Archive for June, 2013

Policing Stop and Frisk–Thank You Jumaane Williams

June 28, 2013 Leave a comment
Williams, left, at protest

Williams, left, at protest

Stop and frisk hasn’t been stopped, but at least slowed, thanks to two bills passed by the City Council yesterday.

One, would create an inspector general to oversee the NYPD, and the other would allow people to file claims of racial profiling against the police in state court. Both measures curb the NYPD’s use of the insulting, racist stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance tactics. Though Mayor Bloomberg is already busy scheming to un-do the measures–and a hysterical Ray Kelly insists that the legislation will increase terrorism–both bills passed by wide enough margins to skirt Bloomberg tampering.

Yesterday’s vote marked a big win for Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, a vocal and consistent critic of stop and frisk. The 37-year-old politician was famously arrested in 2011 at the West Indian Day parade after a disagreement police.  Williams, along with a member of mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s staff (also black), was detained and handcuffed for walking…while black.

In a speech, Williams urged lawmakers who have never experienced being black, Latino, gay, Muslim or in another profiled group to “please listen to us.”

On passage of the legislation, Williams explained that legitimate police stops wouldn’t be curtailed, “it just stops profiling.”

Read more about Williams in this New York Magazine profile.


Why You Must Get an HIV Test

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment
The President and First Lady getting the HIV test.

The President and First Lady getting the HIV test.

In 2006, then Senator Obama and his wife Michelle were famously tested for HIV/AIDS. (They’re negative.) And today on National HIV Testing Day the president is urging all Americans to know their status.

It’s extremely critical for people of color, especially those who live in areas like Harlem where HIV rates remain stubbornly high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 44 percent of all new HIV infections are in the African-American community, although blacks make up only 14 percent of the U.S. population. The infection rate among African Americans is eight times higher than the rate for whites.

What does this mean for you?

Where you live affects your risk of contracting the virus. Though any unprotected sexual encounter carries the risk of contracting HIV, some areas may be riskier than others. HIV finds the ideal incubator when a high infection rate intersects with low condom usage and testing. That combination makes any unprotected sexually encounter particularly “risky.”

It’s a simple math equation: People tend to have social and sexual relationships with people who live near them. So if you live in an area where many people have HIV, you’re more likely to become infected during unprotected sex than if you live in an area where hardly anyone has it. In other words, it’s harder to get HIV in North Dakota than it is in Harlem – or South Africa.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 4.40.51 PM

What’s the solution?

Get HIV tested and make sure your partners are tested.  One in five Americans living with HIV doesn’t know they have the virus. Find a testing facility near you at the CDC’s National HIV and STD Testing Resources page.

Break the silence and stigma surrounding HIV. Talk about sex, sexuality, HIV and HIV prevention with your friends, family, partners and especially your children. To hear the stories of African-American people and families living with HIV and hear Alicia Keys talk about her own HIV/AIDS advocacy, go to the Greater than AIDS website.


Here’s what the President said today about the importance of HIV testing:

“On a trip to Africa in 2006, Michelle and I were tested for HIV – because there should be no shame or stigma associated with knowing your status. And if we each do our part by getting tested – and encourage our friends and family to do the same – then we will move closer to an AIDS-free generation.”

Gay Marriage: The Black View

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment

1sfTyW.WiPh2.91This weekend’s Pride celebration in Harlem (and everywhere!) will be extra joyful. Yesterday the Supreme Court “put a ring on it,” giving its blessing to LGBT marriage equality in two separate rulings.

This watershed moment also highlights a radical shift in African American attitudes toward LGBT issues. According to a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the majority of black voters (51 percent) support gay marriage.

Things looked very different in 2008. That year, a survey by the same pollsters found that most African Americans (53 percent) opposed gay marriage. And 70 percent of African Americans in California voted in favor of legislation banning gay marriage, unleashing a rabid debate on black “homophobia.”

Why the turnaround?

It started with the President Obama. Last year  he told ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”


His support is much stronger now. About yesterday’s ruling, his comment on Twitter speaks for itself.

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 5.19.07 PM

Energized by the support, the National Black Justice Coalition vigorously and aggressively pushed black LGBT issues and visibility front and center into the national conversation. The Washington-based advocacy group made alliances with the NAACP and civil rights icons like Julian Bond to speak out in support of gay rights.

(Click here to watch Julian Bond discuss LGBT equality.)

Larger, monied LGBT organizations took pains to correct past mistakes and include images of black gays and lesbians in their advocacy campaigns. And groups like Queers for Economic Justice and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice put marriage equality in the context of human rights. In fact, in a Facebook statement earlier today, Astraea executive director J. Bob Alotta, both applauded the Supreme Court for its gay rights descision, and scolded the justices for their retrograde stance on voting rights. She reminded her followers to “remain ever vigilant.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Black gay and lesbian media images have flourished over the past several years. The award-winning 2011 movie Pariah, a black lesbian coming of age story set in Brooklyn, sparked conversation and even received a shout-out from Meryl Streep at the Golden Globe awards.  Paula Patton played sympathetic lesbian in 2009’s Precious, and this year, the JLo-produced TV series The Fosters featuring a black lesbian mother, became part of ABC’s Monday night TV lineup.

And finally, growing numbers of African American celebrities—comedian Wanda Sykes, Frank Ocean and CNN’s Don Lemon– have spoken about their sexualty with ground-breaking frankness. Most recently, Jason Collins became the first NBA player to acknowledge his sexuality in a Sports Illustrated cover story, followed by basketball superstar Brittney Griner, the biggest name in the WNBA.


Still, African-American attitudes about LGBT issues remain far from lockstep. The flip side of 51 percent acceptance is the nearly 40 percent of black respondents who say they are against same sex marriage. And minutes after the Supreme Court decisions, a group of black pastors spoke out against marriage equality.

So where does that leave African American attitudes LGBT equality: it’s complicated.

the_new_blackTo learn more about the continuing debate, watch the brand-new documentary The New Black by Yoruba Richen, which highlights the fight for marriage equality among African Americans. And for a schedule of Harlem Pride events, click here.

Devious Maids–Is it Good for Latinos?

June 24, 2013 Leave a comment

devm_promo_03The new Lifetime series Devious Maids debuted last night amid a swirl of controversy. The show, brought to cable by Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry and co-produced by actress Eva Longoria, follows the stories of five LA maids. Click here to watch Sunday’s pilot episode in English or Spanish; it’ll be available for viewing later today. Read show recap here.

Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria

Like the award-winning movie The Help, Devious Maids has become a lightning rod for discussion of women of color in Hollywood. Is playing a maid the only decent role for a black or brown actress on the big and small screen? Twenty million Latinas live in the U.S.–so why focus the only show featuring five Hispanic actresses–and a Latina writer and executive producer–on domestics? Maybe because that’s the scenario the mostly-white elite who run Hollywood are most comfortable with–the Latin American men and women who clean their homes, take care of their children and tend their gardens. But what about the millions of Hispanic doctors, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, and a Supreme Court justice!?


On the other hand, why not air a show that features five smart, gorgeous, hard-working Latinas that highlights the stories of this country’s millions of domestic workers? Maybe the series doesn’t exploit the stereotype, but turns it on its head. The white employers are more one-dimensional and unrealistic than the flesh and blood maids! And as the Oscar-winning actress Hattie McDaniel famously said, “I’d rather play a maid than be one.”

Follow the debate here.

Who Is Erick Salgado–and Should He Be Mayor?

June 21, 2013 Leave a comment

11504_460995373980634_1570827946_nWhile the other six Democratic politiicians were going mano a mano at Wednesday’s mayoral debate on Hispanic issues at Hunter College, the only Latino candidate–who actually speaks Spanish without a grating Bloombito accent–nearly got lost in the shuffle. Erick Salgado, a minister of Puerto Rican descent, struggled to make his voice and views heard above the noisy confrontations over stop and frisk, the city budget and other issues.

But Salgado, 42, did make an impression for his humor. After several of the candidates thanked the moderator, NY1’s Juan Manuel Benitez, for teaching them Spanish–or asked for lessons–Salgado said in Spanish, “I am Hispanic, I speak Spanish and I don’t need Juan Manuel to teach me Spanish.”

Salgado, who received his doctorate in theology and has established churches in Red Hook and Bensonhurst Brooklyn, also distinguished himself from the other candidates. “I am going to be the first one to enter the room and the last one to leave it,” he said. “I’m going to be for the people, because I am the only candidate that is coming from the people.”

He also used humor to separate himself from Mayor Bloomberg. “Who is the mayor to tell me what I am going to drink?” he said about Bloomberg’s public health policies. “What is going to be next? The chicken wing? We love chicken wings.”

In 2003, Salgado, began a radio ministry known as Radio Cantico Nuevo, and grew it into one of the largest Spanish evangelical networks in the New York region. He lives in Staten Island with his wife and six children.

8ab2ee7f-1e5c-479f-b823-fc8c8438fef3_500In the mayoral mashup, he is considered a long shot. Salgado entered the race in April, later than other candidates outside of Anthony Weiner, has low name recognition and has raised only $206,000–compared to $7 million for Christine Quinn.

Still, he gets his points across. Commenting on immigration at a another mayoral forum at Hostos Community College, he slammed his fist onto the table then into the air, shouting, “I am going to fight for the Latinos to at least have the dignity to be identified in the City of New York.”

As the other candidates applauded, he added, smiling, “I’m sorry, I’m a preacher.”

You can stream Wednesday’s debate on NY1 or NY1 Noticias. Click here to learn more about Erick Salgado.

One Less Woman on Death Row

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

ap_paula_cooper_nt_130617_wblogAs of the beginning of this year, 63 women were on death row waiting to executed.

Now there’s one less. On Monday, Paula Copper was released from Indiana’s Rockville Correctional Facility after serving 27 years behind bars. In 1986, Cooper was convicted of murdering Ruth Pelke, a 78-year-old Bible study teacher. According to Indiana court records, Cooper, then a teenager, struck Pelke with a vase, cut her arms and legs and then stabbed her multiple times during a robbery attempt.

After her conviction, 16-year-old Cooper became the youngest person on death row in the United States.

CNN reports that more than 2 million people signed a petition asking the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn Cooper’s death sentence. In an unlikely twist, the victim’s grandson, Bill Pelke, struck up a friendship with Cooper and appealed on her behalf.

Despite the heinous nature of the crime, Cooper’s release subtracts one black woman from this country’s shameful prison industrial complex equation, which disproportionately incarcerates people of color. Though the vast majority of death row inmates are men, 12 women–two black–have been executed since 1976.

What’s Going On? Wednesday 6-19-2013

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment


It’s a beautiful day–sunny, high of 75 and no more #@!$% rain. So be sure to take a moment to spend some time outside!



Hollywood has its own iconic sign–does Harlem need one? Apparently so…but just the H.

The Daily News reports that beginning next month, a giant, illuminated “H” will hang from the viaduct at 12th Ave. at 125th St. Bentley Meeker, a lighting designer working with the West Harlem Art Fund, says he hopes “The ‘H’ in Harlem” project will become an entry point to the so-called Main Street of Black America.

The project has the backing of the Department of Transportation, which collaborates with cultural organizations to put art in public spaces.



No, it’s won’t be a Shake Shack, but restauranteur Danny Meyer is in talks to lease space for a bistro at West 135th Street and Frederick Douglass Blvd., according to the blog Commercial Observer. Meyer, who has brought his high-end, golden touch to Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and The Modern in Manhattan, also owns the wildly successful Shake Shack chain.

And Gorgui N’doye, owner of Patisserie des Ambassades announced today that he’s expanding his bakery, also on Frederick Douglass Blvd., as a full bistro. For the new menus, click here.

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 11.47.35 AM


Yes, the mayoral candidates have participated in what feels like a million forums. But tonight, Latino issues will take center stage as all of the Democratic hopefuls meet at Hunter College.

Hosted by NY1, NY1 Noticias and the Latino Leadership Institute, the lively event begins at 7 PM. It’s only the second televised debate and first one including the infamous Anthony Weiner. Expect lots of talk about crime, the economy and immigration. Stream it on or NY1 or watch it live to see which of the group will speak Spanish, Bloombito style.