From the News Wires
Carlton Turner spends a lot of time on the road, but he calls the South--Utica, Mississippi--home. The musician and working artist has spent 10 years working with Alternate Roots, a Southern-focused network of artist/activists. It's work that's taken him from studios and churches all the way to the White House, where's he's discussed cultural policy with members of the Obama administration. On November 15 in Dallas, Turner will talk about confronting racism with art at Facing Race, the biennial conference held by Race Forward, Colorlines' publisher. Here, he discusses filling creative voids, the power of relationships and how we can better support young artists of color.
First off, tell me about the different hats you wear.The main hat [I wear] is the executive director of Alternate Roots, a 14-state network of artists who are doing work at the intersection of arts and activism in the South. Our network stretches beyond the South, but it focuses on the South. I've been on staff at the organization for over 10 years and I've been executive director for six years in February.
I came to Alternate Roots' staff as an artist, and I continue to be an artist. [I've] worked with a group called M.U.G.A.B.E.E, which is Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction. I cofounded it with my brother, Maurice. We've been doing performing-arts and community-engagement work through long-term community residencies since 1996. That has been mostly based in music and theater but has also ventured to other paths. We take our cues from the local community.When you started M.U.G.A.B.E.E., what void were you and your brother trying to fill?
The name comes from the idea that when we were growing up, black men were considered an endangered species. It was a time of the drug wars and gang wars and all the things that were continuing to dismantle [the] progress of black men. Much like what we've seen with Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, [black men] have been seen as a threat to the community. What we wanted to do was to bring about some positive music and art that could project a different type of black male presence, especially coming out of a Southern culture. We were beginning to see the fading of voices like Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest and the emergence of artists like Goodie Mob and Outkast, so we thought that our work could help bring a different type of voice from a black male perspective in the South than what we were seeing.
The South is sometimes ignored when we're talking about arts and contemporary activism on a national scale. For you, what makes arts and activism so unique in the region?
I think about all forms of African-centered cultural expression and popular forms of art in the United States -- music, theater, dance in the-- all originating in some from Southern culture. In many ways it comes out of plantation culture-- the fields, the hymns, the blues in soul and gospel music--and all those things that went on to create hip-hop, rock 'n' roll and R&B. If we're talking about cultural legacy and cultural production, it goes hand-in-hand with the forced labor of African-Americans in the South. Those things are very connected to one another. Anything that we're seeing today in pop culture originated in production you can trace back to black labor in the South.
What about contemporary activism?
In the South, we know that there can't be any movement-shifting without building authentic relationships. The movement base in the South is about relationships. That's why the church was such a strong part of the Civil Rights Movement, because people had long-standing relationships that traced back generations. It was easy to create a safety net for the movement. Those relationships don't exist at the same level that they once did, so we're seeing our movement base have issues with trying to be grounded and actually have a safe space.
How is that relevant to what we're seeing now in black activism?
What's happened in Ferguson--you saw police raiding a church. Police would never do that in the South during Jim Crow. Now, the Klan would burn churches down, and maybe some of those members were police officers, but they had to do it under the guise of a vigilante because it would be desecrating a safe and spiritually grounding space. Now, that doesn't happen in the same way.
You travel often for your work and you've gone to the White House and spoken to the president's team on culture. How do you think we can support young artists [of color] across the country?
Consistency, to me, is the missing element to a lot of the cultural practices we're seeing across the country. We'd rather see a one-night performance than to see an artist engaged in a 10-year dialogue with the community because it's hard to see how that manifests over time. I think what young artists could really benefit from is an open invitation to really engage with the community on a long-term basis. We're stuck in this economic model of hustling for tour sites and trying to hustle [our] work in a marketplace that only values the transaction, but I think we really need to put more value in the actual relationships.
In Californa, one in six people has confronted severe trauma as a child, according to a new study (PDF) released this week by Bay Area-based health research and advocacy groups Center for Youth Wellness and the Public Health Institute. What's more, those experiences, classified as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), can negatively impact the health of the adults children become.
The Center for Youth Wellness gathered four years of data on 27,745 Californians and found that 61.7 percent of people in the state had experienced one ACE, while 16 percent had experienced four more more. ACEs fall into three broad categories: abuse, neglect and "household dysfunction," which encompasses the incarceration of a family member, mental illness, divorce and substance abuse.
The more ACEs an adult has confronted, the higher their likelihood for serious illnesses like diabetes, stroke and cancer. Those who've experienced four or more ACEs, for example, are 2.2 times more likely to experience coronary artery disease.
In California the most common ACEs adults report experiencing are emotional and verbal abuse, followed by parental divorce or separation, and substance abuse by a family member. Asian-Americans are less likely to report having experienced ACEs, but by and large, childhood trauma is distributed roughly equally across people of all races. For instance, 16.4 percent of whites, 16.5 percent of blacks, 17.3 percent of Latinos and 11.1 percent of Asians report experiencing four or more ACEs. However, the percentage of those who experience high concentrations of ACEs is higher among those who are poorer and have less education.
Public health researchers in this emerging field have found that the accummulation of these negative life events and struggles constitutes toxic stress which can seriously impact children who are in the midst of important brain and cognitive growth, affecting their physical and mental health years down the line.
"It's a public health crisis," the Center for Youth Wellness's co-founder Dr. Nadine Burke Harris told KPCC. "This is not just a small percentage of the population - that it's happening in limited neighborhoods - but this is really all of us, and that's going to require system change."
When you look at Tuesday's election results by gender, it seems that the Democrats and Republicans split the women's vote pretty evenly, with a few percentage points in favor of Dems. But when you examine that data by gender and race, you'll get a wholly different picture that highlights an Achilles' heel for Democrats: white women.
Exit polls released by CNN show that white women's votes went to the Republicans by a margin of 13 percent. Fifty-six percent of white women voted Republican while only 43 percent voted Democrat.
And if you look at the numbers for black and brown women, you see just how big the race gap really is. Ninety percent of black women and 67 precent of Latina women voted Democrat. (It's worth noting that Black and Latino men also voted for Democrats more than white women did--86 and 58 percent respectively.) Even when you break it down by age, the white vote went to Republicans. These numbers mean even more when you consider that white people make up two-thirds of the electorate, with the vote evenly split between white men and women.
While the long game may be to focus on the emerging majority-of-color electorate, Democrats may be sacrificing today's elections by overlooking the power of the white women's vote. Both times that Barack Obama was elected president, there has been a pretty consistent line among advocates in the progressive feminist movement: "Women won the election." But a small-but-important detail is often omitted: He actually lost with white women.
"When you actually look at the numbers, it's women of color who have won the elections in spite of white women," says Lindsey O'Pries, a white progressive activist living in Richmond, Va. "We're not able to be critical of white women because we're not acknowledging what's happening. The refrain is, 'Women won the election.' But the credit is not being given where it is deserved."
Progressives have put a lot of time, energy and resources into cultivating black and brown voters. This is a commonsense approach--the numbers clearly show that if you bring them to the polls, they'll vote Democratic. And voter turnout is something even non-partisan 501 (c)(3) groups can do without restriction.
But O'Pries questions whether her get-out-the-vote (GOTV) tactics have their limits. "In Virginia, whenever I'm doing GOTV work, it's always in communities of color. But am I really the best ambassador of that? [Shouldn't] I be focusing more on my own people? And how do you do that in a comprehensive way?"
O'Pries says that with white voters, who already turn out at high numbers, the work has to be focused on changing minds and selling candidates. Republicans are clearly doing a better job than Democrats on that front.
This isn't the first election where the gap was so large between white women's and Latina and black women's Democratic vote. In the 2010 midterms, 58 percent of white women voted Republican while black and Latina women did so at 6 and 33 percent respectively.
People may finally be taking notice. Andrea Grimes, senior reporter for RH Reality Check, wrote passionately about the Democrat Wendy Davis' loss in the Texas gubernatorial race in an article appropriately titled "White Women: Let's Get Our Shit Together": "It was women like me--married white women, specifically--who failed Wendy Davis--and ourselves, and our families, and Texas families--on Tuesday night. According to exit polls, Black women, Black men, Latinas, and a near-majority of Latinos who voted turned out in solid numbers for Davis."
The major game-changer for the white-women's vote might be a presidential run for Hillary Clinton. She might resonate with white women voters in a way that Barack Obama--and his mostly white, male Democratic party--has not. But like the saying goes: The first step is admitting you have a problem. Democrats can't afford to wait for demographic shifts to change the game. They've got to get their own white majority on board. After all, as the recent past indicates, Republicans may use their power to keep communities of color from the polls, only further upping the ante for Democrats to figure out how to reach white women.
So put aside the horrific examples John Oliver points out above of shenanigans happening in statehouses all across the country. (Truly. Horrific.) Fact is, Congress has a well-earned reputation for gridlock, whereas statehouses are where bills actually become laws--more than 24,000 this year alone, according to a Washington Post article cited by Oliver. That compares to Congress' 185 bills passed since January 2013. With that workhorse-meets-constipation disparity in mind then, consider that as of Tuesday, according to Facing South, the GOP further tightened its already dominant grip over the South, gaining 64 seats. (In Alabama, for example, the GOP controls every statewide elected office and all but one congressional seat.) Nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, after final votes are tallied and recounted, "it appears that Republicans will have a net gain of between 350 and 375 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation's 7,383 legislative seats"--giving some indication of the thousands of laws to pass (or progressive legislation to stall) over the next few years on everything from abortion rights to low-wage labor organizing, paid sick leave, health care and more.
"Statehouses do a huge amount of work while no one is watching," Oliver says. He's right. Less than one-third of U.S. newspapers assign a reporter to the statehouse and nearly 90 percent of local TV news stations do not either, according to a Pew analysis released this July.
ICYMI, writer and actress Joy Regullano was tired of white men fetishizing Asian woman, so she flipped the script and turned in this hilarious video. Check it out.
(h/t Everyday Feminism)
"Big Hero 6" is Disney Pictures latest big film release and is set to hit theaters this weekend. Momo Chang at the Center for Asian American Media points out that the film itself is an homage to Japanese anime and also chatted with Ryan Potter, the 19-year-old voice actor for the film's main character, Hiro.
So the main character, Hiro, is hapa, Japanese and white, similar to your own background. Could you relate to the character?
I mean, I could relate to the character, simply from the fact that we look similar. But then when you dive in deeper, we're very similar, in the sense that when I set my mind to something, I get it done. Hiro's very much the same way. We both get tunnel vision. Hiro's much smarter than I am, but our intellect can get us into a little bit of trouble. Yeah, I mean, even when I walked into the audition the first time, I looked at the character design, and I thought, we kind of look similar!
The film also features a pretty diverse voiceover cast that includes Daniel Henney, Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph, Damon Wayans, Jr. and Genesis Rodriguez. On that, Potter remarked:
When you hear the film, it sounds like we're in the same room at the same time but it's actually the opposite. We all record on our own, separately. And then the editors and sound engineers, they end up putting all the voiceover together. I mean, I worked with Maya Rudolph very briefly, maybe 20 minutes, max. But other than that, we all worked on our own.
Potter speaks to representation that's seriously lacking in Hollywood. According to a study from the University of Southern California, Asians made up just over four percent of speaking characters across last year's top 100 grossing movies.
Read more at the Center for Asian American Media.
MTV is marking November's Native American Heritage Month by premiering a 30-minute episode of its "Rebel Music" series on young indigenous artists in North America. The series looks at socially conscious artists across the globe. This episode, for which renowned street artist Shepard Fairey serves as an executive producer, features stories of Frank Waln, Inez Jasper, Nataanii Means and Mike Clifford. They're all activists who channel their messages through art in an effort to combat the devastating realities of issues ranging from suicide to sexual assault in their communities.
Here's a sneak peek:
In a somewhat unconventional move, the episode will premiere on Rebel Music's Facebook page next Thursday, November 13 at 4pm EST/1pm PST. Stay tuned.
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- Energy. Taxes. Obamacare. Trade. Check out the G.O.P.'s new agenda. (Another take here, too.)
- Israel's Netanyahu stands against right-wing calls to allow prayer at a site in Jerusalem that's sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
- Carlesha Freeland-Gaither,22, is found alive after being kidnapped in Phildelphia.
- It's Bring Your Parents to Work Day.
- Citing a ban on sharing food in public spaces, police in Fort Lauderdale arrest a 90-year-old man, Arnold Abbot, for feeding homeless people.
- You can now create and edit Microsoft Office on any iPhone, iPad or Android for free. We'll see what this might mean for Google Docs.
- AC/DC is apparently still going on tour, despite drummer Phil Rudd being arrested for attempting to plot a double murder in New Zealand.
- Colon cancer is on the rise for adults under the age of 50 in the U.S; at this time, screening are rarely recommended under that age.
- Atacama's telescope, the massive radio telescope in Chile known as ALMA, captures the birth of a planet.