Category Archives: Opinion

Too Black Or Not Black Enough: Race, Hollywood, and Nina Simone

By Clement Eneh

 

I’ve been a fan of late jazz singer Nina Simone for quite some time now and when it came to my attention that a film was being made about her life, needless to say, I was excited. That excitement neither rose nor ebbed when I discovered who would be playing Simone, actress Zoe Saldana.
However, my reaction of neutrality did not mirror popular opinion.
According to NPR, The NY Times, Huffington Post, Fox, ABC and a number of music sites and celebrity blogs, many are outraged at Saldana’s lead role.
The question is, why? Why should the talent of such a well known, award-winning actress, who was the lead in one of the highest grossing films of all time, Avatar, be in question? I scrolled endlessly through news articles and comments to gauge the public’s reaction and found an overwhelming theme of race-based worry.  The truth hit me like a Mississippi school bus.
It seems Zoe Saldana isn’t “black enough.”
I felt like I’d stepped back in time. I raised an eyebrow and thought, “Do people still say things like that?” They do.
The outcry stems over the fact that Saldana, who is of black-Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, doesn’t resemble Simone, and many believe a woman of darker shade, with less so-called “Caucasian” features would have been better suited for the role.
I could go so many ways with the counter argument. I could explain African Diaspora and how many Puerto Ricans have black ancestry, or that her father is a black man, or the fact that what separates her from being “appropriate” for the role is a handful of tiny genes that control melanin (as there are dark skinned black/Latina girls), or even ask what “Caucasian” features are, but that wouldn’t hit the root of my point.
Critics proposed the role be given to Viola Davis, India Arie or actress Kimberly Elise. However, Arie, though a talented singer, is not an actress.  Davis or Elise could have been good alternatives. But there is a reason director Cynthia Mort chose Saldana, and it wasn’t based upon complexion.
In truth, singer Mary J Blige, who is of darker shade, was originally intended for the role but turned it down. Zoe Saldana, a longtime Nina fan, jumped at the opportunity.
In a September interview, Mort told the New York Times the movie was not intended to be a biography in the strict sense, but instead “a love story about an artist’s journey unto herself.”
“There’s a difference between telling a story that includes and involves emotion and experiences and doing a biopic — she was born here, she did this, she did that… That’s not what we’re telling in that kind of linear fashion.”
A big part of Nina Simone’s identity was tied in with the fact that she was a darker black woman in the public eye, and during the 1950’s and 60’s no less. She worked to challenge racial stereotypes of black women in the media, which is made clear by her famous protest song “Four Women.”
Four women of different color, with different stories, but all black and misunderstood. Not “one woman” who looked just like her. Unlike these critics, Simone understood the black experience was different for everyone and didn’t belittle the struggle of lighter skinned women while explaining her own.
To say Saldana doesn’t deserve the role is to suggest that she is inherently unworthy and incapable of comprehending a black woman’s struggle and portraying it on film. It is wrong.
However, I do understand where the issues with this come from. I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve seen a dark brown female in a lead, or supporting role on a hit TV show or movie. Tara from True Blood comes to mind. Colorism exists. The notion that light-skinned black women are easier to handle in dominant culture is still a prevalent idea for some.
Even so, the solution isn’t bashing a movie that has yet to be made, or questioning the “blackness” of a talented actress; it lies in striving to diversify the entertainment industry itself as a whole. According to the Director’s Guild of America, Caucasian directors were responsible for 88 percent of the 2,600 television episodes produced last year. This is problematic. There should be fervor in us all to have more people of African descent, not only on screen but also behind the scenes.
Through it all, it seems, Saldana’s determination to complete the film has not wavered.
“She did do her own singing,” according to co-star David Oyelowo on E-online. “I was blown away.”
“The reality is what keeps me focused, and what kept me from getting stressed or being hurt… I’m doing it for my sisters, I’m doing it for my brothers and I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and [that],” said Saldana. “I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me, so that is my truth and that is what set me free.”
Much like Simone, Saldana will be fighting public criticism when Nina releases later this year.

 

Letter To The Editor: “Keep Calm And Vote Salam”

If you are reading this, then great. I appreciate the fact you’ve taken up your civic duty torch in seeing why I, Salam Measho, aka “Mr.Awesome” around campus should receive your gracious vote for SGA Senator
Personally, I feel there is a disconnect among the 20,000 plus students that attend Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) , the information on events hosted by one of the 110 clubs that are on campus and the 34 student senators that represent such a large audience.
Am I saying that I can reach out and bring together a cohesive plan that can be 100 percent successful? Absolutely not! I am merely saying that I can try my best to reach out to every student on a personal level whether at the Student center, Memorial Hall or just the everyday passerby up the wind-tunnel leading to Copernicus.
I am an outgoing guy. Back in my senior year of high school, I held the office of Class President and resurrected a negative plummeting student budget to an abundant level of student funds. Within seven months I provided numerous student events as a team player with other executive office holders. I have currently been working for three years at my local YMCA back home in Waterbury. I work as part of the courteous Yellow-Shirt team in Event Staff for the Athletic Department’s sporting events. I participated in the Latin dancing club COLODA here on campus and currently participate in round table discussion regarding issues concerning us as students with head academic advisors from Registrar, Admissions & Recruitment, Counseling & Wellness along with fellow students through the Man Enough Support Initiative. I major in Political Science with a minor in Business, and I have been fortunate to discover that I absolutely enjoy meeting new students; call it an extrovert mutant ability.
With that ability, I can try my best to uncover each of your personal improvements about CCSU. My intentions are hopefully that you and I can have an interesting conversation regarding the concerns or issues you feel would improve our University. I would do my best to bring any issue I come across to each one of the other 33 student Senators from there sparking interest leading to fruition of ideas which then would direct into the feasibility of each said idea and by the conclusion of remarks we would ignite a spark leading to the plausible improvements for our great University.
I am just one student, among many, who all deserve to have their individual voices heard and if I can begin to surface the plethora of ideas and concerns our student body have then one of those ideas can become reality.
I’m Salam Measho & I feel if we can begin to scratch the oozing surface of improvements that CCSU students have, then just maybe some of those ideas can become reality _ The 150 character Tweet

~ Salam Measho

New Gun Laws A Futile Attempt To Prevent Future Shootings

By Justin Muszynski

Last week Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a gun-control bill in response to the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook late last year. Many have proclaimed these new laws to be of the strictest that America has ever seen.
The bill bans the sale of high-capacity magazines (more than 10 rounds) and current owners of such weaponry are to register it with the state by Jan. 1, 2014. The same goes for the newly expanded list of assault weapons. Universal background checks are also now required to purchase any type of firearm.
Whether you think these new laws deny or restrict our right to bear arms is irrelevant at this point. The question now, considering that they’ve been passed, is whether or not they’ll do what they are intended to.
After nearly 30 deaths in the shooting last year, most of which were children, Malloy made it clear that something needed to be done to prevent future massacres from happening again. There was intense debate for months about what exactly should change, if anything. Ideas anywhere from having an armed guard at every school to outlawing weapons all together were thrown around by the public, which was rightfully enraged that such a tragic event took place.
In the end, though, the historic laws that went into effect last week will more than likely fall short of avoiding another school shooting. The real problem lies in the surrounding states and the fact that current owners can keep their “assault” weapons and large-capacity magazines. There are far too many of these “banned” items in circulation to see any real change in the near future.
The real value in these laws is their potential long term effect that they could have. Restricting the sales of these will undoubtedly lower the number of legally registered assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in years to come. This could tremendously reduce the risk of a school shooting, but at the same time create the need for yet another black market.
Without question, the people that really want to get their hands on something illegal will be able to do it. Having Massachusetts and New York so close in proximity to Connecticut will always make this a reality. It’s the same reason why every Fourth of July you see and hear fireworks galore. Connecticut doesn’t allow anything much more dangerous than a sparkler, yet the sky lights up in celebration of our independence day like clockwork.
Until something is done at the federal level, these laws are likely to have little effect on the issues at hand. If all it comes down to for the next Adam Lanza to shoot up a school or other public place is to drive two hours to the nearest state that sells what he or she is looking for, then that’s not really too difficult of an obstacle. Smuggling will always be around, just take illegal narcotics for example. Things like cocaine and heroin are illegal in all 50 states, but they’re still as prevalent as anything in this country.
A national ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines could certainly lessen the likelihood of another event similar to what happened in Newtown. However, it won’t stop shootings altogether, but will hopefully make them less devastating.

 

Media Outlets Aren’t Impervious To Lapses In Judgment

American journalists are continually considered to have a “get the story at all costs” attitude. Television, movies and other forms of entertainment repeatedly depict the stereotypical reporter who makes unethical decisions to get the scoop.
More often than not, Hollywood has journalists doing things such as sleeping with various people, stabbing each other in the back and sometimes even killing someone to get the story first. To the American public, the news industry is portrayed as one of the most competitive, sleazy businesses that exists. It would be ridiculous to stand up and say that immoral things don’t go on in the media, but then again, wouldn’t it be hard to say that it doesn’t go on in every field.
Last Wednesday, the CCSU journalism department hosted a panel discussion that focused on covering trauma. More specifically, the panel talked about the media’s role in something as heartbreaking as the shooting in Newtown that occurred last December.
The panel included Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center For Journalism and Trauma, Tina Susman, national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, and Jeff Cohen, WNPR reporter who covered the Sandy Hook shooting. The event was moderated by John Dankosky, Vance Chair in Journalism at CCSU and host of WNPR’s Where We Live.
The overwhelming consensus amongst the panelists was that the most important part of covering a traumatic event is to be sensitive to the victims and their families. One panelist, Susman, argued that when reporting on something like the Sandy Hook massacre, a journalist shouldn’t normally approach someone that isn’t an official. She recommends that a journalist wait at the scene of the event with a notebook and press pass and eventually the people who actually want to speak to the media will approach them.
The entire event was designed to show the public that journalists aren’t all bad, despite the stigma that comes with being a reporter. There will always be those that sacrifice principles in the interest of securing the story. But in most cases, those that aren’t willing to forgo their beliefs and values outnumber those that do.
There will always be difficult decisions and occasionally a news publication will make the wrong choice. But the public has to put faith in the idea that the organization that did make a mistake will learn from it and make a better decision next time. Not to mention, when a publication does do something immoral, it has to hear about it through columns and editorials from its peer organizations.
Media outlets were originally designed to report the news, no matter what that meant. However, at the end of the day journalism is a business like any other. And the necessary evil that makes the world go around that all establishments have to contend with is money. Organizations are around to make money, plain and simple. They very often provide some sort of a service to the public, but it all comes back to dollars and cents some way or another.
Sometimes the business aspect of journalism blinds the editors that are making the tough calls, but most news organizations have the public’s best interest in mind. The public needs to trust us journalists that we try to always make ethical decisions and report the news as honestly and neutrally as we can.

Will Obama’s Efforts Prevent More Tragedy?

By Kassondra Granata

On Monday, President Obama made his second stop at Connecticut in response to the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Obama chose the University of Hartford for a national policy address on the topic of gun control legislation.
Since the Newtown tragedy, gun control debates have flooded every social media home screen, front pages of publications and newscasts. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed new laws on April 4 with new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines similar to the weapons Adam Lanza used at Newtown.
The new bill bans the sale or purchase of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds along with the legislation of adding more than 100 firearms to the state’s assault weapons ban creating the nation’s first dangerous weapon offender registry. The bill also includes universal background checks.
Since Newtown, White House Officials have frequently visited Connecticut to advocate these gun laws. Obama visited the University of Hartford to memorialize the victims of the tragedy and continue the push for what he deems “common-sense measures to reduce gun violence” according to the New York Times. Obama met with the victims’ families and brought them to Washington with him on Air Force One. There, the family members met with lawmakers this week to encourage the Republican senators not to filibuster the legislation. These efforts in hopes to sway the senators is a fundamental key for anti-gun activists to pass these gun laws.
The school shooting at Newtown was one of the most tragic events to date. It has sparked series of debates and these proposed and passing gun control laws. The question of whether or not these laws will prevent these events from happening is on everyone’s minds. Many believe that they will not.
“The day that Newtown happened was the toughest day in my presidency,” Obama said to the crowded gymnasium in Hartford on Monday. “If we don’t respond to this that will be a tough day for me too. We have to expect more from ourselves, congress and we have to believe that every once in a while we have to set politics aside and do what’s right…If you believe in the right to bear arms the way I do but want to prevent someone from inflicting harm, stand up.”
Will these laws prevent someone from inflicting harm? Probably not. No matter what laws are formed, there will always be lawbreakers. Those who want to obtain an illegal substance or artifact will get it law or not. This goes with underage drinking, drugs and other illegal materials. This connects with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to the concealment of tobacco products. The out of sight out of mind saying does not and never will apply effectively. These gun laws are making law-abiding citizens enraged and giving those who are prone to partaking in unspeakable events incentives to inflict harm.
Obama is in a hard spot. He has the families of Newtown to face that lost their six-year-old children to guns and then he has the law-abiding citizens screaming their rights. It is difficult to know what one would do in the situation. Is there is a solution to avoid Newtown from happening again? Yes. Is there a solution that everyone will agree with? No. An assault weapons ban and universal background checks can diminish the problem, but not indefinitely.