Just over a week after a grand jury in Ferguson ruled that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, a Staten Island grand jury ruled that the police officer Daniel Pantaleo will not be indicted for killing Eric Garner, an unarmed father of six. Pantaleo used a chokehold on Garner—a debilitating move police have not been permitted to use since 1993—in broad daylight—while Garner was being arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
The difference between Garner’s death and the death of Michael Brown is that the events leading to Garner’s death were caught on video by a bystander. In the video, which is readily available for public viewing (warning, though—it’s extremely upsetting), Garner is shown being taken down by multiple cops, who hold him to the sidewalk as he insists several times that he can’t breathe.
A New York City medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. HOMICIDE, as if the video of Garner being taken down by a cop wasn’t enough evidence for you: The medical examiner, whose job it is to determine how someone has died, ruled that Garner died because of “compressions to the chest and ‘prone positioning during physical restraint by police’.” Yet Pantaleo was somehow not indicted.
In many cities in the United States, including New York, Chicago, Washington, and Boston, people have been filling the streets in protest of the Garner/Pantaleo ruling. Protesters even managed to shut down traffic on major New York City bridges. We live in a world where people are now organizing regularly to chant the last words said by another black man killed at the hands of the police. A world where, despite the adage that a grand jury could “indict a ham sandwich,” a non-indictment verdict for the murder of an unarmed black man seems almost guaranteed. A world where children like Tamir Rice are shot and killed by police. A world where, in a case where fatal police actions are caught on video, the police officers who killed Garner are not indicted, but the man who filmed it is.
More than 200 people were arrested in New York on Thursday night during protests against the cruelty of that same police force. After Michael Brown’s death, people started to argue for the use of body cameras on police, but in the Garner verdict, everything was on film and still no justice. The world seems to be more helpless than ever in regards to what we can do to stop such rampant, racist abuses of power. The threat of a grand jury and indictment doesn’t do anything, body cameras and physical evidence don’t do anything, nothing does anything. But people—the people who take to the bridges, risk being suspended from their teams or schools in order to protest, and stand up, lie down, or chant in solidarity with those helplessly killed by the police aren’t willing to give up. There’s still some hope.
Here’s where you can donate to the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot by a police officer in Cleveland two weeks ago.
Muckraker Prints is screenprinting replicas of Jenny Holzer’s famous “ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE” shirt for very cheap. Half the proceeds will go to the Legal Support Fund for Justice for Mike Brown.
It’s apparent that the time has come for artists across all disciplines to use the spotlight to shine light on issues of injustice and human suffering. One major exception stands out that will help promote crossover between the worlds of music and politics: Run the Jewels, the hip-hop duo comprising Killer Mike and El-P, put out one of the best records of the year, Run the Jewels 2, which deals with the corruption of the government and its police forces on some of its songs.
With all eyes on RTJ as the Album of the Year lists start to drop, Killer Mike has emerged as a strong voice in the fight against police brutality. He’s given speeches at RTJ shows and has appeared on national news networks to speak on issues of injustice; El-P backs him up on social media and in interviews. Turns out the two have been comrades for a long time: The writer, editor, and photographer Matthew Ismael Ruiz has written a career profile of Mike and El that allows them to explain, in their own words, how their bond was forged out of hard work and personal loss. Together, they create music that pulls off an incredibly difficult feat: combining the sound of the moment with the politics of our time. The results are sonically and politically revolutionary.
When the smartest man alive says something, we should probably listen. The physicist and author (and subject of a new biopic, The Theory of Everything, out now) Stephen Hawking, has announced his position on AI, or artificial intelligence: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. According to Hawking, that technology would begin to re-design itself at an unparalleled rate, surpassing the abilities of humans before we could say “Terminator 2.”
There’s never been a bad Screaming Females record. With every new release (all of which appear on longstanding Jersey independent label Don Giovanni, home to Downtown Boys, Priests, and Waxahatchee, among many others), Marissa Paternoster continues to shred like nobody else out there, crafting inspired, momentous jams that make you want to furiously jump up and down on your bed. They’ve already debuted strong singles from their upcoming record, Rose Mountain, but this week they released what might be the best yet, a Superdrag-esque ’90s hangover called “Empty Head.”
Audrey Hutchinson, the CEO and founder of SweetPeach, started her probiotics company for enhancing and maintaining vaginal health after her own experiences with recurring UTIs. At SweetPeach’s crowdfunding page, you can pre-order the probiotics kit, or just give whatever you can to help make this product widely available to women and girls.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT’S HERE: The comedy special I’ve been itching for! Dan Klein’s “This Is Comedy” is an hour-long parody of “classic” standup themes. You know, like: Men and women are different!, and Why can’t that Starbucks barista get my name right??, and Women be crazy!! It’s as clever as it is ridiculous.
My favorite part is a one-minute listing of shows to raucous applause (“You guys like the show The Simpsons? Whoa, yeah. Cool, it’s like a cartoon family, man? That’s awesome. You guys remember that show Freaks and Geeks? Yeah, dude. That was so cool, but they cancelled it! You can’t cancel that, that’s classic, man! What about Arrested Development, you ever watch that?”). What really sets this apart from other parodies is his commitment: He actually took the time to write an hour of fake material. Dan Klein is a comedic GENIUS, y’all.
The Japanese line Fake Food Hatanaka’s collection of accessories adorned with enticing but totally inedible food replicas is worth perusing. Where else will you be able to take a gander at dangling pepper bacon earrings or a necklace that successfully mimics a serving of succulent curry rice heaped on your neck (fork included)? (I don’t want to raise false hopes, though: Quite a lot of it is sold out on the website at the moment.)
Can you imagine rallying a team of chefs in front of thousands of spectators to cook a 6,613-pound Spanish omelet, making this egg megalith come to life to try to break the Guinness World Record for the largest in the world, and finding out that Japan had already prepared a much larger one? Sounds like an (admittedly delicious) nightmare for the Spanish town of Vitoria, which must have invoked the wrath of many a potato peeler involved.
My heart goes out to Megumi Igarashi, a Japanese artist who made a kayak modeled on her own vagina, who was arrested for sending a copy of the three-dimensional plans of her boat to people. Though Igarashi, who calls herself Rokude Nashiko (which translates in English to offensive slang for “reprobate child”) had already been arrested for raising money to make the aquatic vag, she insisted on following through with its creation. She told the press, “I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene. […] I was determined I would never yield to police power.”
Remember that adorable baby sea otter who moved in to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium a few weeks back? Good Morning America shared a poll where you can choose your favorite name for the otter and read the reasons behind the five name choices (Cali, Ellie, Luna, Poppy, and Aña/Anya). You can cast your vote there, or head to Shedd’s website for more adorable videos and other information about the soon-to-be-named pup. The poll runs through Thursday, December 11 at 3 PM Eastern time.
Part-android, part-Electric Lady Janelle Monáe celebrated her birthday on Monday (happy belated, Jane!) and gifted us all with a wonderful message with the #GirlsCan campaign, which delivers empowering messages to girls. In the video, Janelle mentions how hard she had to work to be where she is because she has had to transcend conventions of how to look and what it means to be sexy in the music industry. I admire how unique and dedicated she is to being fiercely independent in how she crafts the details of her image and her career. “Go and take all the opportunities that are given to you—but take ’em to the moon and beyond,” she advises, and I hear her loud and clear.
Monday was the 27th annual commemoration of World AIDS Day. Although it is a day of sadness, loss, and the sobering realization that a cure for this destructive disease is yet to exist, this day also signifies an opportunity to reflect on how far scientists, donors, and ordinary people all over the world have come in understanding and managing HIV and AIDS. It’s also worth noting that women and girls are uniquely affected depending on their sociopolitical and economic contexts.
What brings a smile to my face is knowing that young women like Nicole Ticea, a high school student in Vancouver who developed an early-stage HIV test, are passionate about their work and applying their minds in developing solutions that will eventually benefit those who need it most. Last month, I was in Switzerland for consultations that focused on bringing condoms back to the center of the prevention discourse (condoms can indeed be THAT interesting!) and it can’t be emphasized enough: Beyond the many advances that have been made, condoms remain the single, most reliable health commodity that can beat HIV infection. Happy safe-sexing to all you Rooks!
The singer Jill Scott and, previously, Whoopi Goldberg have gone public with their hesitation in believing the rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Although I’ve known about the earlier allegations against Cosby for some years now, I’m still shocked and confused that someone who made everyone’s childhoods that much more awesome with The Cosby Show may have sexually assaulted a number of women.
It is absolutely awful that women are coming forth with their experiences of being violated by a powerful man, which is never an easy thing to do, and these famous women are choosing to side with him. As with Woody Allen, it is possible for someone to be a lovable, amazing artist and still be a horrible human being. I am a Jill Scott fan and because she is someone whom I believe stands for women—women who look like me—I am incredibly disappointed in her for this.
While promoting his new film Top Five, Chris Rock has been doing what is probably one of the best and most provocative press tours of his career. His interviews and appearances on this tour have touched upon everything from the sexual assault allegations against his comedic predecessor Bill Cosby to Ferguson and all have been through the lens of what it means to be black in America. My favorite of these interviews is Chris Rock’s New York magazine cover story, where the journalist Frank Rich facilitates a really candid, insightful conversation. I love when Rock notes his experience of being a wealthy black person in Hollywood and how out of place he feels, even comparing it to that of Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation. He offers this perfect description of modern-day race relations:
But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.
For The Hollywood Reporter, Rock penned an essay that dove deeper into Hollywood’s lack of diversity. It’s refreshing to read someone as famous as he is be so blunt about the everyday microaggressions that occur in Hollywood—the town and the business. His points on how the film industry employs people of color and views them in terms of having to cross over or making movies for a particular audience are important takes. Towards the end, he makes some crucial and powerful points on the roles we expect non-white entertainers to play:
Black kids watch The Lord of the Rings and they want to be the Lord of the Rings. I remember when they were doing Starsky & Hutch, and my manager was like, “We might be able to get you the part of Huggy Bear,” which eventually went to Snoop Dogg. I was like: “Do you understand that when my brother and I watched Starsky & Hutch growing up, I would play Starsky and he would play Hutch? I don’t want to play f—ing Huggy Bear. This is not a historical drama. This is not Thomas Jefferson. It’s a movie based on a shitty TV show, it can be anybody. Who cares. If they want me to play Starsky or Hutch, or even the bad guy, I’m down. But Huggy Bear?”
It’s so great to read this legendary actor and comedian be so honest in his criticism of this warped industry while also addressing the political and social unrest of today.
Sad news out of Germany this week, with the death of 23-year-old Tuğçe Albayrak. Last month, Tuğçe stood up for two teenage girls being harassed in a McDonald’s bathroom, after which a man attacked her in the parking lot. She never woke up, and her parents removed her from life support on her birthday.
Tuğçe is being hailed as a hero in Germany, and her death is yet another reminder of why we must fight the culture of street harassment. She isn’t the first person to be attacked while defending women from harassment, and sadly, she won’t be the last.
I spent a long time this week listening to The Soft Moon’s new song, “Black,” on repeat, and losing myself in Luis Vasquez’s dystopian pop nightmare. The Soft Moon is this fascinating mix of no-wave, industrial aggrotech, and heavy bass, with eerie whispered vocals that lend a sense of emotional detachment.
Shia LaBeouf recently revealed that he was raped while performing his #IAMSORRY piece earlier this year. As a performance artist (and human), I am shaken to my core at his story. I am further enraged at the lack of support he has received as a sexual assault survivor, simply because he is presumed to have a history of mental illness. In Lindy West’s piece about the response to LaBeouf’s revelation, at The Guardian, she makes an incredibly important point in this essay: that “mental illness makes a person more likely to be the victim of sexual assault” (emphasis my own). As it stands, male victims of rape receive so little recourse for their attack that when they speak up, they are met with the immediate assumption of implausibility. This stems from a rape culture that treats women as pathological liars and men as “sissies” for not fighting back. Like Lindy, I believe Shia LaBeouf, and hope he can recover peacefully from something so profoundly traumatic. ♦