Monday, February 13, 2012

  • Whitney Houston Remembered for Unprecedented Crossover Success

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    The music world continues to pay tribute to pop superstar Whitney Houston following her death on Saturday at the age of 48. She was honored at last night’s Grammy Awards by host LL Cool J and Jennifer Hudson. "She is part of a generation of what I called 'black pop crossover artists,' that would include Eddie Murphy, the late Michael Jackson, and even basketball player Michael Jordan, in that they had unprecedented amount of access to the American mainstream," says Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal. "We had never seen that level of black celebrity before… Her success in that mainstream was really unprecedented." [includes rush transcript]

  • Black Power on TV: How "Soul Train" Host Don Cornelius (1936-2012) Reshaped Independent Black Media

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    Whitney Houston is just the latest cultural icon to pass away during this year’s Black History Month. On February 1, "Soul Train" host Don Cornelius was found dead at his home in Los Angeles, in what appeared to be a suicide. Cornelius brought black music and culture into America’s living rooms through his dance show, "Soul Train," one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history, and played a critical role in spreading the music of black America to the world. "Don Cornelius was very clear: this was going to be his vision. It was going to celebrate the diversity of blackness. It was going to celebrate the vitality of blackness. And it was going to be available to folks in the mainstream," says Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal, who also reflects on the recent deaths of Whitney Houston and the Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, Etta James. [includes rush transcript]

  • Latin Jazz Musicians Lead Protest Against Grammy’s for Cutting 31 Musical Categories from Awards Show

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    Dozens of musicians demonstrated outside the Grammy Awards on Sunday protesting the Recording Academy’s decision to eliminate dozens of ethnic music award categories, including Hawaiian, Haitian, Cajun, Latin jazz, contemporary blues and regional Mexican. Some protesters see racial bias in the revisions, others see them as harmful to low-budget indie labels. Last August, four Latin jazz artists filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court claiming that the dropping of such categories had adversely affected their careers. They also said the academy was violating its "contractual obligations" to its 21,000 members. We speak to Oscar Hernández, founder of the Grammy Award-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org, which helped organize the protest and petition signed by more than 20,000. "[The Grammys have] given me the credibility that I need to go forward to do what I do, to do the music that I love, and gave me the stamp of credibility across many boundaries," Hernández said. "I’ve traveled all over the world playing my music. And it’s an important part of what we do, for sure." [includes rush transcript]

  • U.S.-Backed Bahraini Forces Arrest and Deport Two American Peace Activists Acting as Human Rights Observers

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    On Saturday, Bahrain arrested and deported two U.S. human rights lawyers, Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath, for their role in recent protests. They were deported Sunday and returned to New York last night. Both Arraf and Sainath are human rights lawyers and members of the Witness Bahrain initiative, which places international observers in the country in the hopes of preventing violence by security forces. Their arrest comes just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the popular uprising against the U.S.-backed monarchy. In the past year, Bahraini security forces have killed dozens of demonstrators, and hundreds more have been arrested or fired from their jobs. "[We] also were getting reports of journalists and human rights organization representatives being denied entry into the country in the lead-up to the first anniversary of the Bahrain revolution. And this caused great alarm, that the government was planning to escalate its oppression of the people," says Huwaida Arraf. [includes rush transcript]