door step, and why it took her 13 years to do so.
I will say that it is a film worth seeing and it’s all too disgustingly real, with characters that seemed very familiar to me. Bishop Enoch’s initial rigidity with dealing with young Flik seemed like the right thing to do in my eyes because it struck a familiar cord with in me. I initially found myself sympathizing with Bishop Enoch and wishing the headstrong Flik would get his act together. But little did I know that the individual that needed to come clean was the “good” Bishop? Can’t forget to give a shout out to Johnathan Batiste for his performance of Da Organist TK. Funny, funny, funnier with every church scene as he played the organ and ad-libbed in true church organist fashion. The kids, Jules Brown and Toni Lysaith did Ok but their chemistry and timing seemed to be a bit off. But I still think they performed well considering this was their first feature film. I’ll give them a C+.
The film’s zenith came in true Spike fashion. After all, I thought shortly after digesting “Red Hook Summer”, when has Spike Lee ever let us off easy when it comes to holding a mirror up to black culture?
The dialogue reflects a sign of the times approach which Spike Lee often employs. One in which the characters speak of times and circumstances that reflect the black mindset of some films Spike has his hand in. It is a particular touch of craftsmanship that I enjoyed before, and I enjoy it still. The Motion Picture Association gave the film an R rating because of “a disturbing situation”. But what is actually disturbing is that anyone living today might deem this film unnecessary. Those that do are in extreme denial. Is this a blockbuster? No, but it is a film worth making and it cuts straight to the heart of a very current matter. I would say this film is a success on artistic merit and subject matter alone.
“Red Hook Summer” opened on August 10 in select theaters in the New York area and will premiere nationwide on August 24. I cannot honestly sit here and tell you that this film is for everyone. You have to be ready to deal with a scene that is somewhat unsettling, but it was needed to hammer down the film’s reality. Overall I would give “Red Hook Summer” a B- on subject matter, dialogue, plot twist and the script.
COLUMN by LEE DYE
We humans like to think we're good at using our nimble brains to deal with two challenges at once. But it gets complicated. We can talk and watch television at the same time, but we can't carry on two conversations simultaneously.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
by Kristina Chew
The US Department of Justice is accusing officials in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, of operating what was in effect a “school-to-prison pipeline” in which students — a disproportionate number of whom were African-American and/or had disabilities — were arrested and incarcerated for alleged infractions of school discipline that, in some cases, were as “minor as defiance.” The students indeed became “entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the US Constitution.”
A letter sent by the DOJ’s civil rights division on Friday charges the Lauderdale County Youth Court, the Meridian Police Department and the Missisippi Division of Youth Services (DYS) with violating the constitutional rights of children in Lauderdale County and the City of Meridian. The DOJ is seeking “meaningful negotiations” in 60 days to end the violations or, as CNN notes, it will file a lawsuit against state, county and local officials in Meridian.
Meridian, as Raw Story reminds us, is the very place where civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, were murdered in 1964. 62 percent of Meridian’s population is African-American.
This is not the first time that Lauderdale County’s agencies have been the target of a lawsuit on similar charges. In 2009, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility in Meridian. Both children and teens were subjected to “shockingly inhumane” treatment that included packing them ”into small, filthy cells and tormented with the arbitrary use of Mace as a punishment for even the most minor infractions — such as ‘talking too much’ or failing to sit in the ‘back of their cells,’” according to a statement from the SPLC.
In 2010, the SPLC said that it had reached an agreement with Lauderdale County officials about alternatives to sending children and teens to the detention center and to reform the corrections system. But on Friday, the DOJ accused the Meridian police and school and county officials of acting in a “pattern of unconstitutional conduct.” Students with certain disciplinary violations were referred by school officials to the police who “automatically” arrested them, after which they were sent to Lauderdale County’s juvenile justice system “where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate” says the DOJ’s letter.
Indeed, as the DOJ’s letter also notes, “the Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and DYS require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center.” Even after leaving the detention center, children on probation were still subject to being “routinely arrested and incarcerated for allegedly violating their probation by committing minor school infractions, such as dress code violations, which result in suspensions.”
Lauderdale County had made some attempts to change a corrupt system operating in violation of the constitutional rights of minors. Raw Story says that, before the DOJ’s investigation began last December, the county began the process of shutting down its youth detention enter and sending youthful offenders to facilities in other counties but “that action was considered inadequate.”‘
Lauderdale County’s schools, youth services agencies and police have been operating — seemingly in concert — to funnel children with disciplinary violations straight into Mississippi’s criminal justice system. It is almost as if the schools have been “educating” children for a life of punishment, in lawcourts and behind bars.
Related Care2 Coverage
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/doj-students-school-to-prison-pipeline-mississippi.html#ixzz23M7QAsca
Transportation Security Administration officers at Boston's Logan International Airport are alleging that a program intended to help flag possible terrorists based on passengers' mannerisms has led to rampant racial profiling, a newspaper reported Saturday.
The New York Times ( http://nyti.ms/P2enzf ) reported on its website that in interviews and internal complaints it has obtained, more than 30 officers involved in the "behavior detection" program at Logan contend that the operation targets not only Middle Easterners, but also passengers who fit certain profiles — such as Hispanics traveling to Miami, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward.
The TSA told the newspaper on Friday that it is investigating the officers' claims. At a meeting last month with the agency, officers provided written complaints, some of them anonymous, from 32 officers.
The officers said their co-workers were increasingly targeting minorities, believing the stops would lead to the discovery of drugs, outstanding arrest warrants and immigration problems, in response to pressure from managers who wanted high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals, The Times reported.
"The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program," one officer wrote in an anonymous complaint The Times obtained.
The program, which has been billed as a model for other airports across the country, is intended to allow officers to stop, search and question passengers who seem suspicious. Specially trained "assessors" observe security lines for unusual activity and speak individually with each passenger, looking for inconsistencies in the passenger's responses to questions and behavior such as avoiding eye contact, fidgeting or sweating.
Passengers considered suspicious can be taken aside for more intensive questioning.
At least one passenger has filed a formal complaint with the TSA. Kenneth Boatner, a black psychologist and educational consultant who was traveling to Atlanta on business last month, said he was detained for nearly half an hour as agents examined his belongings, including his checkbook and his patients' clinical notes.
In an interview with The Times, Boatner said he felt humiliated, and that the officers never explained why they were singling him out, but he suspected it was because of his race and attire. He was wearing sweat pants, a white T-shirt and high-top sneakers.
"I had never been subjected to anything like that," Boatner said.
The TSA said the program at Logan "in no way encourages or tolerates profiling," and that passengers cannot be subjected to behavior assessments based on their nationality, race, ethnicity or religion.
"If any of these claims prove accurate, we will take immediate and decisive action to ensure there are consequences to such activity," the agency said in a statement.
The TSA said it did not compile information on passengers' race or ethnicity and could not provide a breakdown of passengers who may have been stopped on either basis through the program.
Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
By Rachel Dodes
In 1982, at a New York club called Sweetwaters, Hollywood producer Howard Rosenman and his friend, song writer Paul Jabara, heard an 18-year-old girl belt out a gospel song. Her mother called her onto the stage by the name “Nippy,” but her real name was Whitney Houston.
“She blew us out of the water,” recalls Mr. Rosenman.
After the show, they went backstage, and Mr. Jabara—known for Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” —convinced the teen to record his song, “Eternal Love,” for a compilation album, “Paul Jabara and Friends.” This, of course, was before Ms. Houston signed with Clive Davis at Arista records and became one of the most beloved divas in pop music history.
Her rapid ascent from church-going teen to international superstar mimicked the storyline of “Sparkle,” a film that Mr. Rosenman produced in 1976, and co-wrote with his friend Joel Schumacher. The movie, which chronicles the struggles of three sisters with dreams of forming a Supremes-style girl group, was their first project, but they would both go on to have storied Hollywood careers: Mr. Rosenman has produced almost 30 feature films, including “Father of the Bride” and Mr. Schumacher became a well-known director of films like “A Time to Kill” and “Veronica Guerin.”
“Sparkle,” made for $1.6 million, was hardly a box office sensation. But it launched the careers of co-stars Irene Cara (“Fame”) and Phillip Michael Thomas (“Miami Vice”) and inspired a generation of young African-American women, like Ms. Houston. She loved the film so much that she and her producing partner, Debra Martin Chase, spent 12 years trying to remake it. By the time Ms. Houston and Ms. Chase approached Warner Bros.—the studio behind the original—in the year 2000, Mr. Rosenman had already tried several times to get the rights to do a remake. The studio said no to him, but yes to Ms. Chase and Ms. Houston.
“I both resented it and liked it because I loved Whitney so much and I loved Debra,” says Mr. Rosenman, who serves as an executive producer on the new version, to be released on Aug. 17 via Sony Screen Gems. He still retained novelization rights, and made a six-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. The book, written by Denene Millner, was released this week. He and Ms. Chase are also collaborating on a Broadway musical based on the film, but it won’t hit the stage for a couple of years, at the earliest.
Here are some excerpts from a conversation with the producer, who has a cameo in the film, as the title character’s landlord.
How did the idea for the first “Sparkle” come about?
I was always a fan of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, all the girl groups of late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I was just obsessed with them. In 1970, I met Joel Schumacher on the beach in Fire Island. A friend of ours introduced us. I was making commercials and he was doing windows at [the department store] Bendel’s. We both wanted to go out to Hollywood and make movies. On one hot Sunday August afternoon we started to talk about our dreams and desires. In the background a Supremes album was playing over and over again and we talked about how much we loved Motown and R&B and Diana Ross and black women singers of the past 40, 50 years. I looked at Joel at one point and said, “We should make a movie about those girls.”
What about the name “Sparkle”?
Joel was kind of a genius. Every Monday…he would take these white mannequins that looked like Donna Reed and Mamie Eisenhower, and he would strip them of their wigs and clothes and gloves and dip them into vats of coffee and he would turn them into multiculti girls and put incredible wigs on them. This was way before Benetton. The entire fashion world would come and watch him do these windows. On one of these nights a couple of weeks after we met, he did this window and he put three black girls in three red dresses and one of the dresses was covered in red shiny paillettes—like sequins. One fell on the ground. I brought it to Joel on my fingertip. It glinted in the lights of the window. I said this is what we should call our movie: “Sparkle.”
How did you get this thing made? Neither of you had Hollywood careers at this point.
I wrote up a treatment, and we sold it to Robert Stigwood—he was the great Australian entrepreneur who was managing Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Bee-Gees, Eric Clapton. He gave us $5,000 back then. It was huge. You are talking 1971. We were thrilled as punch. What happened was that Stigwood then put up $150,000 for Lonnie Elder, who had written the screenplay to “Sounder”—he was the first African American to win an Academy Award for a screenplay—to write “Sparkle.” And when the script came in, it was terrible. It was such a disappointment. And it was so expensive.
So you and Joel Schumacher rewrote it?
I had a brown Mercedes and we were driving through the Napa Valley and I turned to Joel and said “Our baby is going to die unless you rewrite it on spec.” So Joel wrote a screenplay and it was very long. I sent this long, long screenplay to John Calley (the former head of production at Warner Bros.), who said “I love this idea. Come to my office.” So Joel and I schlepped to Warner Bros.
This movie wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, but it resonated with an audience of young African American women, who felt it rang true to them—or at least truer than the ‘blaxsplotation’ films that were popular at that time. Yet it was written by two Jewish guys from New York.
The real gift of the new “Sparkle,” as Joel said to me when I screened it for him a couple of weeks ago, he said “Finally it’s in the hands of African Americans, who really understand this.” That’s why this movie is so much better than the original. And Joel called me and was crying because he was so impressed. [Director] Salim Akil and Mara [Brock Akil, the screenwriter] added a political overtone that we wanted the original to have but was cut out. It rings truer.
I understand people used to host “Sparkle” parties?
It was beloved in the African-American female community. It was iconic. There weren’t movies made for them that were aspirational. Whitney would go every weekend and watch it. Whenever I meet any African American in show business or music or movies and they hear my name, they all know that I produced the first version of “Sparkle.” When I first met Beyoncé [Knowles] she bowed in front of me. It was wild.
The film cost under $2 million to make and basically broke even, right?
It just broke even, but the album did big business. We released a soundtrack with Aretha Franklin covering the Curtis Mayfield songs from the movie. That album was a big hit. The movie itself was very dark. They called [cinematographer] Bruce Surtees “the Prince of Darkness” in his obituary. It was beautiful in an elegiac, arty way but not practical. You couldn’t see anyone’s face. It was a small little movie.
Have you seen all the advertising for this new version?
I went to Century City and saw the biggest sign I’ve ever seen in my life. It runs the length of the entire Century City Mall. At the Grove—it covers the whole front of the Grove. It’s mind-boggling.
Could you have imagined that this would happen to this tiny little film that you made in 1976?
That’s what Joel said to me. He told me, “the day I met you was the most magic day of my life.” He’s just undone by it. Then seeing my name six feet tall. It’s just me and Joel and Mara and Salim. It’s so f—ing wild. It’s crazy.
For more, go to When a Death Shakes a Movie
By MARTHA SOUTHGATE
CULLEN JONES and Lia Neal were among the many swimmers to win medals for the United States in this year’s Olympic Games. But their inspiring performances obscure a disturbing truth. Not only are they, as African-Americans, anomalies in the elite levels of their sport, but enormous numbers of African-Americans do not have even rudimentary swimming skills, a lack that costs lives.
A 2010 study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis reported that nearly 70 percent of African-American childrendo not know how to swim. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American children between the ages of 5 and 14 are almost three times more likely to drown than white children.
Cullen Jones could have been one of them; his parents put him in swim class after he almost drowned at the age of 5. Jones has become an evangelist for the importance of swimming lessons, working with Make a Splash, a water-safety initiative focused on minority children. But it can be tough even to give swimming lessons away. Starting last fall, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston made swimming lessons mandatory for their members, who are predominantly black and Hispanic. Though the lessons were free of charge, a number of parents had to be talked into allowing their children to participate: they were terrified of letting them get in the water.
This bears out the USA Swimming Foundation’s finding, in its 2010 report, that “fear trumped financial concerns across all respondent race groups in low-income families.”
Regardless of race, the poor lack access to pools and swimming lessons. Around 40 percent of white children and 60 percent of Hispanic children do not know how to swim — they, too, could benefit from free or affordable lessons. But why is the problem worse among African-Americans, many of whom, across all economic classes, lack confidence in the water? A large part of that unease is a legacy of slavery and segregation.
It has been documented that before slavery, many West Africans could and did swim. But a slave who could swim was a slave with another means of escape, so slave owners went to great lengths to make it impossible to keep this skill alive.
Later, segregation took its ugly toll at public beaches and pools. According to the historian Jeff Wiltse in an NPR interview, “whites set up, essentially, sentinel guards at the entrance to the pool, and when black swimmers tried to come in and access them, they were beaten up, sometimes with clubs.” One white motel manager was caught on camera pouring acid into a pool in which blacks were staging a “swim-in.” Institutionalized racism was shored up by specious scholarship, like a 1969 report titled “The Negro and Learning to Swim: The Buoyancy Problem Related to Reported Biological Difference.”
Sadly, the fear of water that was instilled in African-Americans back then has become self-perpetuating. “Don’t you know blacks don’t swim?” Jones remembers being told by members of his family. It’s time to bury that stereotype at sea. As of 2010, 15 European countries had made swimming a compulsory part of their education curriculums. Ideally, the United States would do the same. Not likely, I know, when even dry land physical education programs are being slashed. But we can and should do better.
This country is blessed with a network of community centers like the Y.M.C.A. and the Boys and Girls Clubs that have swimming programs, instructors and pools in place. These centers could take Boston’s example and make swimming lessons mandatory, which would benefit their clientele, regardless of its racial makeup. Public schools (and particularly charter schools, many of which have extended their school years into summer’s heat) could devote part of each summer to shuttling their students to swim programs.
Another model is the public-private partnership, like Horizons National, an academic summer program that partners low-income schools with independent schools and colleges that have access to swimming pools. Here’s a quote (posted on the program’s Web site) from one participant: “When I started Horizons I was so afraid of the water that I would not even go in the shallow end. Learning how to swim and overcoming that fear helped me realize that I could do anything.” Who said this? Algernon Kelley, who now has a Ph.D. in chemistry and lectured at Xavier University of Louisiana.
The best way to eliminate the culture of anxiety around swimming is to create thousands of little African-American swimmers who are not afraid. I was one of those swimmers — never elite but always joyous. My parents packed me and my siblings off to the pool at our local community center as soon as we were old enough, and I became the kind of kid who would get out of the water only when my lips were blue. How wonderful if more children could feel the joy and confidence I feel when I’m swimming — and be safer around the water, too.
The United States faces immense problems of all kinds, many of which are more pressing than teaching children to swim. But for a mother who stands screaming on the shore as her child goes under for the last time, not knowing how to swim is the biggest problem there is.
Martha Southgate is the author, most recently, of the novel “The Taste of Salt.”
Monday, August 27, 2012
Most of today's black artists, plugged into the corporate money machine, are reluctant to speak truth to power
'It would be exhilarating to see the likes of Beyoncé (pictured) and Oprah Winfrey marching against the high levels of black youth in prisons.' Photograph: Evan Agostini/AP
In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the legendary entertainer and long-time political activist Harry Belafonte spoke frankly and courageously about the current state of injustice and inequality in the world. His comments included a lament that has sparked some debate:
"I think that one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen and now you're talking. I really think he is black."
Is this a fair assessment of the current state of black celebrity? It is undeniable that today's top black artists and celebrities have the greatest leverage, power, visibility and global influence of any period. It is also true that few speak openly, regularly and publicly on behalf of social justice. Most remain remarkably quiet about the conditions that the majority of black people face.
This is not to discount their philanthropic efforts. Often, celebrities take on non-controversial issues and or simply use their celebrity indirectly as a fundraising tool. But the kind of actions for which Belafonte, James Baldwin and others were known – marching with civil rights protesters under threat of death by citizen or police violence – is rare among modern superstars. Doing fundraisers is important, but unless it's a very controversial issue, that kind of giving is not terribly sacrificial; it's a feel-good decision for some and for others it's a cost of doing business. The current state of affairs calls for more visible courage than this.
Black unemployment has recently been at what some call depression-era levels of around 18%. The drop-out rates for young black people are staggering and have lifelong effects. Although black people make up around 12% of the population, they make up over 40% of those incarcerated in prisons. Poverty levels have risen across the board, but in the black community it is catastrophic: 40% of black children are born into poverty today, a number that rivals the poverty rate of the pre-civil rights victories of the 1960s.
How can so many high-profile artists have so little to say about all this?
Belafonte's lament illuminates a fundamental shift in black popular culture. As black artists have gone mainstream, their traditional role has shifted. No longer the presumed cultural voice of the black collective social justice, it is now heavily embedded in mass cultural products controlled by the biggest conglomerates in the world.
Even relatively tepid statements have to be managed and walked back. In the aftermath of Katrina, Kanye West said on national television during a fundraising telathon that George W Bush didn't care about black people. Any close examination of the government's post-Katrina response to black New Orleans or the impact of Bush policies and alliances on black America generally would give credence to this view. But West was challenged to and then compelled to apologise. Why, and to what end?
Some blame the artists for being sell-outs, while others blame the corporations for leaving artists little choice but to ply their trade in this terrain and keep quiet. It's the price of the ticket to be successful at the highest levels. So, perhaps in exchange for not talking openly about the danger of what Belafonte called "unbridled capitalism", highly rewarded artists are given prime access to corporate-controlled culture markets. Either way, the balance of power has shifted toward artistic success being determined by market success. And, many artists and fans have internalised the frightening collapse of the two.
There are important exceptions to this trend. Rapper Lupe Fiasco calling Obama a baby killer and terrorist for ordering drone attacks that kill innocent people is a rare and risky one. It would be exhilarating to see the likes of Will Smith, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey and others at that level of celebrity power marching against police stop and frisk policies and the high levels of incarceration of black youth in the prison industrial complex.
In the history of black culture, popular music and art has played an extraordinary role in keeping the spirit alive under duress, challenging discrimination and writing the soundtrack to freedom movements. Visionary artists such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson,Lorraine Hansberry and Nina Simone were shaped by, and contributed to this tradition, not least because much of their celebrity derived from community support not challenged through corporate marketing strategy.
The current expansion of the cultural arm of predatory capitalism threatens the power and vitality of this tradition by limiting visible spaces, audience appetite and celebrity influence of those who speak truth to power and sing the songs of justice.