Category: African American Issues

Gladys Knight, Ahead of Super Bowl Anthem Date, Criticizes Colin Kaepernick

The soul singer Gladys Knight, who will be singing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, seemed to criticize Colin Kaepernick in a statement published by Variety on Friday.

Kaepernick is the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose refusal to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and decision to kneel instead — to protest police brutality has made him a divisive figure nationwide, earning him praise from civil rights groups, but scorn from many conservatives, including President Trump.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight wrote to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our national anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the national anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The statement continued: “I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3, to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life.”

This is the latest twist at the intersection of politics, sports and music that has surrounded this year’s Super Bowl. Kaepernick is still in the middle of an ongoing arbitration case regarding a grievance he filed against the N.F.L. He has accused the league’s owners of colluding to keep him out of the league after not being signed last season.

His protests during the anthems became a cultural flash point, even though he wasn’t in the league. Other N.F.L. players began kneeling to support Kaepernick, as did celebrities off the field. Last fall, Nike made Kaepernick the face of a prominent advertising campaign.

This year’s Super Bowl became particularly fraught because of the halftime show. Some high-profile artists, including the rapper Cardi B, said they would not be willing to perform, in a show of solidarity with Kaepernick. Last year, Jay-Z rapped in one of his songs: “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.”

Earlier this week, the N.F.L. announced the halftime acts would be Maroon 5 and the rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi. Scott’s decision to participate, in particular, received backlash, including from prominent African-Americans like Al Sharpton. Variety reported that Kaepernick and Scott spoke before the announcement and described the conversation as “cordial and respectful.” But on Wednesday, several posts critical of Scott appeared on Kaepernick’s Twitter account.

Perhaps anticipating the criticism, Scott announced on Sunday, in conjunction with the halftime billing, that he and the league were teaming up on a $500,000 donation to Dream Corps, a social justice group.

When Domestic Workers Rose Up in Atlanta

More than 100 years ago, black domestic workers in Georgia organized for better pay. Now they’re getting out the vote for Stacey Abrams.

All across Atlanta, hundreds of domestic workers have been knocking on doors for Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, hoping to turn her into first black woman in that role.

These domestic workers, mostly black women affiliated with Care in Action, the political arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, are using new technologies, like a smartphone app to identify the homes of voters of color.

But they’re also carrying on an 140-year-old tradition of domestic workers fighting for economic empowerment. Despite their marginalized positions and the many obstacles in their way, they insist on making their voices heard.

In July 1881, washerwomen in Atlanta, toiling outside in the hot summer as they lugged buckets of well water and scrubbed their white patrons’ laundry, finally had enough. They decided to go on strike to demand increased wages and respect for their work.

They and a few male allies mobilized supporters by going door to door in black neighborhoods, despite threats of being arrested for “disorderly conduct.” The women held meetings in churches, hundreds packing the pews. They formed the Washing Society, a cross between a labor union and a mutual aid organization, with subsidiaries in the city’s five wards.

And in the beginning of the Jim Crow era, domestic work was more than a system of labor. It also symbolized an ordering of society by race in which black people were always considered subservient.

When the strike broke out in July, the women faced a chorus of boos and laughs from employers, city officials, businessmen and reporters from the The Atlanta Constitution newspaper. The women were called “Washing Amazons.”

But the nickname soon proved to be apt. “I tell you, this strike is a big thing,” the police chief admitted after the first week when it was clear that there was no end in sight. Unlike other domestic workers, who labored in isolation in their employers’ homes, the laundresses shared work sites and were thus able to build solidarity.

In Southern cities, black domestic workers, including maids, nurses, cooks and laundresses, performed the most intimate and the most undesirable jobs for white families. They were paid substandard wages, expected to work long hours and were subjected to insults and sometimes even physical assaults.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/opinion/atlanta-domestic-workers-vote-stacey-abrams.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Brown Point Shoes Arrive, 200 Years After White Ones

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Ballet dancers of color have long painted, dyed or covered point shoes in makeup to match their skin. Could this small barrier to inclusion finally be disappearing?

For nearly her whole career, Cira Robinson has — like many ballet dancers of color — performed a ritual: Painting her point shoes to match her skin.

She did it first in 2001, when she was 15, at a summer program with Dance Theater of Harlem. The company said her shoes needed to be brown, not the traditional pink, but she couldn’t find any in stores, so she used spray paint. “It made them crunchy and just … ew,” she said in a telephone interview.

When she joined Dance Theater a few years later, she started using makeup instead. “I’d go to the cheapest stores and get foundation,” she said, the kind “you’d never put on your face as it’d break you out. Like, $2.95 cheap.”

She’d go through five tubes a week, sponging it onto 12 to 15 pairs of shoes — a process known in ballet circles as pancaking. It took 45 minutes to an hour to do a pair, she said, because she wanted to make sure the foundation got into every crevice and covered every bit of ribbon.

Did she find these steps annoying? “I didn’t know any different,” Ms. Robinson, 32, said.

But now, Ms. Robinson — a senior artist at Ballet Black, a British dance company — is no longer obliged to do so. In October, Freed of London, which supplies her shoes, started selling two point shoes specifically for dancers of color: One brown, the other bronze.

Freed is not the first firm to make point shoes for dancers of color — the American company Gaynor Minden has been producing some more than a year — but the new shoes from Freed, a large supplier in the ballet world, highlight one of the stranger rituals that dancers of color have to perform.

It’s also a reminder that black dancers — especially female ones — are still a rarity in ballet. They remain barely represented at the top of the field, despite some signs of change and an increased awareness of the need for diversity at the schools feeding professional companies.

Shoes aren’t the only costuming reminders of the lack of diversity in ballet. In September, Precious Adams, a first artist at English National Ballet raised the issue of pink tights. “In ballet people have very strong ideas about tradition,” she told London’s Evening Standard newspaper. “They think me wearing brown tights in a tutu is somehow ‘incorrect.’”

Nike Nearly Dropped Colin Kaepernick Before Embracing Him

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Nearly a month after Colin Kaepernick was revealed as the face of Nike’s groundbreaking new advertising campaign, the unveiling videohas garnered more than 80 million views on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The ads have sent Kaepernick into a new realm of celebrity, quickly becoming among the most talked-about and successful campaigns in recent years. And they have allowed Nike, which has a history of provocative marketing campaigns, to capitalize on the so-called Resistance movement in a way it only recently realized it could.

They are also yet another vehicle for Kaepernick to raise his own profile as a sort of civil rights entrepreneur unlike anyone before has, certainly in sports. He has signed deals to write a book — which is set to be published next year and will be accompanied by a speaking tour — and to develop a comedy series.

But it almost didn’t happen. In the summer of 2017, a debate raged in Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., over whether to cut loose the controversial, unemployed quarterback — and the company very nearly did, according to two individuals with knowledge of the discussions who requested anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements each has with Nike.

When the company did decide to embrace the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, it risked angering the National Football League, a Nike partner since 2012, but the company ultimately decided it was a risk worth taking, given the credibility the company would gain with the young, urban market it has long targeted.

Kaepernick ignited a national discourse in 2016 when he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest racism, social inequality and police brutality. He left the 49ers after the 2016 season and became a free agent, but executives throughout the N.F.L. considered him radioactive because of his on-field protests, which drew vocal criticism from President Trump, and no team signed him.

That left Nike’s sports marketing group flummoxed. There seemed to be little they could do with a lightning-rod professional football player who was not playing football.

Before the company severed ties with Kaepernick, though, its top communications executive persuaded his colleagues to reverse course because of the potential for negative publicity. Kaepernick would remain on Nike’s roster of sponsored athletes — though he was largely ignored for nearly a year.

Through interviews with current and former Nike employees, individuals close to Kaepernick, analysts and others involved with the ad campaign, a picture emerged of Nike’s about-face in which the company concluded that getting behind Kaepernick’s crusade, at the urging of its longtime advertising firm, made good business sense despite the risk of angering the N.F.L.

When the company did decide to embrace the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, it risked angering the National Football League, a Nike partner since 2012, but the company ultimately decided it was a risk worth taking, given the credibility the company would gain with the young, urban market it has long targeted.

Kaepernick ignited a national discourse in 2016 when he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest racism, social inequality and police brutality. He left the 49ers after the 2016 season and became a free agent, but executives throughout the N.F.L. considered him radioactive because of his on-field protests, which drew vocal criticism from President Trump, and no team signed him.

That left Nike’s sports marketing group flummoxed. There seemed to be little they could do with a lightning-rod professional football player who was not playing football.

Before the company severed ties with Kaepernick, though, its top communications executive persuaded his colleagues to reverse course because of the potential for negative publicity. Kaepernick would remain on Nike’s roster of sponsored athletes — though he was largely ignored for nearly a year.

Through interviews with current and former Nike employees, individuals close to Kaepernick, analysts and others involved with the ad campaign, a picture emerged of Nike’s about-face in which the company concluded that getting behind Kaepernick’s crusade, at the urging of its longtime advertising firm, made good business sense despite the risk of angering the N.F.L.
READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/sports/nike-colin-kaepernick.html

Companies and brands often attempt to avoid taking strong public positions out of fear of alienating customers, but Nike is running straight into the political fray.

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Four days before a new NFL season gets underway, Nike is throwing its weight behind one of the most polarizing figures in football, and America: former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick will be one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary commemoration of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan. The campaign will also feature athletes such as Serena Williams, NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and Shaquem Griffin, a rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks whose left hand was amputated when he was a child.

Kaepernick tweeted out a photo from the campaign on Monday. Over a black-and-white picture of his face, a caption reads, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

In backing Kaepernick, whom the company has sponsored since 2011, Nike is making a high-stakes gamble that its customers support his protest, or at least that enough of them do. The company is also betting its brand can withstand criticism from conservative corners, including the White House.

Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. That year, he began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against African-Americans and other racial injustices. Dozens of other players also began joining Kaepernick, and he has grown into a symbol of dividing lines over race in America.

In 2017, he filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging the league conspired to keep him out because of his protests. An arbiter last week denied the NFL’s request to throw out the grievance, allowing the case to proceed to a trial.

The protests have divided the league, often pitting a conservative white owner base against the NFL’s mostly African-American players.

The owners voted in May to approve rules that would have required players to stand on the sideline during the anthem or or remain in the locker room. Teams would be fined if players did not stand during the anthem, and the rules allowed individual teams to set their own policies.

Those rules are on hold while the league and the players’ association negotiate.

Nike’s public support of Kaepernick also risks drawing the anger of President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly seized on the issue. At a rally in Alabama last year, Trump said team owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field” if a player knelt in protest of injustice during the anthem. Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game after some players knelt.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last year, according to a sworn deposition Jones gave in connection with Kaepernick’s lawsuit.

Nike declined to comment on whether it expected Trump to criticize the company or how it would respond if he did.

The company also drew fire from Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, who called the Kaepernick campaign “pathetic,” and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tweeted, “I guess @Nike will now focus on making knee pads for NFL.”

But many users voiced support for the brand’s decision and mocked people who claimed to be destroying their Nike products in protest, suggesting they should donate them to charity instead.

Williams said she was “especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today.”

Outspoken sports journalist Jemele Hill argued that people shouldn’t be surprised by Nike’s decision based on its history.

“Nike became Nike because it was built on the idea of rebellion,” she wrote. “This is the same company that dealt w/ the NBA banning Air Jordans. They made [Michael] Jordan the face of the company at a time when black men were considered to be a huge risk as pitch men. They aren’t new to this.”