The Democratic Party Needs Keith Ellison

The American people have faced stagnant wages and rising inequality for decades. Many Americans voted for Donald Trump or decided not to vote at all because Democrats failed to communicate effectively with working people and turn out the vote – end of story. The fact is that shouldn’t have happened. The Democratic Party has long been the Party of working people, and needs to do a better job of making that case. No one knows this better than Keith Ellison, and we are proud to endorse him as the next Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

These are extremely challenging times. President Trump has put forward a nominee for Labor Secretary who openly disdains workers. Congressional Republicans are readying plans to roll back worker protections, repeal the Affordable Care Act and end Medicare as we know it. And in state capitals across the country, the assault on workers and unions has been fierce and swift. Now more than ever, working people need public servants who will stand up and fight for better jobs, higher wages, good benefits and a voice at work.

Keith knows how to win elections, and has a track record of defeating anti-worker forces wherever they are. When Keith was first elected to Congress in 2006, his district had the lowest turnout in Minnesota. Voters just didn’t feel engaged. They didn’t feel like they mattered. Keith decided to do something about it: he organized. He knocked on as many doors as possible. With labor at his side, he talked about the issues that mattered to people. It worked. Since Keith began his grassroots voter turnout campaign, his district is the highest performing in the state. And on top of all this, he’s been getting pro-worker candidates elected from the school board to the U.S. Senate, traveling to nearly 30 states just last cycle.

When nurses went on strike to keep their health insurance, Keith was there. When communications workers went on strike to protest pension cuts, Keith was there. When hotel workers went on strike for a decent wage, Keith was there.

He hasn’t done this alone. Keith has always organized alongside working people. He’s marched on our picket lines and offered support to our members. When nurses went on strike to keep their health insurance, Keith was there. When communications workers went on strike to protest outsourcing and pension cuts, Keith was there. When hotel workers went on strike to stand up for a decent wage, Keith was there.

Each and every time, he’s pounded the pavement, not for some sort of political benefit, but to stand in solidarity with those who want a better life for ourselves and our families.

That’s who Keith is, and that’s precisely why he’s long been a friend of labor – especially in the halls of Congress. He’s voted to increase the minimum wage, advocated for better working conditions and proposed a bill to make union organizing a civil right. As Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, he’s used his microphone over and over again to speak up when unions or working people have come under attack. Simply put, labor has the strongest possible ally in Keith-someone whose primary focus is to create opportunity for all and grow the middle class, regardless of what you look like, where you were born, or who you are.

And now that he’s running for DNC Chair, he’s not wavering in his commitment to us–not one bit. He understands that many working people voted for Donald Trump because the Democratic Party didn’t make a compelling enough case. He understands we are hungry for political leaders that listen to us and work with us, and that labor’s agenda will always lead our politics, not the other way around. With Keith at the helm of one of America’s two major political parties, working people will be in a much better position to have our issues advanced and our concerns heard.

Both of us have been a part of the labor movement for decades, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we’re not in the business of mincing words. Tough days lie ahead for working people. And so, it is more important than ever that we have a leader who will stand up, fight, organize and win.

There is no doubt in our minds: Keith Ellison is the person for the job. He has our strong support. We encourage you to give him yours, as well.

Richard Trumka is president of the 12.5 million member AFL-CIO, America’s labor federation.. Maria Elena Durazo is a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and a General Vice President of UNITE HERE.

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Former NFL Player Husain Abdullah: Trump Is 'Spreading Hate' With Muslim Ban

Husain Abdullah didn’t find out that President Donald Trump had signed an executive order temporarily banning refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries until Saturday morning, when a friend posted a video of protesters at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Snapchat.

The night before, Abdullah ― a practicing Muslim who played seven seasons as an NFL free safety before he retired in 2016 ― had been consumed with preparing for a trip to Rwanda with a group of his fellow graduate students at Southern Methodist University. But when he saw the video, he instantly hopped online to figure out what was going on. He didn’t like what he saw.

“When it comes to what’s going on socially, he’s spread a lot of hate,” Abdullah said of Trump on Friday. “Yes, we have to have immigration laws, but everyone has to be subject to the same laws. When you start to discriminate against people based on their religion, that becomes a huge issue.”

Abdullah and his brother Hamza, also a former NFL player, are two of the most prominent Muslims to have played professional football. Their faith became a well-known aspect of their careers in 2012, when they skipped the NFL season to make a religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

Trump has argued that his order doesn’t specifically single out Muslims. But Abdullah doesn’t buy it, especially after a campaign in which Trump “targeted quite a few people” ― including Mexican and Latino immigrants, women, African-Americans and people with disabilities.

“Absolutely, Muslims are being targeted,” Abdullah said. “There will be other groups targeted as well. It’s only going to get worse if people don’t stand up and they don’t protest, and we don’t have lawyers working and politicians working to block these orders and to slow these things down. If everybody just says this is the way it is, it’s going to get ugly real quick.”

That responsibility, Abdullah said, also extends to the NFL. Some players have spoken out, but Commissioner Roger Goodell chose not to. Asked about Trump’s executive order at a news conference Wednesday, Goodell said that he is “singularly focused on the Super Bowl.”

“Knowing how the NFL operates, they just want to stay as clean as they can,” Abdullah said. “They don’t want to talk about anything other than football. They tell all of us, just football. Nothing else. Anything other than football is labeled a distraction. The reality is, if there’s a social issue plaguing the country and now plaguing the globe … we need these giant organizations and people who are running them to speak up on it.”

Goodell’s reticence to comment, Abdullah said, creates a dynamic in which players are less likely to speak out. 

“When the NFL does something like that ― ‘oh, we’re not worried about that; we’re just focused on football’ ― now for everybody who’s Muslim or everybody who probably doesn’t share the majority religious opinion, now they’re more than likely [thinking], ‘Man, if I say something, then now they’re going to single me out, or they’re going to target me,’” he said. “They have to do a better job of paying attention to what’s going on socially. And not only how it affects America or society at large, but also how it affects their players.”

Abdullah, who retired after suffering the fifth concussion of his career last season, is pursuing a master’s in dispute resolution and conflict management at SMU in Dallas. In March, he’ll travel to Rwanda to work with a school for orphans.

And while he knows many people are fearful of Trump’s policies, recent events have only hardened his resolve to pursue a field that will allow him to help people. 

“I’m feeling a sense of urgency, in a positive way. Not out of fear, but just in a positive way,” Abdullah said. “Emotions … can either paralyze you and you can fall into depression and despair and worry, or you can channel the emotion, whether it’s good or bad, and you can use it for a positive cause.”

“Football was purposeful. I was passionate about it. Now, with what’s going on right now, this is my purpose. This is my passion. I just have a sense of urgency to be a product of change for the better.”

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Black Women Face Devastating Losses If Obamacare Is Repealed

Bianca Adams worked part-time jobs as a spa professional, sometimes juggling two or three at a time, for years. But none of them offered her insurance, which meant that the 47-year-old with diabetes often went to the emergency room for care.

“I was one of those people that had to go to the emergency when my blood sugar got too high and I needed fluids,” Adams told The Huffington Post. “There was really no one managing my health at that point.”

When her Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act began in 2014, Adams, who has been disabled with severe knee problems for 25 years, underwent three major surgeries in six months: a partial hysterectomy to remove a large tumor in June, a total right knee replacement in September and a left knee replacement in November.

“It was brutal, but everything needed to be done. I was very, very sick — and had I not done it then, I’d probably be on a walker right now,” she said.

But that wasn’t her only concern. “I felt like once Republicans got back into office, it would be repealed,” she said. “That was literally the first thing on my mind — to get everything done as soon as possible.”

Black women stand to lose the most if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. This demographic is more susceptible to diabetes, uterine fibroids, obesity, high-blood pressure, domestic abuse and sexual assault than any other. Many black women also have children who depend on them for their health care, since black women are more likely to be sole providers for their household

Obamacare reduced coverage disparities for a number of black women, allowing them to access routine health care treatment and check-ups with a primary care physician. The preventive care clause in the ACA has been life-changing for many black women: It gives them better access to early cancer screenings. Black women are twice as likely as white women to die of cervical cancer and twice as likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of breast cancer.

Historically, the government has paid attention to black women’s health only when it’s convenient, said Joan Faber McAlister, an associate professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Black women’s health has been pretty much the lowest priority, almost has been completely invisible,” McAlister said. “The only time we see a lot of attention to black women’s health is when it’s being misrepresented to undermine social programs that don’t even primarily benefit black women.”

As of Jan. 1, 32 states had expanded Medicaid to include most low-income Americans. If President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans move forward with their plans to repeal Obamacare, that coverage will go away. So will the tax credits that help lower- and middle-class families afford insurance. Many of the people hit hardest will be black women.

Here are some of their stories.

Karla Baptiste, 43, DeSoto, Texas

After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area for a new job in late September 2007, Karla Baptiste was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 34. A mastectomy that October determined that Baptiste’s cancer was worse than doctors had thought ― it was present in 14 of her lymph nodes and had progressed to stage 3.

She began chemotherapy that November. She would later have three reconstructive surgeries on her breast, six weeks of daily radiation and take regular doses of Tamoxifen, a cancer treatment drug, for four years.

Baptiste was declared cancer free in 2008. But in July 2014, a lesion was found on her vertebrae. The cancer had metastasized to her spine. After another round of treatments, the lesion was gone by February 2015.

Baptiste shows no cancer activity in her body now but is still considered to be a high cancer risk. “I’m cancer free now, but I have stage 4 cancer, and there is no stage 5. I don’t want to go back to a time when insurance companies can deny me just because they decide they don’t want to pay for something.”

“And then I die,” she continued. “It’s that serious for me.”

Baptiste won’t be able to pay for the medicine she needs to survive without the ACA. Her insurance was billed $426,702 last year for her care. She paid $2,500 of that.

“If the ACA is repealed and not replaced with something that has guardrails for insurance companies, patients like me with pre-existing conditions are the ones they will drop or deny coverage for,” she said. “We cost them too much. The ACA gives me peace of mind that I will receive the care that I need.”

“I’m in a situation where I’m going to be treated indefinitely,” she added. “It’s not something like I get chemo and I’m done ― having my medication is that important to me. It’s keeping me alive.”

Aitza Burgess Reynolds, 22, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

When Aitza Burgess Reynolds’ mom started receiving disability payments in 2015, the 22-year-old college senior was no longer covered under her mother’s plan. She signed up for health care through the ACA marketplace based on her stepfather’s experiences with the program. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, the insurance he obtained through the ACA helped the family financially by covering most of his treatments before he died.

The health insurance offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is just over $1,100 a semester, was too expensive for Burgess Reynolds. It didn’t include dental or eye care. She has to have her eyes checked every six months and needs prescription glasses and contacts costing over $500 to keep from being legally blind.

If the law is repealed and her mom loses disability, Burgess Reynolds would become the sole provider for her household, having to insure herself and her mother. She’d also have to delay going back to graduate school to obtain her doctorate.  

“It’s a great injustice to us, and it’s a failure of our system ― maybe not even a failure because, from what I’ve learned, it was systematically designed to be that way,” she said, with the cards stacked against black women.

Akosua, 37, Dallas 

Akosua, who did not want her real name published, owns a photography business with her husband. The ACA helps them remain covered since they are self-employed. Akosua and her husband also have pre-existing conditions (she is overweight and he has diabetes).

“The Obama administration really seemed to think about people’s lives and really have compassion for the choices people want to make to be better,” she said.

Akousa was a teacher before opening her own business ― and she was miserable. Obamacare gave her a chance to pursue her dream job. But, she says, politicians want to create an underclass in which people don’t have access to health care and can’t be healthy physically or emotionally.

“We’re moving from the Obama administration to one where people have open disdain for their own citizens ― and that is a major issue to me,” she said. “There’s a great deal of cruelty, and I believe that the repeal of the ACA is not really to [balance the] budget. It’s deliberate social destruction.”

Sandra Thornton, 60, West Point, Georgia

Sandra Thornton is a divorced mom with three kids. She worked for a company called Wide Open West for 37 years before being diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome. She worked for seven more years after a surgery on her wrist in 2007, then was laid off in August 2014 after a short medical leave.

The following April, Thornton was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. “Without the health care, I wouldn’t be talking to you today,” she said.

Thornton, who is now cancer free, underwent a mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, 38 rounds of radiation and six rounds of chemotherapy. Sickness from the chemotherapy landed her in the hospital after each treatment.

Chemo cost more than $6,000 each time, Thornton said. “Who can afford this? No one.”  

“You’ve got to have quality health care. Some of the people wouldn’t even take the insurance because it was affordable health care.” Thornton said that initially she couldn’t find a doctor within 100 miles who would take her insurance, until the insurer helped her find a physician.

“You’re already fighting to get well, but then you got to fight the insurance company? It’s pitiful,” she said. 

Aisha Crossley, 38, Las Vegas

Aisha Crossley is the head of her household. The 38-year-old casualty specialist for AAA doesn’t qualify for any public assistance and, while she’s covered through her employer, her four children are insured through the Affordable Care Act.

Crossley’s oldest son, 21, has severe asthma. He’s been seeing a pulmonary specialist regularly since he was 2 and is on four medications that need to be refilled each month. Crossley said it’s a blessing to be able to pay an $80 quarterly premium and take him to the doctor on a regular basis.  

Without insurance, Crossley says, her oldest son would be in the hospital with pneumonia and probably close to dying. “I also have to be concerned if my child is going to have access to the medication that has allowed him to be alive and control his asthma on a daily basis.”

Crossley herself needs monthly medications, her other son sees a dermatologist regularly for a skin condition and her 7-year-old daughter had surgery in October.

This is why a potential repeal of the ACA scares her. She could put her children on her employer’s insurance, but it would cost at least $500 a month, leaving Crossley with a maddening decision.

“I’d have to decide on if I want to go with the employer-driven insurance or have my kids be uninsured so we can still eat,” she said.  

Faber likened such choices to those that women face in third-world countries.

“You’re facing a choice of which child is going to live in the United States. In a country this wealthy and advanced, we can have a space program but we can’t help women keep their children alive?”

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Eminem Goes After Donald Trump On New Big Sean Track

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Eminem is once again taking a firm stand against Donald Trump.

The Detroit rap star calls the president “a bitch” and vows to “make his whole brand go under” in a verse on Big Sean’s track “No Favors.”

The song, which also contains references to racism and police brutality, is featured on Big Sean’s new album, “I Decided.” 

It’s at least the second time Eminem has come for Trump. The rapper released a nearly eight-minute track in October:

Consider me a dangerous man, but you should be afraid of this dang candidate,” Eminem rapped on “Campaign Speech,” before calling Trump a “loose cannon who’s blunt with his hand on the button.”

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Beyond The Dab: 8 Reasons Why Migos Has Become Hip-Hop's Trendsetters

Rap group Migos has been soaring to heightened levels of success month after month, banger after banger.

The Atlanta-based group, which consists of rappers Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, seem pretty much untouchable at this point. And while many trap music aficionados have long seen the group’s star potential since the release of their 2013 smash “Versace,” their latest hit song “Bad and Boujee” which is featured on their recently released album “Culture,” has only helped to cement their status as superstars.

In light of all their success, the group took a trip to New York University last Saturday for a sold out “culture class” led by The Fader’s Naomi Zeichner. The discussion, which was primarily attended by NYU students, touched on topics ranging from their early days as emerging rappers to the crucial role women play in the popularity of their music. 

Here are eight takeaways from the event that partly explain how the three Atlanta natives have catapulted to success and become trap culture’s trendsetters.

1. They received some timely mainstream recognition. 

Few people can be successful without a helping hand. In the case of Migos, that hand belongs to musician and actor Donald Glover who declared their song “Bad and Boujee” to be the “best song ever” on stage at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. 

Quavo said his phone “caught fire” immediately following Glover’s mention of the group and that they are constantly getting stopped in airports and public spaces. The song also soared to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 the day after the awards show. 

2. They were creative in their hustle. 

During Saturday’s conversation, VFiles CEO Julie Ann Quay, one of the event’s moderators, mentioned that Migos used to employ a clever come-up tactic by offering to buy DJs drinks in exchange for playing one of their songs. Now, the group is being paid to promote brands. 

3. They built their brand early on.

Many artists like to expand their brands with clothing lines, colognes or apps after they’ve garnered fame. But Migos went with a brand that directly aligns with their craft by partnering with Rap Snacks, which claims to be “the official snack of hip-hop,” and they did so prior to achieving mass stardom. In July 2016, they partnered with the snack brand for their own line of chips “Sour Cream with A Dab of Ranch” to which they created a fitting rap jingle. It doesn’t get more on-brand than that. 

4. They’re authentic. 

When discussing their debut album titled “Yung Rich Nation,” which didn’t perform as well as they expected, Quavo said the album’s sales were disappointing because they weren’t being true to their sound and style when creating the album. Once their music was able to be reflective of their personas again, they opened themselves up to rave reviews and a co-sign from hip-hop mogul Kanye West

5. They don’t take themselves too seriously.

During a break in the discussion, technical malfunctions caused two of the Migos’ songs to play at the same time prompting Quavo ― whose class clown demeanor is instantly disarming ― to say that the mix actually sounded good, so much so he “didn’t know which way to bounce.” Zeichner even noted that she found Quavo to be a funny guy, to which he of course replied, “you like the way I sound, girl?”

6. They’re loyal to the concept of “family first.” 

Aside from the music, the other element that ties Migos together is the DNA they share. Quavo and Offset, who are both 22-years-old, are cousins while 19 year-old Takeoff is Quavo’s nephew. When asked by an audience member if they think anyone will attempt to come between their family ties, Takeoff replied “nobody can separate us because we’re real family, we have to stick together…we’re going to come back to the same dinner table.”

7. They like to be in control of their product.

“Nobody’s gonna care about your stuff the way you do,” Quavo said at the event, adding that that he likes to have as much control over their products as possible. The rapper shared that he mixed and mastered their entire “Culture” album. 

8. They know how important a woman’s opinion is.

When asked about the impact women have on their music, Quavo replied that women “set the trends” and that “men always like what the ladies like.” He then wonderfully concluded his final response with “girls run the world.” Amen, bro. 

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Fat Shaming Can Literally Break Your Heart

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When it comes to the way people stigmatize different body shapes and sizes, words can hurt more than just your feelings. New research suggests they may have real health consequences.

People who reported feeling diminished by negative stereotypes about their weight were three times more likely to have a heightened risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke than people with similar weights and mental health who did not feel affected, according to a recent study published in the journal Obesity.

“Above and beyond the effects of weight, this internalization of weight bias is associated with poor health,” the study’s lead author, Rebecca Pearl, told The Huffington Post. 

“There is this misconception that’s out there that a little bit of stigma might help to motivate people or … get people to change their health behaviors,” said Pearl, an assistant professor at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “That’s not the case.”

Fat shaming is bad for your health

Past studies suggest that individuals who feel shamed for their physical appearance or weight are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. Other research shows that people who are body-shamed tend to weigh more, have greater waist circumferences and a greater tendency to become obese over time ― and that people who face weight discrimination also face a higher risk of mortality over time.

This latest study is important, Pearl explained, because it suggests that fat shaming can affect health measures that are known to bring on diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The new study included 159 overweight or obese adults, ages 21 to 65, who had signed up for a larger trial to evaluate a weight-loss maintenance program. They rated how much they felt stigmatized by weight-related stereotypes ― a measure known as weight bias internalization ― and indicated how much they agreed with statements like “My weight is a major way that I judge my value as a person” or “I feel anxious about being overweight because of what people might think of me.”

Everyone in the study also underwent a medical exam that measured blood pressure, waist circumference, triglyceride levels, HDL cholesterol and glucose. People with unhealthy measures in any three of those areas were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (the name for a group of conditions that raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke).

The data revealed that people who reported higher levels of weight bias internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than people who reported low levels of weight bias internalization. People who felt the most stigmatized were also six times more likely to have high triglyceride levels.

Why it’s important to call out weight bias

When people agree with harmful stereotypes about their bodies, it can really shake their confidence and their ability to make healthy changes, Pearl said.

“Given all the messages of shame and blame around weight that are out there, it’s really hard to not internalize some of these messages,” she explained.

According to Pearl, health care providers need to be sensitive about these issues when they’re counseling patients. They should pay attention to whether patients call themselves lazy or criticize themselves because of their weight, she said ― and they should find ways of supporting their patients’ health behavior goals without criticizing them.

“Weight is a complex issue,” Pearl said. “It involves biological factors, environmental factors and things that do not involve personal characteristics at all. It’s important for people to remember that weight is not a reflection of personal character.” 

Given all the messages of shame and blame around weight that are out there, it’s really hard to not internalize some of these messages.
Rebecca Pearl, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, University of Pennsylvania

Pearl encourages people who feel stigmatized because of their weight to remind themselves how they break these stereotypes ― in school, in their careers or in their personal lives.

Setting specific, achievable, concrete goals to improve health behaviors can also help people be more confident and ignore the negative stereotypes out there, she added.

And for the public, it’s important to call out weight bias or discrimination when they see it, Pearl said.

“It is not acceptable to shame others because of their weight,” she said. “It is important to understand that obesity is not the result of laziness or a lack of individual willpower.”

More diverse, longer studies will reveal more

Pearl emphasizes that her study was relatively small, so further research with with larger, more diverse groups is needed. The majority of participants in the study were African-American women, who are not often well-represented in obesity research.

The study authors note that certain race-related factors could have affected the results, though it’s not clear how. Longitudinal studies that follow individuals over time are also needed to show whether fat-shaming makes heart disease and stroke risk factors worse.

But even with all those caveats, this study adds even more evidence that weight stigma has negative implications for health, Pearl said. 

This reporting is brought to you by HuffPost’s health and science platform, The Scope. Like us on Facebook and Twitter and tell us your story: 

Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at 

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

'Drunk Feminist Films' Lets You Get Smashed And Smash The Patriarchy, Too

There are films we love because they open our eyes to unseen narratives and different ways of being, through carefully woven plots and complex characters. And there are films that we love because, during that one lazy summer between fifth and sixth grade, we watched them over and over and over again, memorized all the lines and found ourselves in unhealthy relationships with the romantic leads. 

It’s this latter category that brings so many to Drunk Feminist Films (DFF) ― a space for feminists to simultaneously indulge in and criticize the many Hollywood movies whose representations of race, gender, sexuality and class are so flawed or completely absent, it’s laughable. You may not have realized as a preteen, for example, how ridiculously sex work is portrayed in “Pretty Woman,” or how creepily virginity is framed in “Crossroads,” or that not a single queer person speaks in either. 

DFF offers live events, as well as webisodes and other online media, that allow women to watch films they love without letting them off the hook, providing drunken commentary that pokes fun at the shortcomings and tropes of mainstream Hollywood films. As the women state on their website, “we aim jokes at the oppressor and the system (and sometimes the fashion), not those experiencing oppression.”

The first film to be drunkenly mocked by a group of hilarious and socially conscious ladies was everyone’s favorite vampire love story, “Twilight.” 

Gillian Goerz, one of DFF’s founders, hate-read her way through the books and, like so many, was curious to see how Bella and Edward would play out on screen. So she drafted a drinking game that would inject some feminist exegesis into the supernatural romance. Or, at the very least, it would get her drunk. Goerz invited friends over to participate, including DFF co-founders Amy Wood, Steph Guthrie and Shaunna Bruton, and a movement was born. 

After the success of the “Twilight” drinking game, the DFF team decided it would be fun to film future rounds and share them on YouTube. They also set up a Twitter account soliciting requests for more films for DFF to tear into. And they recruited a larger cast, ensuring that the DFF ringleaders would embody the diverse representation they were demanding of their movies. 

“Expanding from the original four founders into a cast was so important to us,” Goerz told The Huffington Post. “It was initially four white women, and we didn’t think that was OK. We wanted to reach out as soon as people were interested in the idea. We didn’t want it to be us front and center.”

Today, DFF has 13 rotating cast members who, when they’re not smashing the patriarchy, work as comedians, writers, social workers, public servants and designers. They participate in DFF both through making pre-recorded YouTube videos and hosting live events, most often held at Toronto’s arthouse theater Royal Cinema. The in-person happenings, which regularly sell out, invite angry viewers to yell at the screen, throw things, and release all the pent-up tension that comes from secretly loving “Save the Last Dance” despite knowing that Julia Stiles has absolutely no rhythm. Like none. 

“I think it’s a way to sort of alleviate some of the guilt,” cast member Resh Brown said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. “Especially with some of the movies that came out when folks were younger. Being able to enjoy those movies together but also hate on them and trash them, I think it’s a way to connect around films that bring up a lot of feelings inside.”

Goerz agreed. “A lot of these movies, as Resh said, have this element of nostalgia. I think there is something about commiserating with people that helps you make peace with your own problematic past. Being able to a appreciate what was good while not ignoring what is bad is part of growing up. It’s a more forgiving way to handle all of your beliefs.”

The first element of a DFF screening is choosing a film ― any somewhat lovable movie with blindspots in terms of representation or truthful, empathetic storytelling. Sadly, there are plenty of options. Past showings have included films like “The Craft,” “Gone Girl,” “Spice World,” “Bollywood/Hollywood,” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Some, like “Bridesmaids,” are progressive by Hollywood standards ― it features a female-led cast. However, as Goerz put it, “you can’t gloss over some of the weird racist jokes in there.” 

Before showing a film to a live, drunk audience, the DFF team will do a test screening, where they’ll sketch out questions and point out details to be discussed. In “Love Actually,” for example, the “drink” triggers include “Sexy man boss” ― whenever an older male boss becomes romantically involved with his younger, female subordinate. There’s also the less political “Turt Alert!” ― a drink for every heinous turtleneck featured on screen, of which there are too many. 

Many of the drinking games’ rules, however, emerge on the fly. Moviegoers shout suggestions from their seats, live-tweeters chime in using the evening’s previously selected hashtag, and DFF hosts update the audience accordingly. “It’s something we can all join in on,” Goerz said. “The hosts also say a few words about each screening before the film starts. They share their personal experience with the film and point out what is problematic, what is lovable and what is of interest.”

One unifying factor aligning DFF’s chosen films ― which range from romantic dramas to thrillers to slapstick comedies ― is that most were made within the last 30 years. Before then, Brown explained, films were often so problematic and dated, she felt uncomfortable even recommending them. “We want viewers to get something from the film beyond hate-watching,” she said. 

Although older films are often more glaringly exasperating in terms of on-screen representation, both Brown and Goerz are dubious of whether film is substantially more diverse today. “Maybe we have more general diversity, but do we have true intersectional feminist film?” Brown asked. “’Star Wars’ had a white woman leading it, but very few other women in the entire movie. There has certainly been some progress, but I think we’re a long way away from true representation and a genuinely diverse set of stories.”

Goerz agreed. “Even when you do see some representation, it can feel tokenistic,” she added. “It can feel like one step forward, 10 steps back.”

Meaningful diversity and representation in film are clearly topics Goerz and Brown have spent many a cocktail discussing. They’re well aware that true progress will require a fundamental shift in the film industry, not another actor of color on the red carpet. “I don’t want to see Dev Patel playing every role,” Brown said. “True representation isn’t just the one super hot South Asian actor over and over again.”

One major problem, Goerz and Brown agree, is that too often movies are made for the sole purposes of making money, and end up repeating easy formulas sure to yield mindless, box-office hits. As Goerz put it: “What is the incentive to change if they’re still making money on ‘Transformers 17’?”

Just as much as DFF rails against monolithic representation, they also campaign against lazy writing, one-dimensional characters, dumb humor and half-assed plots. Good films, they suggest, both respect and reflect their audience. “Perhaps we will reach equity when someone stops paying Adam Sandler to make movies,” Brown pondered. 

Both Goerz and Brown look forward to a future in which movie studios seriously reevaluate what they are making and why. “The thing that will bring more interesting diversity to film is not only casting more people of color,” Goerz said, “but having studios shift so the crew can have freedom.” The women expressed their confidence that such a change is possible, citing BBC’s recently launched diversity and inclusion strategy as an example. 

BBC’s ambitious initiative sets concrete targets to hit by 2020, ensuring challenging on-air portrayals of people with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people, as well as a diverse roster of employees from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. “I want us to make sure we are leading by example,” Tony Hall, the BBC director-general, said upon announcing the objectives, “working with and learning from others in the industry, and using our influence to bring about real change.”

The BCC’s goals show what is possible when people, and studios, take inclusion, representation and, um, good writing seriously. Until Hollywood follows suit, one thing remains certain. The ladies of DFF will be vigilant. They will be outspoken. And they will be drunk.  

Watch episodes of “Drunk Feminist Films” on YouTube and see their upcoming live events schedule here. 

Every Friday, HuffPost’s Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Sign up here.

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

22 Gifts Your Dude Will Actually Want For Valentine’s Day

The special guy in your life deserves a little somethin’ special on Valentine’s Day, not just a box of chocolates and a pair of Hershey’s Kisses boxers. 

To help you find something as unique as your boo, we’ve rounded 22 gifts from around the Internet that he’ll actually want to keep. 

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

Why Naomie Harris Almost Turned Down 'Moonlight' Role

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Naomie Harris says she initially “didn’t want to play a crack addict” in “Moonlight.”

In an interview with The Telegraph, Harris opened up on why she was apprehensive to take on the role of the main character’s mother, Paula. The role earned Harris a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod.

Harris’ character suffers from drug addiction and is a single mom to a young boy named Chiron. Throughout the film Chiron struggles with discovering his identity in the impoverished neighborhood of Liberty City, Miami.

“I feel that there are enough negative portrayals of women in general, and black women in particular,” she said. “I grew up with this really strong mother – really intelligent, powerful, independent – and I’ve always admired her. She was part of a group of strong, powerful women as well. I very rarely saw those women represented then. So I initially said no to the role.’”  

The British actress previously told “CBS This Morning” that she overcame preconceived notions about the character after watching YouTube interviews with crack users and meeting a woman who struggled with crack addiction.

She went on to tell The Telegraph, that she’s very pleased to have discovered the nuances of Paula’s character traits.  

“The more layers I have to hide under as a character, the happier I am,” she said. “So with Paula in ‘Moonlight,’ despite the tortuous journey to get to her, once I found her was incredibly comfortable on set. Because she is so far removed. She is like the polar opposite to me.”

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Teacher Suspended After Rescinding College Letter For Student Who Made Swastika

A Massachusetts high school teacher has been suspended from her job after rescinding a college recommendation letter for a student caught making a swastika. 

The Stoughton High School teacher, an Army veteran, is one of three teachers at the eastern Massachusetts school disciplined for discussing the swastika a student fashioned from tape and displayed in a hallway. Two of the teachers received disciplinary letters. The third was suspended for 20 days because she explained to college admissions officials why she was revoking her letter of recommendation for the student.

“The student believed that he was being targeted, creating a hostile environment for him by members of the faculty because of his actions, despite having already been disciplined by the administration,” schools Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi wrote in a letter to staff that was obtained by The Enterprise newspaper in Brockton.

The teacher will serve the suspension by not teaching on Thursdays or Fridays until April. School officials have declined to identify the teachers.

John Gunning, president of the local teachers union, said he was “deeply troubled” by the discipline.

“Having the teacher serve the suspension in two-day increments for 10 weeks interrupts the continuity of instruction and is detrimental to the students,” Gunning, who leads the Stoughton Teachers Association, told The Enterprise.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, which backs the local union, called punishment of all three teachers an “injustice.”

“The MTA is vigorously defending the teachers who were disciplined, and the statewide organization will support the Stoughton Teachers Association in any way possible as it fights the injustice done to members,” Barbara Madeloni, president of the state association, told The Enterprise. “Educators will not allow bigotry and hate to take hold in our schools. Nor will we allow those who speak and act against hate speech to be silenced.” 

A GoFundMe account for the suspended teacher described her as “a very caring, funny, and most selfless teacher/veteran at Stoughton High School.” The posting said she was “simply doing her job when correcting a student in his bad behavior.”

The trouble stemmed from a November incident in which a male student was caught making a swastika out of tape by another student as they decorated the halls, according to The Enterprise. The student who had made the swastika responded by making a comment about Adolf Hitler.

It was the second time in less than a month that the school dealt with an incident involving a swastika, according to the newspaper. In an earlier incident, the symbol was used in a phone group chat involving several different students.

Police decided the swastikas didn’t constitute hate crimes, and school officials said they punished students who were involved, according to The Enterprise. Teachers asked administrators to send a letter home to parents explaining the situation, according to The Boston Globe. That didn’t happen, the Globe reported, and students and some teachers began talking about it. 

One teacher broached the subject in her classroom. Another raised the topic of anti-Semitism with fellow teachers, and privately with a student. Both were sanctioned with disciplinary letters.

The third teacher had written a letter of recommendation to a college for the boy who made the swastika. She contacted the college and explained why she was withdrawing her endorsement. A school district disciplinary committee decided last week to suspend the teacher without pay for saying why she had rescinded the letter, according to the teachers union. 

The punishments followed a complaint made to the superintendent by the mother of the boy who made the swastika.

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices