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Sam’s Club’s First Black CEO Rosalind Brewer Steps Down

Theroot.com - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 13:56

Rosalind Brewer, the first woman and the first African-American to head Sam’s Club, stepped down from her position on Friday, reports Fortune.

After five years at the helm of Sam’s Club, Brewer will be replaced by John Furner, Sam’s Club’s chief merchant. Although Brewer said she is leaving the $57 billion-a-year company next month because “she wants a new challenge,” the word is that she is leaving because Sam’s is lagging behind its main competitor, Costco. Her last day on the job will be Feb. 1.

Sam’s Club has made large strides in e-commerce under Brewer, says Fortune, but the 650-store chain has struggled to narrow the sales growth gap with Costco whose growth rates have been several percentage points higher than Sam’s in recent years. Fortune also reports that the average household income of a Costco member is about $120,000, making it much less vulnerable to downturns in consumer spending.

Brewer joined Walmart in 2006 as regional vice president, overseeing operations in Georgia. She climbed the ranks to become division president of the Southeast, and later Walmart East. She became CEO of the company in 2012.

Brewer sparked some controversy last year when she recounted in a CNN interview meeting with a supplier who had no representation of women or people of color on his team.

“My executive team is very diverse, and I make that a priority. I demand it within my team,” Brewer shared during the interview about diversity. “Just today we met with a supplier, and the entire other side of the table was all Caucasian males. That was interesting.”

The Root contributor Charles Ellison said that the backlash Brewer faced on social media for her comments was “merely the latest in a nauseating trend of mythical white victimology. Rather than a sensible exploration of Brewer’s point, the country club went ballistic, perhaps its buttons pushed to the outer limits of what white privilege could absorb.”

Brewer, No. 19 on Fortune’s Most Power Women in business list, was one of the few top African-American executives in retail. In fact, black CEOs represent barely 1 percent of Fortune 500 company heads even as African Americans are a little over 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Read more at Fortune.


Dylann Roof Wears Racist Symbols on Shoes to Court

Theroot.com - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 10:02

Dylann Roof, who was convicted in December of killing nine black parishoners in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015, has been wearing shoes adorned with racist symbols to court as recently as Monday, reports the Daily Beast.

Church shooter Dylann Roof customized his jail shoes with racist symbols https://t.co/mRWkDUT9wQ pic.twitter.com/exr77FwHg3

— SoleCollector.com (@SoleCollector) January 6, 2017

Roof, who is representing himself in the murder trial and who testified that he has absolutely no remorse over the June 17, 2015, killings during a Bible study, has been rocking prison issued shoes with hand-drawn racist symbols on them to court for the past two months.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Hamski testified Friday that he has seen runes and a Celtic cross drawn on the insides on Roof shoes, and has seen these popular white supremacist symbols as early as November, when Roof’s trial began. Authorities also found the symbols inked on a pair of shoes seized during a search of Roof’s jail cell 16 months ago.

The jury has also heard this week the contents of a nearly 40-page jailhouse manifesto Roof penned in the weeks following the massacre in he assailed whites as “pathetic cowards” for not rising up against “the lower races.”

On Friday Hamski also detailed Roof’s online activities on a neo-Nazi site called StormFront.

Using the name “LilAryan,” Roof sought out other white supremacists in South Carolina on the site and shared his feelings about white women who are romantically involved with black men.

“Yes, they are race-traitors, but I don’t have this hate for them that others seem to have,” Roof wrote. “I actually feel sorry for them when I see them out. Because I know they are probably getting beaten.”

Roof, who is representing himself in court, asked no questions of Hamski during cross examination. While family members of the victims emotionally testified about their loved ones, Roof has reportedly stared straight ahead at a wall without emotion.

The 22-year-old, who is facing life in prison or the death penalty for the heinous murders, has been hit with 33 federal charges, including a slew of hate crimes.  The New York Daily News reports that prosecutors have said they plan on wrapping up their case on Monday.

Jury members will presumably begin deliberating Tuesday to make up their minds on whether Roof should face death or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Read more at the Daily Beast and the New York Daily News.


Reader Review: "The Opposite of Everyone"

Top Reader Reviews - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 06:00
by CarolN (San Jose, CA): An #1 Indie Next Pick, this beautifully layered novel features Paula Vauss (aka Kali Jali) who spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited mother, Kai. Her mother was a Georgia storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern tales to reinvent their family's history. Soon the mother-daughter bond is fractured landing her mother in prison and Paula into foster care system.

As the story begins Paula is now a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. Even though she hasn't seen her mother in fifteen years, she does continue her obligation by sending her monthly support monies until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a cryptic letter containing words about a final journey, death, and a new beginning when we met again.

Then Kai's most treasured secret literally lands on Paula's doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and deep in her heart. With the help of an ex-lover and her newly discovered younger brother, she now has to figure out how the other missing family pieces are put back together.

I am a huge fan of Southern writers such as Jackson. In this book she delivers another one of her quirky, Southern-based, character-driven novels that combines writing with a vivid and imaginative storyline. This novel is an intense look at broken people and how they heal themselves and each other through forgiveness, love, and the power of "stories." "The Opposite of Everyone" has been a bright spot in my last few months of leisure reading. Jackson hits both this reader's emotional nerve and the funny bone by using evocative language and creating memorable characters to carry her story.


Throwing Shade at Throwing Shade: How TV Land’s New Show Leeches Off Black Gay Culture

Theroot.com - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 02:04

I imagine that Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi are lovely white people, but that doesn’t make the formal rollout of their new TV Land late-night show Throwing Shade any less grating. And before anyone else mentions it for the umpteenth time: Yes, plenty of us are well aware that these two have been using that title for some time.

The show initially launched as a podcast in 2011 before moving to Funny or Die, which then produced 80 episodes after acquiring it in 2013. The duo recently completed a 17-city tour last summer. For them, this run—including the pilot order to series order—likely feels like hard work paying off.


No one should deny them their journey, but that doesn’t make this news any less of a reminder that black cultures and subcultures can yield much more success when delivered from the mouths of white people. Nor does it preclude them from the fact that their work ethic notwithstanding, white folks continue to collect cash and cheers from our creativity.

“This amazing, weird brainchild of Erin and Bryan translates perfectly into a weekly late-night show,” TV Land Executive Vice President of Development and Original Programming Keith Cox explained to the Hollywood Reporter. “We can’t wait to see them take on the most recent and ridiculous news of 2017.”

That turn of phrase—“weird brainchild”—makes one want to fall down before a picture of Black Jesus and cry out, “WHY?!”

Although the Throwing Shade trailer makes clear that Safi is gay, he is a white gay—thus he came late to the shade room like the masses. Cox should be singing the praises of gay black men like Dorian Corey and the other gay black men of that ballroom era. The same goes for the gay black men who not only have continued on with that subculture, but have only expanded it with our wit and brilliance. It is gay black men who built that bridge; Gibson and Safi simply are cruising across it.

Per the show’s site: “From Funny or Die, it’s Throwing Shade! The new late show that treats politics and pop culture with much less respect than they deserve is coming to TV Land in January!”

Oh. OK. If you say so, sis.

I don’t want to begrudge Gibson and Safi. I’m fully aware that subcultures typically crossover into the mainstream—a process now expedited with the advent of social media. That said, word of their show doesn’t feel any less insulting.

As a gay black man, I’ve been told so many times who I am makes me limited in scope. I have heard this through the years from television executives and producers, people in publishing, and in some cases, others who serve in media. They use words like “niche.” They claim that my sexuality, coupled with my race, prevents me from attaining certain levels of success, thus they dare not take a risk on me. After all, I’m less than even if I’ve done more than the white folks they rush to rally behind.

And yet, for several years now, I have seen and heard so many instances of gay black culture being found in media only to be delivered by those who look nothing like its inventors. I see gay white men get to be all things to all people while watching black and Latino gay men continue to be viewed only by means of periphery and pathology. This is something I know still happens to black women—notably ones who don’t fit some very rigid notion of who they are “supposed to be.” It happens to black men, gay and straight alike, too.

Still, as a gay black familiar with this world, a show called Throwing Shade hosted by two white people is bothersome. Maybe Gibson and Safi will try to be inclusive in their show. Perhaps they can hire and feature those whose faces mirror the colloquialisms from which they’ve coasted on. It wouldn’t fix the problem, but it would suggest the duo is cognizant of it.

Then again, it would still be fronted by white people standing before black culture, reaping the benefits without any of the burdens we deal with. So much of blackness is stolen from us. Even worse, we’re then often excluded from it. It’s a new year, but as far as this tradition goes, it is as vibrant as ever.

It feels defeating; though if there’s any single consolation, it’s that despite all of this, black people only get more creative. It would just be nice for us to get rewarded accordingly. Or you know, they come up with their own s–t for a change.


Black LGBT Ministers Speak Out About Kim Burrell, Shirley Caesar

Theroot.com - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 02:03

The community is still reeling after a silent churchgoer put Kim Burrell’s violently homophobic sermon on blast for the world to see. Burrell’s tirade—which featured vulgar remarks about gay and lesbian sex and a warning that they would “die in 2017”—led to Ellen DeGeneres canceling the scheduled talk show performance of the gospel singer’s song from the Hidden Figures soundtrack. The film’s stars and creative geniuses, including Janelle Monáe, Pharrell, and Octavia Spencer, all rejected the sermon’s message.

Amid the controversy, however, there’s one group of people who haven’t been getting the shine they deserve. Black LGBT ministers have long been leading the way and continuing to blaze trails for congregations that affirm and welcome LGBT people, as well as teachings that approach gender and sexuality head-on. And they’ve all been outspoken in responding to Burrell’s notion, as she shared in a non-apology Facebook video, that her remarks had less to do with “L-G-B-T” and more to do with “S-I-N.”

The Root spoke with seven black LGBT ministers, pastors and Christian theologians from around the country who make it unequivocally clear that antagonism against LGBT people has no place in the church. It’s an issue that resurrects every few years after a prominent black Christian expresses abject homophobia—which is perhaps why some ministers weren’t at all shocked by Burrell’s sermon and Shirley Caesar’s defense of it.

“Because of her stardom and her place in gospel music, a lot of gay people look up to her. [Her sermon] was saddening, but not surprising,” said Jamie Frazier, senior pastor of the Lighthouse Church of Chicago. “The crassness of her language as someone who’s a pastor shows she wasn’t handling this thing sensitively, and I think it was meant to curry laughter and increase her credibility … not about genuine care for people’s souls.”

The Rev. Broderick Greer, a curate at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tenn., agreed.

“It’s easier to bully people from a pedestal than it is to look someone in the eyes and tell someone they’re perverted. I wonder how the tone would’ve changed if Pastor Burrell would’ve invited a panel of LGBT Christians, specifically black LGBT Christians, to ask them about their experiences of Christianity,” Greer said. “One of the great challenges of public ministry is remembering that it’s important to be in conversation with people and not preach at people.”

But as it relates to Burrell’s position, these experts also note that her beliefs, expressed with the tone and force of a demagogue, reflect a subjective approach to Scripture—one in which they rummage through the pages to confirm their own biases or preconceived notions about other people.

It’s what Bishop Yvette Flunder, a leading same-gender-loving theologian and senior pastor of Oakland, Calif.’s City of Refuge United Church of Christ, calls “proof texting.”

“I’m the progeny of slaves, but the Bible also says ‘Slaves obey your masters.’ Masters read from that text to African slaves and they felt justified to be slaveholders. But black people read past that and came up with songs like, ‘Before I be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free,’” Flunder noted. “The Scripture didn’t free us from slavery, but it was the knowledge of a God who loves us so much to not want us in that wanton institution. A lot of oppressed people are oppressing other people from the pulpit. Free people free people. So we need to work on getting free so that we can be agents of freedom.”

What’s even more puzzling, according to the Rev. DeWayne Davis, pastor of All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in St. Paul, Minn., is that women like Burrell and Caesar cite Scripture to condemn LGBT people while somehow overlooking what the text says about women leading in churches. Davis noted a passage from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians in particular, in which he tells women to be silent and submissive in matters of the church.

“This [passage] can be grounded in a history and context removed from our own, yet it’s been the basis to deny women from ordination—and Caesar and Burrell are on the receiving end of that kind of discrimination in Apostolic and Pentecostal circles,” Davis said. “[Caesar and Burrell] may not know they’re using the tools of a patriarchal theology, but they’re using that same structure to [oppress] queer people … we have now arrived at a more modern interpretation.”

Unfortunately, because of male domination and relics of racism in church communities, the ministers noted, not everyone feels fully free in their congregations. Many black LGBT people, then, are caught in between a rock and a hard place. On the whole, they’re attending black churches that may celebrate their racial identity, but condemn their LGBT identity. And in some predominantly white and LGBT-affirming congregations, their gender and sexuality may be welcome, but their blackness may be misunderstood or pushed away.

The Rev. Marcus Halley lived the experience firsthand. After his first year of seminary, the home church he grew up in removed him from leadership because he expressed a pro-LGBT point of view in a ministry meeting—well before he ever came out or realized he was gay. But the path quickly led him to a congregation where the pastor cared for his whole personhood and encouraged him to live in his truth. He’s now the pastor for young people and families at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s important that we, as spiritual leaders, affirm people in a society where so many people are searching for meaning. It’s upon us to help people along that process,” Halley said. “In my experience with the sexuality piece, when pastors withhold that affirmation from you, you’re left to find meaning elsewhere … so people live in denial and compartmentalize it for years.”

As part of doctoral research at the Chicago Theological Seminary, Baptist Minister Theresa Smallwood focuses on a “leprosy effect” in the treatment of black LGBT people in Christian spaces. Smallwood approaches the topic from a Christological perspective—that is, one that examines salvation from sin as inherent and gracefully conveyed because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In other words, the “S-I-N” Burrell alleges, regardless of whether it actually is (Smallwood disagrees), has already been bound up in God’s forgiveness.

“When you don’t see the blood of Jesus covering every soul, it becomes a misnomer in theology. I’ll say it’s fallacious and poor,” Smallwood said. “In Jeremiah, there’s a warning for people to watch what they say in God’s name—it says when you scatter my flock, there will be hell to pay.”

She and others, including Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Minister Candace Simpson, a third-year student at the Union Theological Seminary, believe the rhetoric from the likes of Caesar and Burrell indeed pushes people away from the church. LGBT people, as part of the broader community, deserve love, support and a seat at the welcome table.

“And quite simply it’s a matter of asking the question: Is what I’m preaching and believing the actual Gospel? And will [I use] the Gospel to bring death or bring life? And to whom?” Simpson said. “One thing I remember hearing people say way before me is that not everything in the Bible is moral, and it’s up to us and how we discern.”



Watch: Ava DuVernay on 13th, Her Life’s Work and Magnifying the Beauty of Black People

Theroot.com - Sat, 01/07/2017 - 02:03

Some might call Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th prophetic.

In just over 90 minutes, DuVernay traces the decisions, going as far back as the end of slavery, that led to the creation of the monstrosity known as the prison-industrial complex—and, thus, explains how it is that modern-day slavery exists. Telling the stories of black and brown people is what she was born to do.

The day after Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States, stock in private prisons skyrocketed. As 1 out of every 4 prisoners in the world are incarcerated in America, and 1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes, the stock rise is chilling, especially for black and brown people living in the U.S. But what are the implications?

“It means that everything that’s predicted in the documentary … it’s all going to come to pass,” DuVernay told The Root.

Still, the trailblazing filmmaker remains optimistic: “Stocks in private prison rose, but the fact that so many people know what that meant, and called it out, and had a context for what’s happening denotes change.”

Audience response is a reflection of that change. 13th has already won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, among others, and the film is also on the Oscar short list for best documentary, along with Not Your Negro and O.J.: Made in America. Making the short list will perhaps lead to a nomination (we’ll find out Jan. 24), which, in turn, will lead to an Oscar.

But while this hypothetical win for DuVernay and 13th may offer hope, and mean that a change is gonna come to the academy after a few years of #OscarsSoWhite, DuVernay doesn’t make films looking for awards or recognition. Filmmaking is her life’s work. “My striving for excellence is divorced from anything I think will come out of it for me,” she said.

The Root sat down with the prolific screenwriter and director to discuss 13th in the era of Trump, being the first African-American woman to direct a $100 million film (Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, slated for release in 2018) and the significance of an Oscar win.


Felice León is multimedia editor at The Root.


4 Suspects in Alleged Hate Crime Streamed Live on Facebook Ordered Held Without Bail

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 23:22

The four suspects arrested in the alleged hate crime that was streamed live on Facebook were charged in court Friday and ordered held without bail.

Jordan Hill, 18, Tesfaye Cooper, 18,  and sisters Tanishia, 24, and Brittany Covington, 18,  had their first court appearance at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Cook County. The Chicago Tribune reports that all four were dressed in street clothes and entered the courtroom amid heavy security. Cooper was reportedly smirking as he walked to stand before the judge.

Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antionetti detailed the charges against the group, and Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil, citing the egregiousness of the allegations against them, ordered that the four be held without bail.

The judge addressed each defendant individually, the Tribune reports.

She noted that Brittany Covington was going to college, Tanishia was a parent, Cooper had a paralyzed brother, and Hill lived with his mother.

“I’m looking at each of you and wondering where was the sense of decency that each of you should have had,” Ciesil said. “I don’t see it.”

Priscilla Covington, grandmother to the two sisters charged in the attack, rushed past reporters outside of the courthouse and apologized for the women’s actions.

“I didn’t raise them like that,” Priscilla Covington said.

As previously reported on The Root, the horrific attack was captured on a Facebook Live video In one video on a woman’s Facebook page, a man threatens the victim with a knife. Someone tells the victim, “Kiss the floor [b–ch]!” and “Nobody can help you anymore.” At another point, someone told the victim to “say ‘I love black people.’”

On Friday, authorities alleged for the first time that Hill, who knew the 18-year-old victim and attended the same alternative school with him, first beat the victim in the back of a van after he became angry that the teen’s mother was contacting him on Facebook and asking about her son’s whereabouts. The Tribune reports that prosecutors said Hill demanded $300 from the victim’s mother if she wanted her son back.

Later, Facebook Live captured video of the abuse in the sisters’ Chicago apartment.

All four suspects have been charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Hill is also charged with robbery, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and residential burglary. Both Covington sisters have also been charged with residential burglary.

The 18-year-old victim, who lives with his parents in Streamwood, Il., has schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to prosecutors. His brother-in-law, David Boyd, said Friday that the teen has been “struggling” to recover after his ordeal, but is safe with his family.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune.


NYPD Captain Says Department is More Focused on Rape By Strangers, Not Acquaintances

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 21:39

An NYPD captain has blamed the lack of arrests in sexual assault reports on the fact that most of the reported cases were “acquaintance rape.”

Sexual attacks in the Greenpoint neighborhood of New York city went up by 62 percent over the last year, and according to DNAinfo, police statistics show that the majority of the attacks have not resulted in arrests.

Of the 13 cases of rape and attempted rape in the Greenpoint neighborhood reported to NYPD in 2016, DNAinfo reports three people have been arrested, including a handyman charged with attacking a woman in her home and and a man accused of breaking into a sleeping woman’s apartment and raping her.

Ten of those cases, including two attempted rapes by taxi drivers on young female passengers, remain unsolved.

Police officials told DNAinfo that the lack of arrests are due to the fact that most were “acquaintance rape” cases and many of the women who reported them later stopped cooperating with investigators.

“Every rape should be investigated. I wish we could do more,” Captain Peter Rose, head of the 94th Precinct, told DNAinfo New York.

“It really becomes a balancing act for investigators. Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of them were actually co-workers,” Rose said. “It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [sex attacks], only two were true stranger rapes.”

“If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards,” Rose added.

Rose went into more detail on the incidents at a meeting of the precinct’s community council on Wednesday.

“They’re not total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets,” Rose said Wednesday night.

According to DNAinfo, Rose’s comments raised concerns with Jane Manning of the National Organization for Women.

“The idea that ‘this isn’t some guy who’s dangerous to women,’ that in itself is a major window into the mentality that we are up against,” Manning said.

“If you have the commander of a precinct making comments like that, he’s setting a tone for all the officers of a unit about how seriously to take acquaintance rape cases,” Manning added.

“When I hear the phrase we didn’t have a cooperating victim, my antenna always goes up,” Manning said. “If you hear ‘I can’t get the victim to cooperate’ in case after case, you should be asking yourself what are they failing to do?”

According to a 2012 report from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 14 percent of rape cases reported nationally are stranger rapes.

According to DNAinfo New York, Rose said that the cases that have fallen apart have primarily been those involving acquaintance rape.

“Those are the people who aren’t cooperating,” Rose said. “One person went back to Florida. Another person went back to California.”

Rose said that in other cases, victims made reports at the hospital and then decided not to go through with prosecution.

“If there’s no complainant, they can’t make an arrest,” Rose said.

Perhaps it is the pervasiveness of the rape culture that we live in that deters victims from coming forward. If the commander of a police precinct can disregard acquaintance rape (the very thing that Bill Cosby is being accused of multiple times), what does that say for the general attitude towards acquaintance rape and the women who report them?

The attitude that stranger rape is somehow more of a rape than acquaintance rape is dead wrong. Rape is rape, no matter who commits it. It is an act of violence, and it deserves to be reported and punished. The victim should not be made to feel less than simply because she knew her attacker.

The police captain’s comments have now gone viral. Hopefully the NYPD will censure him and look into some type of sensitivity training for their officers that help them understand what has already been said.

Rape is rape.

Read more at DNAinfo.


Lifetime Has a Movie in the Works Focused on the Flint Water Crisis Starring Cher 

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 20:02

Lifetime has a movie in the works inspired by the Flint water crisis, and singer/actress Cher is slated to be the star.

Don’t roll your eyes yet, I haven’t gotten to the best part.

This is Cher’s first movie in seven years. According to the Hollywood Reporter, she will portray a Flint resident whose family is impacted by the water crisis.

Because no one would probably care about a Flint movie if it featured a cast of black people, who were actually disproportionately affected by the lead-contaminated water.

Really, Hollywood? Really, Lifetime? A city with a population of 99,000, nearly 57 percent of whom are black, and Cher is the star of the movie?

My eyes can only roll so far to the left.

The drama is based on the events in Flint including the poor municipal management that led to the water poisoning, and the residents who are still suffering through it and have had their voices ignored. The majority of whom, that’s right, are black.

Once again, Hollywood is taking a tragedy that is negatively impacting mostly people of color and centering it in whiteness. Why do you keep doing this, Hollywood?

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie is inspired by a February 2016 cover story in Time magazine called “The Toxic Tap,” by Josh Sanburn.

This is Cher’s second television movie. In 1996, she starred in HBO’s “If These Walls Could Talk.” According to the Reporter, she has been actively involved in helping Flint residents, including donating thousands of bottles of water.

“This is a tragedy of staggering proportion and shocking that it’s happening in the middle of our country,” Cher said at the time.

Hey, maybe the movie will provide us with some insight as to just how this water crisis is going to end.

Read more at the Hollywood Reporter.


Unique Views Podcast, Episode 25: Here Comes the Hotepper

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 19:42

Eyes back!

Did you miss me?

That’s right—the granddaddy of them all, your favorite light-skin’s favorite light-skin, is back, and I don’t have long to be here because surely Patti LaDanielle, aka Mrs. Idris Elba, aka Danielle Young, is going to find another way to try to cancel me out with her Diana Ross-Beyoncé antics.

Have you even been listening to the show? Did you even know I was gone?

Surely, Ms. LaDanielle preferred it this way, but guess what, America? Like baker’s yeast, still I rise! Is it my mission in life to drive Ms. Patti Patti nuts? Of course not! But if my mere awesomeness has that side effect on her, then how can I stop it? I’m going to take a few questions from my fans before we get into this episode.

Fan: Hey, Hercules! So glad you’re back, since the show wasn’t the same without you. I was wondering if there was any chance that you would get rid of dead weight and move into prime time and really stop holding yourself back from your obvious stardom.

Me: Dearest fan, from your mouth to God’s ears; and remember, I’m just the vessel.

Now, where were we? Oh, yes, this week’s episode: Kim Burrell won’t stop Burrelling herself all over the place. In case you missed it, she bashed homosexuality during a recent sermon. We discuss how hurtful and offensive her comments were.

We also touch on homophobia in the black church and how intimate moments taken out of context can have a damaging effect. Somehow, Danielle found a way to circle back to Idris Elba because all roads in life for Ms. Patti Patti lead to Elba-ville, and his new documentary about his foray into kickboxing. I hate this guy, seriously.

And last but not least, we discuss the Hotep Hoedown between Umar Johnson, General Seti and The Root.

You can read about it here and here.

I missed you all, minus Patti LaDanielle. Just kidding; I love (read: hate) her, too.

Listen below:

Listen and subscribe on iTunes.

Listen and subscribe on Soundcloud.

Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a senior editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.


Mexico’s Former President to Trump: ‘I’m Not Paying for That F–king Wall’

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 18:39

Businessman Vicente Fox Quesada, former president of Mexico, took to Twitter to tell President-elect Donald Trump to f–k his couch and his wall.

Trump spent the last year and a half saying that he was going to build a wall—a yuge wall—and Mexico was going to pay for it. Well, there’s a little caveat. Now Trump is saying that U.S. taxpayers are going to pay for it, but Mexico is going to reimburse us.

The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2017

Quesada heard that the Donald was speaking his unmelanated speech on Twitter, and set the record straight—again:

TRUMP, when will you understand that I am not paying for that fucken wall. Be clear with US tax payers. They will pay for it.

— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) January 6, 2017

Trump may ask whoever he wants, but still neither myself nor Mexico are going to pay for his racist monument.
Another promise he can't keep.

— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) January 6, 2017

According to Republican New York Rep. Chris Collins, Trump’s bragging may not be so far-fetched.

“When you understand that Mexico’s economy is dependent upon U.S. consumers, Donald Trump has all the cards he needs to play,” Collins, congressional liaison for the Trump transition team, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on New Day. “On the trade negotiation side, I don’t think it’s that difficult for Donald Trump to convince Mexico that it’s in their best interest to reimburse us for building the wall.”

More from CNN:

The Trump team argues it will have the authority through a Bush-era 2006 law to build the wall, lawmakers say, but it lacks the money to do so. Transition officials have told House GOP leaders in private meetings they’d like to pay for the wall in the funding bill, a senior House GOP source said.

“It was not done in the Obama administration, so by funding the authorization that’s already happened a decade ago, we could start the process of meeting Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to secure the border,” Indiana Republican Rep. Luke Messer said on Thursday.


If Mexico refuses to pay for the wall, the GOP could add billions of dollars into the spending bill that needs to pass by April 28 to keep the government open. But doing so would force a showdown with Senate Democrats and potentially threaten a government shutdown.

Republicans point out that then-Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Chuck Schumer and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton voted for the 2006 bill and argued that since Democrats backed that bill, they should support efforts to fund the current effort.

See Hillary Clinton talk about her support for building a fence below:

Time will tell if Trump gets his way on the wall, but in the meantime, perhaps we’d better get used to international policy being hammered out on Twitter.


Hidden Figures Is Margot Lee Shetterly’s 1st Book, Which Proves #BlackGirlMagic Knows No Limits

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 14:21

Imagine sitting down to write your first book, selling the idea to a publisher and then having that book proposal optioned for a movie. What?! This is the true story of Margot Lee Shetterly. She is the black woman who helped bring Hidden Figures to life.

Hidden Figures is the amazing but previously untold story of three black female mathematicians—Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan; their contributions to NASA; and pretty much their role in helping shape America’s history in space exploration.

This story is not only a surefire box-office smash but also a book that was written as the movie was being produced. Shetterly is now a New York Times best-selling author, and Hidden Figures is also the No. 1 young readers book. Shetterly wondered, as we all did, how does that happen on your first book? She and I chatted on the phone, mostly gushing over her seemingly overnight success. “It’s a lightning strike … fairy dust,” she said.

“I wrote the book I wanted to read,” she added. “I wanted those kinds of women protagonists—strong, smart, successful, and [I wanted] to show the challenges they faced. I wanted it big and American.”

Shetterly also wanted the world to see that black people are as much a part of American history as anyone. “I didn’t know how badly other people wanted it, not just black women.”

And what a revelation!

Before the book was even finished, Hidden Figures producer Donna Gigliotti put it in the hands of Hollywood heavyweights and told Shetterly, “We’re going to make … a movie out of your book proposal.” Within three years, both the book and the movie were finished.

And now Shetterly has gone from an unknown writer to a best-seller who not only gets to be in the same room as first lady Michelle Obama but also gets to be praised by her.

So what’s next? How do you move up from this height as an author? Shetterly is already working on her next book, which is part of the trilogy that Hidden Figures kicks off. Can we say “Yay!” about more black history being revealed?

Shetterly is obsessed with midcentury stories and wants to continue telling them. She tells me, “The new story [I’m working on] is also unseen, but not quite untold. It deals with midcentury. Anything I will ever do in life will not be as consuming and overwhelming as Hidden Figures.”

She’s modest, which is understandable, because not everyone gets this type of love with a first book, but success can be fleeting. I’m sure, though, that Shetterly will continue to see major success so long as she’s writing our stories with such care and honesty. I’m looking forward to her continued success and am just glad I get to help tell her story.

Watch the interview with Shetterly:


5 Killed After Gunman Opens Fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 14:07

Updated Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, 3 p.m. EST: Police say that five people were killed and eight people were injured in a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida on Friday afternoon, the Washington Post reports. The shooter remains in custody.

“At first we thought it was firecrackers,” Mark Lea, 53, told MSNBC, according to NBC News. “Everyone started screaming and running. The shooter made his way down through baggage claim. He had what looked like a 9 mm and emptied his entire clip. People were trying to run.”

Lea told the network that the shooting only stopped because the gunman ran out of bullets.

“He was holding a black handgun and he was just shooting randomly into the crowd,” another traveler, John Schicher, told MSNBC. “There were elderly people who were shot and killed; there were two people to my left and two people to my right that were shot.”

Schicher, who was at the airport with his wife and mother-in-law, said that the shooter did not say anything and did not appear to be targeting anyone. He added that the shooter had time to reload his gun before police stopped him.

“He walked over and he was right in our area, like, within just feet of us, shooting people. I didn’t know if I would be shot or if my wife or my mother-in-law would, either,” he said.

According to the Post, authorities first got a call about the shooting just before 1 p.m. The eight people who were injured have been taken to an area hospital, but it is unclear whether all of those individuals were hurt by the gunfire.

All flights have been temporarily suspended in light of the shooting, airport officials said. The shooting started in Terminal 2, which handles arrivals and departures for Delta and Air Canada, the Post notes. Flights that were already within 50 miles of the airport were being allowed to land, but other scheduled flights will be delayed or diverted.

Fort Lauderdale officials are helping with law enforcement’s response in the area, which is handled by Broward County. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also arrived on the scene Friday.

“We have our units on site and around the perimeter to provide assistance and support, and we remain ready, willing and able to provide additional assistance, support and resources,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor John Seller said in a statement. “Our community extends its thoughts, prayers and support to the victims and their families.”

President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation and will be kept updated as more information is available, Ned Price, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said, according to the Post.


A suspect is in custody after a Friday-afternoon shooting incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida.

According to NBC News, the Broward County, Fla., sheriff said that the shooting left “multiple people dead” and several others injured.

The incident reportedly unfolded at baggage claim inside Terminal 2 of the airport. The airport gets more than 73,000 travelers each day.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was in the airport at the time of the shooting, sent out two tweets relating to the incident.

I'm at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Shots have been fired. Everyone is running.

— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 6, 2017

All seems calm now but the police aren't letting anyone out of the airport – at least not the area where I am.

— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 6, 2017

Shots fired at Ft Lauderdale Airport, suspect reportedly in custody pic.twitter.com/o0zVdI91Um

— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) January 6, 2017

Read more at NBC News and the Washington Post


Pa. Pizza Deliveryman Shot Multiple Times by Police Gets $4,400,000 Settlement

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 13:18

A Philadelphia pizza deliveryman who was shot multiple times after plainclothes police officers fired 14 times at his vehicle has agreed to a $4.4 million settlement with the city, the Associated Press reports.

Philippe Holland still has bullet fragments in his brain and suffers from a seizure disorder after being hit in the head, neck and leg in the April 2014 incident, his lawyers say, according to the newswire. City lawyers called the events “unfortunate” and “regrettable” in announcing the settlement Friday. At the time of the shooting, then-Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey apologized, visiting the then-20-year-old at the hospital.

Holland claimed in a lawsuit that he thought he was being robbed after the plainclothes officers, who were investigating a shooting blocks away, approached him. Holland was shot trying to flee the scene.

The settlement also includes an agreement for new training policies for plainclothes officers.

Back in 2014, then-police spokesman Lt. John Stafford said that policy guidelines instructed officers not to fire into moving vehicles “unless deadly physical force is being used against the … officer or another person … by means other than the moving vehicle.”

Read more at Talking Points Memo


Embattled Running Back Joe Mixon Is Leaving University of Okla. to Enter NFL Draft

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 13:12

University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was caught on video punching a female student in the face in 2014, announced Thursday that he is leaving college to enter the 2017 NFL draft, NBC Sports reports.

Mixon sat out the 2014 season after the university was informed about the incident, which left the female student with four fractured bones in her face. In his last two seasons, Mixon starred at Oklahoma, rushing for over 2,000 yards and scoring 26 touchdowns.

The student has filed a lawsuit against Mixon, which is pending, and the altercation became national news after a court ruling made the video public. Mixon and his attorney decided to release the tape after the court’s decision, which pushed the incident into a national conversation about player privilege.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said that at the time he thought Mixon’s suspension from the team was an appropriate punishment, but added that if the incident happened today, Mixon would have been dismissed from the team, NBC Sports reports.

Read more at NBC Sports.


Reclaiming My Body During the Month of My Rapist’s Birth

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 12:46

January is usually a time of celebration. It’s a time when people can revisit goals from the previous year, create new ones, craft vision boards and determine our course for the year, all while anticipating some unexpected hurdles along the way.

I, too, can always appreciate how important celebrating the new year is—a time with family, friends and loved ones, or even a time to sit in silence, contemplating what’s next. However, I’m also left with the unenviable task of remembering that, 19 years ago, I was raped by a male family member—and that, unfortunately, January is his birth month. That leaves me straddling the nearly impossible line between celebrating victories and remembering defeats; for me, in an odd way, both are necessary this year.

To nonsurvivors this may seem peculiar, but to most survivors—no matter how hard we try—we feel that a piece of our body is gone, along with the person who attempted to take our body from us, no matter how long ago. In 2017 it is time to reclaim my body on the month of my rapist’s birth.

I can still visualize his features, the slant of his yellow-stained eyes, and hear the baritone of his voice. I still get a whiff of the cheap-smelling cologne emanating from his body, as if he’d just finished showering with Michael Jordan’s Legend. I can still see the trail of smoke around him from inhaling a daily pack of Newports. These characteristics of my rapist will not escape my mind; nor will my recognition of the nausea I feel as his birthday approaches each year.

It all started when I was 10, that age when masculinity—and how it’s performed—is tested in uniquely different ways. This often began with discussions with older males about topics ranging from relationships—“How many girlfriends do you have?”—to assurances that if my guy friends and I only looked at each other’s penis in the elementary school restroom, then we wouldn’t technically be gay. One man went a bit further: “Curiosity is natural,” he often said. “It’s a part of life, in fact.”

My innocence allowed my conversations with one of these male figures to turn into “the talk,” which then turned into unwanted touching. I thought I wanted this—needed it, even. I can vividly remember lying on the bedroom floor while a 1970s-sounding porn film played in the background. It was as I began to stare at the ceiling that I felt the first painful thrust. My body reacted negatively, but it was that same baritone that forced my silence. Perhaps I could ignore the painful thrusts; perhaps it would go away.

It did not.

It’s fairly easy to arrive at conclusions when you haven’t yet developmentally formed the ability to fully decipher whether what someone is saying is nonsensical or not. And because I wanted to feel accepted, to be loved, to be nurtured by an older black male figure, all I needed to do was follow one simple request: acquiesce. And so I did. It was easier this way, right?

Being raped leads to many devastating short- and long-term effects, beginning with questioning whether my later queer-identified sexuality was born out of a painful experience—it wasn’t. It also led to an extremely problematic and messy understanding of love and acceptance. And, what’s worse, it caused me to be fearful and untrusting of men—even myself.

The first question I usually receive when disclosing my rape is, “Did you press charges?” For me as both an attorney and a survivor, this is tough because I often sit at the intersection of recognizing that justice should not be such a distant reality and working within the systems that promise results. I also have the very unfortunate realization that moving forward in that way would make my life a hell of a lot more complicated than my perpetrator’s. I have always felt that I had only one option, as do so many other survivors: suffer in silence for however long I could survive it. So I did.

But for the past couple of years, this has become extremely unhealthy, no matter how much I ignored the physical and mental pains. Rape survivors are hardly believed; in fact, the more noise we make, especially publicly, the more silenced we become—by family, by friends, by media and by larger society. There are several reasons that children refuse to discuss their sexual assault even at the time it is occurring: because society still finds it acceptable to bring the questionably drunk uncle or cousin around every summer barbecue, even though the younger relative displays signs of fear or shrinks. It’s critical that we pay attention to these signs.

As a survivor, I am frightened by our discussions of rape. Given the immediate defense of accused rapists like Nate Parker and Bill Cosby, ranging from “Why are they always trying to attack the black man?” to lies about a black man being prevented from purchasing an entire network and statements like, “It was so long ago,” it’s no shock that survivors remain silent. We must stop questioning why survivors finally decide to speak out and begin questioning why society forced us to remain silent for so long.

Every year, it hurts that a part of me will be reminded how an adult—someone I viewed as a role model, as a father figure, even—attempted to rip who I was outside my own body, to force me into submitting to an already domineering presence. Not only will the physical harm never be forgotten, but it is apparent that it has positioned itself to cause more lifelong emotional, psychological and mental harm. Rape caused me to revisit and reinterpret my already conflicting and naive understandings of sexuality, attraction, masculinity and what belonged to my body. At a young age, it was clear that the old black adage of “Keep your hands to yourself” didn’t work too well.

The older I became—and the more I understood that I was able to define queerness on my own terms—the more I was allowed to reconsider a world where I would want to see a new day. We deserve to live in a world where black gay men can talk about our addictions, our frustrations; about loving sex, living with HIV, being vulnerable, needing intimacy, needing to be touched, needing to cry, being raped, experiencing violence, being tired, loving to have fun, being lost and needing a helping hand, without being shamed by others who repeatedly say that talking about it is wrong. Defining myself for myself is love—it is healing and it is necessary.

And though I don’t believe that finally freeing my pain from the psychological and emotional prison I was forced to erect within myself is the end of my self-discovery, perhaps it can be the beginning.

Rape is an unbearable pain that often renders words insufficient. But I am also reminded that it is a chance to start over, a chance to be better and a chance to reclaim my body—especially during my rapist’s birth month. It further lets me know that this body is mine alone, regardless of a man’s attempt at one time to claim it—and my soul—for himself.


NH Dad Fired for Attending Son’s Birth Gets Outpouring of Support, Job Leads

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 12:44

On Jan. 1, 2017, Lamar Austin and his wife, Lindsay, welcomed a baby boy into the world.

Little Cainan made news as the first baby to be born in Concord, N.H.

However, now the Austins’ story has drawn even more media attention after Lamar lost his job after missing work to be with his family and attend the birth of his son.

“Sometimes you lose something and you get something even better,” Lamar Austin told the Concord Monitor on Sunday, choosing to remain positive in light of his sudden unemployment.

As it turns out, Austin may have spoken those words into reality. Since his story became known, the military veteran and father of four has received at least three job leads and an outpouring of love and support from a GoFundMe campaign that was set up to help his family.

“No one should have to choose between their family and their job. Welcoming a new baby to a family should be a joyous time,” Sara Persechino, who started the campaign on Austin’s behalf, wrote in the description.

Persechino said she had spoken to Austin before setting up the page, although she did not know him personally. The campaign has since raised over $2,000 of a $5,000 goal in just two days.

“I know how valuable family time is, and if you’re a union member, we incorporate that, we understand that and we don’t penalize you for that,” Denis Beaudoin, the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Concord, told the news site. After reading Austin’s story and hearing that Austin was hoping to get into electrical work, Beaudoin offered him the chance to apply for an apprenticeship.

According to the Monitor, Glenn Brackett, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Union, which represents almost 30,000 workers, also offered Austin an apprenticeship.

Austin used to work for Salerno Protective Services, which provides security for several clients, including stores and college campuses. He was hired about a month ago for a 90-day trial period as a part-time security guard. He was expected to be on call 24-7.

He says that when he got the job, the company said that it was looking for “dependable people.”

The loving dad told the firm that he was not available for one shift offered to him last month, since he had to take his wife to a doctor’s appointment. However, on Friday night before the new year, Lindsay Austin went into labor. By Sunday morning, Cainan was born. Lamar Austin missed two shifts, on Friday and Saturday. On 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day, he got a text reading, “As of now, you are terminated.”

“Being shrouded in confidentiality, we are unable to comment until all business with Mr. Austin has been concluded,” President and CEO Anthony Salerno told the Monitor in an email Wednesday. “SPS is not in the practice of releasing employees for reasons stated in the article you published but must be cognizant of the product we give our clients!”

“I was a little bit upset, because my husband is trying to provide for us, and it was hard to swallow when he got fired, but I’m thankful and I feel like we’re blessed,” Lindsay Austin told the Monitor in another report. “It definitely happened for a reason.”

As for Lamar Austin, he doesn’t seem to have hard feelings, despite everything that happened.

“He had his company, which is like his baby, and I had my baby, which was just being born. Naturally, he’s going to pick his baby over my baby. I can’t blame him for that,” he said.

Read more at the Concord Monitor here and here


Check Out Black Brilliance 360, a Web Series Delivering Real Talk By and For Black Men

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 12:09

Negative images of black men are easy enough to find in American culture, the kinds of images that label them as “thugs” or criminals. But a new web series called black brilliance 360, which launched this week, is out to flip the narrative on who black men are and what they’re really about.

Produced by media veteran Tamisha H. Harris and legal analyst Charles F. Coleman Jr. (a contributor to The Root) black brilliance 360, seeks to offer a platform for black men to tell their stories of what it means to be a black man living in America. Each episode features a cross-generational group of black men from a wide range of backgrounds engaging in conversations around various topics like commitment and relationships (episode 1) and identity and manhood. It’s the kind of real talk black men have in private, safe spaces like the local barbershop.

“My hope is that it will spark greater conversation through insight and understanding. It may not always be pretty, but we want it to be authentic and honest,” said Coleman, who serves as host of the show.

Coleman says the plan is to drop a new episode every three weeks but in between shows, extra content like outtakes and interviews with contributors, along with Twitter chats will keep the conversations started by the webisodes going.

“I want black brilliance to become an attainable and inclusive ideal that isn’t just reserved for doctors or lawyers but can be expressed by different individuals in their own way(s) and still recognized as brilliant in its uniqueness,” Coleman said.

You can subscribe to the show’s YouTube Channel, follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and check out the series teaser:


The Final Days of Obama’s Presidency: Moving Van Spotted Inside White House

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 10:09

Sad days are upon us folks, as a moving van was reportedly spotted outside of the White House, Wednesday.

CNN reporter Michelle Kosinski tweeted a photo of a white Moving Masters Inc., truck parked inside the White House gates near the West Wing.

It's that time… pic.twitter.com/pRFqPGMMvU

— Michelle Kosinski (@MKosinskiCNN) January 4, 2017

The Obamas, who will be out of the White House in two weeks reportedly offered to leave Sahsa and Malia’s swing and play set for the president-elect Donald Trump’s son Baron, 10, to use but the Trumps passed. Don’t worry the play set will have a new home as the first family will donate it to a “local organization serving those in need,” People reports.

Malia and Sasha were only 10 and 7, respectively, when their family moved into the White House in 2009. The family plans to stay in the Washington, D.C. area having leased a nine bedroom, $5.3 million mansion in the Kalorama neighborhood until, now 15-year-old daughter Sasha, a sophomore, finishes high school.

Malia, 18, will enter Harvard in the fall.

Read more at People.


Watch: You Will Get Your Whole Life With This Hidden Figures Red Carpet

Theroot.com - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 10:00

Hidden Figures is the story of the impact black women had on NASA’s space explorations, and it hits theaters nationwide Friday. The film focuses on three black women who worked in the math department at NASA in the 1950s: Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson. And even though this movie is based on a true story, it might feel like make-believe because our history books never taught us that these women existed.

“It’s about damn time!” Octavia Spencer (who plays Vaughan) said on the red carpet for the New York City premiere. And she’s right! It is about time that we learn not only about these three pioneers but also about other black women who have contributed to our development in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and set the tone for us to dream bigger than what we see in front of us.

Spencer continued, “The fact that none of us knew their names says a lot about history, but we’re rewriting it.” It’s the rewriting of our history that’s allowing us to be a part of it because, guess what—we were! Our futures look a lot brighter because of women like Johnson, Jackson and Vaughan who were fearless enough to do the groundwork.

We now have women like Shelia Nash-Stevenson, Ph.D., a NASA engineer who continues to break barriers; and Stephanie Wilson, a NASA engineer and astronaut! The Root chatted with several stars of the film as well as Nash-Stevenson and Wilson at the Hidden Figures red carpet. Check it out!