Live from New York: More on media's role in forming perceptions and lives


SNL comedian Keenan Thompson. Photo courtesy of Pop Culture Geek (CC BY 2.0)

Guest Blogger Janet Dewart Bell

Saturday Night Live’s opening segment of the season finale on May 18 was with Keenan Thompson’s caricature of the Reverend Al Sharpton on his MSNBC program Politics Nation. The send up is increasingly offensive because there is little balance in how black men are portrayed on the program. Okay, I know that Jay Pharaoh has tried to channel President Obama since Fred Armisen's inspired portrayal of the "cool,"  unflappable Obama of a few years ago. Also, we've witnessed the transformation of guest host "Sir" Charles Barkley into a charming and lovable compassionate centrist. But I digress. 


Dad, I’m Home!: What Does It Mean to Be a Stay-at-Home Dad?


Photo courtesy by tienvijftien (CC BY 2.0)  

In the 1950s, stereotypical housewives, like June Cleaver, of Leave It To Beaver and Margaret Anderson of Father Knows Best, may have brought immense joy and laughter in the households of many, and perhaps, in many women, a longing to be as flawless as they were. The two cleaned, cooked, and mended with complete delight all while maintaining their composure, beauty, and subservience to the wise father. Since the 1950’s the typical role of a stay-at-home mom has significantly changed. Today, our social trends have shifted and men are taking on nontraditional roles, such as becoming a full time caregiver and tackling everyday household chores while women bring home the “bacon.” An exploration of traditional and nontraditional gender roles of parenting may help redefine stereotypical roles that are perpetuated by various media conglomerates, and move us toward greater acceptance of gender roles that defy our long held core values and beliefs about the role of men and women.


The Fair Housing Act at 45: A Time for Celebration and Action

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This blog is also available on Rooflines.org

April is fair housing month and, this year, it’s also the 45th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act. Adopted in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Fair Housing Act transformed the legal rights that all Americans have to rent and own homes in communities across the country. It marks a giant step toward equal opportunity for all.


A New Play's Timely Commentary on American Values


Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman (image from the film adaptation American Psycho)

The poet, author, and activist Maya Angelou once said of her work that “the idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” Art’s great power is to transform what’s possible by making us see and feel the world in new ways.


Immigration Bill Hits the Senate: Strategies to Win the Media Battle

Today, April 17, 2013, "a bipartisan group of lawmakers formally filed an 844-page immigration bill on the Senate floor early Wednesday, setting the stage for months of public debate over the proposal," reported the Washington Post. The time has come once again for what is presumed and very likely to be a long legislative battle on how to change our broken and outdated immigration policies. While elected officials and interest groups are arguing over policy, the public will be watching the developments and forming opinions through the media lens. For that, it is critical that proponents of positive policy reform, American values and rights for Americans and immigrants alike should continue to think strategically about the stories they tell to the public through the media.


This is Our Time: Remarks at The Opportunity Agenda’s Creative Change Award Ceremony

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Executive Director Alan Jenkins shared remarks (read below) at the 2013 Creative Change Awards. Photo courtesy of Tiffany L. Clark. 

On April 5, The Opportunity Agenda had the privilege of presenting the 2013 Creative Change Award to scholar, activist, and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry. Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, presented the award, and the night included master of ceremonies (and master comedienne) Negin Farsad and a brilliant performance by hip hop theater innovator Bryonn Bain. We also showed a short and exciting video about our Communications Institute for social justice leaders. It was one of the most inspiring, energizing, and soulful evenings in our organization’s history. I’m sharing here excerpts of my remarks from the event, which only begin to capture the energy of the event and the promise of this moment in America’s history.


Creative Change, Immigrant Justice & The Butterfly: Artists Rise Above and Transform the Narrative

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A vibrant Monarch butterfly with two faces in its wings connects across human and artificial borders, calling out to us, “Migration is Beautiful.”

Artist/Activist and Creative Change alumni Favianna Rodriguez and Julio Salgado (along with artists such as Cesar Maxit and Melanie Cervantes) are using the butterfly image as a vital metaphor of the possibilities inherent in the Immigrant Justice movement. As ABC News/Univision stated in its recent piece Hopeful,'Unapologetic' Art Rebrands the Immigration Movement , these artists are deploying the butterfly to help us understand that “Migration is natural, borders are not.” 


Is Ignorance Bliss? The Use of Degrading Lyrics to Sell

When you think of the illustrious, beautiful, and talented Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, what comes to mind? Well… I’m sure the term “bitch” doesn’t resonate with you. Her latest controversial song “Bow Down/I Been On”, produced by Hit Boy has jolted the airwaves. In her song, Beyoncé explicitly asserts “This is my Sh__t, bow down B—es.” It is a far stretch from her fourth, studio album and debut single “Run the World.” And we must not forget her popular feminist salute, “If I Were A Boy,” which debuted on her third solo studio album. This raises a question: Are pejorative verbal tactics acceptable to increase record sales and to gain amiability from impressionable fans? The B-word implies a strong hatred for women; we should use no explicit words that will get our point across while avoiding demeaning terms that are insulting to females.


Progress and Peril for Home Opportunity

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Photo courtesy of the Justice Policy Institute

David Sassaroli contributed reporting for this article

Home Opportunity is at a crossroads, and with it the American economy. Misconduct by banks, inadequate rules, and lax enforcement have cost 4 million families their homes since the financial crisis began, devastated communities around the country, and triggered a deep recession that we are still digging our way out of. A clear-eyed assessment of where we stand today shows progress, but also peril, and more work to be done.


A Silver Lining in the Juvenile Justice System

Photo courtesy of the Justice Policy Institute

This article was originally published at the Justice Policy Institute

The string of shootings in Newtown, Aurora, and Oak Creek last year would make some reconsider establishing ‘stop-and-frisk’ policies in several violence-ridden U.S. cities. Most recently, an article by The Chicago Tribune’s Stephanie D. Neely on March 1, claimed that stop-and-frisk policies are needed in an attempt to curb gun violence in Chicago. According to Neely, 2,600 shooting incidents were reported to the Chicago Police Department, of which 400 resulted in homicide.


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