Duo marries hip hop and social issues to raise  awareness and bolster female artists

In a commercial hip hop culture that often objectifies women, the duo behind Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen see themselves as the antidote. Bronxites Teresita “Lah Tere” Ayala and Kathleen Adams started the free annual event six years ago to showcase female artists and use hip hop to raise awareness around social issues. “This is our form of resistance, this is our platform to talk about pain,” Ayala said. “We’re the alternative space where you can get emotional healing through music, through visual arts, through dance. All the elements of hip hop are healing if you use them in the right way.” On Saturday, Mamma’s Hip Hop Kitchen returns to the the Hostos Center for Arts and Culture with a focus of educational equality. This year’s event, titled “No Limits…Knowledge is Power!,” will feature female educators, students, activists, DJs, emcees, b-girls, poets, visual artists and dancers who will advocate for comprehensive sexual education in schools, smaller class sizes and equal access to educational opportunities. Among this year’s performers are DJ Jasmine Solano, poet Nene Ali, violinist Charisa, the ViolinDiva and the Xclusive Step Team. Past showcases have explored faith, environmental justice and health issues, such as HIV/AIDS and nutrition. “It’s all about making sure our message reaches the community that really needs it the most,” said Adams. “And we especially want young girls to see they can be involved in the world of hip hop and be respected at the same time.” Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen, Vol. 6 will run from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Hostos Center for Arts and Culture, 450 Grand Concourse. To learn more, visit mhhk.org. n Musical March Pregones Theater kicks off its annual “March is Music” festival on March 6 with a free concert by So Percussion, a quartet that uses unexpected instruments such as Continue Reading

‘Personhood’ bills being pushed in U.S. as abortion, social issues come to fore in GOP presidential contest

Republicans hoping to take down both abortion and President Obama in 2012 think they have a winning issue in the debate over "personhood." In several states, new legislation defining human life as beginning at conception - not birth - is being voted on, making it a hot-button social issue a key factor in the election cycle. Just this week, Republican lawmakers in Virginia passed a personhood bill in the key battleground state's House of Delegates. And in Oklahoma, the Senate overwhelmingly gave the green light to a similar plan on Wednesday. In Virginia, the bill still must go to the Senate. And in Oklahoma it must go before the House before coming law. While such laws don't exist yet - personhood legislation lost in referendums twice in Colorado and once in Mississippi since 2008 - proponents of personhood are pointing to the latest victories in Virginia and Oklahoma as proof of their progress. And in at least a dozen states, anti-abortion activists are attempting to place such initiatives on the ballots this year. The laws, intended to override Roe v. Wade and effectively prohibit virtually all abortions, have Democrats and pro-choice activists concerned that the Supreme Court's landmark ruling, which gives women the constitutional right to have abortions, is slowly being dismantled. Proponents of personhood are optimistic the laws will be put in place soon. "I have absolute certainty we'll see personhood as law," Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, told the Daily News. "There's a good chance it could happen this year." Such legislation takes time, he said, just as gay marriage laws have. "We're really just starting out as a movement," he said. Most experts have long assumed the economy would be the biggest issue in the presidential election this fall. But with the jobless rate having gone down five months in a row, the culture war is coming to the fore, with renewed focus on the funding of Planned Parenthood, federal Continue Reading

Survey: La. remains staunchly conservative on social issues

Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage hasn’t changed the minds of most Louisianians who oppose the unions, an LSU survey reported.Fifty-three percent of those who responded to the seventh and final report in the 2016 Louisiana Survey series said they oppose same sex marriage compared to 41 percent who support it.On a related issue, about half of residents, 52 percent, believe businesses providing wedding services should be allowed to refuse services to same sex couples for religious reasons, while 41 percent believe they should be required to provide those services as they would to all customers.The report from the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication focused on social issues and showed the mood of the state remains solidly conservative in that realm."It’s not surprising to me the state still tilts in a conservative direction, but some of the individual issues did surprise me,” said Michael Henderson, research director at the Public Policy Lab.For instance, 73 percent of those surveyed oppose removing Confederate monuments from public spaces.“That’s a really large majority,” said Henderson, who noted the report also showed 49 percent of residents support issuing license plates that contain the image of the Confederate battle flag when requested by drivers compared to 44 percent who oppose the option.Among the other findings from the survey, which was conducted from Feb. 1-26 and had 1,0001 respondents:’Fifty-five percent believe abortions should be illegal in all or most cases.Two-thirds oppose allowing refugees from the conflict in Syria to settle in Louisiana.Sixty-one percent oppose a statewide ban on assault weapons, although oddly, 55 percent favor more gun restrictions when asked more broadly about gun control.Previous releases from the 2016 Louisiana Survey are available at www.pprllsu.com. Follow Greg Continue Reading

Governor hopefuls talk social issues in last debate

They took turns portraying Indiana as a state on the move or a state in decline. They touted job opportunities for the disabled, agreed that drug enforcement must focus on rehabilitation for users and prosecution for dealers, and talked up their own dedication to public service.Indiana gubernatorial candidates John Gregg, Eric Holcomb and Rex Bell even got into a possible pardon for Keith Cooper, a Chicago-area man wrongfully convicted of armed robbery, during their third and final debate at the University of Southern Indiana Tuesday night.But while the face-off in USI's Performance Center ostensibly was devoted to health and social issues, Democrat Gregg told reporters afterward it surprised him for what territory it did not cover -- namely, the state's debate over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights.Gregg said it has "by far been the most important social issue" in Indiana in recent years, citing what he called its paramount importance to business and industry.The Legislature's failure to pass statewide LGBT rights legislation "has damaged our reputation, plus it makes us look like we're not respecting all Hoosiers," Gregg said.Gregg also came out forcefully for repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which critics feared would allow businesses to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, and in favor of a bill declaring certain crimes hate crimes. Bell also made clear his opposition to RFRA.Republican Holcomb, who has decried what he calls Gregg's focus on sexual orientation issues and suggested it is not crucial to voters, did not share Gregg's dismay over its absence from the debate. Suggesting it didn't come up because it has been discussed in other debates, Holcomb said RFRA and its attendant controversial implications have been publicly aired, and neither side seems willing to give ground."We have a balance right now Continue Reading

Cuomo, advocates keep focus on social issues

ALBANY – Though the state's economy and education reforms are expected to dominate the legislative session, social issues will remain at the forefront this year.In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo again called for passage of a 10-point Women's Equality Agenda and he proposed criminal justice reforms in the wake of the July chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of police on Staten Island."The promise of equal justice is a New York promise, and it is an American promise," he said.Also, Cuomo is pressing for tougher laws to protect students from sexual violence on college campuses, a growing national problem. The state's colleges and universities already have enacted new protocols to address sexual assaults but Cuomo wants a state law for private colleges. Cuomo also seeks legislative approval to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as juveniles if arrested. They now are treated as adults.Some lawmakers have questioned whether the sexual-violence policies on campuses are too unclear, while the Women's Equality Act has stalled since Cuomo introduced it in 2013. The Women's Equality Act would install workplace protections for women, address housing discrimination and bolster human trafficking laws. The Republican-led Senate this month passed the provisions, except for one that would codify abortion rights into state law — a measure the GOP opposes. The Democratic-led Assembly won't pass the package without it, a position backed up by women's rights groups."It's time for the Assembly to join us in approving these bills without further delay," said Sen. Rich Funke, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, who gave the party's response to Cuomo's address. "The women of this state have already waited too long."Cuomo also called for passage of the Dream Act, which would provide tuition assistance to people living in the country illegally. Republicans oppose it but Cuomo hopes to tie the issue to an education investment tax credit, which would encourage Continue Reading

Student protesters occupy New School building, hold teach-ins about social issues

An Occupy Wall Street-inspired student protest has taken over a New School study center in Manhattan. Up to 140 students from schools across New York have set up camp on the second floor of a building above TD Bank on Fifth Ave. and 14th St. The windows are plastered with signs saying: “This is an occupied building. Join us. Take back what is already yours,” “99% Means Civil War” and “The Zuccotti Virus has Spread.” Yet students say they do not follow the same rules as Occupy Wall Street and are not about “getting attention” but “getting things done.” The occupation began after Thursday’s “Day of Action” when thousands of people marched from Foley Square across Brooklyn Bridge. New School president David Van Zandt and provost Tim Marshall met with the students and allowed them to continue their sit-in protest as long as they complied with certain rules. These include ensuring classes and student studying is not disrupted, property is not damaged and the occupancy limit, set by the FDNY, is not exceeded. “We support open discussion and discourse and all that good stuff but want to make sure this effort is not obstructing access to education, which is a prime goal for all of our students,” said senior press officer Sam Biederman. Organizers of the demonstration say they are also excluding the press and NYPD, and say their activities will include general assemblies, study halls and teach-ins to educate about social issues. The upper floors of the building are rented by the New School and are typically used as a student study center and student service office, officials said. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Tiger Woods takes on Jim Brown over NFL great’s charge that he’s ‘terrible’ on social issues

BETHESDA, Md. - Tiger Woods took on Jim Brown in his own, understated way Tuesday, rebutting the football great's criticism that Woods is "terrible" on social issues.Woods, who is hosting the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club, pointed to the Tiger Woods Foundation and its Learning Center, which received the bulk of the charitable proceeds this week. The Foundation's 2008 report claims it has reached an estimated 10 million kids since its inception in 1996, including the awarding of Earl Woods Scholarships. "I think I do a pretty good job as it is, what we're trying to do with the Foundation...how many kids we've helped ...what we're trying to do not just here in the United States, but what my mom's doing in Thailand, all these different things that we've done," Woods said. "And you know, I want to do it right and not just do it, but do it right." In an interview that has aired on HBO's "Real Sports," Brown said Woods didn't measure up when it came to social activism. "You know what's so interesting about Tiger to me?" Brown said. "If it was just a matter of me looking at an individual that's a monster competitor - this cat is a mamajama, he is a killer. He'll run over you, he'll kick your (butt). But as an individual for social change ... terrible. Terrible. Because he can get away with teaching kids to play golf, and that's his contribution. And in the real world, man, I can't teach no kids to play golf and that's my contribution, if I got that kind of power." It wasn't the first time Brown had criticized Woods nor the first time Woods' role as a social agent has been questioned. That started as far back as five years ago when he was ripped for remaining neutral in the dispute that Martha Burk had with Augusta National over female members. "What we've done so far has been very good, very efficient. (It's) taught a lot of kids how to get back and learn, learn how to lead, learn how to give back," Woods said of his work with his foundation. "Learn how Continue Reading

WNBA stars continue to be outspoken on social issues

WASHINGTON — When the Texas legislature pushed a controversial bill that targeted transgender people, Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner made her opposition clear.The Houston native teamed up with Layshia Clarendon of the Atlanta Dream to pen an op-ed against the bill. The bill, which would require transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their birth certificate, had already passed in the Texas Senate. The op-ed ran on NBC News on Monday afternoon.“Texas would be subjecting trans athletes to harassment, bullying and possible assault. While we do not identify as transgender, we know what it feels like to be singled out for not fitting neatly into social norms,” the two wrote.“The efforts of activists before us have provided us both with the opportunity to live authentic lives in the open and realize our personal and athletic potential through sport.“As beneficiaries of such brave efforts, we do not take our responsibility as activists lightly. We believe it is our moral duty to use the platform we have been given to speak out.”The Texas legislature adjourned one day early, ending its session Tuesday night. This abrupt end effectively killed the bill, just a day after Griner and Clarendon spoke out.While Griner was encouraged by the fact that the bill did not pass, she was still alarmed that it was up for debate in the first place.“I just stand on the fact that it shouldn’t be an issue. It should be a no-brainer. Why can’t we have equality for everybody? It should not even be a debate,” Griner said Friday.The Texas bill had also faced public opposition from the the NHL, the NBA and the NCAA.When a similar bill passed in North Carolina, the NCAA relocated seven championship events and the NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.The NCAA, NBA and NHL all speculated that they may not have used Texas as a site for future events had the bill passed.Griner, who Continue Reading

If NFL players, owners and executives can have dialogue on social issues, can’t we all?

NEW YORK — Anquan Boldin is as strong a messenger as anyone when it comes to understanding the issues that fuel the protests by NFL players that have lit up America’s favorite sport.Two years ago, Boldin’s cousin, Corey Jones, 31, was slain on the side of a highway by a plainclothes police officer in the wee hours of the morning while waiting for a tow truck.In August, Boldin, one of the gutsiest wide receivers and most respected locker room leaders you’ll ever meet, abruptly retired after 14 seasons. On the heels of the deadly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., he pledged to quit football and pick up the cause for social justice.Tuesday, he joined 12 active players in a meeting at NFL headquarters with Commissioner Roger Goodell, 11 team owners and other top officials from the league and players union. They discussed how the league could support the players in dealing with the social issues – the protest movement was originally ignited last year by Colin Kaepernick – that remain front and center on the grand stage of the NFL. More: NFL, players plan further talks on social issues after 'productive' meeting More: Colin Kaepernick not at owners meetings because he wasn't invited More: NFL hot seat rankings: Hue Jackson's winless Browns getting even worse “We don’t think these are just players’ issues,” Boldin told USA TODAY Sports as he strolled down Lexington Avenue after the three-hour meeting. “They are American issues, and we want to see it portrayed that way.”If you’re thinking that Goodell laid down the law and demanded that players must stand for the national anthem, think again. There’s no new policy, no threats like the one that came from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who maintains that he won’t play any players who don’t stand during The Star-Spangled Banner. Sure, Goodell stated in a memo last week that he Continue Reading

NFL, players plan further talks on social issues after ‘productive’ meeting

NEW YORK –  Progress but no resolution. That was the outcome Tuesday when the NFL hosted a summit of players, franchise owners and league and union executives to discuss the ongoing push for social justice issues and the protests players have taken to spread awareness for those causes. Amid controversy regarding the future of the protests, many involved said they found the discussion useful."I'm not sure we're close to a resolution, but conversations are ongoing," said Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. "It went from just phone calls to obviously, this is the first time meeting, so I don't think we can come up with a whole plan and solutions in two hours. But we're happy that these things are happening, and we look forward to the opportunity to be able to put a good plan together."NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league did not seek a commitment from players to stand for the anthem."We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to — issues to make our communities better," Goodell said. "I think we all agree that there's nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better."Goodell also unveiled a plan to address social issues, Jenkins said, though he declined to offer specific details. Jenkins added that the meeting was not dominated by the topic of protests.San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said that a subsequent meeting had been "tentatively scheduled" within the next couple weeks.“They were constructive talks,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said after the meeting. “We heard what (the players) had to say, and they heard what (the owners) had to say.”The meeting started at 10 a.m. ET inside NFL headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and lasted approximately three hours and 38 minutes. “Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work Continue Reading