Last weekend, Kalief Browder took his own life. Kalief was 16 years old when he was arrested and held on Rikers Island for three years, without ever being convicted of a crime. Seemingly, something like this would be against the law, but he stayed there anyway, spending much of his time in solitary confinement. A high school kid who missed out on prom, and cap and gown fittings for a crime for which he did not ever go to trial.
Just a few weeks ago, video of the abuse Kalief faced on Rikers was published on the New Yorker website, and prompted some action by public officials. The delayed response to Kalief’s story, and the fact that it took a video to prompt legislative action (was his word not enough?), calls to mind how we have to see black people brutalized in clips passed around on Facebook before we even begin to acknowledge injustice. Kalief allowed those clips to be made public solely for the purpose of preventing other people from experiencing the same pain he had. He raised his voice for the other Kalief Browders of the world, whose names are unknown, and who are losing hope in their prison cells and beyond.
In my opinion, the state and U.S. justice system have Kalief’s blood on their hands. As his mother said, “He didn’t get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here.” This further speaks to the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement, since black Americans are treated with little to no value; dead or alive.
A video documenting police officer Eric Casebolt assaulting a girl, and threatening teens with his gun in McKinney, Texas, was posted to YouTube last Saturday. The video shows that on June 5, Eric Casebolt of McKinney Police Department used his knees to pin a 15-year-old girl named Dajerria Becton to the ground while pulling her hair, twisting her arm behind her back, and roughly shoving her face into the grass and dirt. Casebolt then waved his gun at 18-year-old Adrian Martin, who approached to assure Dajerria that he was going to get her mom.
In another video, the 19-year-old host of the party Tatiana Rhodes explains what happened before the police arrived. Her gathered classmates and friends were taunted by white neighbours who told them to “go back to their Section 8 housing” and who used racial slurs against them. When an adult white woman slapped Tatiana in the face she began defending herself. During or after the fight, a man called Sean Toon called the police.
On June 8, residents of McKinney, Texas began protesting, calling for an end to police brutality against black people and demanding that Casebolt be fired and that charges be brought against him. The video above, by the Dallas-based filmmaker Ciara Boniface, captures the protests and many of the powerful speeches given that night.
The protests are so heartening and beautiful, but these events are an awful reminder that, in the white imagination, blackness is constructed as scary, dangerous, and threatening. This perception wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t also structurally enforced by the state—as it was at McKinney’s community pool last week. Watching a 41-year-old police officer use the full weight of his adult body against a teen girl, while white adults look on passively, also speaks to the way that black girls are not regarded as fragile, vulnerable, or worthy of protection—but we are.
Since this video was published, Casebolt has resigned, and issued a pointless non-apology to “all those offended.” Casebolt has not addressed the trauma and pain he caused Dajerria Becton, Adrian Martin, and the other teens present.
The title of this Atlantic article really says it all: “America’s Largest Mental Hospital is a Jail.” The jail in question is Chicago’s Cook County. The scope of this story reaches beyond Chicago, though. The piece presents a solid overview of the U.S. mental health system—or lack thereof—and the funding cuts and failed political initiative that brought us to the point of incarcerating people with mental illnesses. “A study in 1990 found that 1 in 15 prisoners at Cook County Jail had some form of mental illness. Today, a conservative estimate is 1 in 3.” The article also outlines what Cook County’s sheriff, Tom Dart, is trying to do to fill the gaps left when Chicago’s mayor closed half of the city’s 12 mental health clinics in 2011. This important piece brings much-needed attention to the state of mental health care and incarceration in the United States.
A time capsule (of sorts) has been discovered in an Oklahoma school! When blackboards were removed for replacement at Emerson High School, another set of boards from 1917 were discovered. Lessons about the pilgrims, multiplication, and how to keep clean as well as old drawings were preserved on these boards for nearly 100 years! This article on the Washington Post includes a bunch of great pictures of the find.
The cast of the TV show Gilmore Girls reunited at the ATX Television Festival in Austin. They discussed a potential revival (sadly nothing is in the works right now), and which boyfriend Rory should have ended up with. Glamour magazine has an overview of the Gilmore Girls‘ cast talking about where their characters would be now and about their favorite episodes. It’s perfect for anyone who still misses Stars Hollow.
Katarzyna Majak talked to Slate about her documentary photography project. Majak, who was raised in the Catholic faith, takes portraits of and interviews Polish women who are witches, healers, whispers, and other spiritual practitioners.
Who is more perfect to grace the cover of Vogue Australia‘s music issue than Lorde? I was SO excited to see the gasp-inducing cover photos of her; she looks absolutely regal! I can’t wait to read the cover story and see what she’s been up to since the end of the Pure Heroine album cycle, and hopefully hear about what’s coming next!
Aidy Bryant’s episode of Glamour Magazine‘s “What I Wore When” podcast is positively adorable! The comedian speaks about her favorite pieces of clothing and her personal style, from her childhood to the present, and even about the outfit she wore to audition for Saturday Night Live. She drops this piece of wisdom about the way clothing affects her confidence: “Ultimately what matters is your words, or what you’re there to do, but why not have the bonus of feeling great, too?”
In cartoon girls saving the television world news: the Powerpuff Girls is getting a reboot on Cartoon Network in 2016. Although I have had to wait 12 of my 16 years for this phenomenon, I am hyper-giddy and more than ready to see my (our) favorite flying balls of girl power come out of retirement. The Powerpuff Girls 2.0 version will be voiced by new actresses, although Tom Kenny will be back in action as the voice-giver for Mayor and Narrator. In other words, life is about to become sugar, spice, and everything nice for all of you Powerpuff peoples!
Paul Bacon, the designer responsible for many classic book covers died on Monday. Over the course of his career, Bacon designed covers for more than 6500 books, including Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Many of the covers are still recognisable today (see Don Draper reading Portnoy’s Complaint here, or the 50th anniversary edition of Catch-22 here).
18-year-old Kyemah McEntyre from New Jersey designed her own prom dress which she had a local seamstress sew, fueled by a desire to subvert stereotypes and defy the negative comments she received about her appearance growing up. Kyemah sums up what I love about fashion—it can be such a source of empowerment, and I’m so glad that she, her dress, and her story have gone viral. In the fall, Kyemah will be attending Parsons School of Design, and thank goodness for that! I can’t wait to see more of her creations.
T Magazine published “The Face,” an article profiling 11 women currently making waves in the fashion industry. I was pleased to see a variety of ages (women from 16 to 44 years old), a diverse array of skin tones, and the inclusion of the trans model Andreja Pejic. Women of color, and trans women are really underrepresented in the industry, so it was refreshing to see the magazine include these faces.
However, I found the tagline of the article super problematic: “Eleven women who define what is beautiful now.” I don’t think 11 people define what beauty is for the other 7.125 billion people who live on this earth. And even if that’s not what the author is trying to say, even if it is just a small string of words, an afterthought, it is phrases like this that can be dangerous to girls and women who look up to editorials and fashion magazines. These phrases make us think that if we don’t look like the people in the magazine, we are not beautiful. But we are the ones who decide what beauty is for ourselves. 11 women chosen by a magazine editorial staff, no matter their age, ethnicity, or background, don’t define beauty for the rest of us.
Okay, the internet is too much for me this week, y’all! Like, in a really great way. I am a sucker for The Virgin Suicides: the book written by Jeffrey Eugenides, the movie directed by Sofia Coppola, and the soundtrack scored by the French duo Air. So you can imagine how loudly I squawked when I saw this Pitchfork article announcing that Air has included a previously unreleased version of “Playground Love” on the 15th anniversary reissue of The Virgin Suicides movie soundtrack. Like the original track, this version is haunting and beautiful, but it’s also fuller and more suspenseful. The article also states that “Thomas Mars of Phoenix co-wrote, sang, and played drums on the original studio version of “Playground Love”, under the pseudonym Gordon Tracks.” Thomas is Gordon?? I can’t believe it, but I also can! Anyway, nevermind me, just fangirling out the wazoo over here.
Next up, some Very Important Animal News. Duke, an adorable Great Pyrenees furbaby, was elected MAYOR of Cormorant, Minnesota. HE IS SUCH A GOOD DOG. Duke has no official executive power, and the title is only honorary, but that doesn’t mean he can’t wear a sweet little collar proclaiming him the Mayor. Instead of receiving a mayoral salary, Duke will receive a year’s worth of doggie kibble and endless cuddles from his constituents.*
Here is an incredibly tiny and adorable baby pudu deer which was born at the Queens Zoo this week. Are you alive after that? Can you even deal? It’s okay, I’m still hyperventilating myself. Pudus may be the smallest species of deer, but they are giants of cuteness. I want to hold this little bundle of joy in my arms FOREVER. ♦
*Editor’s note: This story is from 2014, but remains very cute.