Dr. Cornel West’s Malice: Angry Professo

There goes Cornell
West again. This time he’s criticizing President Barack Obama for “being
concerned about his legacy;” for being concerned about getting his name
on “Mount Rushmore.”  Talk about a petty man.

If this is so, Mr.
Obama truly deserves the honor of being on the iconic Mount Rushmore,
but not for the reasons Mr. West would assign when viewed from his
narrow, anti-Obama stance. 

After all, Cornel West has consistently
criticized the President for his performance: first, for allegedly not
doing enough for Black people, and now for allegedly being concerned
about his legacy. Mr. West’s attacks became increasingly personal since he disclosed that the president had not invited him to the inauguration.

Purportedly, this has to do with his re-election —
because the status of being on Mount Rushmore is only accorded to great
presidents who, for one thing, were elected to two terms. 

The
President has had to rescue the nation, fight to defuse the “Party of
No” minefield he has had to function in, chart a vision for the future
and fight back the significant re-election challenge of Super PACs such
as Carl Rove’s running $25 million of negative Ads and Ricketts $10
million proposal to use Rev. Wright as a negative tool, which attempt
will resurface in another form.

Two things quickly. First, while
we’re told Mitt Romney repudiated the Ad featuring Rev. Wright as an
anti-Obama strategy, we must not be mislead into believing he was being
civil, humane and considerate towards the President. Then again, the
media spin is that this was just an idea that was dismissed. Quite the
contrary! According to New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, this idea
got “pretty far in the discussion phase.” Fact is, since Rev. Wright is a
religious figure, religion becomes an issue and this introduces Mr.
Romney’s Mormon faith as a legitimate subject of discussion.

Equally,
the Mormon’s exclusion of Blacks is a Pandora Box issue Romney does not
want to open. So self interest guided his decision to not go after Rev.
Wright.

Second, one has to wonder if Cornel West knows the origin
of the idea that led to Mount Rushmore and the honor to American
Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and
Abraham Lincoln; their images adorn the mountainside near Keystone in
South Dakota.

While Mr. West is alleging that the
President is not doing enough for Blacks, the question should be posed:
“What is Mr. West doing for Blacks?” He is trying to tear down the Black
president. How many Black PhD candidates has Mr. West successfully
advanced in his elevated academic leadership position?

Despite
attacks from the left, the right and center, Mr. Obama can still boast
that he stands on his record of: sustained job growth, with more than 4
million jobs created over the last two years; emphasis on education for
the young and industrious; the bill to eventually extend health care for
all Americans, help for the Middle Class; financial and economic
regulation to protect consumers and prevent Wall Street excesses;
“insourcing” of jobs; and tax assistance for businesses that hire
Veterans.

This election will be close. Mr. Obama will be re-elected
and as one politician said recently, “We will download the power of the
President’s second term.” 

Mount Rushmore? And why not one day, should a grateful nation decide to honor how far we’ve traveled as a country by honoring the
first African American President in such a manner? When young students are given
the Washington Tour and ponder the inspiring figure and personality of
Barack Obama, Dr. Cornell West will long be a memory.

Venice Biennale: Viva Arte Viva!

 The 57th edition of the Venice Biennale which opened in May this year drew crowds rushing in from around the world for a glimpse of the world’s most sought after art event. Most were taken aback by the works of 120 artists spread over the Giardini and Arsenale and 45 other shows across the city, turning Venice into a massive gallery. The Biennales’ Artistic Director, Christine Macel, also chief curator of the Pompidou Centre, Paris has chosen Viva Arte Viva (Long live living art) as her central theme, which seeks to turn the last two biennales’ over-defined and over-purposeful art into something less individualistic and more poetic.

As  a result, a walk through the circuitous main pavilion at the Giardini or the labrynthine Arsenale often led to works by indigenous people, marginalised women (particularly older women), and those engaging with ecology and climate change. Weaving, knitting, knotting and even macrame as immersive art which engaged with the ‘other’ seemed the order of the day.

It was unsurprising that the German pavilion, heavily-guarded and allowing only a few people at a time, won the Golden Lion for the best national presentation. Anne Imhof’s Faust uses painting, sculpture, installation and performance to confront the brute reality of our times. Visitors look down from a brilliantly-lit glass floor at creeping humans performing below, with their androgynous black gear and gestural work only heightening the drama of the moment. The audience is split into predator /victim binaries with echoes of Nazi times, as Dobermans stand guard in metal cages.

It set the tone for what was to follow. African-American artist Mark Bradford’s Tomorrow is Another Day reveals his concern for the intense uncertainty circling the state of affairs in the world and particularly the US today.  Blackish-purple works made with commercial hair dye, redolent with melancholy, speak of slavery and the migration crisis, while a Medusa radiates in the centre of the room. In the Pavilion’s rotunda, Bradford creates the atmosphere of a grand archaeological ruin. “This a Jeffersonian-type space, something you see in state capitols,” he said, pointing to its central dome. “I wanted it to feel like a ruin, like we went into a government building and started shaking the rotunda till the plaster peeled. Our rage made the plaster fall off the walls,” said Bradford, who refers to his pavilion as The White House. Being black and gay as well a liberal and progressive thinker, he no longer feels represented by his own government.

The Australia pavilion has aboriginal artist Tracey Moffatt negotiate a haunting poetic journey from nothingness to being. According to Moffat, “There are times in life when we all can see what’s ‘coming over the horizon’ and this is when we make a move. Or we do nothing and just wait for whatever it is to arrive.” Her Body Remembers, a desolate, sensual suite of 10 photographs tells the story of a maid returning to a ruin wearing a 1950s, lace-trimmed dress, a white apron and Victorian mourning earrings. With Moffatt herself dressed as the maid, audiences get a glimpse of her inner turmoil as she caresses a wall, look dolefully out of a window or are poised on the edge of a shadow. Is she recalling her employment or mourning the passage of time?

Moffatt grew up in foster care in a 1960s working class suburb in Brisbane. She was taken from her birth parents as a baby, following the Government’s policy of giving aboriginal children a ‘proper’ education and training.

Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, refused, during his life, to be exhibited at his national pavilion at Venice having considered himself an international citizen. In 1956, he presented his elongated, sculptural group Women of Venice in the pavilion of his adopted country France. Ironically enough, the Swiss pavilions exhibiton this year titled Women of Venice has a slow film with an 81-year-old man telling the story of his mother Flora Mayo, who collaborated with Giacometti  in her youth. She scarcely merits a mention in his biography although they worked closely and had a passionate affair. The film laments her wasted talent and her impoverished existence. In the courtyard, Carol Bove, referencing Giacometti, erects coiled poles with layered associations.

A 30-minute walk, however, brings us to Damien Hirst’s blockbuster Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable where works made from precious metals are being sold for between $500,000 and $5million.A 30-minute walk, however, brings us to Damien Hirst’s blockbuster Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable where works made from precious metals are being sold for between $500,000 and $5million.

 Ms. Macel’s curatorial note emphasises that the exhibition favours artists who want to change the world rather than seek the star system created by the art market. A 30-minute walk, however, brings us to Damien Hirst’s blockbuster Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable where works made from precious metals are being sold for between $500,000 and $5million. Gigantic, mythical, coral-encrusted shapes risen from the ocean, treasures from a 2000-year-old shipwreck, a vessel built by Amotan, a freed slave, which was recovered in 2008.

A looming Kali engages a Hydra in battle, although the former bears little resemblance to the deity save for the multiple arms.A looming Kali engages a Hydra in battle, although the former bears little resemblance to the deity save for the multiple arms.

Crowds milled around the Pinault museums as a gigantic, beheaded demon rose from the central courtyard of the museum. A looming Kali engages a Hydra in battle, although the former bears little resemblance to the deity save for the multiple arms.

 Whatever happened to South Asian representation after the euphoria of last year’s Indo-Pak collaboration My East is your West? Indian origin artist Rina Banerjee’s fusion of fabric and fantasy at the Arsenale was done with her trademark wit and humour and Rashid Araeen, the well-known, London-based Pakistani artist of Third Text fame transformed the space into minimalist forms. Shezad Dawood, born to a Pakistani mother and an Indian father caused a stir at the collateral shows with his presentation, Leviathan, where issues of marine welfare, climate change and migration will become a ten-part marathon.

India, however, was conspicuous by its absence, an indication of gross negligence on the part of the country of art and the well-being of culture. The Biennale continues until November 26th.

The writer is an art historian and independent curator based in Delhi. She is the author of several books including Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life (2006)

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Travel On: The Green Book and South Carolina’s African American Cultural Sites

By Lois Carlisle, Historic Columbia


Mann-Simons Site
Mann-Simons Site
The 1950s were a golden age for automobile travel across America. Cars were finally spacious ( and cheap) enough to comfortably carry families for hundreds of miles. Complicated road networks began to emerge, connecting all parts of the country to all other parts. For the first time with ease, families could travel from Charleston to San Francisco at their own pace, in the luxurious comfort of their private automobiles.

However, this freedom of mobility was not available to everyone. The 1950s still saw Jim Crow laws on the books. Racial segregation was enforced by law.

Racial tension—like the newly paved highway systems—crisscrossed the United States.

This made travel difficult for African Americans. Often families would drive all night instead of trying to find lodging in unfamiliar towns. They were regularly turned away from restaurants, and instead, ate picnic lunches on the road. There are accounts of families who carried portable toilets crosscountry because African Americans were not permitted to use highway rest stops.

Things changed, however, in 1936 when a man named Victor Hugo Green created a travel guide meant to make life on the road safer and more enjoyable for African American motorists.

The guide provided a state-by-state outline of restaurants, hotels, service stations, and other establishments that would welcome African American travelers. It became known as The Green Book. The Green Book aided African Americans in their travels until its final publication in 1966.

This spring, the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission re-launched The Green Book as a mobile app and website called the Green Book of South Carolina. It is the first mobile travel guide to African American cultural sites across South Carolina. This resources offers local residents and visitors from around the world a user-friendly guide to dis- covering and celebrating enriching cultural experiences across the state of South Carolina.

Among the 300 sites available on the app are two sites managed by Historic Columbia—the newly reinterpreted Mann- Simons Site, which takes guests on a journey through the challenges, adversity, and perseverance of one African American family who lived on the downtown property for nearly 130 years, and the Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, a one-story Columbia Cottage and home to Modjeska Monteith Simkins, considered the matriarch of South Carolina’s Civil and Human Rights movement.

Find out more at GreenBookofSC.com and by downloading the app.

Hamilton Elementary students visit Tang, get close-up look at artist

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Hamilton Elementary School students were greeted by elaborate chess pieces as they filed into one of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery’s rooms on Monday morning. 

But the students weren’t there to play chess. They were there to look at, think about and interact with art on a new level. 

After the 34 elementary students were settled in front of the chess pieces, artist Willie Cole came out from behind the proverbial curtain. 

Cole is a prominent African American artist whose sculptures have been exhibited across the globe. Cole’s chessboard piece is called “To Get to the Other Side,” and while it functions as a working chessboard, there are social commentaries on economic and social inequality, as well as race, woven throughout it.

The work was donated to the Tang in 2014, but is going to be on exhibit for the first time starting Aug. 12. Because it’s such a complex piece (a 16-square-foot board with 32 pieces), Cole is working with the Tang to make sure it’s exhibited correctly. He stopped by Monday morning to talk to the next generation of artists about his piece, working as an artist and how there are no mistakes, only surprises, in his line of work.

Shortly after Cole introduced himself to the Hamilton students, they began firing questions at Cole about the piece and his career as an artist. 

“How long did it take you?” “What inspired you to make this?” “Why are they all holding knives?” students asked as they gazed at “To Get to the Other Side.” 

There was a lot to question about the unique sculpture. Each piece is a transformed lawn jockey. The pawns are jockey boys with neckties. The castles (rooks) have mismatched bundles hanging all over them. The knights have nails sticking out of their torsos and arms.|

Students wanted to know the thought process behind nearly all of the pieces.

“I’m trying not to get too heavy now because here’s where the story changes,” Cole said. 

Each chess piece is an inverted depiction of how the piece would function in the game and as people in the United States. 

“The castle is a place that you live. So my castle represents homeless people. He’s carrying a lot of bundles because homeless people carry everything they own with them,” Cole said. 

Once the students had their fill of dissecting the meaning of the chess pieces, they wanted to know more about Cole and how he works as an artist. 

“I’m addicted to art,” Cole said. 

It’s a bug that some students already seem to have caught. 

Denesh Collins, a fifth-grade student at Hamilton, started making collages and posters a year ago. 

“I put them all over the house and I use things I find in the street,” Collins said. As Cole often uses found objects in his work, Collins connected with Cole’s work and his methods. 

His classmates share Collins’ affinity for art, according to Ginger Ertz, Tang’s museum educator for grades K-12. She has been working with the students for the past four years, teaching them visual thinking strategies and principles of art. 

“I go to hundreds of classrooms each year. … These kids are very curious. They’re willing to talk. They’re very creative, too, and love doing art,” Ertz said.

She came up with the field trip as a way to give students a closer look at art and what it’s like to be an artist.

“We’re just happy to be able to fund schools that might not otherwise be able to afford it,” Ertz said.

The field trip is part of an initiative that the Tang has been working on since they received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2016. The Foundation granted $1.2 million for increasing diversity offered in the Tang’s collection and increasing public engagement within the museum.

 

“At the Tang, we have over 9,000 pieces,” said Michael Janairo, the museum’s assistant director of engagement. Only 1 percent of those pieces can be exhibited at a time. Through the grant, the Tang is building a database to provide digital access to the pieces that are not on exhibit. Museum educators are also inviting people like Cole to come and discuss topics such as diversity, identity and race.

As the field trip continued, the Hamilton students got to view a work by another famous artist, Nick Cave, and to make some art of their own. 

For most of the students, art is a welcome break from their other assignments and something they excel at. 

“I would say most of my students would not have this chance normally. “[Art] is an outlet for them.” said Hamilton Elementary art teacher Melody York.

Shortly after Cole’s talk, one student — who is also an artist — ran up to Cole and hugged him.

As Ertz and York have found out, these kids get excited about all things art, including the artists who make it. 

“On the way here, students were asking me whether or not they were going to see pieces by some of the artists we had talked about in class,” York said. 

They may not have seen a piece by Monet, Van Gogh or other classical artists they’d talked about in the classroom, but they got the chance to do something more hands-on with a living artist. 

A chance none will soon forget.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

15 Queer Black Music Artists Who Are Proudly Living Their Truth

There has to be some significance in the fact that June is the month to honor both the LGBTQ community and black music.   

As festivals are being held throughout the world this June in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, homage is simultaneously being paid to black music pioneers in acknowledgement of Black Music Month

While already facing the ever-present challenges inherent to blackness, a number of black musicians have still been gallant enough to claim sexual identities that could hamper their success. 

So in honor of these black artists who are boldly standing in their truth, we’ve rounded up 15 musicians of color who are unapologetically here and queer. 

1. iLoveMakonnen

Randy Shropshire via Getty Images

iLoveMakonnen follows one person on Instagram — just 12 less than Kanye West.

The Atlanta native who emboldened us to think clubbing on “Tuesday” was acceptable in 2014 performed a bolder act this January when he announced that he was gay

Given the hip-hop community’s reputation of homophobia, which is particularly geared towards gay men, iLoveMakkonen’s decision to come out to the public was commendably unapologetic. 

2. Mykki Blanco

Santiago Felipe via Getty Images

In 2015, Blanco told the San Francisco Gate that he answers to both “she” and “he” pronouns.

The one thing rapper and poet Mykki Blanco isn’t lacking in is character ― which may be why the artist has gained the affections of thousands. Blanco, whose real name is Michael Quattlebaum Jr. wouldn’t be who he is without the vulgar lyricism, wry humor and free-spiritedness echoed in songs like “For the C**ts.”

3. Azealia Banks

Ollie Millington via Getty Images

Azealia Banks’ song “212” references her sexual attraction to women.

Azealia Banks may be self-destructively petty and engage in strange chicken rituals, but there is one admirable thing about the “212” singer: she doesn’t want to be defined by her sexuality. 

In 2012, she told The New York Times: “I’m not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don’t live on other people’s terms.”

4. Siya

Gabe Ginsberg via Getty Images

Siya recently made her acting debut in the movie “Deuces” which starred Larenz Tate.

Rapper Siya first entered the public eye when she starred in Oxygen reality show “Sisterhood of Hip-Hop.” Since then, she’s become a regular on the series and has teamed up with R&B artist Tank for a few musical collabs. 

5. Angel Haze

Andrew Benge via Getty Images

Haze collaborated with singer Sia for her soHaze collaborated with singer Sia for her song “Battle Cry.”

Angel Haze caught the internet’s attention in 2013 with her painful recollection of childhood sex abuse in a rendition of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet.” The song inspired conversations about how rap can confront rape culture and Haze has since had a number of singles. 

6. Frank Ocean 

Ilya S. Savenok via Getty Images

Ocean does not label his sexuality. He told GQ in a 2012 interview: “I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences…”

Frank Ocean fans were annoyingly shook when the “Thinking About You” singer revealed that he once fell in love with a man in a 2012 Tumblr post

After the revelation, the public didn’t hear much from the generally reclusive singer until last year. Following the the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, Ocean took Tumblr to share his experiences with homophobia following the horrific attack which targeted the LGBT community last June. 

Ocean’s letter expressed his devastation in the wake of the shooting and even referenced his father’s own prejudice toward the LGBT community. 

7. Big Freedia

Erika Goldring via Getty Images

Season six of “Big Freedia” begins September 12.

The self-described “Queen Diva of New Orleans Bounce,” Big Freedia thrust herself into southern hip-hop culture in 1999 ― but it wasn’t until a decade later that she gained widespread recognition. Freedia’s larger-than-life persona attracted shot-callers at TV network Fuse in 2013 when the station gave Freedia her own reality series. “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” will enter its sixth season in September. 

8. Kaytranada 

Noam Galai via Getty Images

Kaytranada’s real name is Louis Kevin Celestin.

In a 2016 interview with Fader, DJ & music producer Kaytranada revealed he was over being closeted. “I felt like there were two people inside me. I was trying to be somebody I was not, and I was frustrated that people didn’t know who I was,” the Haitian-Canadian artist told the publication. 

9. Young M.A

Santiago Felipe via Getty Images

Young M.A recently performed at the L.A. Pride Festival.

The hip-hop community’s acceptance of gay rapper Young M.A marked an important moment within and outside of the music genre last fall

While some of Young M.A’s lyrics about women are disappointingly problematic and may prevent her from becoming the poster child for lesbian feminism, her ability to dominate the hip-hop scene regardless of her sexual orientation was pretty monumental. 

10. Syd the Kid

Marc Grimwade via Getty Images

Syd the Kid was formerly a member of hip-hop group Odd Future.

The only thing better than an artist being openly gay is listening to them croon about their same-sex attractions in their music. In “Ego Death,” the latest album by R&B band The Internet, the group’s lead singer Syd the Kid is literally singing her boo’s praises in “Girl.”

11. Meshell Ndegeocello 

Samuel Dietz via Getty Images

Ndegeocello was born in Berlin, Germany.

When 10-time Grammy nominated singer Meshell Ndegeocello was 18 years old, she sang about about taking another woman’s boyfriend. Now 48, the singer is settled down with a wife, two kids and is presumably staying away from other people’s relationships. 

Although she’s proud of her bisexuality, in 2010, the raspy-voiced singer told Out magazine that being defined by her sexual orientation “limits [her] artistically.”

12. Taylor Bennett

Emma McIntyre via Getty Images

Inspired by his “Broad Shoulders” album Taylor Bennett recently released a short film based around the work, which debuted in 2015.

Chance The Rapper’s adorable little bro Taylor Bennett came out via social media in January when the rapper and actor took to Twitter to declare his bisexuality. 

“I do recognize myself as a bisexual male & do & have always openly supported the gay community & will keep doing so in 2017. #ThankYou,” one of the rapper’s tweets read. 

13. Felicia Pearson

J. Countess via Getty Images

Pearson’s record label is named “Gorgeous Gangsta.”

To the majority of the HBO viewing world, Felicia Pearson will forever be associated with her famous “The Wire,” character Snoop. But, as chronicled on VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop: New York,” Pearson has also been trying her hand in the music business.

In addition to having her own record label, she also appears in Tony Yayo’s song “It’s A Stick Up.” Pearson’s tumultuous romantic relationship with former girlfriend J. Adrienne also served as an interesting storyline on the reality show. 

14. Todrick Hall

C Brandon via Getty Images

Hall was a guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” last year.

Todrick Hall didn’t win the ninth season of American Idol where he was told by Simon Cowell that his singing career would never go beyond Broadway.

Hall did star in Broadway’s “Kinky Boots” beginning last November, but he wasn’t limited the stage as salty Simon predicted. Prior to the play, the queer multi-talented 32-year-old released a 16-song visual album “Straight Outta Oz” which has garnered over 1.1 million YouTube views and led to a nationwide tour. 

15. Kehlani

Roger Kisby via Getty Images

Kehlani once competed in season 6 of “America’s Got Talent.”

Singer Kehlani, who has said she’s part black, is a bisexual free-spirit from Oakland, California. Her hit songs “Distraction” and “The Way” have attracted mainstream attention. But it’s one of her lesser-known songs that will leave you with the utmost respect for the singer.  

In “First Position,” a bold Kehlani persuades a seemingly bi-curious woman to “stop messing with those boys and “get you a lady” and it’s utterly awe-inspiring.

It’s only a matter of time before more dope artists like these infiltrate the music scene. In the meantime, stay proud and claim your blackness and queerness deafeningly loud. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Angel Haze is currently dating model Ireland Baldwin but the two are no longer romantically linked. 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Millennial Women Are Worse Off Than Their Mothers

NEW YORK― While young women of the baby-boom generation saw rapid progress in terms of economic equality, health and overall well-being compared to their mothers, that trend has started to reverse for young millennial women, according to a new study by the Population Reference Bureau.

American women under 35 are more likely than the generation before them to be incarcerated, live in poverty, commit suicide or die from pregnancy-related causes and less likely to hold high-paying jobs in STEM fields, according to the report, which compared 14 key indicators of socioeconomic progress and well-being. While young women of the baby-boom generation saw a 66 percent gain in overall well-being compared to their World War II-era mothers, Generation X experienced only a 2 percent gain, and well-being for young women today has actually declined 1 percent. 

It looks like Millennial women’s progress has stalled and slightly reversed relative to their mothers’ and their grandmothers’ generations,” said Mark Mather, an author of the study.

Threats to women’s lives appear to be on the rise. The maternal mortality rate for Millennial women has more than doubled since the baby-boom generation, from 7.5 deaths per 100,000 live births to 19.2, despite many advances in science and medicine and a decreasing maternal death rate worldwide. The suicide rate for women ― particularly white and American Indian women ― has increased by 43 percent over the past decade. And while women are still less likely to overdose on drugs than men, the overdose rate for women has more than quadrupled since 1999 after decades of stasis. 

Population Reference Bureau

Some of these issues are directly related to economics ― the poverty rate among young women has spiked 37 percent in the last 15 years, making it more difficult for some women to access the health care they need. (Women of color and unmarried women are especially likely to be poor.) But the PRB report also attributes the shocking increase in maternal deaths to a wave of state laws restricting access to abortion and shutting down women’s health care clinics. In Texas, for instance, maternal deaths doubled from 2010 to 2012 as the state legislature slashed family-planning funding, passed a slew of abortion restrictions that forced clinics to close, and defunded Planned Parenthood. 

“During the 1970s, as abortion policies were liberalized, maternal mortality rates fell dramatically,” the report says. “In recent years, the maternal mortality rate rose as federal and state policies began restricting access to reproductive health services. In addition, improvements in fetal and infant care, designed to reduce infant mortality and improve child health, have not been paralleled by—and have sometimes come at the expense of—care for women in the postpartum period.” 

President Donald Trump’s administration is aiming to continue this trend, reversing an Obama-era rule that guaranteed contraception access to working women while pushing a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood and slashes safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps. And women are deeply underrepresented in Congress and the White House, which gives them less of a say in the policies that most affect their lives. 

Of course, the news is not all bad: the teen birth rate dropped to a historic low in 2017, thanks in part to federal investments in family planning and increased access to birth control under the Obama administration. And the share of young women ages 25 to 29 with a bachelor’s degree has exceeded that of men since 1991, although that still has not translated to equal representation in politics or equal pay. The gender wage gap has narrowed from generation to generation, but women still earn only 83 cents for every dollar men earn, on average. 

“While some measures are improving, overall the index paints a picture of lost momentum,” said Beth Jarosz, an author of the report. “Too many women lack the resources and supportive environments they need to live healthier lives and achieve their full potential.” 

The PRB report has some blind spots: There is no way to tell how specific demographics, like LGBTQ women or African-American women, are faring compared to their own mothers, because many of those statistics weren’t disaggregated by race/ethnicity and other factors in previous decades. But the analysis offers a starting point for the country to identify and address what’s stalling women’s progress.

“By quantifying trends and patterns in women’s well-being,” the authors conclude in the report, “we can help dispel myths, stereotypes, and false assumptions about women in U.S. society—and identify potential strategies to improve women’s lives.”  

Yvette Jarvis of Panathinaikos and Athens City Council, Speaks with TNH

ATHENS – Brooklyn-born Yvette Jarvis traveled to Greece in 1982 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts. An accomplished basketball player, she was recruited by Panathinaikos and became the first salaried player in the Greek Women’s Basketball League. Her celebrity status gave her the opportunity to speak about the rights of women, immigrants, and individuals with special needs. In 2002, she became the first African-American elected to the City Council of Athens. Recently, she spoke with The National Herald about her life, her connection to Greece, and her concern about human rights both in Greece and the United States. The interview follows.

TNH: Yvette, what took you to Greece, how long ago was that, and what made you stay there?

YJ: I was a basketball referee at the time, and the Hellenic College in Boston was on my circuit. I met a tall, dark, handsome Greek with whom I fell in love and left for Greece with in 1982. We later married and divorced but I fell in love with Greece and Greece with me!
I was like Alice in Wonderland, what was there not to love?I ate the mushroom and was a professional athlete, a famous model, aTV personality, a vocalist with a band that performed all over the country, a human rights activist and politician, an Athens City Councilor! The “first” of many feats, and the first African-American elected to public office in the history of the nation. Greece for me was paradise!

I met John Muller, an American in Greece from Pennsylvania, former teacher at the American Community School,a dog whisperer, owner of the LOBO Canine School,the founder of the Kennel Club of Greece, the founder of the Schutzhund Club of Greece, musician, composer, and vocalist, at Ax Maria, a famous club in Athens. It was one of my first singing jobs, he was composing songs with the guitar player there and needed a backup vocalist without an accent. The rest is history. We married and had a son.

TNH: When and why did you leave Greece?

YJ: My family left in August, 2012 to enroll my son in school in Denver and I joined them in December. We left Greece because like everyone else, it became increasingly difficult for us to survive. My husband’s teaching salary was reduced twice and at the end of the school year they announced there would be a third cut. My salary was greatly reduced as a performer and we were raising a 17-year-old for whose future we feared. We three were our “only” family in Greece. Of course, we were and are blessed to have lifelong friends and “koumbaroi,” but it’s not the same as having parents and grandparents, sisters, and brothers close by to help you. I lived in Greece for 30 years and my husband for 39years.
Greece was our home and it was an incredibly painful decision for me to have leave.

TNH: How easy or difficult was it for you and your family to adjust to life in the United States?

YJ: The decision to leave Greece was easier I think for my husband, who was more pragmatic than I. He understood that staying would have been the end of life as we knew it and that we would be in irreparable financial ruin. I did not want to leave and was in denial about the situation notably so that I didn’t believe it until I actually saw the movers in my home.

I know now that I went into a deep depression my first two years back in America. As much as I rejoiced at being closer to my family and friends, I missed Greece terribly! I thank God for my friends and family because they kept me whole, I don’t know what I would have done without them.

Adjusting to life in America wasn’t difficult per se, after all, my husband and I are Americans. We love the organization and the ease with which you can conduct business with the state. Everything is done online and we certainly don’t miss the chaotic bureaucracy in Greece.
My son, John (Jr.), was raised as a Greek with American parents so, miraculously, he adapted to life here in the States exceptionally well.
During our long transatlantic phone calls my husband would report how much our son had changed. John continued his sports and joined the soccer team, the track team and exceled in school. Social media kept him connected to his friends in Greece and when he graduated from high school, the only thing he asked for was to go home.

He received a scholarship from the Koklannis Foundation and attended the University of Colorado for a year studying business, then decided he wanted to follow his heart and become an audio engineer. He left for Phoenix, studied at the Conservatory of Arts and Sciences (CRAS), interned at Jimi Hendrix’ famed studio Electric Lady, and now works in New York at Flux Studios.

As for us, we found work easily enough despite all of the negativity we heard about the economy here.

We are both working in very different fields than what we had known in Greece, but working and living comfortably.I work for Denver Public Schools and John in corporate America in communications.

TNH: How different was everyday life there as compared to Athens?

YJ: Vastly different. First, I had to acclimate to day life versus night life. After I left the municipality in Athens, I formed my band and from 2010 until two days before I left I worked in clubs. I was VP of an International NGO, FARE (football against racism in Europe) and traveled all over Europe to board meetings. Athens and Greece have a special way of life, we Greeks live life.

Americans live to work, I think, and I awoke one day and exclaimed to my husband “I hate living for Friday.” I never thought about Fridays in Greece. I was constantly on the move in Athens rehearsing, TV appearances, volunteer work, etc.

I suppose being in Denverfar from family and New York City doesn’t help, either. We chose Denver because Johnhas family here and it was a much more friendly environment for our then-17-year-old to ease in to American culture.
What irony that our son is now in NYC and we are still here in Denver!

America has a sobering effect on you and life becomes work-home, work-home, work-home! Of course, we have the occasional night out and I visit my son and family in New York as often as I can. It’s great to visit old friends in Los Angeles, Virginia, and so on. They are all really happy that I am finally on this side of the pond.

TNH: After being away from America for so long, did you find it as you expected it to be?

YJ: I was astounded by the violence and the racism. America is a polarized nation and the current political climate is horrible.I had a rude awakening with the killings of unarmed black men and boys, even women! I was in disbelief.
I had to constantly speak with my son about the realities of being black in America. How he needed to conduct himself if confronted by the police. He knew absolutely nothing about those things. A childhood friend of mine’s husband is a retired detective from the NYPD, he gave John his card and told him to show it and tell them to call his uncle if he ever needed to.

Reality set in soon enough when he was stopped twice walking home late at night in a suburb of New Jersey, where he lives. Luckily, there was no confrontation but they gave him a ticket because he was walking in the street. They told him it was illegal!
If you know New Jersey suburban streets, most often there isn’t much of a sidewalk and people often walk near the curb.
Of course, his Greek mother told him to go to court and dispute the ticket. Some things never change. He did, and he won.

Yvette Jarvis

TNH: You were the first African-American elected to public office in Greece in October, 2002. What was that experience like?

YJ:It was the most amazing experience ever. Especially representing Athens here in America in New York and LA in 2004. I was extremely honored. Campaigning was grueling and I walked miles and miles, neighborhood to neighborhood, door to door. I wasn’t part of the political machinery, so often I was left out of the big political candidate gatherings, but I had a few good friends, such as N. Angelakis and V. Gardikis, who kept me abreast and would tell me go here, go there, this is happening and I would show up unannounced at Party gatherings, to the surprise of many.
What I did have was face recognition and name recognition. Everyone knew Yvette. I was really surprised to find out how many also knew me other than the model and the singer, they knew my political views on domestic violence, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights and the rights for those with disabilities. “Wow,” I thought,“they have been listening to me!” They have been following my work, years of volunteering and lobbying Parliament. They took me seriously. It wasn’t all roses, when the newspaper made some off-colored (no pun intended) remarks such as “Why would we need a black to whiten Athens?” The people defended me and their attitude was “keep your hands off of Yvette, she is one of us! She is more Greek than the Greeks!”

TNH: When and how did you decide to develop the Greek Language Program for Immigrant Mothers for the City of Athens?

YJ: I had been close to immigrant women’s organizations for many years and language was always a barrier. As a City Councilor I wanted to do something about that. I met with the women and we discussed their needs. I sent out a questionnaire to determine why they hadn’t learned Greek, the main barriers were time, childcare and hours the classes were offered.

I turned to teachers that I knew whom taught Greek as a second language and we developed the program. I set out to meet the women’s needs. I created a three-prong strategy, classes would be held early evening, their chosen days of the week and we would make use of the municipal daycare centers where their children attended and offer programs for any and all of their children for the two hours they would be in class.

The outcome was that women became familiar with going to school, teachers, and they learned the language. The program was extremely successful and at one point was adopted nationally by prefects.

TNH: What is your opinion on the immigrant situation that has been going on in Greece for the past year and a half?

YJ: I think you are referring to the refugee situation which is quite different from immigration. I think what is happening in Greece is a tragedy for the refugees and a testament to the fortitude, goodwill and charity of the Greeks.

I don’t think the EU has taken the appropriate measures to alleviate Greece’s burden and for sure the legal inability to send people back to countries of origin doesn’t help.

However you look at what is happening in the world, the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are tragedies against humanity with women and children suffering the most.

TNH: You were the coordinator for the Obama for President – Greece organization for American expats in Greece in 2008 and 2012. How did you feel when you read about and saw President Obama’s visit to Greece, especially his touring the Acropolis and giving an inspirational speech at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center?

In 2008 I joined the Obama campaign by forming the group Greece for Obama. We actively campaigned, blogged, held rallies and events to support his campaign. At the same time, I was also Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad and we held voter registration campaigns.

In 2012 I was Chair of Democrats Abroad and as a Party member we did all of the same types of events and campaigning for Obama’s reelection.Oh boy, was I incredibly sad when Obama finally went to Greece [because I was no longer there]. I had waited as Chair of Democrats Abroad for him to come. It was my dream to meet with him. I wanted him to know about the Black Greek who worked incredibly hard to get him elected both times and I wanted him to know about all I had accomplished in my adopted land. I was proud of him, I loved his speech and I enjoyed watching him at the Acropolis. I was proud of Greece.

TNH: How do you see President Trump’s governance after three months in office?

YJ: An embarrassment and scandalous. I feel violated and disturbed. He has rolled back every legislative protection for our health, clean air, clean seas, workers’ rights, school lunch, feeding the elderly, student loans etc. all by executive action!

Congress has yet to do anything except to pass a health bill that will leave 23 million people without health care. We as a nation have had our elections tampered with and he plays golf, spends millions in taxpayer money to stay in his own resorts. I am very concerned about the state of affairs here in the United States.

TNH: Do you see any similarities between events in Greece that led to the election of Alexis Tsipras and the election of Trump in the United States?

YJ: Yes, of course there are many similarities. People who were just fed up with the status quo. The two parties in power that continuously disappoint. The reactionary vote against the status quo and the demand for change.

TNH: What do you miss most about Greece?

YJ: I miss the lifestyle, the Greek temperament, the sea, the people…Greece is my home. I miss home!

TNH: If the economic situation becomes better in Greece, would you consider returning?or would you return for vacation?

YJ: If I could make a sustainable living, I would return to live in Greece in a heartbeat.

Tulsa Juneteenth Events Celebrate The Love Of Freedom

Many events take place in the historic Greenwood District.Many events take place in the historic Greenwood District.
There will also be movies and music at Guthrie Green.There will also be movies and music at Guthrie Green.

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Juneteenth events are scheduled in Tulsa June 15-18, 2017, as Green Country celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union troops landed at Galveston with the news that the Civil War – and slavery – were over.

There are many activities planned for this week that showcase local talent and bring the community together. There are movies, exhibits, musical performances and more. 

Events kick off Thursday, June 15 with a comedy show at 8 p.m. at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and the movie Hidden Figures shown at Guthrie Green at 8:30 p.m.

The Biker Boyz will be back in town bringing custom motorcycles. There’s a meet and greet at 4 p.m. Friday, June 16 at the Holiday Inn City Center.  

A concert will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at OSU-Tulsa in the Greenwood District. There is also an after party at Mamadou’s Downtown starting at 11 p.m.

See the Juneteenth Facebook page

The Biker Boyz Expo Show begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 17 in the Historic Greenwood District. There’s a blood drive that same day, kids zone and another concert starting at 6 p.m.

There are also art shows and performances throughout the weekend. For the Love of Freedom begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Living Arts Building, 307 East Brady Street. Poems, drumming, dance and music all express struggle, freedom and celebration, the Living Arts website states.

Examining Change: The North Tulsa Art Project, can be experienced through June 22, 2017. There a photographic display of North Tulsa, works from contemporary Black artists and a series of performances by dancers, singers and other artists.

Here’s a link to the Juneteenth website where you can see a list of all the activities planned.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Honoring Dr. King Jr.

…   end  conflict with war, the racism of that war, the spending … . Recently  there have been some African American clergy who have tried to … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

Breitbart News, Donald Trump’s Pravda, Is in Crisis

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Earlier this year, reporter Lee Stranahan was in the White House press room when another journalist asked him which outlet he worked for.

“Breitbart News,” Stranahan answered, recalling the exchange in a recent phone conversation.

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The other journalist laughed, thinking this had to be a joke. Breitbart, after all, was largely known, whether justly or not, as a hothouse where the alt-right tended to its most outlandish, paranoid creations: Clinton conspiracy theories, anti-immigrant fearmongering, garden-variety misogyny. One of its story tags was “black crime.” The tag is no longer used, yet it remains attached to a half-dozen stories on the website, the last published just over a year ago.

Tradition rules journalism as much as it rules golf, and tradition dictated that the White House press room was for upstanding men and women who’d gone to Columbia Journalism School, putting in their time at the Palookaville Weekly Citizen before earning a coveted spot in the newsroom of The Washington Post or The New York Times, or some other publication that deserved to be in the White House because its mission was sober reportage, not click-bait about “lesbian bridezillas” or “trannies.” Breitbart had no business being there because it would eagerly publish—has eagerly published, in fact—articles about “lesbian bridezillas” and “trannies.”

And not just a couple of such articles either: Breitbart’s editorial outlook is not imbued with cultural or political conservatism. Breitbart’s guiding principle is that of the tabloid: If it bleeds, it leads. Especially if the bleeding is caused by an illegal immigrant or some “globalist” Democrat crafting the New World Order on her porch in the Hamptons. This was (and largely remains) a lurid vision of America, terrifying yet enchanting, like one of those 1980s crime blockbusters with weird racial politics and lots of explosions, not to mention at least a couple of scantily clad blondes in search of a musclebound savior, preferably one wearing a sweat-stained American flag bandana.

But there Breitbart was, the outsider suddenly in the inner sanctum of American power, the unpopular kid unexpectedly crowned prom king, sought out by all those who’d once mocked him. Its chief executive, unkempt ultra-nationalist Steve Bannon, is now Trump’s chief strategist. He brought Breitbart staffers with him to the White House, including self-styled terrorism expert Sebastian Gorka and establishment tormentor Julia Hahn, in what The Hill called “the Breitbartization of the White House.”

And even as President Trump was supposedly draining the political swamp, his White House granted Bannon a retroactive ethics waiver that allowed him to keep talking to Breitbart staffers, in seeming violation of federal rules. 

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President Donald Trump (L), seated at his desk with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (2nd R) and senior advisor Steve Bannon (R), speaks by phone with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, January 28, 2017. Reuters

Whatever you think of Breitbart’s unabashed distaste for Democrats and centrist Republicans, or its famously incendiary headlines—“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” “Bill Kristol, Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew”—it is inarguable that the site helped elect Trump, in large part by mercilessly shredding every Republican opposed to his candidacy while touting his immigration plan (i.e., the border wall) and making the darkest possible insinuations about Hillary Clinton and her supposedly corrupt coterie. So there Breitbart News was on November 8, shoulder to shoulder with Trump in the electoral trenches, firing away at the Democratic firewall. It crumbled that night, and the plains of the Midwest lay open for the taking. So did the Oval Office.

And that’s the problem Breitbart faces today, a problem similar to the one plaguing the Trump administration: Being an outsider works only when you’re on the outside. Breitbart’s (potential) troubles have been compounded because it sold Trump to its readers as our guy. Bannon had once wanted that guy to be Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general. Instead, he got an ideology-averse pseudo-mogul, difficult to control but easy to convince. It’s hard to know how much of Breitbart’s support of Trump was a ploy for clicks, but it certainly presented a convincing portrait of an economic nationalist whose business savvy was matched only by his xenophobia.

The sale was made, but as has been frequently the case with Trump, the buyers have started to suspect they may have been played for fools. Breitbart (and, really, the entire right-wing media establishment) is now faced with a bungling chief executive who has embraced NATO and Goldman Sachs, largely ditched his plan for a border wall with Mexico and, during a speech in Saudi Arabia, didn’t utter the words that have been the touchstone of Republican foreign policy: radical Islamic terrorism.

What’s to be done about this? Breitbart doesn’t have a particularly rich tonal register, its voice reverting most frequently to outrage, derision or disgust. It is incapable of hitting the complex notes of regret, or even of measured concern. If you wanted nuance, you’d probably be a Weekly Standard subscriber.

“They are an outlet that has a very, very large stake in the success of President Trump,” explains Ben Shapiro, who left Breitbart during the presidential campaign, after Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski roughly grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. After the incident, Breitbart sided with the Trump campaign over its reporter’s easily verifiable claims. Shapiro, founder of The Daily Wire and host of a popular right-leaning podcast, says that under Bannon, Breitbart had become “Trump’s personal Pravda.”

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White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump advisor Steve Bannon adjust their ties as they walk from Marine One to board Air Force One as they depart Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 18, 2017. Reuters

For Breitbart, the potential spoils of playing the role of a state propaganda organ are great. The dangers are greater still. In February, Alexa, which ranks the popularity of websites, scored Breitbart as the 29th most visited website in the nation. This was an astonishing achievement for a news organization founded a decade ago in a Los Angeles basement, unknown to most Americans until the Trump candidacy ceased to seem like a political sideshow. Breitbart celebrated the achievement with typical bluster, touting its digital supremacy over both ESPN and PornHub. By the beginning of 2017, Breitbart had more unique visitors than Politico, more total traffic (that is, both visitors and page views combined) than The Washington Post. Breitbart had beaten not just the pornographers but also the journalistic elites who’d scorned it for years.

But much like Trump himself, Breitbart News may have expended too much energy on gloating. Breitbart has fallen to 63rd in Alexa’s rankings (its ranking was actually much lower, in the 270s, but after Vanity Fair published that figure, Breitbart complained to Alexa and had its ranking somehow recalibrated). SimilarWeb, a company that uses Google Analytics to analyze web browsing patterns, found that Breitbart had 128 million total visits in November, but that the number has since dropped to 78 million total visits in April. That is still an amazing feat, one that places Breitbart well above most other news organizations. Yet some in the media wonder whether the high watermark of the site’s relevance was the election in November.

Right-wing sites like the nascent Heat Street and Tucker Calrson’s more established Daily Caller have shown themselves to be more nimble in their coverage, less tied to the White House and more willing to conduct genuine journalism. Traffic numbers aside, those are the sites I visit when I want to understand what the right is thinking.

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Web popularity is fleeting, especially so when tethered to the fortunes of one exceedingly volatile, temperamental head of state. Alex Marlow, 31, the site’s Berkeley-educated editor-in-chief, has said he won’t allow for Stalinist shows of loyalty in his newsroom (the newsroom is mostly digital; writers tend to work from home). “When we feel like the president is not honoring the pledges he made to the public, he’s going to get critical coverage,” he told NBC’s Today in March.

Breitbart’s attempts to detach from Trump have been minor. For the most part, the site has either pulled its punches or directed them elsewhere. Much like the president, Breitbart is adept at transferring blame, usually to hapless White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, to whom almost unimaginable powers of ruin have been ascribed; the modestly more competent chief of staff, Reince Priebus; or the team of “globalists” (an epithet that, to some, has anti-Semitic connotations) who’ve pulled Trump toward centrist positions that could yet rescue his presidency but alienate his base.

“Any attempts to separate themselves from Trump will result in an immediate collapse of their traffic,” warns Shapiro, “and will not result in any additional mainstream credibility.”

That credibility won’t be easy to come by, especially from a Washington press corps predisposed to sneer at Breitbart as an unsophisticated arriviste, one that has consistently put click-getting ahead of truth-telling. In March, the Standing Committee of Correspondents denied Breitbart a congressional press pass. Hadas Gold, a media reporter for Politico, explained at the time that committee members had questions about Breitbart’s monetary ties to right-wing activists Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, which the site has generally downplayed. The committee seemed to also frown on the fact that Breitbart’s newsroom was a Capitol Hill townhouse, known as “the Breitbart Embassy.”

News organizations are funded by all sorts of individuals, some of them perhaps unworthy of the high-minded journalistic enterprises they sponsor. And though I’ve never been to the Breitbart Embassy, I doubt it’s all that different from your average Manhattan newsroom, with its abused coffee machine and even more abused bathrooms. Regardless, the correspondents’ committee felt these to be signs of Breitbart’s pervasive amateurism. “The whole thing suggests to me that they’re just not ready for a credential,” a committee member told Politico.

At the same time, Breitbart’s much-touted plans to expand into Europe, proof of its newfound relevance, seem to have been more talk than anything else. In February, Politico reported that “difficulties in recruiting journalists, questions about which language to use and a desire to make a high impact on launch have all slowed down efforts to establish French and German editions.” In the course of my reporting, I also heard that domestic bureaus weren’t nearly as well staffed as Breitbart wanted readers to believe.

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Milo Yiannopoulos addresses the media during a news conference in New York City, February 21, 2017. Reuters

Right around the same time, Breitbart cut ties with its most prominent writer, expert provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos —or “MILO,” as he is called on the site, like a European soccer deity—after it was revealed that he’d made comments supportive of pedophilia.

After the London Bridge attack at the beginning of this month, Breitbart reporter Katie McHugh made Islamophobic comments on Twitter (“There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn’t live there”). She was promptly fired, in what may have been a sign of how sensitive Breitbart News has become to accusations that it promulgates right-wing extremism. The firing instead exposed it to criticism from those very extremists, some of whom are now calling the site “Cuckbart,” using the far right’s favorite term (i.e., “cuck,” from cuckold) for weak-kneed members of its clan.

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The site’s gravest problem may be the wholesale flight of advertisers, who have been pressured by anti-Trump forces to disassociate themselves from any outlet friendly to his administration. “Breitbart ads plummet nearly 90 percent in three months as Trump’s troubles mount,” read the headline of a Digiday story by Lucia Moses that detailed the site’s deepening financial woes.

The campaign against Breitbart is being led by a group that identifies itself on Twitter as Sleeping Giants. At the time of this writing, its online spreadsheet of advertisers that no longer buy ads on Breitbart includes 2,178 entries, from German flagship airline Lufthansa to Zeus, a beard grooming company. A visit to the Sleeping Giants feed finds a tweet at the founder of tech company Taboola, which apparently advertises with Breitbart: “Do you love money more than tolerance?”

The Perils of Access Journalism

Perhaps no man has a more complex relationship with Breitbart than Lee Stranahan, one of the most polarizing and unusual figures of the alt-right, which brims with unusual and polarizing figures. He has quit the site twice and been fired once, because of clashes with editors. But having been originally hired by Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart, Stranahan sees himself as a Breitbart purist, a “reader’s’ advocate” who will rescue the organization from its own trolliest impulses, returning it to its original mission, which was to…well, that’s actually not entirely clear.

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Conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart speaks at a news conference in New York, June 6, 2011. Reuters

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“I take that legacy really seriously,” Stranahan tells me while talking about working for Breitbart, whose founder died in 2012, effectively leaving the site in the hands of Bannon, a slovenly, self-styled intellectual with a visceral feel for the kinds of stories that would animate the far right, the stories mainstream conservative publications like the National Review would never publish.

“It’s why I kept going back to Breitbart,” Stranahan says. (None of the several current Breitbart editors contacted for this story responded to a request for comment. Nor did Breitbart Chief Executive Larry Solov or the company’s spokesperson, Chad Wilkinson.)

These days, Stranahan hosts a radio show for the Sputnik news agency, the Kremlin-funded outlet that has been friendly to Trump. He also runs an online journalism school and The Populist, a news outlet. His sensibility remains edgy and outré, tending to be angry and suspicious. Those can be helpful qualities for a reporter, allowing Stranahan to spot big stories the mainstream media may have missed, most notably the Pigford farm loan scandal, which allowed some African-American farmers to collect $50,000 federal compensation payments after falsely claiming discrimination by the federal Farm Service Agency. But those same qualities could be ruinous if you’re trying to cozy up to the White House in hopes of getting first-rate access.

Stranahan is also adept at Periscope, the video-based social media platform owned by Twitter. After his latest departure from Breitbart in March, he posted a 23-minute video in which he called himself Breitbart’s “crying mom” and “stern dad,” saying the site was in need of “tough love.” Congressional Republicans were in the midst of their first, and unsuccessful, attempt to bring the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to a vote, in a push led by House Speaker Paul Ryan but supported by Trump. The bill, which would weaken President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act without abrogating it, was toxically unpopular with the American public, so Breitbart had deemed it Ryancare, thus implicitly absolving Trump of any responsibility.

Stranahan, himself a Trump supporter, would have none of it. “Donald Trump has been actively supporting this bill,” he said in the Periscope video, arguing that the responsibility for the AHCA ended with the president. Breitbart pretending otherwise would only mean disaster for Breitbart.

“You’re making yourself look bad to the outside world. You’re pandering to the worst elements of your readership, who will just go along in complete denial, in complete total denial, that Donald Trump might have actually made a mistake,” Stranahan said, his voice far closer to pain than bitterness.

“It’s a bad move,” he warned. “It’s bad move journalistically. It’s a bad move politically.”

Stranahan tells me what the site lacks most is responsible leadership. “You got people running things, in editorial positions, who are 30 years old,” he says. The reference is clearly to Marlow, the editor-in-chief.

Stranahan’s greater nemesis is Matt Boyle, the 29-year-old White House editor, with whom he reportedly clashed. A Bannon protégé who lacks his mentor’s dark intellectual pretensions, Boyle is reportedly disliked by some on the right, including former colleagues at The Daily Caller who are said to have widely mocked him behind his back. Boyle was recently the subject of a mostly unflattering profile in the Washingtonian in which a former editor, Jonathan Strong, happily went on the record to say that Boyle “has two modes: murder and blow job.”

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes a question during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, May 30, 2017. Reuters

Personal rivalries aside, Stranahan’s greater point is that access journalism is not real journalism, that playing publicist to the president ultimately does the president little good while squandering long-sought journalistic credibility. Nor can it be said that Breitbart News has capitalized on that access in the way it must have intended. In February, it landed a White House interview with Spicer, which was broadcast on Facebook Live. The reactions were brutal, with The Washington Post, for example, calling it “the most awkward thing ever.”

It was a Trumpian predicament, a classic Rodney Dangerfield moment of respect maddeningly withheld at the moment when it was so plainly deserved.

Alt-Right Theater of the Grotesque

“They’ve had a lot of growing pains,” says Will Sommer, a writer for The Hill who publishes a newsletter on conservative outlets, Right Richter. “It’s easier, if you’re a site like Breitbart, to be in the opposition,” especially if your roster was stocked with iconoclasts like Stranahan and Bannon.

So what now?

Now, you have editor-at-large Joel Pollak explaining that when Trump pushed aside the prime minister of Montenegro during the recent NATO summit, he was merely asserting American supremacy. And you have reporter Daniel Flynn defending Montana politician Greg Gianforte, who’d assaulted a journalist, for “the good politics of body slams” Gianforte practiced in Bozeman.

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U.S. House of Representative elect Greg Gianforte delivers his victory speech during a special congressional election in Bozeman, Montana, on May 25, 2017. Reuters

It’s hard to say whether this is what Breitbart readers want or what Breitbart is most capable of giving its readers.

It may simply be that Breitbart was never equipped to become the sober, Wall Street Journal -like publication Marlow seemed to promise after helping to elect Trump. The site was started by Breitbart as “a streamlined news portal for information junkies seeking access to every single story produced by the major newswires,” as writer Greg Beato described it in a 2009 post for Gawker. Beato pointed to the not-so-secret formula for Breitbart’s success: aggregate wire stories in a way that would earn links from the Drudge Report, the traffic behemoth where Andrew Breitbart had once toiled with the site’s founder, Matt Drudge. Beyond any motivating ideology, the site has been sustained by Drudge-friendly links that consistently drive web traffic. That is as true today as it was eight years ago: SimilarWeb’s analysis shows that 53 percent of all outside referrals to Breitbart come from Drudge. That may seem like a high number, but it actually represents a precipitous drop of 28 percent since March.

After Breitbart’s unexpected death, Bannon sharpened the site, turning it into a high-volume theater of the grotesque, the “platform for the alt-right” that most Americans came to know during the presidential campaign. The hiring of figures like Yiannopoulos signaled a more combative stance on cultural issues; Gorka gave the site its strong anti-Muslim edge, while Hahn, a young University of Chicago graduate, came to so closely mirror her boss’s vituperative attacks on the Republican Party’s centrists that she came to be known as “Bannon’s Bannon.”

“Bannon built a far-right-wing media sledgehammer, an enforcer of orthodoxy that its fans praised for its swagger and that its critics labeled xenophobic or worse.” That was the colorful description offered by The Washington Post as Bannon moved from the Breitbart Embassy to the big white mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue. The audience was—and remains—younger and more sophisticated than that of Fox News yet animated by the same resentments: the Clintons, Mexico, Muslims, Goldman Sachs, Lena Dunham.

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A Jewish boy looks at clothes for sale at the Breitbart booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, February 23, 2017. Reuters

Breitbart can’t pivot away from right-wing click-bait to sober, deeply reported news any more than Trump can pivot away from paranoid tweets, self-pitying broadsides against the media and weekends at Mar-a-Lago. Trump, at least, has daughter Ivanka to keep him in check, or so they say. With Bannon gone, it’s hard to see anyone at the Breitbart Embassy overseeing the kind of radical editorial overhaul that would make Breitbart more like the Journal and less like World Net Daily.

At the same time, the president it helped elect has an approval rating below 40 percent, making the daily job of selling his policies even more difficult. Breitbart remains an ally, though. If it has anxieties about Trump, it isn’t quite ready to share them just yet. That’s because while Drudge provides the traffic, Bannon provides the access, the interviews and “exclusives” that are the meat of Breitbart’s reporting. Anger the president, and the gates to the White House might close. That has made it difficult for Breitbart to honestly ascribe Trump’s shortcomings and failures to Trump himself.

“They’re failing to grapple with news of the day,” says The Hill ’s Sommer. “Eventually, your audience starts to get disillusioned.” 

This is true not only of Breitbart but of an entire right-wing media ecosystem still largely unwilling to call out Trump on the plainly unrealistic promises he made. Sustained illusion thus becomes the best antidote to creeping disillusion. So in the Breitbart world, the jobs have all come back from China, while “the illegals” have all gone back to Mexico. The administrative state will be deconstructed, just as Bannon promised, until there are so few bureaucrats left in Washington they can share a single Uber out of town. NATO, NAFTA, NEA: They are all dead, or dying, cowering in the last dank dungeons of the “deep state.”

Stranahan isn’t optimistic about the long-term success of this approach for Breitbart. “I would not be surprised if their readership goes down again,” he says of the site he once loved but no longer recognizes.

“It sounds douchey,” Stranahan tells me, “but I’m always right.”

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CJ Burton

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