Are films like ‘Step’ inspiring or are they inner-city uplift porn? Maybe they’re both

After seeing Step, the new documentary about a step team at a girls charter school in Baltimore, two things happened:

  1. When I walked out of the darkened theater and into the light of day with the other people at the screening, everyone’s eyes were wet, including my own.
  2. I immediately wondered if what I’d seen was well-crafted inner-city uplift porn.

Step, the first feature-length documentary from director Amanda Lipitz, a Broadway producer whose credits include Legally Blonde the Musical, follows the journey of the step team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women (BLSYW, pronounced “bliss”). Most of the girls in the film are seniors, and this is their last chance to win a competition in the midst of typical senior-year concerns, in particular, getting into college.

Their lives are set against a backdrop of hardship: poverty, hunger, the threat of police violence, and parents who aren’t or can’t be as involved as would be ideal. But thanks to their determination and hard work, and constant prodding from coach Gari McIntyre (known in the film as Coach G) and college counselor Paula Dofat, the girls not only persist, they all are accepted into college.

It reminded me of a scene from Primary Colors, the 1998 film based on Joe Klein’s roman à clef about the first Clinton presidential campaign.

In the scene, Gov. Jack Stanton (John Travolta) tells his wife, Susan (Emma Thompson), about an adult literacy program that he encountered on the campaign trail. The program’s home is in the library of a rundown, graffiti-covered, underfunded school in New York.

“Honey, this was so great today, this reading program,” the governor says. “You shoulda seen the people. And the teacher — well. She was just inspirational.”

“Give me a break,” Susan responds. “Tell me how good the curriculum was, not the teacher. We can replicate a good curriculum.”

The scene gets at the crux of the issue with films, both narrative and documentary, such as Step, Dope, Dangerous Minds, All the Difference, and Check It. Such stories rely on individuals, in this case, McIntyre, Dofat and the step team members, to get an audience to pay attention to issues that are far bigger in scope. In the scene from Primary Colors, failing public schools and social promotion created the need for such a literacy program in the first place. In Step, there are larger issues that created the problems the BLSYW girls face, among them housing discrimination, the racial wealth gap, the resegregation of public schools, and unjust allocation of public resources.

So what purpose does a film like Step serve? Lipitz, a graduate of the Park School of Baltimore, where yearly tuition can run as high as $29,620, was inspired by the success of a similar girls leadership school in Queens, New York, with a 100 percent graduation rate. Her mother founded BLSYW on Lipitz’s suggestion and chairs its board.

I asked Lipitz if she worried that the success McIntyre and Dofat were able to achieve would lull audiences into a false sense of security. It’s easy to believe that these women have found a way to solve these larger problems so that the rest of us don’t need to focus on them quite so much.

“I didn’t worry about that,” Lipitz said. “ ‘Cause I think they’re so inspiring that you’re like, ‘I want to go do what Coach G does.’ I feel like they inspire you to get up and move and do something about it. Mentor someone, take interest in someone. I think they inspire people to do that.”

She’s not wrong. There’s tremendous value in films that aim to uplift. That’s what made the Stantons such an effective team: Theirs was a marriage of both pragmatism and inspiration. But it’s a challenge to find films that accomplish both, and frankly, films that skew more toward policy usually end up on public television, not the big screen. Because it’s so hard to make compelling films about policy — Ava DuVernay’s 13th is a notable exception — we end up with a glut of films that are high on uplift and short on the nitty-gritty.

Step doesn’t ignore these larger social issues — McIntyre mentions that she lives on the same street where Freddie Gray was killed. But there’s an underlying message that personal responsibility, hard work, and school personnel so dedicated they qualify for beatification are enough to circumvent the consequences of being born poor, black, and female in a country that’s systematically hostile to people who are poor, black, and female.

In Jack Stanton’s story, it’s the inspiring teacher who’s the savior. Susan Stanton gets at something more practical and less sexy: You can’t scale an inspirational teacher. You need a curriculum. Step illustrates just how important women such as Dofat and McIntyre are, but they’re not enough. We have to fix the problems that make them so invaluable.

Working as an educator in public schools is not easy. Dofat, 50, has been working as a college counselor for 17 years. There’s an emotional scene in Step where she tearfully pleads with two college administrators to take one of her students. She’s afraid that if they don’t, the girl’s life will essentially be ruined. I asked Dofat what kept her from burning out.

“Faith,” she answered. But she also told me about the need to separate guidance counseling from college counseling to achieve more effective results. Public schools that serve poor, majority-minority populations need enough resources to hire some counselors who focus solely on social and emotional issues, and others who focus on getting kids into college, Dofat said. Most schools employ counselors who are responsible for all of it, and therefore are often overwhelmed.

Changes like those Dofat recommends could have huge implications in steering students away from the for-profit certificate and diploma mills that disproportionately target students who are poor, female, and ethnic minorities, saddling them with worthless degrees and debt they often cannot repay.

But wonkier points like that get obscured by Step’s feel-good inspiration. The film recently won the audience award at AFI Docs Film Festival and got a loving reception at Sundance earlier this year. Ultimately, public education should be the responsibility of everyone in a community. It is a public good that only works well when affluent white parents are not scared to send their children to school with poor black children and when they recognize that everyone deserves the same chances and the same resources.

McIntyre began working as a step coach and logistics coordinator at BLSYW in 2015. She went to Milford Mill Academy, part of Baltimore County Public Schools, and eventually graduated from Coppin State after initially dropping out. She’s no stranger to the hardships many of the BLSYW girls face.

“I did have a very rough time with completing high school, because I was more focused on social and creative outlets,” McIntyre said. “I graduated with a 1.8 GPA. I barely went to school, because I felt like the teachers were not challenging me, and I didn’t need to go to school. I would go to school and get A’s on tests and quizzes, but I would never prepare for anything. So, I had the ability, I had to think and had to focus, and I really felt that the teachers were not challenging me or catering to me in the way that I felt that I needed to learn.”

But even more teachers who cared wouldn’t have been enough, she said.

“There are problems that are on a way bigger scale, based off of the way our country votes,” McIntyre said. “Decisions that are based in racial and gender bias, housing discrimination, and there being actual laws that are legally segregating communities, and determining who gets resources and who doesn’t, and that’s not by mistake.

“I think that it’s clear what type of people they want to be successful. It shows grit when a little black girl like Cori [Grainger, a BLSYW senior], who never even thought that she would be Johns Hopkins material, not only makes it in Johns Hopkins, but then graduates and does well. … I think that specifically [when others look at] African-American communities, people truly believe that we want to be impoverished and in violence. Poverty is not what you see in Third World countries in the United States. The poverty is sometimes not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, or being on government assistance, or being a victim to the failed mental health system, or health care system in the United States. … So, I do think that these are way bigger issues, that people are seeing on a smaller level.”

Step is the story of young girls who are beating the odds. After seeing it, I hope audiences remember these girls never should have had to face such odds in the first place.

The Powerball-winning Smith family dedicates a portion of their jackpot to help Trenton, New Jersey They’ve set up a foundation focused on education, Christian values and neighborhood development

It’s been a year since the eight members of the Smith family learned they were winners of a $429.6 million New Jersey Powerball jackpot — the largest single jackpot ticket ever sold in New Jersey. And while the shock has worn off, they are now turning to the work of helping others with a portion of their prize money.

The family actually received a lump sum of around $284 million. The $429.6 million prize would have been granted in full only if the family agreed to take it as an annuity paid over 29 years, according to NBC News. After paying bills, student loans, setting some aside as savings and taking care of personal family needs, the family used a portion of their winnings to create the Smith Family Foundation.

The foundation, established shortly after the win, aims to help transform lives by providing resources to residents of Trenton, New Jersey, and surrounding areas.

“We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty,” said Arthur Smith, the grandson of Pearlie Smith, the matriarch of the family, in an interview with NJ.com. “Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”

According to the foundation website, their family’s upbringing in Trenton inspired them to be of service to others. Pearlie Smith raised her seven children in an environment filled with poverty and drugs, but taught them the value of hard work and the importance of education and treating others with respect. Together, they attended church and kept God at the center of their lives.

It’s part of the reason that Pearlie Smith, 70, also believes it was divine intervention the day she played the winning numbers at a Trenton 7-Eleven. The numbers— 5, 25, 26, 44, 66 and Powerball, 9 — were played after they came to the family in a dream, according to Pearlie Smith’s eldest daughter, Valerie Arthur.

The foundation will fund grassroots organizations focusing on education, Christian values, neighborhood development, youth and families, and other projects. There will be multiyear grants for organizations willing to participate in a training program during the entire life of the grant cycle, one-year grants for organizations that attend two technical workshops during the grant cycle, and summer programming for organizations that participate in one leadership development training session, according to the site.

“We’re making an investment in our community, and when you make an investment, you expect a return,” Arthur said. “So we want to see what the social return is going to be, what the educational return is going to be, what the transformations in people’s lives is going to be.”

O.J. Simpson is going free. If only he would go away A diminished Juice brings back all the stains that can’t be scrubbed clean

After O.J. Simpson’s hearing before the Nevada Board of Parole Thursday, these were the options: He could go back to jail or he could go free.

Now that he has been granted parole, making him eligible for release in October, what we really need is for Simpson to go away.

Simpson, 70, is serving a nine- to 33-year sentence for a botched 2007 armed robbery to recover sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas hotel room. For many Americans, who believe he got away with murder in the 1995 “trial of the century,” where Simpson was acquitted of killing ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, it was a proxy sentence. A little cold, off-camera respite from the contradictions of race, class and celebrity that the Simpson ordeal exposed and the convulsions it caused.

I was a new reporter during Simpson’s first trial, one of dozens who fanned out across Washington, D.C., to get reaction after the verdict was read. I talked to one high school football player who said, “Now O.J. needs to stay black, for real,” and advised him not to “mess with no more white people.” None of that happened.

The spectacle of the Simpson murder trial faded, but for more than a decade, O.J. kept showing up. He gave interviews, showed off new girlfriends, tried to climb back into the grace of his Hall of Fame life. He struggled to reclaim that beloved pitchman swagger and the lifetime of cheers, forever disbelieving he had lost all that good white American love he’d been on the receiving end of since his days as a standout running back at USC. He thought he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose voters. But prison time took him out of circulation, and granted the rest of us a reprieve from grappling with whatever it was we were sure he stood for, or just from arguing with older relatives at the family barbecue who all wanted to share their theory of the case.

Watching the parole board hearing brought back a sampling of the attendant Simpson drama: the cast of courtroom characters, the endless cable analysis, but most of all, Simpson himself. He is a man much diminished, which makes him more painful to watch than I remember.

He has represented all these plate tectonics in the world: excess, hyperbole, sensationalism, lurid headlines. Murder and domestic violence. He’s a reminder of the sanction of poverty and the triumph of celebrity. He’s the subject of TV series and award-winning documentaries and even so, it appears there is more to unpack and I don’t want to. We’ve already been waterboarded by all of that.

This was Simpson in micro. I looked at this old man who was still trying to conjure some of his old charm, but kept catching himself, realizing he doesn’t have the same currency, the same “Here comes the Juice!” ways. But he was using what he had left to make itty-bitty points that are important to his life but don’t stand for anything else — his classes in computer application to communicate with his grown kids, and shortcomings around regularly attending church services. He used to be this icon, running through airports in a white America that would never want to shoot him, and now he was partially relitigating his case at a parole hearing, talking about a gun he didn’t see but felt bad about anyway.

Simpson says he’s been a model prisoner and that a class about alternatives to violence has helped him, but mostly, he’s “lived a conflict-free life.” And we think about the photos of his second wife from his first trial, from when she was alive, and just beaten up, and we need him to stop talking now.

Arnelle Simpson, the oldest of Simpson’s four children, spoke on his behalf. “No one knows how much we’ve been through, this ordeal in the last nine years,” she said. She teared up and paused. “He’s my best friend and my rock.”

Simpson’s friend Bruce Fromong, a victim of the Las Vegas robbery who’s since reconciled with Simpson, spoke on Simpson’s behalf as well. “We all make mistakes,” he said, “and O.J. has made his.” Simpson was just trying to retrieve his personal effects, family photos, including pictures of his wife, Fromong said. “His first wife,” he hurriedly corrected, and we want him to stop talking as well. It’s a sad life and here’s this broken family and we want it all to disappear, because the only thing O.J. leaves us with is our wincing.

In the end, Simpson’s release came down to a parole procedural — an adding and subtracting of small factors that made him eligible to be released. Then we were left with analysis and replays. Simpson expressions on loop.

Simpson walked out of the hearing, and soon will walk into the wider world, but we’re still stuck in his spectacle. It’s spectacle we return to because it’s without resolution. A spectacle of racism, violence, wealth and uneven justice — all our founding stains. Simpson gets us scrubbing at the edges. But the stains remain, even if, magically, mercifully, we could make Simpson somehow disappear.

With ‘The Rich and The Ruthless,’ Victoria Rowell flips the soap opera script Rowell’s Rules: When you’re at the wheel, you can cast the net wide and hire black

Drucilla Winters. A fictional character on CBS’s The Young and The Restless portrayed by one of daytime TV’s hottest black women on the tube, Victoria Rowell. Drucilla was spicy. She came in with a fiery personality that kept faithful viewers watching. So when Drucilla fell off a cliff on April 4, 2007, with no body to be found, fans were left waiting and wondering whether she would ever make her return to the daytime soap world.

Rowell has moved on and has created her own lane. Her new vision, a six-part scripted comedy series titled The Rich and The Ruthless, will premiere on the Urban Movie Channel on July 28.

“As you know, I’ve had more than 14 years of daytime drama experience beyond The Young and the Restless, but that is the most iconic role that I played in daytime, as Drucilla Winters,” Rowell said. “I very quickly saw the disparity for African-Americans not only in front but behind the camera and was very active in diversity in the genre of daytime drama television.”

Rowell, the creator and director of the dramedy, is also one of the show’s stars. She first launched a Kickstarter campaign for the pilot episode four years ago. Featured in UMC’s summer lineup, The Rich and The Ruthless is a fictional story of the first black-run daytime drama in the soap opera industry and is loosely based off her novels The Young and the Ruthless and Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva.

“The premise of the show is a black-owned soap opera that’s been on the air on a fictitious network in Hollywood for 20 years and the network is trying to get rid of them,” Rowell said. “This is a dramedy. It’s wonderful. It’s a behind-the-scenes from the black perspective looking out on the perspectives of fans, the perspective of the actors and the balancing act for a black actor or actress in Hollywood taking care of their family back in Mississippi.”

Rowell said she decided to choose Mississippi because of a relationship with Myrna Colley-Lee, the founder of SonEdna, a foundation that celebrates and promotes the literary arts and writers of all genres and backgrounds.

“I was introduced to her literacy organization many years ago and was invited to Mississippi,” Rowell said. “I had the great honor of collaborating. I was invited to the local high school, and I spoke and I was taken to the SonEdna art center. I’m also involved in literacy. The high incidence of illiteracy in the South and teen pregnancy, I absolutely wanted to make Mississippi a part of the story. Besides that, the historical civil rights aspects of Mississippi.

“To me, it all matters. It all collides. It all has to matter. In my opinion, to live a full, bountiful, abundant and give-back life, you have to know the history. You’ve got to look back to move forward.”

In The Rich and the Ruthless, all the drama begins when greedy studio executives inform self-made businessman and showrunner Augustus Barringer (Richard Brooks) that his show is getting booted off stage for another talk show after two decades on the air. Augustus is ready to fight back by any means necessary to stay on the air — even if that means filming out of his sleek Hollywood mansion or moving the company to Jamaica. Meanwhile, his unpredictable wife, Kitty Barringer (Rowell), is not happy about any of it. After recently returning home from her latest stint in rehab, she decides it’s time to claw her way back up the cliff and make her soap diva comeback to her role on the show as Blue Sylla, much to her husband’s chagrin.

“I won’t give it away, but it’s a family-owned business, so think Game of Thrones meets The Office meets Empire, sort of the political mores, dealing with the tug of war with the network, dealing with the family dynamics and power struggle,” Rowell said.

Rowell’s journey includes being raised in foster care as a child. But she overcame everything and became a successful model, dancer, actress, mother and activist. She is particularly passionate about fairness for black actors, so much so that she decided to take the lead as a creator and director so she could create positions and cast talented actors in nontraditional roles.

“I grew up in foster care for 18 years,” Rowell said. “I understand disparity. I understand racism. I understand all of that. I understand what poverty looks like. I do my job. No one works between two companies for 22 years not doing their job. I was able to learn and glean a lot from that experience, but at the same time, I thought, I have to do more than collect a check. I have to do my level best too … and if it means creating my own show, all the better. I don’t find it to be a hindrance at all. It has only empowered me and made me stronger. I manifested The Rich and the Ruthless so that I could be at the wheel and cast the net wide and have a black casting director and wardrobe, costume designer, and have black producers and be the executive producer, have black writers, cast the net wide for black catering, and so on.

“So you see, when you’re at the wheel, you can cast the net and hire black. We’re there. That’s a myth, that we don’t exist. Not only do we exist, but we have our union cards as well in some cases, many cases.”

Rowell, who wrote the New York Times best-seller The Woman Who Raised Me, portrays the series as a soap within a soap. Rowell stars alongside Brooks (Being Mary Jane, Law & Order), Dawnn Lewis (A Different World, Major Crimes), Robert Ri’chard (Coach Carter, Chocolate City), Chrystale Wilson (The Players Club), Caryn Ward Ross (The Game), Michael Colyar (The Princess and the Frog), Alesha Reneé and more.

Rowell has earned three Daytime Emmy nominations and 12 NAACP Image Awards. She had an eight-season stint on Diagnosis Murder as a medical examiner and a handful of feature-film roles.

“Being Emmy-nominated is hugely a part of my story and my imprint as an actress,” Rowell said. “I’ve worked in Hollywood over 25 years with the likes of Sam Jackson to Eddie Murphy to Will Smith. I’ve worked with Mario Van Peebles. I’ve worked with Forest Whitaker, Dick Van Dyke, Jim Carrey, lots of incredible actors, black and white. Roc Dutton, Robert Townsend and, of course, Shemar Moore. Today, my highest achievement is being owner, creator, executive producer, director and co-writer and actor of … and in The Rich and the Ruthless.”

R. Kelly story makes us realize that no one cares about black women The evidence is clear: In this country, some women don’t matter

For far too long, I’ve been arguing about the basic worth of black women and girls. It’s tiresome, and frankly, at this point my face should really look like I belong with these guys:

Members of the Blue Man Group.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

And as long as I’ve been arguing, both in my personal life and in my professional one, that black women and girls matter, Robert Kelly, better known as rhythm and blues singer R. Kelly, has been a central and contested point of that discussion.

Fifteen years ago, when I was a freshman at Howard University, I got into a heated argument with the boy I was seeing and his friends. The now-notorious video of Kelly urinating on a 14-year-old girl was available for consumption on the internet, to satisfy either a sick curiosity or darker urges. (It later became the central piece of evidence in his 2008 criminal trial for making child pornography in which he was acquitted of all charges.) It was widely referred to as the “R. Kelly sex tape.”

The boy, who was 19 at the time, and his friends argued that Kelly was not guilty of rape and certainly should not be held responsible for engaging in sex with an underage girl.

“Did you see what she was doing in that tape?” he asked. “She didn’t look 14.”

“It doesn’t matter!” I remember screaming, my words echoing through the halls of Howard’s architecture studio. “SHE’S STILL 14! SHE’S A CHILD!”

The boys’ opinion was so commonplace that it didn’t even register as scandal, let alone as the sort of sentiment you kept to yourself if you didn’t want to be seen as a rape apologist. This wasn’t an idea he was too ashamed to share. Quite the contrary.

I was furious and hurt. I was supposed to be at a place surrounded by men and boys who loved and respected black women. But we had differing opinions, not only about how respect was defined but also who was deserving of it. It was clear that they’d learned that some black women simply didn’t matter.

Rather than interrogating why a 14-year-old would have this sort of sexual knowledge (someone “older and wiser” must have taught her), and whether the sharing of such knowledge was remotely ethical, the boys had immediately identified the girl as a slut. This wasn’t just a moral judgment, it was one that absolved them, and other men, of any obligation to see this girl as just that — a girl, on the short end of a screwed-up power dynamic.

Her worth was tied to her morality, which was tied to her sexual experience. And since she appeared to be experienced, and inappropriately so, she was disposable. She certainly wasn’t worth bringing down the musical empire of someone as famous and important as Kelly, they thought.

This is a message women hear over and over again, from the trial of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to the high-profile rape cases out of Steubenville, Ohio, and Maryville, Missouri.

And it’s one that carries a special resonance for black women and girls. We make conscious and unconscious decisions about who matters and who does not. As Zora Neale Hurston put it in Their Eyes Were Watching God: “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.”

In November 2013, Mikki Kendall created the hashtag #FastTailedGirls to discuss the premature sexualization of black girls and how we punish and blame them for it rather than hold black men and boys responsible for their actions.

Even when they realize something’s wrong, black women and girls are continually pressured to keep their mouths shut to protect black men who commit violence, sexual or otherwise, against them because of some warped definition of racial solidarity. Every once in a while, that pressure bubbles over and into the news, as it did in the 2016 Buzzfeed News story about the way accusations of rape are scuttled at Spelman, Morehouse and other historically black colleges and universities. It sprang up further when another anonymous Spelman freshman, driven to leave the school, started a Twitter feed, @RapedatSpelman.

“Spelman has taught me to be a free thinking woman and also to be a woman who has to keep her mouths closed to protect her ‘brothers,’ ” she tweeted.

In 2015, Jewel Allison, a writer and music educator who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, revealed that she’d kept the assault a secret “because [she] didn’t want to let black America down.”

And now we’re talking about R. Kelly again.

We were talking about Kelly in 1994 when he married Aaliyah when she was 15.

We were talking about Kelly in 2002 when a video appeared to show him sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.

We were talking about Kelly again in 2013 when The Village Voice revisited the accusations against Kelly.

And yet he’s still free, he’s still rich and, according to a new Buzzfeed News story from former Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis, who broke the original stories, Kelly allegedly has been brainwashing young women and holding them inside a “cult.” Kelly issued a statement denying the new allegations.

Hats off to DeRogatis. But it only takes a cursory glance at the news and events of the past few years to see the fuller context of how black women and girls are dismissed in America:

  • Black girls are perceived as less innocent and less in need of protection than white girls, according to a new study from the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. The study’s authors call this phenomenon “adultification.” Little wonder then that state legislatures across the country send the message that the bodily autonomy of young women and girls doesn’t matter, in the form of laws that still allow adult men to marry girls as young as 12.
  • Black women suffer from higher rates of death from domestic violence, and yet the Mississippi Legislature refuses to make domestic violence grounds for divorce, essentially throwing women away to be battered. “Mississippi Goddam,” indeed.
  • The then-president of the United States created a program called My Brother’s Keeper that targets boys of color. But girls of color, specifically black girls, are suspended from school at higher rates and endure systematic criminalization designed to push them out of school.
  • When black girls and women are fired from their jobs or suspended from school for having “inappropriate” or distracting hair.
  • When Marissa Alexander doesn’t enjoy the same protections offered by Florida’s Stand Your Ground law when attempting to protect herself from domestic violence as George Zimmerman was.
  • When the “Grim Sleeper” is able to kill at least 10 black women, and possibly as many as 25, over the course of two decades because no one bothered to engage in meaningful detective work when they went missing.

The parents of the women Kelly is allegedly holding will soon hold a news conference about their accusations, DeRogatis has said. It’s noteworthy that these parents refuse to be cowed by Kelly’s money and social standing.

But beyond that, a public event like this serves another purpose: It says that for once, when it comes to black women, someone gives a damn.

Daily Dose: 7/17/17 R. Kelly’s latest disgusting scheme is exposed

All right, all, I’ll be on The Ryen Russillo Show on Monday from 1-4 p.m. EST, which is also on ESPNews if you want to see me while I talk. But, if you want to hear The Morning Roast from Sunday, without pictures, there’s that too.

R. Kelly is a monster. At this point, that’s a pretty irrefutable fact. Long after the urination incident that instantly sunk the R&B singer’s reputation in many circles, he’s still apparently making music, and people are still falling for his grotesque bit. In his latest piece, Jim DeRogatis, a music journalist who’s made a life’s work out of exposing the artist’s acts, explains how Kelly is now basically running a cult for young women. It should suprise no one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not newsworthy. The scariest part is that none of it is really illegal.

If you don’t watch gaming on television, I wouldn’t blame you. But Sunday night I found myself bored while in a hotel room, so I decided to watch the Street Fighter V tournament at EVO 2017. There was a guy who went by the name of Punk, a relatively soft-spoken kid from Philly who was banging people out. But the best part was that they kept showing his mom, who was AMPED in the crowd. If this is how all gamers’ parents celebrate, I’d watch it every single night. Her pride in her son made the whole thing worth it.

50 years ago, Detroit burned. Now, depending on who you ask, the descriptors of the event are different. Some will call them riots. Others will call it a rebellion. And some will call it an uprising because of everything that was surrounding the economic condition of the city at the time. Now, a movie simply titled Detroit about the 1967 incident is coming out, lending new interest to the history of the city. A friend of mine saw it and said it made him physically uncomfortable. Here’s a look back on that time in the Motor City.

The BIG3 is trying, but things are hard. When games aren’t on live, and teams are making trades of players no one’s ever heard of, it can be tough to gain traction. As a gimmick it’s been fun, and everyone’s got an uncle who’s really into it, but right now it’s a sideshow. A good one, though. But when Allen Iverson comes back to Philadelphia and can’t play because of undisclosed reasons, that’s a problem. The 76ers legend was in the building but did not actually participate over the weekend. Bummer. I hope Bubba Chuck is OK.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Bringing a dog on a plane is such a scary venture. It’s why people go well out of their way to make sure that they can sit right next to them if they are forced to bring their animals to travel. But don’t tell that to ScHoolboy Q, the TDE rapper, who had his canine shipped to the wrong city by an airline. Nightmare scenario.

Snack Time: Guess what? Racism and consistent discrimination actually have real effects on your life beyond just living and dying. A new study reveals that psychological trauma and poverty may lead more black folks to dementia.

Dessert: I’ve been banging this new French Montana album all weekend. Don’t at me.

Murder of new Army officer at Maryland part of a frightening surge in racial violence FBI investigating death of third-generation military man as potential hate crime

Summer semesters are often quiet in the ROTC offices at Bowie State University. The unit’s cadets are away, training in places from Kentucky to Tanzania. Those who graduated are launching their military careers.

But this summer the quiet is tinged with grief because one of their recent graduates, a newly minted officer, is dead. He was not killed in some faraway conflict. Instead, he was the victim of a murder the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime at the nearby University of Maryland.

Lt. Richard W. Collins III, 23, was stabbed to death in the wee hours of May 20 as he waited for an Uber ride-sharing car with two friends on the College Park campus. Two days earlier, he had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and the following week he was set to graduate from Bowie State, a historically black university between Washington, D.C., and Annapolis, Maryland.

Collins, a third-generation military man who aspired to be a general, was killed in what police called a “totally unprovoked” attack. Court papers describe a white man screaming as he approached Collins and his two friends from a nearby stand of trees. “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” the man said to Collins. Collins replied, “No,” and the man plunged a 3- or 4-inch knife into his chest, according to charging documents.

Police charged University of Maryland student Sean Urbanski, 22, with the murder. Urbanski, who grew up in a middle-class family in suburban Maryland, was described by authorities as a member of a Facebook group called Alt-Reich: Nation, which trafficked in racist, sexist and anti-Semitic material.

“Suffice it to say that it’s despicable,” University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell told reporters. “It shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African-Americans.”

Within minutes of the stabbing, police found Urbanski sitting on a bus stop bench just 50 feet from the murder scene. They said a knife was in his right front pocket. Also, they noted, the crime was captured on video. Urbanski has pleaded not guilty and is being held in a suburban Maryland jail without bail. His lawyer, William C. Brennan, told a judge that his client was incoherent when he was arrested, and that drugs and alcohol likely played a role in the crime.

Prosecutors expect Urbanski to be indicted by mid-July on first-degree murder charges that could land him in prison for life without a chance of parole. The FBI is continuing to scour his cellphone records, emails and social media footprint for evidence needed to support federal hate crime charges, which could expose Urbanski to the death penalty. Prosecutors noted that his membership in the Facebook group, where one source in the office said his activity was limited to “liking” several posts, would not by itself be enough to sustain a hate crime prosecution.

Investigators may or may not find enough evidence for Collins’ murder to meet the legal standard for a hate crime. But its elements — a black victim, a white suspect with a connection to extremist social media, and the fact that Collins and Urbanski were complete strangers — have led many observers to see it as part of the mounting toll of racist incidents accompanying the rise of President Donald Trump.

After the murder, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by 55 members of Congress, condemning the murder as “racially motivated” and pointing to a troubling rise in extremist activity on college campuses around the country. The NAACP, Brown and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, called on the Trump administration to condemn the attack.

Participants at a candlelight vigil for Richard Collins III listen to a speaker before balloons are released in his memory at Bowie State University on Monday, May 22, 2017 in Bowie, Md. Collins, a student at the historically black university, was stabbed while visiting the University of Maryland, College Park. Sean Urbanski, a white student, has been charged with murder in Collins’ death.

AP Photo/Brian Witte

The president has spoken out against racial intolerance on several occasions: in interviews, on Twitter, in official statements and, perhaps most notably, in an address to a joint session of Congress in February. But critics say the president’s efforts have been sporadic and at times come off as perfunctory. Also, they have not matched the racist and anti-immigrant passions his often caustic presidential campaign stirred among some of his supporters.

“When individuals occupying our nation’s highest office spew hate-filled rhetoric and unapologetically associate with and staff the White House with white supremacists, our entire nation drinks from the same poisonous well,” said NAACP chairman Leon W. Russell.

Trump has said nothing about Collins’ murder, despite the victim’s military pedigree.

“I don’t know of any statement or reaction that came out from the White House on the murder of Lt. Collins,” said Brown, himself a retired Army colonel. “Quite frankly, I think the president has been lukewarm at best in demonstrating his disdain and disgust and disagreement with hate crimes and extremist misconduct. He has spoken on a few incidents, but it has been very lukewarm.”

The White House did not respond to an email requesting comment on the president’s silence.

Since last fall, hate crime watchdogs have cataloged 150 racist incidents on college campuses in 33 states, Brown’s office said. Off campus, there have been many more. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 1,000 bias-related incidents across the country in just the first month after the election. Many of the alleged perpetrators alluded to Trump or his campaign slogans. Hate crimes were up 6 percent in 25 large cities across the country in 2016, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Of the 25 localities surveyed, 14 hit or tied multiyear highs, the report said.

The number of incidents has tailed off, but alarming instances of racial violence have continued. On Memorial Day weekend, two men were stabbed to death and a third was badly injured on a train in Portland, Oregon, when they stood up to a man who was harassing two Muslim women. In court, the suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, shouted, “Death to the enemies of America. … You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism.”

That same weekend, a white man was arrested and charged with intentionally running over two Native American men with his pickup truck in Washington state. One victim died and the other was hospitalized. Also that weekend, a white man yelling racial slurs and wielding a machete attacked and seriously wounded an African-American man in a Clearlake, California, apartment parking lot.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says some people take the president’s often harsh rhetoric as a signal to act on their racist sentiments.

“Trump’s racially charged, xenophobic campaign, coupled with his attacks on so-called political correctness, not only energized the white supremacist movement but gave people a license to act on their worst instincts — their anger, their prejudices, their resentments,” the law center’s president Ben Cohen wrote in an article on the organization’s website.

Even as the nation’s racial climate has turned stormy, few at Bowie State expected the hate to hit so close to home. Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, an Army Ranger who leads the university’s ROTC program, said it took a while for news of Collins’ murder to sink in.

“Initially, there was just disbelief,” he said. “I got a call on Saturday, and I don’t think it sunk in until I was at church the next day. This was a young man who did everything he was supposed to do. If he were on the front line, you would be a little more prepared for it.”

Montrose Robinson, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and the ROTC’s recruiting operations officer at Bowie State, had known Collins since shortly after he sent her an email inquiring about an ROTC scholarship in late 2012. It did not take long for him to be approved.

“He was a star, a model cadet,” Robinson said. “He excelled in physical training, and he was an excellent student. He wanted to be a general officer, and he had what it would take to be a general.”

The military had always been a big part of Collins’ life. His grandfather, Richard W. Collins Sr., served in a field artillery unit in the Korean War. His father, Richard W. Collins Jr., retired from the Navy after serving 25 years as an air traffic controller, with postings in places including Vietnam and Somalia. Collins, who had earned a business administration degree at Bowie State, was Airborne qualified and headed to be an intelligence officer.

Even while attending Annapolis Area Christian School for his final two years of high school, Collins had something of a military bearing. He was quiet and well-mannered, athletic and team-oriented. He played soccer and lacrosse and was devoutly religious. After he moved on to college, he would sometimes be seen in his ROTC fatigues picking up his younger sister after school.

“You always had the sense that he was well-raised. He was very respectful. He seemed to put effort into his studies,” said Don Wiley, a dean at Annapolis Area Christian. “He was gentlemanly and took care of his business. You got the sense the parents had sent him on a trajectory to become an officer and gentleman.”

The murder touched off an outpouring of support for the Collins family, who remain too devastated to talk publicly, according to a family spokesman. There were vigils at both the University of Maryland and Bowie State, and flowers, cards and notes of condolences have poured in from across the country.

But, disturbingly, not everyone has shared that sense of sorrow. Online, someone who identified himself as a classmate of Urbanski’s wrote in a screenshot released by police: “F— yeah Sean!!!!! That’s what happens when n—–s try and get frosty with an OG! Talk s—, get stabbed lol.”

In a comment on Facebook, Welby Burgone, a high school classmate of Urbanski’s who was training to be a dispatcher for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, posted an image that seemed to support that sentiment. It showed a crab holding a knife with the words “You mess with crabo You get stabo.”

The department denounced the post as “extremely insensitive.” Days after Anne Arundel police were alerted to the image via Twitter, Burgone was no longer working for the department, a spokesman said. Burgone could not be reached for comment.

The ROTC’s Robinson said it is unlikely that Collins would have attributed the nation’s always fraught racial climate to the president’s campaign. Collins was not one to “see race,” she said, and he had friends of many races. The night he was murdered, she said, he was out with two friends: an Asian woman and a white man.

“That’s who he was. He just looked at people’s spirit and who they were,” Robinson said. “When you are in uniform, you support the commander in chief, and I know that Richard did like the president. He is commander in chief, and Richard was excited and ready to serve.”

Pots & pans: My parents, both born on July Fourth, didn’t live to see their American dream For my father, our nation was fundamentally immoral. My mother saw a work in progress.

Tomorrow, I’ll pause and think of my parents, both born on the Fourth of July. My father grew up in the rural South, part of a sharecropping family. My mother, the daughter of a laborer and a conjure woman, was born in Philly, just as our nation was.

Sometimes, after summer Sunday dinners with Monday’s toil hours away, they’d cruise into a familiar conversation. It would begin with scenic meanderings about what they’d do after they retired. It would end at a fork in the road, if not an impasse: a discussion of how black people should seek to live their lives in America.

My mother, a child of the Depression, gloried in every example of black people doing unprecedented things, from Jackie Robinson playing major league baseball to Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price in opera.

Although my mother didn’t live to see it, the election of Barack H. Obama as president of the United States exemplified her fondest dream: a black person climbing to unprecedented heights, buoyed by hard work, intelligence and faith.

My father, born before the beginning of World War I, saw America as a nation whose fundamental immorality was revealed in its inability to recognize black people as decent and hardworking. If he’d lived, he’d see post-Obama America and the rise of white nationalism here and throughout Europe as ample evidence that nothing had changed and nothing ever would.

My mother felt that things changed all the time. She helped change things in small ways. When she was a young woman, she stood up for herself on her government jobs. “Jeffery,” she’d say, “I was a pistol.”

Had she lived, my mother would have smiled while the black president of the United States spoke at her grandson’s 2016 Howard University graduation. She would have smiled when she learned that her grandson had the audacity to hope he could earn a living as a film critic.

Had he lived, my father would have shaken his head when the black president said in that graduation speech that to make progress folks had to be willing to compromise, even with those they knew were wrong. My father didn’t believe anything could be gained from compromising with people he knew were wrong.

Although my father would not have discouraged my son’s ambitions, Daddy would have shaken his head at a grandson who, like me, didn’t hope to work for himself.

Although my father worked on an assembly line in the 1960s, he’d owned a garage in the 1950s and a store before serving in the Navy during World War II. He’d also tried to start an import-export business. On occasion, he played and hit the street number. He was always looking for ways to free himself and his family from the dictates of workaday life in black America.

His childhood in a sharecropping family had taught him that the people who owned the land and kept the books also made sure that the workers remained in poverty.

My mother believed fervently in the richness of the American promise. While striving for success, she sought to stand on the shoulders of her ambition and commitment to excellence. She thought that setbacks dictated that she or the larger black community had to work harder or employ different strategies, set new goals.

My father believed that anyone who committed himself to competing in a game where he didn’t make the rules was bound to lose again and again.

Neither of my parents lived to retire. Their Sunday conversations from more than 50 years ago live only in my fond memories. But the explosive question of how black people should best pursue the American dream, or endure when that dream gets deferred, gets answered by each new generation in different ways, by individuals and through national movements, Crispus Attucks to JAY-Z, abolition to Black Lives Matter.

As always, the African-American journey continues in our country. We are not alone: We lock arms with everyone who knows that the nation’s greatness is rooted in its people rather than clever phrases. With each step forward, we carry the nation and its most cherished ideals to higher ground.

And the rockets’ red glare.

JAY-Z responds to Beyoncé and other news of the week The Week That Was June 26-30

Monday 06.26.17

The 2017 BET Awards finally ended at midnight ET. Following a dust-up between rappers Migos and Joe Budden at the awards show, adult film star Brian Pumper tweeted he “woulda smacked fire outta all 3 of the migos.” After meeting Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas two years ago, NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson told Thomas he loved his game and then went to a spades tournament. Despite being rated the worst point guard defender in the NBA, Thomas received a vote for the All-Defensive teams. For the first time in Pew Research Center history, a majority of Republicans do not oppose same-sex marriage. White House adviser Ivanka Trump, who holds a political position, said she tries “to stay out of politics.” In “of course it was Mississippi” news, a historical marker commemorating teenager Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and lynched, was vandalized. The White House Twitter account sent out a graphic stating that Obamacare was supposed to cover over 23 million Americans by 2017 but has only reached 10 million, saying the Obama administration was “off by 100%.” Tiger blood enthusiast Charlie Sheen is auctioning off Babe Ruth’s championship ring; the bidding has surpassed $600,000. A group that opposes the GOP-authored health care reform bill flew a banner over the West Virginia state capitol targeting Sen. Dean Heller, the only problem being that Heller is a senator from Nevada. Taylor Swift sent a congratulatory video message to NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, jokingly acknowledging that she taught Westbrook how to play basketball, dribble, and “shoot hoops.” The father of loudmouth parent LaVar Ball agrees with his son that he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one. Later that day, LaVar Ball appeared on WWE’s Monday Night Raw with his sons, 15-year-old LaMelo and 19-year-old Lonzo; LaMelo yelled “beat that n—-s a–” twice into a live microphone.

Tuesday 06.27.17

The fiance of Grammy award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson wants to wrestle LaVar Ball. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who three months ago said Americans would have to choose between the new iPhone or health care, believes members of Congress should be given a $2,500 housing allowance. Seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe kept his foot in his mouth by refusing to apologize for comments made about 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams. A state-run news agency in North Korea has deemed President Donald Trump’s “America First” initiative “Nazism in the 21st Century.” Elsewhere in Asia, Netflix comedy BoJack Horseman has been pulled from a Chinese streaming service due to violating a government regulation surrounding TV content. Former NFL quarterback Vince Young, upset about not being given another chance in the league, called out Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: “He leads the league in interceptions, and he’s still f—ing getting paid? I mean, what the f— is going on?” Two South Carolina inmates serving life sentences said they killed four of their blockmates, hoping to be put on death row; the duo lured the four inmates into their cell with promises of coffee, cookies and drugs. Women dressed as characters from Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale — based on a 1985 book about a totalitarian U.S. government — protested the GOP health care bill outside the U.S. Capitol building. Despite his spokesman saying otherwise just one week ago, comedian Bill Cosby denied that he is conducting a speaking tour about sexual assault, stating that “the current propaganda that I am going to conduct a sexual assault tour is false.” A previously recorded song featuring noted feminists Chris Brown, Tyga and R. Kelly was released by a German production team. A Georgetown University study found that Americans view black girls as “less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers”; the researchers said this can lead to harsher punishments and fewer mentorship opportunities. A charity fund for a South Bronx, New York, community, created by the New York Yankees in response to the club taking over 25 acres of parkland for its new stadium, has donated just 30 percent of its funds to charities in the same ZIP code as the stadium. A fake March 2009 Time magazine cover of Trump — with the headline “Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” — is featured in at least four of the president’s golf courses; the Time television critic at the time tweeted “if I had called The Apprentice’s ratings a “smash” in 2009, I would’ve had to resign in disgrace.”

Wednesday 06.28.17

President Trump accused Amazon or The Washington Post, the latter of which was responsible for unearthing the fake Time cover, of not paying “internet taxes” despite “internet taxes” not being a real thing. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson was fired on his day off. Philadelphia Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount could earn $50,000 for not being fat. Former NFL running back Clinton Portis once considered murdering his former business managers. Despite many reports claiming that NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest last season divided the San Francisco 49ers locker room, former 49ers coach Chip Kelly said “it never was a distraction.” No big deal, but there was a computer systems breach at at least one U.S. nuclear power plant. Former adult film star Jenna Jameson, in response to a Playboy columnist getting into a heated argument with deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday, said that the notorious magazine “thought it was a good idea to remove the nudity from their failing publication, I have to say they lost credibility”; Jameson added that Playboy should “have a seat.” Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, for some reason, joined the Chicago Cubs during their visit to the White House; Trump called Gilbert “a great friend of mine. Big supporter and great guy.” Not to be outdone, the Atlanta Hawks announced plans to incorporate a courtside bar in its arena. Two years after barricading themselves in the home of center DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers traded All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets and are now left with just Jordan. At 12:32 p.m. ET, a report came out that one of the reasons Paul left Los Angeles was because of coach Doc Rivers’ relationship with son and Clippers guard Austin; at 2:04 p.m., Austin Rivers tweeted “Dam….cp3 really dipped, was looking forward to lining up with u next year. Learned a lot from u tho bro. One of the best basketball minds.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who proposed the housing stipend for lawmakers, will join Fox News as a contributor once he resigns from congress. Later in the day, Fox News shockingly released a poll that found that 52 percent of voters view the Affordable Care Act “positively.” Danielle Bregoli Peskowitz, the 14-year-old Florida girl responsible for the “Cash me ousside, how bow dah” meme, pleaded guilty to “grand theft, filing a false police report, and possession of marijuana.”

Thursday 06.29.17

President Trump attacked MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on Twitter, calling the Morning Joe co-host “low I.Q.,” “crazy,” and accused her of “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” Brzezinski shot back with her own tweet, posting a photo of a Cheerios box with the text “Made for little hands.” First lady Melania Trump, who once said she would take up anti-cyberbullying as an official initiative, had her spokesman release a statement: “As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.” Twitter, fresh off of giving its users another update they didn’t ask for, is reportedly working on a prototype that would allow users to flag “fake news”; there was no mention of how CNN, ABC, NBC, and the New York Times and Washington Post might be affected. Proving the old adage that if first you don’t succeed, try again (and again): Trump’s travel plan partially went into effect. A Trump supporter with “Proud American” and “Love my Country” in her Twitter bio mistakenly used the Liberian flag emoji while professing to make America great again. A Fox News commentator quipped “we’re all gonna die” in response to Democrats charging that thousands will die from the GOP health care bill. A Maryland man who worked for the liquor control department, along with another man, stole over $21,000 worth of alcohol from trucks parked at a department of the liquor control warehouse. Recently acquired Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler gave out his phone number to reporters at his introductory press conference. Three Vanderbilt football players were suspended after their roles in an incident earlier this week that resulted in two of the players being shot at a Target; police say the football players brought a pellet gun to a gunfight over a stolen cellphone. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch completed a beach workout in pants and boots. The New York Knicks, fresh off of firing president of basketball operations Phil Jackson, misspelled the last name of first-round draft pick Frank Ntilikina, whom Jackson was responsible for drafting. A fitness trainer who has worked with Kim Kardashian put Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on a 4,800-calories-a-day diet to help lose weight. Habitual cultural appropriators Kylie and Kendall Jenner, the latter of woke Pepsi fame, apologized for selling $125 T-shirts with their faces superimposed over late rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. A Republican opposition researcher who claimed he worked for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted Russian hackers about then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

FRIDAY 06.30.17

Hip-hop star JAY-Z released his 13th studio album, 4:44, with one song mentioning singer Eric Benet’s past infidelity with former wife Halle Berry; Benet, who remarried in 2011, and was in no way forced to by his wife, tweeted back “Hey yo #Jayz! Just so ya know, I got the baddest girl in the world as my wife….like right now!” President Trump, who said in a tweet on Thursday that he didn’t watch MSNBC’s Morning Joe, tweeted that he watched Morning Joe. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) criticized the president’s tweet about Mika Brzezinski on Thursday, and then tweeted that he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act without a readily available replacement. UCLA will receive a $15 million signing bonus on top of its $280 million deal with Under Armour; the school’s student-athletes will receive a zero percent cut. New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman works on his catching skills by playing with rice. Rapper Nicki Minaj, not content with using only Dwyane Wade for sports references, used rarely known New York Giants punter Brad Wing in one of her lyrics: “I’m land the jump, Yao Ming the dunk/And I’m playing the field, Brad Wing the punt.” The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s office is challenging the constitutionality of a law that makes pointing a finger like a gun at a police officer a crime. In other JAY-Z news, Merriam-Webster dictionary made “fidelity” its word of the day. At least three people were shot at a New York City hospital.

Prodigy dies at 42 and other news of the week The week that was June 19-June 23

Monday 06.19.17

The state of North Carolina, that bastion of civil rights, had a law barring sex offenders from using social media sites, such as Facebook, invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court also ruled that rejecting trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment; the Washington Redskins, locked in their own legal battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, wasn’t a party in the current case but supported the decision, which ruled in favor of Asian-American band The Slants. New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, when learning of the decision, referred to The Slants’ members as “Oriental Americans,” and when told that phrase was offensive, he asked, “You’re telling me that using the word ‘Oriental American’ is a slight?” The 47-year-old husband of Beyoncé announced a new, stream-only album available exclusively to the hundreds of Tidal and Sprint customers. In honor of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, President Donald Trump released a statement praising two white men (President Abraham Lincoln and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger), and a sportswriter questioned the history of American police and slave patrols. A heady reporter tried Lyft Shuttle, the ride-sharing company’s beta-stage commuter option, which allows riders to “walk to a nearby pickup spot, get in a shared car that follows a predesignated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop” — or, in other words, a bus. A data firm hired by the Republican National Committee left sensitive information — including names, dates of birth and home addresses — of nearly 200 million registered voters exposed to the internet; the company responsible, Deep Root Analytics, calls itself “the most experienced group of targeters in Republican politics.”

The Philadelphia 76ers officially acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, paving the way for the team to draft yet another player with past leg issues. Markelle Fultz, the first pick in Thursday’s draft, not only was traded from 53-win team to one that won just 28 games last season but also briefly considered signing with LaVar Ball’s Big Baller Brand over Nike. A Green Bay Packers fan and Wisconsin resident who, for some reason, has Chicago Bears season tickets, sued the Chicago franchise for not allowing him to wear Packers gear on the sideline at Soldier Field; the Wisconsin man told the court that the Bears “deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience.” In other bear news, three New Hampshire teenagers are being investigated for potential hate crimes for assaulting and yelling a racial slur at costumed Boston street musician Keytar Bear, who is black.

Tuesday 06.20.17

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t appear on camera as much because “Sean got fatter.” Former five-weight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard offered UFC fighter Conor McGregor one piece of advice for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August: “Duck.” FBI director nominee Christopher Wray once represented an American energy executive who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government, but Wray deleted that information from his official online biography sometime in 2017. Mattel diversified its Barbie and Ken doll lines, offering different sizes, skin tones and hairstyles, including man buns, cornrows and Afros. For the new heavyset Ken dolls, Mattel originally wanted to market them as “husky,” but, “A lot [of guys] were really traumatized by that — as a child, shopping in a husky section.” Twitter was in an uproar after it was reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot was paid just $300,000 for her role in the critically acclaimed, $500 million movie, compared with $14 million for Man of Steel’s leading man, Henry Cavill; the latter figure was not true. Imprisoned former football player O.J. Simpson, who is up for parole for burglary and assault next month, spends his time in prison watching his daughter’s show Keeping Up With the Kardashians; “He likes to keep up with all the gossip with them,” a former prison guard said. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, last heard fighting prostitutes in Arizona, has decided to donate his brain to scientists when he dies; Sapp said his memory “ain’t what it used to be.” New York rapper Prodigy, real name Albert Johnson, died at the age of 42; Prodigy, one half of acclaimed duo Mobb Deep, had recently been hospitalized because of sickle cell anemia. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top lawyer, hired his own lawyer. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, catching up to the 20th century, signed a bill that raised the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 18. An Algerian man was sentenced to two years in prison for dangling a baby out a 15th-floor window on Facebook, instructing his followers “1,000 likes or I will drop him.” A Canadian man stole a mummified toe that had been used as an ingredient in a hotel bar drink for more than 40 years; an employee said the hotel was “furious” because “toes are very hard to come by.” To test the performative advantages of the microbiome Prevotella, a Connecticut scientist performed a fecal transplant on herself, telling a news outlet: “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.” Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard, at 8:55 p.m. ET, tweeted, “Ok Twitter Fans ,, give me your thoughts , trades or otherwise & Remember 2B-Nice”; five minutes later, Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Wednesday 06.21.17

The Pentagon paid $28 million for “forest”-colored uniforms for the Afghan Army, yet “forests cover only 2.1% of Afghanistan’s total land area.” White House aide and former reality TV star Omarosa Manigault signs her name as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault” despite not being a high-ranking federal official or judge. Despite President Trump once valuing his Westchester, New York, golf course at $50 million, the Trump Organization valued the property at $7.5 million on tax forms, half of the town assessor’s valuation of $15.1 million, to pay less in property taxes. The Russian government, accused by U.S. authorities of spreading fake news to influence the 2016 presidential election, said it will “raise the issue of fake news” at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, calling it “a problem that should be defined and addressed collectively.” Although terrorism is defined as using violence for political reasons, the FBI said the shooting at a baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball Game by a white man had “no terrorism involved.” Meanwhile in Flint, Michigan, the stabbing of a police officer at an airport by a man who reportedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar” is being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism. A group of CIA contractors were fired from the agency for hacking a vending machine and stealing over $3,000 worth of snacks. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), best known for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last month, was sworn in to the House; the Democratic Party of Montana sent Gianforte an orange jumpsuit for his first day in office. The daughter of two dentists who had enough education to teach their children about stocks and investments, and who, herself, owns a multimillion-dollar company, was taught to save and now plans to retire at 40. In shocking news, a new study found that films with diverse casts outperform films that are overwhelmingly white. A police officer was acquitted of fatally shooting a black man. An auto insurance industry-funded study found that states with legalized recreational marijuana laws had a higher frequency of auto collision claims than states without such laws. Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert E. Murray sued comedian John Oliver for defamation after the HBO host used his weekly TV program to mock the energy executive, at one point calling Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil”; Oliver predicted on his show June 18 that Murray would sue him. Hall of Fame professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler, known for calling women’s breasts “puppies” and other sexist remarks, said even he hated the finish of a historic all-women’s match that ended with a man winning. In response to the new American craze fidget spinners, Chinese companies have started selling the Toothpick Crossbow, a small, $1 handheld crossbow that can fire toothpicks 65 feet; parents worry the crossbows could blind young children, and Chinese state media fear iron nails could be swapped in for the toothpicks. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said he is willing to trade 21-year-old center Kristaps Porizingis, who is 21, with the “future” of the team in mind.

Thursday 06.22.17

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, still visibly upset over the recent actions of Phil Jackson, pointed out that the Knicks president’s first front office deal back in 2014 was signing forward Lamar Odom, “who was on crack”; Odom was released from the team three months later. Meanwhile, an NBA prospect said Jackson was “falling in and out of sleep” during the prospect’s workout. Knicks owner James Dolan skipped out on the NBA draft to perform with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, at a local winery-music venue. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who last week said U.S. presidents “cannot obstruct justice,” said President Trump alleged he had tapes of former FBI director James Comey to “rattle” him. The president, who in May insinuated that he had “tapes” of conversations with Comey, tweeted that he, in fact, does not have any such tapes. The lack of diversity at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is so dire that some reporters have taken to calling the newspaper “White Castle.” In another example of “life comes at you fast,” Chicago Cubs outfielder and World Series hero Kyle Schwarber was demoted to Triple-A Iowa after batting just .171 through the first 71 games of the season. The trainer for former Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, in response to his client being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he’s met “drug dealers with better morals” than Bulls general manager Gar Forman. Hip-hop artist Shock G, best known for his seminal 1990s hit “Humpty Dance,” was arrested in Wisconsin on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession; there was no mention of whether or not the arrest took place at a Burger King restaurant. Just days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the company amid hostile work environment allegations, some company employees began circulating a petition to have Kalanick reinstated, stating “[Travis Kalanick], no matter his flaws (everyone has them) was one of the best leaders I have seen.” Montgomery County, Maryland, police are using DNA evidence to help create composite sketches of those suspected of sexual assault; the DNA, described as “bodily fluids,” is assumed to be male semen. A New York woman who traveled to the Dominican Republic to get reduced breast implants and liposuction developed an infection and now has a hole in one of her breasts; the woman, who traveled to the Caribbean island for a cheaper $5,000 procedure, will now pay over $10,000 in recovery costs. Famed comedian Bill Cosby is planning a series of town halls aimed at young people, specifically athletes, on how to avoid sexual assault allegations. After nearly three months of secrecy, Republican senators publicly released their version of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In unrelated news, only 38 percent of Americans want the president and Congress to repeal and replace the ACA.

FRIDAY 06.23.17

A Trump administration official once filed for bankruptcy because of his wife’s medical bills for treating her chronic Lyme disease. President Trump all but confirmed his former tweets about alleged “tapes” of former FBI director James Comey were an attempt to influence the director’s Senate testimony. Comey, who announced the reopening of an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, refused three weeks earlier to attach his name to a statement on Russia’s involvement in that election because “it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.” A North Korea spokesman said the death of American college student Otto Warmbier just days after he was released from imprisonment in the country is a “mystery to us as well.” NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who was in North Korea around the same time Warmbier was released last week, said dictator Kim Jong-Un is a “friendly guy,” and the two sing karaoke and ride horses together. Zola, a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, danced to (a dubbed-over version of) Michael Sembello’s 1996 hit “Maniac.” The St. Louis Cardinals announced their first Pride Night celebration at Busch Stadium; a disgruntled fan demanded that the team “stop forcing this down my throat.” Great Britain, loser of the Revolutionary War, is now putting chocolate in its chili. In response to Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp asking an English crowd “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” a White House spokesperson condemned the remarks: “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms, and it’s sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead.” Hours later, New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Trump campaign adviser, visited the White House; last year, Baldasaro said Hillary Clinton “should be shot in a firing squad for treason.” Five-foot-9 Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said if he were taller he’d be “the best player in the world.” Nearly 500 Syrian civilians have been killed in U.S.-led airstrikes against two provinces in the Middle Eastern country. Former MTV Jersey Shore star Ronnie Magro-Ortiz, describing his breakup with fellow reality TV star Malika Haqq, said he and Haqq were like “oil and water.” He added: “It tastes good with bread, but it’s just not mixing.” A jury deadlocked for the second time in the case of a police officer killing a black man. After less-than-stellar reviews from critics and Jada Pinkett Smith, and a 22 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me is being sued for copyright infringement by veteran journalist Kevin Powell.