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“In the Heights” Casting Calls Attention to Colorism in Latinx Community

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Lin Manuel Miranda’s film adaptation of his musical, In the Heights, came under fire from Afro-Latinx viewers for its lack of representation of black members of their community.

What We Know:

  • Miranda’s In the Heights is designed as a semi-autobiographical depiction of the Washington Heights neighborhood in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It shows a struggling but vibrant community and for many has been a beacon of representation. However, the film adaption fails to display the true fabric of Washington Heights as it neglects the large population of Black Latinx people that live there.
  • Discussion about the colorism seen in the film’s casting was spurred by a June interview with The Root’s Felice León and director Jon M. Chu. She asked Chu his thoughts on the lack of Black Latinx representation in the film. He responded with, “That was something that we talked about and that I needed to be educated about. In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for the roles.”
  • Chu and actress Melissa Barerra pointed out the movie’s background dancers as examples of black representation in the film, which did not satisfy viewers. Colorism has long been an issue in the Latinx community as Afro-Latinx members often get erased, especially those of Caribbean descent.

Culture critic Soraya McDonald stated, “These discussions are ones we end up having because there is such an atmosphere of scarcity when it comes to these stories.”

  • Miranda has come under fire for black erasure before with his highly successful show Hamilton. Despite having a predominantly black cast, many feel it erases black people from the historical narrative. Chu has also come into similar criticism for his 2018 film Crazy Rich Asian‘s depiction of Singapore and its omission of Malay, Indian, and other ethnic populations.
  • Franceli Chapman, an Afro-Latina actress and Washington Heights native, said, “Washington Heights is a real place with real people. When you walk through that neighborhood, what it looks like is not being reflected on screen.” Miranda has since apologized in a statement released on Twitter, acknowledging the criticism.

  • A study conducted in 2019 and released this year found that, of Black women cast in leading roles in the past decade, only 19% had dark skin. Rebecca Carroll, culture critic and author of Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir, stated, “For the folks who may not even notice the erasure – white audiences – their willful ignorance is not merely validated but cemented. For the people who see the Black background dancers as sufficient representation and/or progress, that remains progress. And for those of us who find the erasure absolutely glaring, we have to start all over again with why it matters.”

While In the Heights can still be celebrated for the representation of Latinx communities it does provide, the film clearly identifies the need for more discussion around colorism in the industry.

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Rapper DaBaby Apologizes for HIV Comments, Several Companies and Events Drop Him

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The rapper made insensitive comments about those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during his set at Miami’s Rolling Loud Music Festival.

What We Know:

  • DaBaby‘s rapidly rising fame came to a halt after recordings of him saying homophobic remarks surfaced on social media. While performing, the artist, whose real name is Jonathan Kirk, asked his fans to put their cellphone lights in the air if they didn’t show up to the festival with “HIV, AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two or three weeks;” this comment provided misinformation on HIV/AIDS to the crowd. DaBaby also proceeded to make lewder comments as his set went on.

  • Several celebrities revealed their disappointment with DaBaby after the footage went viral. Dua Lipa, who previously worked with him on her song “Levitating,” stated on her Instagram story she felt “surprised and horrified” by his words. She went on to say she did not “recognize this as the person I worked with” and stood “100% with the LGBTQ community.” RuPaul’s Drag Race star Trinity K. Bonet also criticized DaBaby in a tweet in which she provided information on HIV transmission. Twitch streamer Hasan Piker added to the social media backlash by saying DaBaby’s comments emitted “90s era homophobia” energy, and calling him “DaBoomer”.

  • Despite the scrutiny, DaBaby did not initially apologize. Instead, he took to his Instagram stories and told his critics to “shut the f*** up.” He additionally said what he does during live shows is for those audiences. Furthermore, he declared he will not explain said actions to somebody looking at a clip on their phone. A few slides later, DaBaby wrote more outlandish remarks.

“All the lights went up, gay or straight. You wanna know why? Because even my gay fans don’t got f****** AIDS… They don’t got AIDS. My gay fans, they take care of theyself, they ain’t going for that. They ain’t no nasty gay n*****. They ain’t no junkies on the street,” DaBaby proceeded to say.

  • DaBaby did not show any signs of remorse until brands and events began to drop him. Last week, boohooMAN, an online retail store, kicked off the rapper’s cancellation by announcing they would no longer work with him. BoohooMAN stated the company prioritizes diversity and inclusion, does not tolerate hate speech, and that it stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
  • After this, DaBaby released an apology on Twitter. He reported that anyone suffering from HIV or AIDS has a right to be upset and that he did not intend on offending anyone. He also addressed the LGBTQ community by telling them he has no issue with them.

  • Although DaBaby apologized, others quickly followed boohooMAN’s steps. This week, events such as Lollapalooza, Day N Vegas, and Governors Ball canceled his sets and created new lineups.

Alongside this controversy, DaBaby has previously roused negative attention to himself due to violent behavior, drug offenses, and possession of loaded and concealed weapons.

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Family of James Brown Finally Settles 15-year Battle over His Estate

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The family feud over James Brown’s estate began after his death on Christmas Day in 2006.

What We Know:

  • Attorney David Black told the Associated Press the legal battle came to an end as family members reached a settlement on July 9. However, details of the settlement were not disclosed.
  • Brown’s estate, which is estimated to be worth anywhere between $5 million to more than $100 million, had been the face of lawsuits over the years. One of the litigations’ central figures includes the Godfather of Soul’s former partner Tomi Rae Hynie, who claimed she was Brown’s fourth and final wife. Because of this, she claims she deserved a portion of their estate.
  • However, the South Carolina Supreme Court declared Hynie never legally married Brown due to her previous marriage never being annulled. The Supreme Court also ordered a lower court to “promptly proceed with the probate of Brown’s estate in accordance with his estate plan.” Brown wanted his estate to provide scholarships to underprivileged children in South Carolina and Georgia.
  • This decision came after the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned a previous deal in 2013. A settlement plan from 2009 aimed to give nearly half of Brown’s estate to a charitable trust, a quarter to Hynie, and the rest to his adult children. The Supreme Court overturned this plan because then-Attorney General Henry McMaster ignored Brown’s desire for his money. Instead, McMaster hired a professional manager “who took control of Brown’s assets from the estate’s trustees to settle debts.”

Black News Alerts will provide more information on the Brown estate when details on the settlement are released.

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Whoopi Goldberg, Danielle Deadwyler to Appear in Film about Emmett Till’s Mother

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Till will highlight Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight to obtain justice for the murder of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till.

What We Know:

  • In 1955, while visiting family in Mississippi, Emmett became a victim of a hate crime; Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year-old white woman, accused him of harassing her at a grocery store. Several days later, Carolyn’s relatives took Emmett, beat him, and lynched him.
  • While preparing for his funeral, Emmett’s mother Mamie insisted on an open casket to raise awareness on violence towards Black people in the South; Mamie’s actions are considered one of the catalysts for the civil rights movement. The movie chronicles this decision, as well as Mamie’s choice to permit Jet Magazine to publish David Jackson’s funeral photos.
  • Watchmen’s Danielle Deadwyler will portray Mamie. When discussing her new role, Danielle said she is “charged with humility and great will” to embody Mamie’s life during such an “integral moment of personal tragedy and political rebellion” and the civil rights movement. She further mentioned she will accurately represent Mamie’s love for her son. Danielle expressed gratitude for the women who will support her in this endeavor, such as director Chinonye Chukwu, and Whoopi Goldberg, who will play Emmett’s grandmother, Alma Carthan.
  • In addition to directing Till, Chinonye wrote the screenplay, which is partially based on Keith Beauchamp’s original research for his 2005 documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The film is a follow-up to Chinonye’s Clemency, which stars Alfre Woodard. Chinonye also conveyed appreciation for the project. She said Till will tell a story of Mamie and Emmett’s humanities and their relationship. Alongside this, it will educate audiences on “the activist consciousness that grows within Mamie as she seeks justice for her son.”
  • Chinonye feels confident in her actresses’ skills. She called Danielle a “powerhouse of an actor,” and emphasized her joy in working with the “legendary” Whoopi. Principal photography will begin in Atlanta this September.

The news on Till was released just two days before what would have been Emmett’s 80th birthday.

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