On #SXSW: Post by @Conrazon

Words by me here —> I don’t do SXSW. It comes at a bad time of year for me (it’s the time of year I break down from awful winter and go island hopping.) But my friend Natalia Linares, who works in the business of music, does. Check out her latest post on this ever-growing conference:

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 11.44.11 AM

#PuentesFuentes: “Community support is about collaboration, not competition!”

Words via Conrazon‘s blog:

Salute to Chief Boima and Dutty Artz for this post that laid out a lot of things I’ve been thinking about the last 5 years I’ve been to Austin for SXSW.  I urge you all to mediate on this and figure out how we can continue to build space with each other both in our communities and at gargantuan event$ happening nationally.

Read more here.


When ‘zero tolerance’ goes too far

Photo via NBC News: http://nbcnews.to/1nGKpQT
Photo via NBC News: http://nbcnews.to/1nGKpQT


Dontadrian Bruce (pictured above), age 15, is a student at Olive Branch High School in Olive Branch, Miss.

On Feb. 3, assistant principal Todd Nichols summoned him out of class. Nichols showed Dontadrian a photo he had posed for during a recent biology project, in which the boy had his hand up displaying three raised fingers – his thumb, forefinger and middle finger. “You’re suspended,” said Nichols, “because you’re holding up gang signs in this picture.”

Three days later, a disciplinary committee confirmed Dontadrian’s punishment: “Indefinite suspension with a recommendation of expulsion.”

Wait, what? The above photo was taken by the boy’s mother, Janet Hightower. It recreates the “incriminating” image: “He’s a good child,” she insists. “I know what he does 24 hours a day.”

Dontadrian also says he had no clue that this gesture was affiliated with the Vice Lords, a Chicago-based street gang with active Deep South chapters. He claims he was holding up three fingers to represent the number on his football jersey, like the other players did during practice.

Read more about Dontadrian’s hand gesture and how, per U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, “[exclusionary] discipline is applied disproportionately to children of color and students with disabilities,” here via PolicyMic.

Carlos McCray, a professor in Fordham’s Graduate School of Education, is familiar with cases like Dontadrian’s. His research links discipline with achievement in urban schools and, most recently, he commented on a case (also in Mississippi) in which a 5-year-old who was nabbed by police for wearing the ‘wrong color’ shoes.

McCray co-authored this book on hip-hop culture, values, and school: http://amzn.to/1ixvIRd
McCray co-authored this book on hip-hop culture, values, and school: http://amzn.to/1ixvIRd

McCray’s research found educators are subscribing to the utilitarian principle, thinking, “If I can get a few of these problem students out of the classroom, then I’ll be able to teach everyone else,” it’s effectively ushering a number of students out of school.

That line of thinking is flawed, McCray said, again pointing to the numbers. The New York Times looked at Baltimore public schools and found that in 2004 alone, there were 26,000 school suspensions and expulsions.

“That’s very problematic,” he said. “Research shows the more students are suspended or expelled, the more they’ll end up dropping out. Thirty percent of sophomores who drop out have been suspended three times more than their peers who remain in class. While we talk about the achievement gap, we also have to talk about the discipline gap. How can students learn when they are not in class?”

Great question. Read more about McCray’s work here via Inside Fordham.

Meet me at the #diner in #NewJersey (or #NewYork)

Photo by Oresti Tsonopoulos
Photo by Oresti Tsonopoulos

So… I grew up in New Jersey, the land of a million 24-hour diners. In fact, the first time I left the state and noticed a dearth of them, I was surprised in a bad way. What do you mean we just got off the plane and we can’t find hot food because it’s 11 p.m. and everything is closed? What? One can’t order breakfast past 11 a.m. here?

New Jersey is the diner capital of the world, according to Clifton, N.J.’s Michael Gabriele, the author of “The History of Diners in New Jersey.”

He calls the Garden State “the diner capital of the world” with good reason. According to the state website, New Jersey currently operates 570 diners, more than any other state. (Read more about diners and Gabrielle’s book here.)

So what’s so great about them?

Diners are comfort food or late night food epitomized. There are what seems like a 1000 things on the menu, breakfast is always available, and they’re fairly cheap (and very fast!) Nine times out of 10, they’re owned by Greek families (and passed on for generations). They have a certain type of waitress (the type to call you honey or darling) and, usually, a Hispanic bus boy who works quick, quick, quick!

The intersection of these diverse folks and the diner world are cleverly documented by one of my favorite news photojournalists, Oresti Tsonopoulos, in an audio and photo slideshow for “Borough Buzz.” It features a New York diner ( Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger in Greenwich Village) , but being a neighboring state, it reminded me of New Jersey.

When I was a newspaper journalist in the early to late-aughts, I always preferred photo slideshows to videos (even though I shot and produced videos myself) because there is something poignant about observing the detail in a striking still photo portrait of a person and their voice telling you a story.

The slideshow contains audio in English, Spanish and Greek, obviously, but you can read English subtitles by selecting the closed caption feature on the video. (link to Borough Buzz)


<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/87221962″>At Greek Diners, A Multilingual Mashup.</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/oresti”>Oresti Tsonopoulos</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ … in reggae

ESA-10Year-DubSideOh, it’s nothing new. In fact, ‘Dub Side of the Moon‘ by Easy Star Records was released a decade ago, but it’s brand new to me. (Thanks Press Junkie PR for the heads up.)

This re-working of Pink Floyd’s legendary album is dope! (Listen to a sampler here.) It’s also work-friendly, as I like to say. You know, the kind of music you can listen to at work without it taking your concentration away. Great for background.

Now is your chance to see this album performed on tour as Easy Star All-Stars will head out on tour of a special anniversary edition of this classic album. Put out by Easy Star, the leading independent reggae label, the re-issue will boast new artwork, an in-depth liner note booklet, and two bonus tracks, including a new version of the song “Breathe” featuring additional vocals by Eric Rachmany of Rebelution, Metric Man, and Ruff Scott of the Easy Star All-Stars.

The huge success of Dub Side of the Moon (2003) spawned a popular series of reggae tribute albums by the band including Radiodread (2006), Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (2009), and Easy Star’s Thrillah (2012).  The Easy Star All-Stars have also released an original EP (Until That Day, 2008), an original album (First Light, 2011), and a remix of Dub Side called Dubber Side Of The Moon (2010). They have toured worldwide over the past decade, playing in over 30 countries on 6 continents.

This spring the band hits the road for the Dub Side Of The Moon Anniversary Tour performing the album live in its entirety alongside classic material from the band’s career including original songs and tracks from the other tribute albums.  Select shows will also include new animated visuals that were debuted at live shows in November 2013.

The tour features a number of great pairings as well, including five co-headlining shows with John Brown’s Body (including the third teaming up for 4/20 weekend at Brooklyn Bowl), two shows with Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub, and four shows with Rochester’s celebrated Thunder Body. Don’t miss them!

Dates below. Tix/info here

Dub Side Of The Moon Anniversary Tour

Mar 27 Revolution Bar & Music Hall* Amityville, NY
Mar 28 The Sinclair* Boston, MA
Mar 29 Snow Barn Nightclub* Dover, VT
Mar 30 The Haunt* Ithaca, NY
Apr 01 Bell’s Brewery# Kalamazoo, MI
Apr 02 Majestic Theatre^ Madison, WI
Apr 03 Concord Music Hall^# Chicago, IL
Apr 04 Beachland Ballroom^ Cleveland, OH
Apr 05 The Opera House^ Toronto, Canada
Apr 18 Austin Reggae Fest Austin, TX
Apr 19 Brooklyn Bowl^ Brooklyn, NY
Apr 22 Cat’s Cradle+ Carrboro, NC
Apr 23 The Georgia Theatre+ Athens, GA
Apr 24 Terminal West+ Atlanta, GA
Apr 25 Howlin’ Wolf+ New Orleans, LA
Apr 26 Vinyl Music Hall+ Pensacola, FL
Apr 27 Culture Room+ Fort Lauderdale, FL
Apr 28 Freebird Live+ Jacksonville, FL
Apr 30 The Grey Eagle+ Asheville, NC
May 01 Ziggy’s By The Sea+ Wilmington, NC
May 02 Tally Ho Theatre+ Leesburg, VA
May 03 Jefferson Theatre+ Charlottesville, VA

*with Thunder Body  #with Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub
^with John Brown’s Body
+ with Cas Haley & Big Hope

New album by Los Rakas to drop on Universal Musica!

No Tan ListoNews from Rakalandia!

Panama via Oakland, Calif, Latin hip-hop duo, Los Rakas have released the first single,No Tan Listo,” for their debut album with Universal Musica’s urban label, Machete Music. The record will drop on April 15. (Grab the single here.)

As someone who played a minuscule role in this band’s publicity efforts, I couldn’t be more proud:

(Watch an interview I scored for them on CNN on Español here: http://bit.ly/Nd4fpO)

I also scored this premiere for them in the now-defunct (*sad face*) AOL SPINNER.

Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 3.11.45 PM

That was a tiny glimpse to the press this duo has been getting. Just do a search online and you’ll see tons of articles, especially about their upcoming shows at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. (And you can thank their publicist, Raka team member, Conrazón, for all of that good press!)

Also check out their collaboration with The Bots – “Spaceshippin’” – for the Converse Cons EP (also features my favorite NYC rap crew right now, Ratking) came out via VICE’s Noisey.  Download the song here.


Guest post: How #Women’s Empowerment Shaped My Parenting and Helped Change Brooklyn Sports

Photo via Maxpreps.com
Photo via Maxpreps.com

Via the BK Nation Blog
By Mark Naison

Everyone who knows me well knows two things about me. First, I am a passionately committed political activist. Second that I am a sports fanatic. Here is how the two defining characteristics of my life came together for me and shaped the upbringing up my daughter Sara in a feminist household.

When we got married my wife Liz Phillips and I decided that Liz would keep her name and that we would bring up our children in accordance with feminist principles. This entailed totally sharing childcare, cooking and household chores. We engaged in collective household decision making, and the creation of hyphenated last names for our children — Naison-Phillips — that reflected our commitment to gender equality.

Some men would consider this arrangement to be a burden. Commitment to gender equality carried one huge benefit. When our first child Sara was born, I enjoyed the freedom to teach her everything about sports that my father taught me—how to hit throw and to catch, how to get up when knocked down, and how to walk onto a ball field as though you owned it. I started sports training with Sara when she was two years old. By the time when she was five, I walked her into the St. Saviour’s Youth Sports League, signed her up for baseball, and volunteered to coach a team.

Fortunately, the league let her play…even though the league was 95 percent boys. There, her abilities proved to be something of a revelation. Sara hit, threw and caught as well as all but a handful of boys her age and soon became a star. She batted lead-off and played the coveted position of pitcher’s mound — coaches pitched to their own teams — where you normally placed your most reliable fielder. She won complete acceptance in the league, became a pitcher at age eight when the league made the transition to kids pitching, and even earned a spot on the much sought-after St. Saviours’s travelling team when she reached the age of 10.

In basketball, Sara left her most indelible impression. Fast, strong, tough and capable of doing 40 push-ups as a result of her gymnastics training, she played on the highly competitive St. Saviour’s 10-and-under boys’ CYO travelling team at the age of eight. Over time, Sara became a highly visible figure in Brooklyn CYO basketball, whose participating parishes extended from Marine Park to Bay Ridge to Bensonhurst, to Red Hook and to Fort Greene. All over Brooklyn, mothers who were rooting for their own teams cheered for my daughter when she came into the game and the boys on the other teams found themselves caring less than they were being guarded by a girl and more than they were about to get stripped of the ball by that girl if they didn’t protect their dribble.

That lasted until Sara was 10. That year, she started on the boys’ team that won the Brooklyn CYO championship—beating arch-rival St. Thomas Aquinas of Flatbush in the Championship Game. The Aquinas coaches grumbled loudly after the game, claiming that her presence on the team gave St. Saviour’s an unfair advantage because the boys on other teams couldn’t play with as hard with a girl guarding them. Without informing the St Saviour’s coaches, they launched a secret — and ultimately successful — campaign to ban girls from boys’ CYO basketball.

We did not find out about the ban until a year later when St. Saviour’s 11-year-old team lined up to play Aquinas in the first game of the season. The Aquinas coaches loudly proclaimed “the girl can’t play,” at the beginning of the game, quoting the newly approved league rule. Pandemonium broke out in the gym and I had to be held back from physically assaulting the Aquinas coaches. The referee said he thought the rule was “ridiculous.” The real heroes proved to be Sara’s male teammates, who refused to take the floor unless she played. The result: the game was played under protest with Sara on the court, and I was determined to find out what the hell had happened.

My years of political activism quickly jumped into high gear. After calling the league director and finding out that a rule banning girls from boys’ CYO had been passed, I called friends of mine who wrote for Newsday and for The New York Times and told them what had happened. Within hours they assigned the story to reporters. A day later, front page articles on Sara — including pictures — appeared on page three of Newsday and on page one of the Metro Section of The New York Times. By 7 AM, every television station in New York City called the house to ask to film stories about Sara. Television segments were shot at Fordham in which she shot baskets with the Fordham’s women’s basketball coach and in the schoolyard of JHS 51, where they showed her taking shots with her teammates.

The wave of publicity achieved its desired outcome. By 5 PM, Brooklyn CYO leaders released a statement saying that the rule had been rescinded. Sara and other girls were free to play on boys’ teams if their parish didn’t field girl’s teams.

The drama did not end there. Sara’s story touched a chord with people all over the country who viewed the effort to ensure that girls enjoyed the right to participate at the highest levels in sports as a human rights issue—not merely as a question of justice and of fairness. The New York Times and Newsday published editorials supporting her right to play, a Catholic social-justice group developed Continuing Catholic Development lessons based on what she experienced. Sesame Street came to our home to film a three-minute segment about Sara and about her teammates!

For Sara, who became a nationally ranked tennis player and captain of the Yale tennis team, this proved to be a formative experience in a life of athletic and academic success. For our whole family, this odyssey affirmed the importance of fighting for the rights of all people to realize their potential in all aspects of human endeavor.

A revolution begins with many small acts. This is the story of how one family took the lessons of Women’s History Month to heart.

Mark Naison is a professor of history and African American Studies at Fordham. He is the author of “White Boy: A Memoir (2003),” and “Pure Bronx (2013).” 


Spoiler Alert

Caracas Chronicles

Some time I picked to stop blogging about Venezuela, right? Yeesh! OK, so call this the first of a series of – hopefully rare – Ilan Chester-style guest posts from the other side of retirement.


leopoldo-lopez-gasmask Maybe exposure to tear gas causes learning difficulties.

There’s a lot of ferment right now, a lot of excitement, as a brand new generation of kids relearning, en cabeza propia all kinds of things that nobody ever learns en cabeza ajena.

Like Juan, I’ve seen this movie before. And so I sort of know how it ends. So – SPOILER ALERT – here are the seven lessons that today’s students are eventually going to figure out, but not before a huge amount of heartache and, well, just plain normal ache:

  1. The one thing chavismo can’t do without is an enemy, preferably one that its followers can feel good about hating, a convincingly menacing yet…

View original post 303 more words