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On Sunday, an arthouse film that centers on both Black people and queerness, and that went on to earn over $22 million with a budget of just $1.5 million, made history by winning Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards. But while Moonlight‘s historic successhas made news, its story has been retold as one about the virtues of white graciousness.

In the days following the now infamous mix-up in which La La Land was wrongly declared the winner, much time has been spent praising La La Land‘s cast and crew for displaying characteristics that fall under the category of basic human decency. Much of that attention has been paid to producer Jordan Horowitz, who has inspired headlines such as “The ‘La La Land’ producer who declared ‘Moonlight’ the winner stepped up when it mattered,” “How La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz became the Oscar fiasco’s humble hero,” and “‘La La Land’ producer Jordan Horowitz is the truth-teller we need right now.”

These stories all convey the underlying subtext that everyone associated with La La Landis magnanimous just for allowing Moonlight to win the award that it had actually won. The obsession with Horowitz’s behavior is bizarre—and the fact that many commentators have chosen to focus on how noble and heroic a white man was for merely telling the truth, as if that kind of basic decency is anomalous, revolts me. What exactly did anyone think would happen? Someone made a mistake and someone else behaved the way anyone in that situation should. Yes, it’s unfortunate that those folks had to face that kind of public embarrassment—but they did not win.

And now, there is the Variety cover story featuring the director of La La Land, Damien Chazelle, and the director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins. On the cover: a smiling Chazelle and a smiling but slouched-down Jenkins on the cover. The headline? “Amazing Grace.”

Schmaltz has its merits on occasion, but this is exhausting.

It has been pointed out that traditionally the winner of the Best Director award is given the cover and interview; and Variety co-editor in-chief Claudia Eller has explained as much in an editor’s letter. If everything had proceeded as usual, then Chazelle (who took home the Best Director award) would have been honored solo, meaning Jenkins—as he himself pointed out—is the “guest.” If the Variety editors decided that, given the circumstances, they would forgo tradition, such is their right. Even so, that concept—”Amazing Grace”—still plays into the heroic graciousness narrative. It’s not a headline that highlights their artistic achievement; it focuses more on how nicely one of them acted on that stage.

Read the rest at Elle.

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One may as well wear a white hood, while the other governed as if he were donning a dunce cap, but make no mistake: Hot garbage may have a stronger stench than its colder counterpart, but trash is trash.

So when it comes to the growing sentiment that maybe, just maybe, former President George W. Bush wasn’t so bad, I say this with love: Y’all have got to get the fuck on somewhere. I know Papaya Batista has us wondering if every churchgoing elder who’s been talking about the rapture since the original airings of Fraggle Rock might finally have his visions come to fruition. But oh no, we are not about to rock our hips and then wave and sip in this revisionist history about that man.

Some of this Dubya-remixed nostalgia stems from his interview on Today to promote his new book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, featuring portraits of some of the military veterans he has met.

Since Bush managed to pry himself out of self-imposed exile from the press, Matt Lauer did not miss the chance to ask him about what’s happening in our increasingly disastrous world. In turn, W. set out to prove that he’s not a complete fool and a boil on the butt of humanity, unlike the reality-show hack currently in office.

When asked about the press, Bush said that a free press was “indispensable to democracy”—not the sworn enemy of the American people as some nitwits have recently argued. Bush added, “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account.”

He then opted to up the sensible-speaking ante: “Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”

What interesting commentary from a man who led the administration that lied about us getting into war, but sure, this all sounds a lot better than “axis of evil” and much of the word vomit he was known to engage in as president. As do Bush’s comments about 45’s potential ties to the Russian government.

“I think we all need answers,” he said. “I’m not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.”

And for his thoughts on 45’s immigration policy, Bush explained, “I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law.”

What Bush should have said was, “Immigration reform was probably the one decent goal I could have accomplished as president, but the hateful people of my own punk-ass party cock-blocked me.”

After the Today interview came his People magazine interview in which Bush declared, “I don’t like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling, and I don’t like the people feeling alienated. Nobody likes that.”

This all prompted applause from people just happy to see a president who doesn’t make them want to cry out to God asking why they have been forsaken.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Thanks to this administration and the congressional cowards who enable it, we have a Secretary of Education, someone in which it is not far fetched to wonder whether or not she knows her ABCs, in power.

And for a person who belongs to a family that has donated money to mindless activities like gay conversation theory, it is amusing to see Betsy DeVos severely struggle to shape shift into the role of someone actually qualified for the position. Somewhat amusing because in the end, DeVos is the lead character in the horror flick that is the future of public education.

DeVos’ gift of gaffe was well documented in both her abysmal confirmation hearings as well as one of the first things that happened after she was confirmed. Yes, bless the hearts of all parties involved, but the Twitter account of the Department of Education misspelled the name of President Minute Maid Mo’s new friend in his head, W.E.B. Du Bois. Not to be outdone, they had yet another misspelling in their tweet professing regret for the previous error.

There is a new error from DeVos, only this time it cannot be blamed on too much sauce (caffeine), autocorrect, or for goodness sake, typing so darn fast.

Following a meeting with presidents of various historically Black colleges and universities, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a statement exalting HBCUs and likening them to her only real passion with education: privatization under the banner of “school choice.”

A portion of the statement reads:

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.

HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

When does Betsy DeVos think the first Black school was founded?

Based on the language here, it seems to be around the time Michael Jackson released “The Way You Make Me Feel,” the third single from Bad. While it’s impolite to insult someone’s intelligence by calling them dumb, it’s even ruder to be dumb-dumb-diddy about the history of Black colleges and universities.

Read the rest at Essence.

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No Comb Conway continues to dance off beat all over my last nerve.

It’s not enough that the Mistress of Propaganda has not been benched despite recent reports and my personal pleas to Black Jesus, but now this liar who helped make her con artist client president of the United States continues to show her utter disregard for basic decency. To some people, the picture of Conway’s feet on the White House couch is much ado about nothing. Those folks don’t have home training.

When you are working in the White House, you don’t kick off your shoes and relax your feet and sit on that couch like you’re about to party on down to the Xscape beat. Or, I guess if you’re working in this administration, some sort of dance remix to a Hitler speech. Whatever; you get it.

I know, I know. I’m Southern, or country as hell, as some in my life would say. I still say “Yes, ma’am” to Girl Scouts and “No, sir” to li’l kids trying to sell me diabetes on the 2 train to fund some mysterious after-school program. Maybe that’s too formal to some, but we should all agree that with respect to professional decorum, Conway could stand to do better given the setting.

Conway is on her phone, probably looking at pro-life jackasses harassing people at a Planned Parenthood on Snapchat for an evil person’s pick-me-up, with her feet tucked under her thighs on the couch like she hasn’t a care in the world. Meanwhile, Sweet Potato Saddam is in a meeting with the heads of presidents of various HBCUs. Conway can’t at least pretend to give a decimeter of a damn in their presence?

The image of those grinning black men with that orange, racist sum’bitch is unsettling enough. However, when you couple that with Kellyanne Conway, a little red Corvette of bullshit, it’s even more upsetting. Like, sis, act like you know where you are.

While I do agree with the crux of what Jezebel’s Rachel Vorona Cote says in “Did You At Least Remove Your Shoes, Kellyanne?,” I don’t want her shoes off. That woman spouts nothing but feces each and every day on the job. And she walks around the same space as Stephen Bannon. Febreze can only do so much to remove the stench of such a white supremacist fuckboy.

Read the rest at The Root.

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They let me country ass from Hiram Clarke on a panel with Soledad O’Brien. Also, my lovely Essence editor, Christina Coleman, and the Desus from Desus and Mero. I think I don’t sound crazy here. Praise be to God and Beyoncé.

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Upon realizing that Warren Beatty was pulling a Steve Harvey at the Miss Universe competition (who knows what Faye Dunaway was doing, poor thing), La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz took the reins and set the record straight: “This is not a joke. Moonlight won Best Picture.” In the midst of all that confusion and chaos, a new reality was sealed: a film depicting gay black love won Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards.

I’m telling myself to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. We won. Exhale, shoop shoop and take pleasure in this. This win is an amazing thing, one many of us saw as implausible. Yet I initially struggled with savoring the moment.

For one thing, the Moonlight cast and crew had their moment stolen. What happened to the La La Land cast and crew was worse, but it was never supposed to be their time. It’s a shame that Moonlight didn’t get to have a less turbulent meditation last night. Even in the aftermath of the Oscars, their feat has been slightly overshadowed by the mistake that preceded it. Headlines about the apologies have spilled all across the internet as have salutations to the cast and crew of La La Land for their graciousness in an embarrassing situation.

Moonlight is not only the first LGBTQ film to take Best Picture, but one whose cast is virtually all black. Despite evidence to the contrary, white people are typically the face of the community. In Moonlight, there is no white savior to be found in the story of a poor black kid from Miami learning to define his sexuality and his masculinity on his own terms. Some have made quips online that a black film won without featuring slaves and maids.

But even Moonlight focuses on different forms of oppression like crack, poverty, and intolerance, and besides, the stories of those slaves and maids matter, too. The real win will be when we score nods for singing and dancing and jubilee a la La La Land.

Some also noted what a triumph this was given the backdrop of Trump’s America, but America before Trump wasn’t especially kind to the black LGBTQ people—and certainly not to our stories. Moonlight made its mark regardless of whatever Academy voters decided to give it.

Still, there is something momentous about the Oscars—an institution firmly entrenched in the white mainstream—giving a story about gay black love this level of recognition and visibility.

I sold my first book recently, and I found it to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my career thus far. I was told many times in language both coded and overt that who I am—gay, black, southern, working class—gave me extremely limited appeal. My experience was “niche.” One editor essentially told me over the phone that black people are too homophobic and white people don’t care enough about black people.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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In the past few months, the court jester of white nationalism was elected president over a much more qualified and deserving candidate, Tom Brady collected yet another Super Bowl ring, and Adele’s 25 won over Beyoncé’s Lemonade for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It has been nothing but one reminder after another that being the best doesn’t translate to getting what you deserve, that cheaters do, in fact, prosper, and, most of all, that whiteness trumps everything. So I did not anticipate that Moonlight would manage to skirt past La La Land and win Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Instead, I wondered—with or without a Best Picture win, what will come after the success of Moonlight?

An Oscar for Best Picture is monumental. But it won’t necessarily yield the results Black men who identify as gay, queer, single gender loving, or any other turn of phrase that translates to “not straight” truly need in terms of wider representation. Halle Berry became the first Black actor to win Best Actress in 2002 for her role in Monster’s Ball, yet she struggled for years to have many of her projects in development actually get made and released.

It should not have been this way, but that is the way of Hollywood.

To that end, I want to celebrate Moonlight for what it has proven, outside of the Academy’s recognition. For one, an art house film centering on Black male sexuality and masculinity in a nuanced, complicated way, and broken into three parts without any huge resolution, moralizing, or white savior has made more than $22 million in fewer than 1,200 theaters. That is quite the accomplishment for a film budgeted at $1.5 million. The same can be said of its international gross, which Deadline notes could be as much as $40 million worldwide, an unusual achievement for a serious film without A-lister star clout.

All too often, Black filmmakers are told that their works have limited appeal outside of America. Black people can walk on nearly any part of this world and see our cultural impact, yet somehow, we are to believe that we cannot sell our stories abroad. For any Black film to annihilate such absurdity with its demonstrated success is something to be celebrated, especially when it depicts a minority within a minority. Moonlight is beautiful for many reasons, but what makes it most stunning is that it adds layers to characters we often only see as caricatures.
Its rare brilliance has not been appreciated by everyone. When I read English critic Camilla Long’s much maligned Sunday Times review of the film, I didn’t initially give a solitary damn about anything she had to say. Everything ain’t for everybody—and anyone who launches a Moonlight review by describing the film as “a film about gay love in the black ghetto” probably shouldn’t have bothered. Other writers have thoroughly and intelligently tackled Long’s review, but there is one aspect of Long’s piece that particularly rankles when considering Moonlight at the end of awards season.

Read the rest at ELLE.

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Earlier this month, Nielsen unveiled a study examining the broader appeal of black-led and/or -focused content—particularly in television. It begins with acknowledgment that black people play a pivotal role in shaping various sectors of popular culture in the U.S. In its findings, “73 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 67 percent of Hispanics believe that African Americans influence mainstream culture.” Congratulations to all who can clock the obvious without complication.

Now, as the report shifts to its specific focus, Nielsen notes, “Several programs with a predominantly black cast or a main storyline focusing on a black character are drawing substantial non-black viewership.”

Examining 2016-2017 television, the study finds:

  • With 89 percent non-black viewership, This Is Us, NBC’s Golden Globe-nominated ensemble dramedy, includes Sterling K. Brown as a black businessman raised by white parents and tackles topics such as drug addiction, racism, homosexuality, alcoholism, adoption, obesity and cancer.
  • ABC’s hit sitcom Black-ish follows a father and husband (Anthony Anderson) who’s trying to create a sense of black cultural identity for his affluent family of four and has 79 percent non-black viewership. Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays his wife, won the best actress in a comedy series Golden Globe for her role.
  • Three-fourths of the viewers are non-black for Secrets and Lies, the ABC crime drama that revolves around the biracial heir (Michael Ealy) to a Charlotte, N.C., equity firm and the murder of his wife.
  • ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder is the Shonda Rhimes hit drama starring Academy Award-winner Viola Davis as a criminal-defense professor who gets entangled in a murder plot. Sixty-nine percent of the show’s viewership is non-black.
  • Sixty-eight percent of viewership is non-black for ABC’s Scandal, a Shonda Rhimes “ShondaLand” thriller featuring Kerry Washington as a media consultant to the president.
  • With 63 percent non-black viewers, Fox’s Pitch is a dramedy about the first woman, a black woman, to play baseball in the Major Leagues.
  • Insecure is the HBO original comedy series co-created by Golden Globe-nominated Issa Rae. Inspired by Rae’s popular web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, viewership is 61 percent non-black.
  • Half of viewership for the newcomer Atlanta is non-black. The show, a Golden Globe-winning comedy-drama on FX created by and starring Donald Glover, centers on two black cousins navigating the Atlanta rap scene.

Based on the tone of this study, one is supposed to find this encouraging.

Indeed, of its findings, Andrew McCaskill, senior vice president, communications and multicultural marketing at Nielsen, says:

Much of the American narrative lately has focused on a growing cultural divide. But Nielsen’s data on television programming show something different. Storylines with a strong black character or identity are crossing cultural boundaries to grab diverse audiences and start conversations. That insight is important for culture and content creators, as well as manufacturers and retailers looking to create engaging, high-impact advertising campaigns.

Respectfully, presenting data that reveals that black-led television shows have crossover appeal is akin to other Earth-shattering news like: Popeyes biscuits taste like heaven in your mouth; there’s nothing like being debt-free; and dick too bomb.

There’s nothing remotely revealing about this information. The same goes for the study’s noting that shows with a majority black audience like Empire can manage to still “propel a show to Emmy-nominated, award-winning mainstream success.”

Yes, Taraji P. Henson is a Golden Globe-winning, Emmy-nominated actress thanks to her role as Cookie Lyon on Empire, but you know who long ago met this feat? Jackée Harry, who remains the first and only black woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She won for her role as the original Instagram model Sandra Clark on 227. 227 was a show about working-class Negroes in Washington, D.C., before the white folks took over and put bike lanes on Georgia Avenue near Howard University.

So, am I supposed to be thrilled about this news that could easily have been packaged with the hashtags of #TBT or #FBF? Sorry, Nielsen, but I do decline.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Last November, a majority of white people in America voted for a bigot for president. If you voted for a man who campaigned on xenophobia, racism, sexism and other strains of bigotry, you either share his prejudices or you are complicit in them. The former makes you an audacious racist; the latter, a bystander, which in and of itself is a racist act. Nothing about that reality has changed since Habanero Hitler was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election or officially sworn in to office.

But in senseless fashion, some continue to advocate on behalf of the big basket of deplorables responsible for the ongoing mess that is the 45th president of the United States. Only a week ago, I asked how many more of these disingenuous and intellectually dishonest diatribes will we collectively be subjected to? The

New York Times swiftly flew in with an answer: to infinity and fucking beyond.

In the news analysis “Are Liberals Helping Trump?” Sabrina Tavernise, a national correspondent for the Times, echoes all of the greatest hits associated with any defense of 45’s supporters.

First, there is the introduction of the 45 voter, who in this case is Jeffrey Medford, “a small-business owner in South Carolina” who apparently “voted reluctantly for Donald Trump.” Next we get his rationale for helping to elect a monster who is presently trying to reintroduce a travel ban aimed at people from primarily Muslim countries while stripping protection of transgender children in public schools. For Medford, it was the sentiment that “as a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican.”

Then comes the bullshit: the idea that assigning culpability is cruel and unjust, not to mention the cries of victimhood. Tavernise argues:

Mr. Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Mr. Medford dips into the political debate—either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles—he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”

He added: “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”

How ironic that a supporter of a man who campaigned on absolutes like “build a wall” and “Muslim ban” suddenly longs for nuance and gray areas. In any event, Tavernise paints a picture that likely resonates with the likes of the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who once tweeted, “The assumption that ‘Trump voter = racist’ is deeply corrosive to democracy.” Cillizza went on to add, “There is nothing more maddening—and counterproductive—to me than saying that Trump’s 59 million votes were all racist. Ridiculous.”

The same goes for the former host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, who, in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning shortly after the election, argued:

I thought Donald Trump disqualified himself at numerous points. But there is now this idea that anyone who voted for him is—has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric. Like, there are guys in my neighborhood that I love, that I respect, that I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans and not afraid of Muslims and not afraid of blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums.

Many of those people are presently screaming at Republican members of Congress at various town halls across the country. Their anger is understandable until you realize that they voted for someone who vowed on the campaign trail to repeal their health care program. Regardless of their purported motivation, though, Mexicans, Muslims and blacks were rightly fearful of their choice for president—and their support shows that we were expendable. They may not have been afraid, but they rejected their own humanity when they voted for a man who categorized one group as rapists, the other as terrorists, and the last as folks who live in war zones in this country in desperate need of law and order.

Remember, though: It’s wrong to highlight what their votes meant for the rest of us.
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No shade to the Kremlin, but if you have to pay for a psychological dossier on Sunkist Stalin, there’s a reason Muva Russia has gone from global superpower to Broke-Bitch Nation. Yes, such a declaration may lead to my emails being hacked, my nudes being spread like a dope Spotify playlist and God knows what else, but the truth is the truth, любимая. According to the Google, that’s “beloved” in Russian.

This week, various news reports, including one from NBC News, claimed that a psychological makeup on 45 was being prepped for Russian President Vladmir Putin. According to the preliminary findings, the new American president is “a risk-taker who can be naive,” according to “a senior Kremlin adviser.” Other revelations include that 45 “doesn’t understand fully who is Mr. Putin—he is a tough guy.”

No. 45 doesn’t know a lot of things, including the basic functions of the U.S. government; the Constitution; how anyone not white, male, well-off and boosted by nepotism lives; and anything that requires the intellect of someone above a fourth-grade reading level. Oh, and apparently “many in the Kremlin believed that Trump viewed the presidency as a business.”

I wonder whether this dossier—compiled by retired diplomats and Putin staff members—also tells us the color of the sky.

Its intent, it is said, is to properly prep Putin for his first meeting with 45. However, considering the growing evidence that 45 is the mutt he helped housebreak into the White House, you would think he would already be quite familiar with a man who literally is inescapable within media. What else is there to learn about an erratic narcissist who’s never shown allegiance to anything besides himself and maybe his daughter?

I’m not in the habit of assisting comrades, but since I’ve always wanted to play redbone Frasier Crane for a spell, I’d like to help out.

Read the rest at The Root.

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