Nigeria: Islamist Rebels Boko Haram Kidnap 234 Schoolgirls

Secondary school girls in Northern Nigeria. (Photo Credit: Saharareporters.com)

Secondary school girls in Northern Nigeria.
(Photo Credit: Saharareporters.com)

Oren Dorrell of USA Today is reporting that the radical Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped 234 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok.  Boko Haram opposes the education of girls, and it has kidnapped girls in the past to use as cooks and sex slaves. Its earlier gun and bombing attacks on schools have killed hundreds of children. However, the massive kidnapping by militants who want to create an Islamic state in this oil-rich country that is half Christian and half Muslim is unprecedented. On Monday night, members of the group herded the girls onto school buses and took off. School officials initially reported that 185 schoolgirls had been taken. Parents subsequently reported that 234 schoolgirls were missing.

Vladimir Duthiers, Chelsea J. Carter and Greg Botelho of CNN are reporting that some of the girls have been returned home. However, many are still missing. In a video, Boko Haram has taken responsibility for a bombing in Abuja, killing dozens, but has failed to accept responsibility for the mass kidnapping of the schoolgirls. In the video, a member of the group said Boko Haram attacked a bus station in retaliation for the what he described as the government’s collusion with the United States in the killing of Muslims. The member also threatened Nigerian president Jonathan Goodluck.

Critics of the government are saying that Nigeria is unable to control Boko Haram, whose reach and power in the country is growing. The Burton Wire is wondering where is the U.S. and U.K. intervention on this issue?

The whereabouts of the remaining kidnapped schoolgirls are still unknown.

Read more at USA Today or CNN.

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Kanye West and Common Join Urban League to Create 20,000 Youth Jobs

Rappers Kanye West and Common have joined with the Chicago Urban League to create 20,000 jobs for Chicago Youth.  (Photo Credit: The Source)

Rappers Kanye West and Common have joined with the Chicago Urban League to create 20,000 jobs for Chicago Youth.
(Photo Credit: The Source)

Writing for Colorlines.com, Jamilah King is reporting that iconic rappers Kanye West and Common are teaming up with the Chicago Urban League to create 20,000 jobs for Chicago youth. The initiative is called the Chicago Youth Jobs Collaborative, which will focus on finding year-round employment for young people between the ages of 16 and 24. The program also provides mentoring and support services. King writes:

“Chicago’s gun violence epidemic has been national news in recent years. Nearly half of the city’s 2,389 homicide victims between 2008 and 2012 were younger than 25, and more than 2,300 young people survived shootings last year, as my colleague Carla Murphy noted earlier this week when gun violence began in the city began to increase once again. Illinois also became the latest state to pass a law permitting registered gun owners to carry concealed firearms after a bitter fight that had victims of gun violence at its center.”

Recent reports suggest that nearly 92% of black male teens in Chicago are unemployed.  The national average of unemployed black male teens is 83%. The local and national teen unemployment figures are alarming and undoubtedly contributing to the violence sweeping Chicago in recent years.

Both rappers are native Chicagoans.

Read more at Colorlines.

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Anita Wilson and Rick Robinson Talk New Album ‘Vintage Worship’

 

Gospel singer Anita Wilson and collaboration partner Rick Robinson. (Photo Credit: Pastor E.L. Jones, Jr. of Truly Blessed Photography)

Gospel singer Anita Wilson and collaboration partner Rick Robinson.
(Photo Credit: Pastor E.L. Jones, Jr. of Truly Blessed Photography)

Ms. Anita Wilson is releasing her uplifting sophomore LP, Vintage Worship, on Jun. 24. The inspirational album on the Motown Gospel imprint was primarily written and produced by the Grammy-nominated alto along with her collaborative partner, Rick Robinson.

Like Wilson’s debut effort, Worship Soul, Vintage Worship’s collection of songs marries uplifting Sunday morning gospel with elements of lush 1970s-era soul, mid-tempo 1980s R&B, funk, jazz and even Go-Go. Vintage Worship was recorded in the studio unlike Worship Soul, recorded live at Chicago’s Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

In the same vein as many black contemporary gospel acts, a hospitable Wilson believes her genre-bending sound appeals to a broad audience. “Evangelism tells us to reach out to folks that don’t go to church,” says Wilson. “It’s feel good music with a message. I set out to create a sound and body of work not just for Sunday mornings.”

The meticulous yet delightful St. Louis-born worship leader and Robinson typically take a year to map out the direction of their music. Immediately following Vintage Worship’s unofficial listening session at Atlanta’s BMI office, Wilson, resting comfortably, speaks about the pair’s creative process being “a natural evolution.”

“When we started writing the music, it just felt like music that would really translate well for studio,” says Wilson propping her left leg under her right one. “It’s a more concentrated sound. I’m naturally a live singer, so it stretched me a bit.” Robinson, who is sitting adjacent to Wilson, considers Vintage Worship “the sequel to Worship Soul.” “It’s the same influences and same vibe,” says Robinson. “Something [Anita] does, I know this for a fact, is she does it in excellence. She’s very adamant about putting out a great product to God. She doesn’t settle for less.”

Prior to Wilson embarking on a solo career, the accomplished Dove- and Stellar- singer was a highly sought after background vocalist. The glowing performer shared both the stage and recording booth with notable gospel talents like Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, VaShawn Mitchell and DeWayne Woods.

In fact, it was her role as one of Donald Lawrence’s featured vocalists that provided Wilson the ultimate gateways for both her solo career and with some of nonsecular music’s most popular recording artists. Because of Lawrence’s guidance, she says, the self-proclaimed “gospel singer who can’t do runs” became a more confident and authentic singer. “He always encourages me,” says Wilson. “He’s an amazing mentor. The lessons are innumerable. I miss singing with my family.”

Wilson, who delivers a memorable performance on Lawrence’s “Happy Being Me,” precisely recalls hearing a singer on the radio singing in a higher register and with a lot more vibrato that hers. A then self-conscious Wilson was envious because she thought her voice was “too low and deep.” Lawrence’s immediate reaction was, ‘Why? Your voice gives people something different and fresh from the norm. Own your tone and just be you,’” he says.

Thanks to Lawrence’s teachings combined with Robinson’s musicianship, Wilson is a more assertive performer. Wilson and Robinson talk amongst themselves about the daily quarrels they had while recording Vintage Worship. Still, their efforts produced a project of which the pair is extremely proud. The Motown Gospel reps in attendance expressed how proud they are of both Wilson and Robinson.

“[Rick] challenges me as a writer,” says Wilson. “That’s his natural space. We definitely bump heads, but he makes me think outside of the box as it relates to unpredictable lyrics. He knows what needs to go into the music and what brings the story together. I’d think it was a good take. He would delete it and say it was bad. He keeps me on my toes.”

Robinson adds, “[Anita] has her own lane,” he says. “The cool thing about having your own lane is you can be comfortable in your own skin and just do what you do. She pushes me to continue to have a track record of excellence. She keeps me on my toes as well.”

This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.

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Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez Dies at 87

Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez has died.  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez has died.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

The world is mourning the loss of Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who died of pneumonia at age 87. Márquez rose to worldwide fame with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which ushered in an era of Spanish language literature. Jonathan Kandell of the New York Times writes:

“Mr. García Márquez was a master of the literary genre known as magical realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half-century apart.

Magical realism, he said, sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence. In accepting his Nobel, Mr. García Márquez said: ‘Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.’

Like many Latin American intellectuals and artists, Mr. García Márquez felt impelled to speak out on the political issues of his day. He viewed the world from a left-wing perspective, bitterly opposing Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing Chilean dictator, and unswervingly supporting Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr. Castro became such a close friend that Mr. García Márquez showed him drafts of his unpublished books.”

Richard Lea and Joe Tuckman of The Guardian write:

“Barack Obama said the world had lost ‘one of its greatest visionary writers’, adding that he cherished an inscribed copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, presented to him by the author on a visit to Mexico. ‘I offer my thoughts to his family and friends, whom I hope take solace in the fact that Gabo’s work will live on for generations to come.’

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday via Twitter: ‘A thousand years of solitude and sadness at the death of the greatest Colombian of all time. Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family … Such giants never die.’”

One Hundred Years of Solitude was an instant bestseller, with the first edition of 8,000 copies selling out within a week of its publication in 1967. Hailed by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda as “perhaps the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes”, One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to win literary prizes in Italy, France, Venezuela and beyond, appearing in more than 30 languages and selling more than 30 million copies around the world.

Márquez’s works include The Autumn of the Patriarch, The Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Love in the Time of Cholera, which was first published in 1985 and made into a film in 2007.

Márquez is survived by his wife Mercedes and two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo. He was 87.

Read more at the New York Times or The Guardian.

Salsa Legend Cheo Feliciano Dies in Car Accident

Salsa legend Cheo Feliciano has died in a car crash. He was 79.  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Salsa legend Cheo Feliciano has died in a car crash. He was 79.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

CNN is reporting that Puerto Rican salsa legend Jose Luis “Cheo” Feliciano, a giant of the genre, died in a car crash early Thursday morning in San Juan, police said. He was 78. CNN‘s Dania Alexandrino writes:

A crooner with one of the most recognizable and imitated voices in Latin music, Feliciano sang with the long-running Fania All Stars in the heyday of New York’s thriving salsa scene in the 1970s.

“‘Cheo was one of the most important stalwarts and forces of our music,’ said Juan Moreno Velazquez, a New York-based journalist who has written biographies of salsa’s biggest stars. ‘He will be mourned in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. He connected to the people, a true stalwart of our culture for all Latinos. The passing of this icon leaves immense pain throughout Latin America.’

Indeed, the governor of Puerto Rico has declared three days of mourning and, throughout the island on Thursday, many motorists drove with their headlights on in tribute.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a statement: ‘Today, Puerto Rico lost one of its greatest voices.’”

Feliciano, a member of the Fania All Stars, was one of the most recognized salsa singers, with hits including “Una en un millón,” ”Mi promesa,” and “Contigo aprendi.”

Considered salsa royalty, Feliciano was awarded a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He is survived by his wife Coco and four children.

Read more at CNN.

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Comic Relief Charity: Remittance Fees Hurt Africans

Western Union is being accused of excessive remittance fees.  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Western Union is being accused of excessive remittance fees.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

BBC Africa is reporting that communities in sub-Saharan Africa are being “hurt” by high fees charged by money transfer operators, according to the charity Comic Relief. The article reports:

“Restricted competition has helped push up charges, according to research by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Money transfer company Western Union said that fees were set according to factors such as local taxes. The company ‘delivered much-needed services to individuals’, it added.”

Research has found that remittance fees to Africa are twice as much as the global average. The article added:

“Siddo Deva of Comic Relief said: ‘Imposing such high remittance fees from hard-earned income is hurting the African diaspora and, more importantly, their families and communities in the countries of origin.’ Fees charged to Africans wishing to send money back amount to a ‘super-tax’ that could be better spent on education or health, ODI said.

‘Africans living abroad make huge sacrifices to support their families, yet face charges which are indefensible in an age of mobile banking and internet transfers,’ said Kevin Watkins, the report’s co-author and ODI Director.”

Read more at BBC Africa.

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The Rebirth of the Radical Right: The Real Threat to National Security

Booking photo of Frazier Glenn Cross. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Booking photo of Frazier Glenn Cross. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

If the former Klu Klux Klan leader (who targeted and killed three at a Jewish School in Kansas) was named Assad, we would very likely be debating war against an Arab country from which he may or may not have hailed. Conservatives would at least blame President Obama’s weak support for Israel as cause for the violence. There would definitely be talk of closing our borders, military and airports to everyone who looked like him.

If he were an American-born Muslim, Neo-Conservatives would definitely use it to justify the National Security Administration’s domestic spying program, the still detained and untried dozens at Abu Ghraib, water-boarding, and just about every unthinkable thing this government does in the name of national security.

If his name was Leroy, just imagine Fox News’ diatribes on rampant black criminality and the epidemic of unwed mothers.

But what if Leroy or Assad targeted Christians? What if, on a laptop in some trailer park in rural America, authorities found numerous conspiracies to kill conservative Americans?

Frazier Glen Cross, yet another rabid old racist, targeted minorities. This time religious minorities and in the past, it has been ethnic minorities. Consequently, this country will not take his crime or his kind seriously. In fact, while some news outlets covered the shooting, Fox News was caught in a mid-idolizing frenzy of some antigovernment cook down in Nevada.

Here’s the reality, this country has done hardly anything to address the legitimate epidemic of homegrown terrorists since the tragic killing of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Shepard was a young gay college student pistol whipped, tortured, killed and then tied to a fence post in Wyoming back in 1989. James Byrd Jr. was a black man beaten then dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in Texas during the same year.

Even with passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 which finally added gays to the list of protected citizens (something the Republican Congress blocked and delayed for months as being unnecessary), there are still a handful of states that do not acknowledge “hate crime” penalty enhancements. Many others do not report or track those crimes. Even with limited reporting and even more lackluster enforcement, the FBI reported 6,222 hate crime incidents in 2011 involving 7,254 offenses.  In 2012, law enforcement reported 5,796 hate crime incidents involving 6,718 offenses. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors and tracks hate groups and activities in the U.S., reports an unprecedented rise in activity since the financial collapse of the country, changing ethno demographics in the U.S. and the election of the nation’s first black president, Barack Hussein Obama.

But what is being done to address this issue, expose the terror cells behind this violence, address the root causes of this activity or even verbalize the fact that right wing Republicans are actively fueling the fire? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Conservatives are perhaps leery of alienating a small but vocal and politically active fragment of their base. But they are certainly showing a lack of concern for a large sector of the U.S. electorate.

As most criminal justice advocates know, deference applies to both suspects and victims. When minorities and women are the victims of violent crime fewer resources are spent on prosecution. There are fewer convictions and the sentences are shorter. That reality seemingly applies to our timid response and tepid concern with home grown terrorist groups.

The purpose of terrorism is not simply to kill but terrorize. When minorities and women for that matter are terrorized, either for playing their music too loud, being a Mexican immigrant in New York, or accessing health care services to which he or she is legally entitled, the assailants are often undercharged. In some cases, they are not even prosecuted at all.

Less than a week after Frazier Glenn Cross allegedly killed three in Kansas, another rabid old racist in Utah was charged by the FBI for threatening to kill an interracial family. The official charge was “interfering with the housing rights” of that family, and this guy will likely only serve a year if he gets any time at all. There was a rash of violent crimes against Hispanics in New York that spiked between 2010 and 2012. In one case, a Mexican immigrant was violently beaten and robbed all while being verbally assaulted by a group of younger men. In that case, one of the suspects received a five-year sentence while the other suspect received probation. The jury declined to file hate crimes. Just last November a black student at San Jose State finally stepped forward after being taunted by his college roommate. One roommate hung a confederate flag on the wall with the N-word sprayed on it, several others took to calling him “three-fifths” and at least two forced a bike lock around his neck. Those students were suspended. As of yet, none have spent a day in prison.

What if there were more than 1,000 black separatists groups in the U.S., calling for the killing of white people, then what would the response be? Let’s imagine for a minute, if Muslims were shooting people at Christian Schools? What if Hispanic immigrants were robbing and beating white youth? What if women were blocking men from getting Viagra?  What if gay people drove around to sports bars and bashed straight people?

Those are ridiculous propositions right? Well, the opposite should be just as ridiculous.

Devona Walker is the politics editor for The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @DevonaWalker.

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TBW Founder Nsenga K. Burton to Give Talk on Race & the Blogosphere at CAU

Burton CAU FlyerThe Burton Wire‘s founder & editor-in-chief Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. will be discussing the topic, “Race and the Blogosphere ” at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 11 a.m. in the Thomas W. Cole Jr. Research Center. The event is sponsored by the Department of Mass Media Arts and the Theta Tau Chapter of Lambda Pi Eta Communications Honor Society.

Dr. Burton will discuss the new media landscape and the precariousness of being black and female in these exclusive spaces.

This event is free and open to the public. Questions will be taken from the audience at the end of the public lecture.

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Jamaica: Journalists Covering Vybz Kartel Trial Receive Death Threats

Dancehall and Reggae artist Vybz Kartel.  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Dancehall and Reggae artist Vybz Kartel.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

The Jamaica Observer newspaper is reporting that two journalists who covered the recent trial of Dancehall and Reggae artist Vybz Kartel have received death threats. The author of a post on Caribbean 360 writes:

“The Jamaica Observer newspaper said that its Crime/Court Desk Editor, Karyl Walker, had been receiving several threatening calls on his cellular phone after the paper published the latest article on the case on Sunday involving the entertainer, who was given a life sentence for murder.
Nationwide News Network said its reporter/producer Abka Fitz-Henley had also received death threats after the radio station aired the voice notes that were used by the prosecution in convicting the artist and three co-accused — Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones and Andre St John — for the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.

Read more at Caribbean 360.

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‘Dear White People’: Director Justin Simien Has More Stories to Tell

Justin Simien, director of the indie hit 'Dear White People'.  (Photo Credit: Yale Zhang)

Justin Simien, director of the indie hit ‘Dear White People’.
(Photo Credit: Yale Zhang)

Dear White People is the clever feature debut of Houston native-now-Los Angeles-based writer, producer and director Justin Simien. The winner of this year’s Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent is a satire that chronicles four diverse black students each struggling to find their identity at a fictional predominately white Ivy League university.

Having already directed a series of short films, Simien’s unapologetic film was inspired by his undergraduate experiences as one of very few black students at his alma mater, Chapman University. The film and theater major tackles Obama’s presidency, color consciousness, interracial dating, hair texture, hip hop, reality shows, sexual preference, father/son relationships, white privilege and Tyler Perry movies on screen.

Dear White People is also inspired by nationwide news headlines reporting white fraternities on various college campuses hosting parties mocking black culture. Some of the article clippings appear in the end credits. Dear White People, which Simien originally titled Two Percent during the script’s infancy in 2006, was the cathartic process he used to become more comfortable with his racial and ethnic identity.

“The theme of the film centers around identity versus self,” says a crossed-arm Simien. “I had to make peace with all of the different parts of me. Walking through the world as a minority is complicated. Whatever identity I create, no matter how useful it is, ultimately I have to let it go to be a bigger version of myself. That’s the lesson I learned.”

For inspiration, Simien says he looked up to Star Trek, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers and Ingmar Bergman. He doesn’t believe he’s a comedian under any circumstances. “My knack is storytelling that I tell from a place with a very specific form of humor,” says Simien. “I just want to tell the truth about the human condition from my point of view as best as I can.”

Dear White People’s concept trailer, which Simien refers to as his “visual pitch,” began streaming in May 2012 and quickly went viral. Shortly after, an Indiegogo campaign was launched with a $25,000 goal. The financial goal was met and surpassed in three days. Simien even sat in on screenwriting workshops and included some of the harsher criticisms in his work to give the story more substance.

Shot on University of Minnesota’s campus, Dear White People was constantly met with resistance from studio executives even as national media began to pay close attention. Simien believes executives couldn’t relate to the subject matter nor did they believe there was a market for black art-house cinema. Simien, both openly gay and working in publicity and marketing in Hollywood for eight years, saw Dear White People as an opportunity to develop characters that mainstream films often don’t include.

“I’m gay and black, and that puts you in a sort of gray area of what kind of black man you’re supposed to be,” says Simien. “There was no version of me in the culture that felt true, so I was in no man’s land.”

Despite the lack of faith some had in Simien and his multiethnic team, their creative efforts paid off. Dear White People earned top honors at both Tribeca Film Institute and Sundance. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions inked a deal to distribute the film later this year. Simien doesn’t care to replicate making the same type of film.

He believes memorable films have original stories that are brave enough to defy conventional story arcs and character development. “You don’t get anywhere trying to make a movie based on what you think people are going to like or based on what you think has worked in the past,” says Simien. “You don’t get anywhere doing that. If you want to make a cultural impact, you’ve got to tell the truth. Tell the story that’s burning deep inside of you.”

One of the next projects on Simien’s radar is the web series, Twenties, executive produced by Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment imprint. He makes it a point to credit his equally diligent best friend, Lena Waithe, as the creative force behind the project. Tightlipped about sharing Twenties’ details, he did confirm that he’s directing the series. “I read it, and I was like ‘I’ve got to be a part of this.’ It’s her world and voice. She’s getting that project pushed further, but you’re definitely gonna see it,” says Simien

Dear White People was this year’s closing film at the Atlanta Film Festival. Completely sold out, it was the final cut’s third overall screening. The theatre was full of laughter and humorous gasps throughout the film’s 108 minute running time. “You never know what movie you’ve made until you screen it for an audience,” says Simien. “People at Sundance laugh at different moments that people in Atlanta or New York. It’s been a pleasure to see the movie play to such different audiences and seeing it connect on very different ways.”

Even as Dear White People’s accolades and popularity continues to grow, Simien remains humble about the hard work, dedication, patience and perseverance the film required. “It’s great to know that I did something that a lot of people told me wasn’t gonna happen or there was no model for it,” adds Simien. “I made it. That’s a really powerful thing, and I’m grateful.”

This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.

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