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The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Updated: 25 min 52 sec ago

How Have Florida’s Gun Laws Changed Since Parkland?

February 14, 2019 - 5:30am

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. On Feb. 14, 2018, former student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and faculty members, and injured 17 others, in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

From national marches to voter registration drives to school walkouts — most recently on election day — the Parkland teenage survivors managed to energize millions of young people to call for gun law reform.

A year later, national lawmakers have done little to nothing when it comes to gun control. But Florida’s gun laws have seen a number of revisions.

Here are Florida’s most notable gun proposals since Parkland.

New Program to Restrict Gun Purchases and Arm School Staff Members

Just weeks after the Parkland shooting, then Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which imposed a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and raised the minimum age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. This provision has received pushback from the National Rifle Association, or NRA, which argues that it’s unconstitutional.

The bill also allows for the arming of some school employees. Named the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, after one of the faculty members who died at Stoneman protecting the lives of students, it allows school staff who are not exclusively teachers to be trained to carry guns on the job as campus “guardians.” Staff must undergo 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety training, pass a psychological exam and successfully complete random drug tests and ongoing firearm training.

The act contains a provision (dubbed a “red flag law”) grants law enforcement the ability to seize firearms from anyone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Bump Stock Ban

Bump stocks are devices that can be added to firearms to give them the capabilities of an automatic weapon. These accessories increase the rate of fire for semiautomatic weapons.

A bill was passed in October 2018 that bans the sale, transfer and ownership of bump stocks. It also outlines the possession of such accessories as a third-degree felony. Finally, it calls for the relinquishment of bump stocks for those who own them.

Campus Carry Bill

If enacted, this bill will take effect beginning on July 1, 2019. It prohibits the carrying of any weapons, lethal or not, on school campuses with a few exceptions.

Firearms may be carried on post-secondary school campuses only if there is a school-sponsored function or firearm training, and only with advance permission from the school’s administration.

Other Proposals For the Upcoming 2019 Legislative Session

Arming Teachers would alter Senate Bill 7026 to add teachers and “contract employees” to the Aaron Feis Guardian Program. This bill has attracted opposition from groups such as the National Association of Secondary School Principals and advocacy groups like Moms Demand Action.

Licensed transactions requires that any transfer of firearms from one person to another be facilitated by a licensed dealer.

Protection of child care facilities prohibits licensed concealed weapons carriers to openly carry firearms in any child care facility.

Removal of waiting period removes the waiting period for handgun purchases, reduces the minimum age requirement for gun purchases back to 18 from 21, repeals the ban on bump stocks and repeals law enforcement’s ability to confiscate firearms.

Firearms on campus permits students to have a firearm on campus in their vehicle for certain firearm programs. 

Restrictions on where to carry guns outlines areas where licensed individuals are prohibited from carrying firearms, including college campuses, courthouses and jails.

Regulation of concealed weapons licenses designates the Department of Law Enforcement as the entity that regulates and collect fees from concealed carry licenses.

This story was written in collaboration with WFSU, a public radio station in Tallahassee, Florida.

The post How Have Florida’s Gun Laws Changed Since Parkland? appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Playlist: First Dates in the Bay

February 13, 2019 - 6:57pm

Your music taste reveals a lot about you and can have a major impact on the first impression you make with your date. Playing the right song is key to setting the right tone for the rest of the evening. When it comes to first dates in the Bay you must assume that your date is accustomed to great music and culture. Don’t stress — all you really need is a fresh fit, a good personality and good music taste to set the right mood. It’s important not to do too much — you don’t want to come off as too ratchet or too emo, just find that vibe-y middle ground. But don’t worry — if you don’t know where to start, I got you covered. In this playlist, I’ve gathered some songs to get that mood perfectly set to make sure you make it to date number 2.  Just throw it in shuffle and let the playlist work its magic…

The post Playlist: First Dates in the Bay appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How to Know if Your Boo’s a Cheater on Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2019 - 11:56am

It’s that time of year again! Love is in the air and cupid is making sure that Valentine’s Day will be perfect. But there’s just one little problem: what will all the side pieces do? Susana Villanueva and YR Media’s Clay Xavier discuss signs that you might not be your significant other’s main squeeze on Valentine’s.

The post How to Know if Your Boo’s a Cheater on Valentine’s Day appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The Fight for On-Campus Abortion in California

February 12, 2019 - 12:19pm

When the bouts of nausea began in the first semester of Jessy Rosales’ junior year at the University of California, Riverside, she thought she must have caught some sort of stomach bug. As a busy student with a part-time job and lots of extracurricular activities, she hoped the symptoms would pass on their own. But when weeks went by, and the waves of nausea kept coming, she made an appointment at her college’s student health center.

After a series of tests, Rosales got some unexpected news: despite the fact that she’d been on birth control for nearly a year, she was pregnant.

Rosales remembers breaking down in the exam room. “I was thinking to myself, I’m only in my third year, I don’t have my degree, I’m not financially stable,” she said. On top of that, she couldn’t imagine telling her parents, with whom she’d never even talked about sex. And things with her partner were on shaky ground. (When she broke the news to him, he asked her not to tell anyone else.)

Rosales told her doctor on the spot that she wanted to have an abortion. She could do that, her doctor explained, but not on campus. The procedure isn’t offered at student health centers.

In order to terminate her pregnancy, Rosales would have to go elsewhere.

California has a reputation for being strongly pro-choice. While in other parts of the country, heartbeat bills are being debated and increased restrictions are forcing some clinics to close their doors, the golden state boasts some of the most abundant and widespread access to abortion in the nation. Based on a 2014 report, only 5 percent of California women lived in counties without an abortion clinic. But obtaining an abortion in the state can still be challenging, especially for college students.

Each month over 1,000 University of California and California State University students undergo abortions, according to estimates by the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco. Because such services are not available on any of those campuses, students must be referred out to clinics in their communities. How easy it is to access these clinics varies greatly, depending on whether the campus is located in a rural or urban area. The study found that on average, students spent 38 minutes each way traveling to off-campus clinics via public transportation. UC Berkeley is on the short end of the spectrum at 24 minutes. At CSU Stanislaus in the Central Valley, the closest provider is over an hour and a half away from campus by public transit.

However, for many students, getting to a clinic is only half the battle. First, they have to deal with insurance. Students at both California public university systems are able to get referrals to off-campus clinics through their campus health centers. But while the UC system offers students an insurance plan that covers abortion services at outside facilities, the CSU schools do not.

Even for UC students like Jessy Rosales, the process can be challenging.

Since she couldn’t obtain her abortion on campus at UC Riverside, Rosales made a counseling appointment with a women’s health specialist at her school in order to get a referral. After re-explaining all of her options, the specialist gave Rosales a list of abortion providers in her area, but when she followed up, she says one place turned out not to perform abortions, and another wasn’t able to process her insurance.

Rosales said that at that point, she felt paralyzed when it came to exploring other options. “This was my first time on my own, navigating the medical system and insurance system,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

When asked to comment on Rosales’ experience, UC Riverside’s Director of Student Health Services Julienne DeGeyter responded by email: “All of our students are told to contact us right away if they have any trouble getting in to see a specialist that we have referred them to for services.  I am not sure why this student didn’t contact us, we have an insurance department, front desk staff as well as the medical assistants and providers who are always willing to help a student if they run into difficulty with a referral.”

According to those who oppose abortion, delays in the process of terminating a pregnancy create an opportunity for women to reflect on the gravity of their choice. At a recent California State Senate hearing, a representative from the group Students for Life of America, or SFLA, shared a story about a CSU Sacramento student who, while seeking her second abortion, found her school’s SFLA chapter and decided to carry out the pregnancy instead.

For Rosales, the experience did not alter her decision to have an abortion. Instead, it made her lose faith in her ability to access one.

At around the same time that Rosales’ story was unfolding, another student, Adiba Khan, began to hear similar stories of women on her own campus at UC Berkeley who were having trouble getting access to abortions. Khan is from Oklahoma, a state with some of the most prohibitive abortion laws in the country. She said she grew up “feeling like I didn’t have any autonomy, and seeing peers forced into unwanted pregnancies.”

Khan believed that California was different. When she learned that her school’s health center didn’t offer abortions and that many students were struggling to access reproductive care off campus, she was surprised. Khan didn’t have any experience in organizing or activism, but along with fellow student Meghan Warner, she founded the group Students United for Reproductive Justice, and together they set out on a mission: to make medication abortion available through their school’s health center.

Medication abortion involves taking two pills: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first pill is taken at a doctor’s office, the second at home. Medication abortions are less invasive than surgical abortions, but they are currently only an option for women who are up to 10 weeks pregnant — which means timely access to a clinic is important.

Given that abortion is covered by the UC system’s health insurance plan, Khan said it didn’t make sense to her that the prescription for a medication abortion wasn’t available through school health centers.

Building on Khan and her advocacy group’s efforts, in 2018 both the California Senate and Assembly passed Senate Bill 320, also known as the College Student Right to Access Act. Introduced by State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-District 20), the bill would have required all UC and CSU campuses to make medication abortions available in their student health centers by 2022. A fund derived from private donations would have been established to get the program started.

Even in a blue state like California, Khan said that would have been a big deal.

But the bill faced rigorous opposition from anti-abortion campus organizations. “Abortion pills are not a factor in student success,” said Anna Arend, the Northern California regional coordinator for the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, in testimony before the California Senate Education committee on SB 320.

Opponents also raised concerns about associated costs for staff training, equipment and systems to support the bill’s implementation.

Ultimately, then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB 320 last September, calling it “not necessary.” But the bill’s drafters refused to accept Brown’s decision as final. In December, State Sen. Leyva introduced a similar bill, SB 24, and in January, Gavin Newsom was sworn in as the new governor of California.

For its supporters, the bill’s fate has high stakes. Long controversial, abortion has become an increasingly contentious topic in today’s divided political climate. In the 2018 midterms, West Virginia voters passed a measure to include language in their state constitution declaring that it doesn’t secure, protect or fund the right to abortion. The state also voted to ban Medicaid from covering abortion services, while Alabamans voted to give fetuses legal rights.

On a national level, just last week the Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law that would have further restricted abortion access in that state, but that stay is temporary, and the confirmation of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has fueled concerns that Roe v. Wade may be overturned.

When SB 320, the bill to make medication abortion available on public college campuses, went before the California Senate earlier this year, Rosales was there to testify.

As she struggled to find an abortion provider and figure out how to pay for it, she became depressed and withdrawn. “The more you wait, the more emotional trauma starts to build up,” she said. At times, she wondered if the obstacles she was facing were signs that she shouldn’t have an abortion. “I started to internalize a lot of stigma.”

Rosales told me she felt immediate relief after she was finally able to have an abortion at a local health center. That said, there are aspects of the experience she wishes had been different. She would have preferred to have a medication abortion within the 10-week window, she said, which would have allowed her to end her pregnancy in the privacy and comfort of her own home. And she wishes she’d been able to handle the whole thing through her student health center, whose services were designed to accommodate students’ schedules and streamline the insurance process.

“If I would’ve been able to have it done in that facility, maybe the very next week, I wouldn’t have had to go through all this,” she said. “It would’ve made my story something completely different.”

The post The Fight for On-Campus Abortion in California appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Bay Word of the Day: Mouthpiece

February 11, 2019 - 6:01pm
Bay Word of the Day, starring Money Maka, is a video series breaking down Bay Area slang.

The post Bay Word of the Day: Mouthpiece appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How to Break Up with a Best Friend

February 11, 2019 - 1:48pm

I clearly remember the day I left my ex-best friend on read. We’d been traveling together when I overheard her complaining about me to a colleague of mine, which led to a full-blown falling out. That text was the last I would ever get from her. Months later, we ran into each other in a Trader Joe’s, and the minute our carts squeaked past each other without so much as a “Hey,” I knew we were over for real.

This particular friendship isn’t the first in my life that I’ve ended, though it is probably the one I left on the worst terms. Once it was done, I was left blinking in the harsh light of loneliness, struck that no one knows how to talk about this traumatic process. It doesn’t even have a name.

Because let me tell you: it is traumatic. Unlike a romantic partnership, a friendship doesn’t come with pressure to be exclusive or explicit commitments for the future, but the bestie break-up is a uniquely shattering experience. My best friend wasn’t just someone I hung out with. She knew about my goals and fears and was part of all the minutiae that make up a human experience. Losing her felt like losing thousands of little moments that had made me who I am.

This kind of loss is not rare, however. Seeking validation that I wasn’t alone in this, I put out a call for personal stories on Instagram, expecting one or two people who would be willing to share. Instead, a deluge of stories poured in from men and women all over the world who’d ended up in the same place: pulling the plug on a relationship their whole life had centered around.

Justina’s post to her Instagram Stories, asking for people to share their break-up tales.

For some, it was immediate. A friend had placed them in a physically unsafe scenario or said something past the point of no return. More often, it took years to come to a head, compounded by backhanded compliments, cancelled brunches and yes, texts left on read. Sometimes even then, there’s a serious urge to explain away your friend’s behavior, even if you would never tolerate their actions from a romantic partner.

“It takes a lot more to get to the point of ending a platonic relationship. In a romantic relationship there’s usually a point of clarity,” explained Orange County therapist Karin Draper, who specializes in working with young people. “You could in theory keep a platonic relationship your whole life,” Draper said.

All those adorable grandparents on Facebook posing with their best friends of 50 years make us crave that kind of longevity, but we’re putting up with a lot of nonsense chasing it, usually from people we’ve known the longest.

For most of us, making friends isn’t easy, and keeping toxic ones can feel safer than not having anyone to hang out with. Loneliness is reaching “epidemic” status, according to former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy. And 18-22-year-olds are the “loneliest generation,” according to a Cigna study — which makes sense. When you’re transitioning from high school to college, it can be terrifying to launch off on your own.

“Me and my best friend from high school, we’ll call her Karen, were extremely close. We had so much in common and had super-specific mutual beliefs and opinions. Our personalities were even very similar.”

Bizzy Emerson and Karen were always together, preparing to take on the world. They started college together and then decided to take a semester off.

“In this time, we only had each other to hang out with, which just escalated our friendship to a new level,” Emerson said, telling me the closeness pushed their relationship into a clingy, unhealthy territory.

Neither girl was making new friends or engaging fully in their college experience. When Emerson made the decision to move into her sorority house, everything started to snowball. She made new friends and became aware of how unhappy her relationship with Karen was making both of them. She decided enough was enough.

“I definitely think this break-up was 100 percent necessary, because I couldn’t move on with my life,” she said.

In story after story, I heard about toxicity invading even the strongest of bonds. Maddie’s best friend kept bailing on plans and stopped answering texts. Audrey’s started taking advantage of her. Ramona’s sent her a nasty text out of the blue. Lucy’s just didn’t value her as much as she thought. In most of the stories I was told, friends who are about to be dumped often don’t even see it coming.

Psychotherapist Sharon Peykar, an associate clinical social worker in Los Angeles who focuses on mindful relationships, told me that your gut feeling isn’t usually too far off. “If you’re feeling dreadful every time you interact with a certain friend, this may be an indicator that your boundaries have been crossed or there’s something you’re not addressing between you,” Peykar explained.

I’d known for weeks before our last trip that something about my relationship with my best friend was off. There were a lot of passive-aggressive comments and periods of extended silence, but I had convinced myself that it would be magically solved by close proximity for 80-odd hours straight.

Believe it or not, my “ignore it until it goes away” tactic is not the recommended method. Both therapists I talked to emphasized that communication is key in healthy relationships.

“A lot of the blowouts happen when one person is expecting something the other person isn’t even thinking about,” Draper said.

Ah, talking about your feelings. It’s a great concept, but honestly? I hate doing it. There’s something extra stressful about just telling someone how you feel. Unfortunately for my avoidant personality, that’s what all the experts recommend if you’re trying to save your relationship.

But say you’re like my ex-best friend and me, seemingly beyond the point of no return. In a time where Facebook regurgitates evidence of how happy you used to be on an annoyingly routine basis, how do you actually disentangle your digital self?

Gen Z and social media commentator Emma Havighorst thinks you first need to do the basic unfollowing on your usual platforms and then move on to secondary removal.

“People need space in person after the end of a relationship, so they need space online as well,” Havighorst said. “Typically, I also suggest muting mutual friends or people who are closer friends with them, so that you have less of a chance to see the other person in other people’s posts.”

That’s the real gut punch, I think — the day you see a photo, Snap or Instagram story of your friend with their new best friend. No matter why you broke up, there’s often this little part of you that wonders: “What if?”

“Especially with friends that have been friends for an important season in a person’s life, as well as long term friends, there’s a sense of comfort and ‘they knew me’ that can be really easy to return to,” Draper told me.

It’s that nostalgia that motivates the midnight texts, the unblocking on IG or maybe even the gentle offer to get coffee sometime. More often, in the timeless words of Gotye, “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

Sometimes I miss those people I used to know. I wonder what they’re up to, what their kids look like (because some of them have those now), whether they’ve kept up with my career. My nosiness gets the best of me, and I’ll spend hours looking at their tagged photos, seeing how their life took shape once I was out of the picture. I like to think that they’re doing the same, and we’re both just a little better off for having left each other alone.

The post How to Break Up with a Best Friend appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The Cost of Acing the SAT

February 10, 2019 - 8:00am

My sophomore year, I took a practice SAT. When I saw my score, it was evident that I needed some help. But I didn’t know how much that help would cost.

Since middle school, my parents have pushed me to do well and get into a good college. I play sports, I’ve racked up a ton of extracurriculars, and I’ve kept a steady four-point-o GPA. All that’s left on my checklist is the SAT.

There are a ton of classes that can help you ace the test. A couple friends told me about one they loved. And their scores reflected their hard work. But when I saw the price tag, my stomach dropped. It was pushing two thousand dollars. My family couldn’t afford that.

Eventually, my grandparents agreed to pay for me to take another class. I felt guilty, but also grateful to them.

But still, I can’t shake the feeling that this system seems so wrong. The SAT is supposed to be a test of your college preparedness, not of how much your family can spend. I feel like I’m paying for my score, and buying my way into college.

The post The Cost of Acing the SAT appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How Schools Deal with Sexual Assault: Betsy DeVos Plan Gets More Than 100,000 Comments

February 8, 2019 - 5:34pm

Last year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed sweeping changes to how K-12 schools and colleges investigate sexual harassment and assault.

The changes would impact all schools that receive federal funding. But before the government could implement these changes, it had to seek input from the public. In response, more than 100,000 comments poured into the Department of Education — the comment period ended Wednesday.

The new guidelines would give more rights to those accused of sexual misconduct and limit liability for schools. The Department of Education has argued that the new rules will provide clarity for schools and introduce more due process into investigations of alleged sexual violence.

The proposed changes received 20 times more comments than usual for a regulatory rewrite, according to the Washington Post, with most commenters opposing what DeVos has in mind. Here’s what people had to say. 

Schools will no longer have to investigate off-campus sexual assaults

Under the previous guidance, schools were responsible for investigating off-campus sexual assaults, as well as those on campus. But under the new rules, off-campus assaults would not be covered.

Kirsten Wong posted

“In particular I am concerned about the fact that sexual violence that happens off campus will not be covered under these rules. Both of my assaults occurred in off-campus housing. When more than half the school student population lives off campus, it is unfair to leave these victims behind solely based on where the incident is located.”

Mediation would be permitted

The new rules would allow mediation between an alleged victim and the accused as a way to reach resolutions, which wasn’t the case in the previous guidance. Critics of the proposed change argue that mediation “has been proven to be traumatic for survivors.”

Catherine Thomasson posted:

“Having been sexually harassed myself, I understand how difficult it is to report and get reasonable action taken. … The proposed rules would allow schools to subject survivors to biased, traumatizing investigations or use a form of mediation that favor harassers over their victims.”

The alleged victim would need to provide more evidence

Previously, schools relied on a legal standard called preponderance of evidence, meaning that when a student alleges a sexual assault took place, schools have to determine if the allegation was more likely than not to have occurred. Under the new guidance, schools can raise the evidentiary standard to “clear and convincing evidence,” which is usually reserved for criminal charges.

Kevin Bird posted

“Title IX investigations should not be carried out like criminal proceedings because they are fundamentally not court proceedings, they are internal investigations about university code of conduct violations. By treating them like criminal proceedings and putting unreasonably high burdens of evidence these changes will leave many survivors no avenue for justice. ”

The Department of Education will record and examine public comments and consider them as part of regulatory policy, according to a government fact sheet. That said, it is up to DeVos to draw whatever conclusions she sees fit from these tens of thousands of comments, as she shapes the future of how America addresses campus sexual assault.

The post How Schools Deal with Sexual Assault: Betsy DeVos Plan Gets More Than 100,000 Comments appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Remix Your Life Links Up With Some of The Best Producers in The Bay

February 8, 2019 - 5:12pm

Successful Bay Area producers DTB, Reece Beats, Ian McKee and Spencer Stevens stopped by the Remix Your Life studios to link up with our future music superstars.  Each producer had about two hours to chop it up and collab with RYL producers in creating 1-2 original beats. They shared insider game on how to navigate the industry as well as key production techniques. This collaboration led to the creation of some fire music (which was later showcased at our “At The Moment” mixtape release party at the Beast Mode store) as well as us hosting them for an Inside The Industry panel at the same venue.  Check out some BTS footage from the sessions and quotes from the participating RYL producers on their experience below.

The post Remix Your Life Links Up With Some of The Best Producers in The Bay appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Playlist: Waiting for the Sun

February 8, 2019 - 3:32pm
With the weather being so flip floppy recently, I crafted a playlist here to pass the time until those beautiful days where the healing sun is out. With most of the music originating from Africa, take a moment to appreciate and ponder your ancestors. Yègellé Tezeta – Mulatu Astatke Bul ma miin – Orchestra Baobab Cheikh Lô – M’beddemi Saye Mogo Bana  – Issa Bagayoyo 1Er Gaou – Magic System Paulette – Balla et ses Baladins  Marijata – I Walk Alone Dissan Na M’bera – Super Mama Djombo Umalali, The Garifuna Collective – Mérua AfroCubism – Jarabi

The post Playlist: Waiting for the Sun appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How To: Promote Yourself As an Artist

February 8, 2019 - 1:14pm

If you’re a new artist and feel your work isn’t getting the exposure it should, it’s probably because you suck at promoting yourself. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your music sucks — you just haven’t tapped into the secrets of the current music industry landscape to help optimize your audience engagement. It’s important to know all the tools you need to become a successful artist.

Now artists can easily upload their music to streaming platforms thanks to widely accessible services like DistroKid or Tunecore. Additionally, by strategically harnessing the power of social media you can promote yourself, build a strong brand and even make money from your music without having a label’s support. Getting your music out to the world is probably the easiest part of being an artist, as long as you figure out how to make people pay attention. In this article, I’ll be putting you on game with some essential tips to help promote yourself. Apply these self-promotion tips and tricks, and you’re sure to see your engagement grow and numbers go up.


How can artists promote themselves and build a following if they don’t have any work to show for themselves yet? Content comes in many forms including graphics, music, collaborations, performances and more. One of the best ways to promote yourself is to consistently put out content. Be actively visible. Each time you put out content that is either showcasing your work or is related to your work, you are continuing to build your platform and grab the attention of new people. Even if you aren’t ready to share your final project or piece of art in whatever form it may be, you can get creative with the types of content you are posting to continue to build engagement.


Working with other artists is another strategic way to develop a solid foundation and promote yourself. It also helps you reach audiences that you might not reach on your own. If you and another artist have slightly different fan bases, collabing would allow both of you to gain a mixture of your supporters. It’s a win-win situation. A developing artist can also gain another level of exposure when they collab with an artist with an even bigger fan base. This type of co-sign exposure has been happening in the music industry for years. Have you ever heard a song by one of your favorite artists and noticed that it featured someone that lightweight slaps that you haven’t heard before? Then you go to their page and check out their music? This is what I’m talking about. Collaborating with other artists can be one of the quickest ways to get more organic exposure. If you’ve never collaborated with an artist, be sure to check out our in-depth article that breaks it down.

Social Media:

As an artist, you should be as active on social media as possible because it can be an easy way to promote yourself and your brand. You should be actively posting on your social media so the fan base you’re building up has something to consume. It may seem like an easy task but in reality, for some, it can be pretty hard to post content every single day. But if you can get into a routine of engaging your followers on social media in a way that feels natural to your brand, you’ll gain new followers and create a platform that your audience wants to visit on a daily basis. Using social media in a creative way is just as important, taking advantage of features like the Instagram Stories questions sticker, for example, allows you to engage with your followers, conduct voting polls and even post full music videos and interviews to your profile with Instagram TV.

Social media can also be used as a strategic business tool in helping you promote your brand and track your promotional progress. A business profile means people can contact you through email, and phone for more professional inquiries, but you also unlock Instagram Insights. This allows you to track your fan engagement, promote with ads, impressions, audience demographics and more. These are all features that will help improve your social media presence.


Because it takes time to build a strong and engaged fan base as a new artist, it can be difficult for new artists to book shows when starting out. However, performances are a great way to gain more exposure, so as an up-and-coming artist, it is your job to hustle and build relationships to get those placements. A good way to start this process is to network, tap in with people like local DJ’s, bloggers and photographers — let them know what you got going on, and reciprocate the love and support that they show you. Promoting yourself is a lot about the connections you make and the impressions you leave, so put your best foot forward.


Every successful artist should have a great graphic designer on deck and strong graphics to support their brand. In the current music market, visuals can be just as important as the music itself. If it’s for events, projects, singles, etc., make sure it looks good! Artists should be selective when using a graphic artist — make sure they are a good creative fit. It’s usually the first impression a listener gets when scrolling on a streaming platform or social media. Cover art should tell the listener a story of what they are about to hear or reel them in to check out your music. This also goes for promotional material. If you’re performing at an event or headlining your own show, the flyer should look captivating. Graphic designers can help set you apart by creating logos for you, this will take your artistry to the next level. A clear unique aesthetic is important for the development of your artist brand, which will also help with self-promotion. When fans see that specific logo and aesthetic they’ll know who is behind it and that is how branding works. The more people that see your logo the more they’ll remember you.

The post How To: Promote Yourself As an Artist appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Opinion: Ralph Northam is the Fall Guy for America’s Racism

February 8, 2019 - 5:30am

Virginia’s government casts more white men in blackface than “Tropic Thunder.” Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, it’s anyone’s guess who’s next.

Thus far, the governor has been comically self-incriminating. He admitted to donning blackface to impersonate Michael Jackson, while putting on an encore performance as Shaggy —  saying that the man in another blackface photo wasn’t him. Yet aside from his makeup and moonwalk, there is nothing extraordinary about Northam’s racism.

Most white Americans voted for Donald Trump, a man with a decades-long track record as a racist. As recently as 2012, most Americans were found to have an anti-black bias. And even Democratic standard-bearer Joe Biden suggested you need a slight Indian accent to go to Dunkin’ Donuts and 7/11.

When you place Ralph Northam and Herring in context, they look much less like extreme outliers than cogs in a smoothly-run, racist corporation. It was merely to save themselves that Northam’s co-conspirator coworkers turned on him.

Over the last week, there have been bipartisan calls for Northam’s resignation, but much of this hand wringing and moral outrage is disingenuous. Like Touré criticizing R. Kelly’s predation or Eric Schneiderman prosecuting men for misconduct, many of the politicians calling attention to Northam’s wrongdoing hope to obscure their own crimes.

Until 2016, Virginia state government enforced racist voter discrimination laws that originated in Jim Crow. The policy used one discriminatory system (anti-black policing) to drive another (racialized disenfranchisement).

These kinds of prejudiced, anti-democratic policies have largely been used to erode the gains of the civil rights movement. The state also still maintains Confederate memorabilia on public lands, even after the deadly neo-Nazi Charlottesville attacks. This is the mundane racism that haunts many black people’s lives daily. It is as insidious as it is brutal. Yet the people who uphold this order consider themselves to be “non-racist” because they call on Northam to step down.

This is a game of misdirection. The trick is to set the bar for racism so high — at the peak of a Klan hood, perhaps — that nearly everyone falls below it.

“My experience in this world has been that the people who believe themselves to be white are obsessed with the politics of personal exoneration,” Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in “Between the World and Me.” “And the word racist, to them, conjures, if not a tobacco-spitting oaf, then something just as fantastic  —  an orc, troll or gorgon.” 

To this list, you can add a man dressed in blackface in a medical school yearbook. Blackface is as blunt as it is antiquated. And its relative rarity makes it a safe form of racism to denounce. Like polio, most Americans know it existed in the 20th century, it was bad and that they don’t want it anymore.

And because blackface is so outside the norm, it makes for an awful barometer of modern racism. Yet our country continues to operate on a rubric created over 50 years ago —  a period when racial epithets and “whites only signs” were still ubiquitous. While this type of blunt bigotry is no longer in vogue, we still use it to serve as one of the only baseline forms of discrimination we publicly decry.

“Somebody has to call us a nigger, or someone has to shoot down an innocent 12-year-old child or someone has to massacre nine black people in a church to remind us of the ugliness of our past and present,” Princeton Prof. Eddie Glaude Jr. writes in “Democracy in Black.” “Otherwise, the nation is unconcerned with the problems of black America.”

Today, America isn’t tormented by the bigots we like to sensationalize, but by huge groups of regular, everyday racists. These racists are citizens who have a deep-rooted and unchecked racial bias. It’s time we acknowledge they are the problem.

Northam and Herring are not lone wolves, just dogs in a pack. They were merely doing what people in power often do —  ridiculing the Others to reaffirm themselves. They were using the cruel and insensitive humor of whiteness to shore up their own identity. Yes, blackface and Klan hoods are crude and hurtful symbols of racism, but let’s not be mistaken, they’re not disconnected from the more subtle and discrete practices of white supremacy.

This regular prejudice permeates throughout the United States daily. Educators exercise it when they discriminate against black preschoolers. Loan officers apply it when they discriminate against black mortgage seekers. Business owners apply it when they discriminate against job applicants. Everyday racism is everywhere. The only thing that differentiates it from Ralph Northam’s is that it’s not executed while wearing shoe polish.

The post Opinion: Ralph Northam is the Fall Guy for America’s Racism appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

I Watched Both Fyre Documentaries So You Don’t Have To

February 7, 2019 - 3:02pm

Netflix and Hulu released separate films within days of each other in January 2019 that are both about the #epicfail of a big musical shindig on a tropical island involving some white dude. I didn’t know much beyond that and quite honestly, I wasn’t too far off.

If you’re interested in Fyre but not game enough to spend more than three hours of your life watching two movies about it like I did (!) — here’s what I learned from both films and which one I think is best.

Both documentaries highlight how 27-year-old William “Billy” McFarland scammed hundreds of people into buying tickets for Fyre Festival, a Coachella-esque event in the Bahamas. Fyre was scheduled to happen over the course of two weeks in Spring 2017. Gourmet meals, luxury lodging options and the chance to see big-name musicians were all part of the package offered to prospective attendees.

Ultimately, both films reveal the many reasons for the festival’s downfall and McFarland’s eventual debt of more than $25 million, which led him to be sentenced to six years in federal prison. 

So how and why did Fyre get as far as it did without burning to the ground from the very beginning? Keep reading!

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)

The Netflix documentary opens with a shot of a beautiful island. The music playing underneath has a mystical and tropical vibe to it.

Since this was the first of the two movies I watched, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the camera filters were gorgeous so I was hooked. Names of the film’s production team fade on and off screen. Then McFarland is mentioned as Fyre Festival’s co-founder (the other co-founder being rapper Ja Rule).

The first batch of interviewees suggested something bad was about to go down. There was a hint of disappointment in all their voices, but one interview in particular sent me mixed signals. A little after the two-minute mark, event producer Andy King says, “I hope Billy [McFarland] doesn’t go to prison for [his actions], but I don’t know.” That made me unsure of how I should feel toward McFarland. A little sympathetic, maybe?

Something else that stuck out was how much raw footage was included in the doc, which was captured in the moment as Fyre Festival’s organizers were trying to put it together. I liked that element because it really helped me see how Fyre got as far as it did, and almost felt as if I was watching the event planning process happen in real time.

A big detail I missed until I read this article on Insider is that a handful of the interviewees on camera were also co-producers of the documentary itself. This was questionable considering those particular people also worked for Jerry Media, the same organization Fyre hired to market the festival — an integral part of how the festival was able to generate so much buzz in the first place.

Fyre Fraud (Hulu)

The Hulu documentary felt more like a critical analysis of the Fyre Festival rather than a documentary about how it came to be. The opening sequence showed white text on a black background with tense music playing underneath. I got an exposé vibe from the first five minutes (and from the title of the film itself).

The focus was clear: McFarland pulled a big oopsie and we’re going to learn why so many people believed in Fyre, even if it was doomed to fail from its inception. Overall, the film took a comical approach to millennial/social media culture and its contribution to the festival’s failure.

Journalists from publications like The New Yorker, ProPublica and Mic made up a solid portion of the interviewee cast. Not to mention McFarland’s model girlfriend Anastasia Eremenko, who reads letters he wrote to her from prison, and McFarland himself.

Now, McFarland’s inclusion is causing controversy because The Ringer found out the Hulu documentary paid him for that interview and raw footage. This creates an ethical dilemma for the “Fyre Fraud” filmmakers, who have been criticized not only for paying a source (a no-no in journalism) but also a person who defrauded other people of money (as seen in both documentaries). 

It’s not clear exactly how much McFarland was paid, but the film’s director told The Ringer it was “less than $250,000.”

Overall Thoughts

All in all, there’s a lot of shady shit that went down in the event itself and how it was documented in both films. Putting the drama aside, I was entertained by both productions as much as I was SMH in cringey disbelief. What I appreciated about watching each of them was how they captured the importance of social status for today’s young people.

Between the two, I’d recommend watching the Hulu doc, since it’s more critical of Fyre (and doesn’t seem quite as shady as the Netflix movie in terms of how it was made). But both Netflix and Hulu should have known that paying the people who made Fyre happen — whether that’s Jerry Media or McFarland himself — was bound to get them burned.

The post I Watched Both Fyre Documentaries So You Don’t Have To appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Opinion: If You Could Sign Northam and Kavanaugh’s Yearbooks Now

February 6, 2019 - 1:35pm

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh are aligned with different political parties but have something big in common: yearbooks that haunt them.

So far Gov. Northam, a Democrat, is refusing to resign after a racist photograph surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. The photo pictures a man in blackface, smiling next to someone in Ku Klux Klan garb. Northam initially apologized for appearing in the picture but later denied he was in it. He has admitted to appearing in blackface — just not on this particular occasion. 

Justice Kavanaugh’s yearbook trouble hit after President Trump nominated him for the United States Supreme Court. At his confirmation hearings last fall, Justice Kavanaugh was called upon to explain a series of cryptic references — allegedly related to sex, flatulence and drinking — that appeared on his high school yearbook page from 1983. 

All this yearbook drama has me thinking: What if you could sign their yearbooks now?  Tweet us @itsYRmedia with your ideas, hashtag #YearbookSigning.

A YR Media resident designer imagines: If Gov. Ralph Northam or Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked you to sign his yearbook, what would you write? (Illustration: Desmond Meagley)

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Categories: Blog

Affirmative Action As We Know It Could Change. Here’s What to Know.

February 6, 2019 - 5:30am

Two cases targeting affirmative action are making their way through federal court. An organization representing Asian-American students, called Students for Fair Admissions, is suing Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for allegedly discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions process.

The Harvard trial concluded in November 2018, but it’s still awaiting a final judgment. Meanwhile, in the UNC case, both sides have filed dueling legal motions asking the judge to bypass a trial.

Both cases have the potential to go to the Supreme Court and even bring an end to race-based college admissions.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the headlines around these complex cases. Here are the main takeaways you should watch for as they continue.

1. Going to the Supreme Court is NOT a done deal for these affirmative action cases

Both sides of the Harvard case have said they plan to appeal the judge’s decision in District Court, regardless of what she does. But an appeal doesn’t guarantee a direct line into the Supreme Court. “Everyone in the media says this case is destined for the Supreme Court,” said Vikram Amar, dean of the University of Illinois College of Law. “The Supreme Court takes very, very, very few cases.” 

Amar pointed to Fisher v. University of Texas, another challenge to affirmative action that the Supreme Court heard only three years ago. Given how recent that case was, the Court may not take up the Students for Fair Admissions cases. Instead, the Justices may wait and see if colleges will experiment with new approaches to race-based admissions. 

2. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s position is unknown — and it might be a surprise

If the challenges to affirmative action do get taken up by the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh might end up being the deciding vote. Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised people by voting to uphold affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas, and Amar says Kavanaugh may do the same.

“Now, I don’t know that Brett Kavanaugh will feel the same way that Justice Kennedy did about this. But I don’t think that Brett Kavanaugh would relish the notion that one of the first big cases that he hears as a justice would be to be the fifth vote to make such a major change, in such an important area of law,” Amar said.

3. The UNC and Harvard cases are significantly different

Although the same party is responsible for both lawsuits, the two lawsuits make different arguments. The Harvard case is claiming that Asian applicants are disadvantaged compared to white applicants, but this suit does not go into the benefits that African-American and Latino applicants receive. On the other hand, the UNC case argues that both white and Asian applicants are unfairly burdened by the advantages given to underrepresented minorities.

[The UNC case is] a more old-fashioned attack on affirmative action,” Amar said. “The Harvard case is more exotic than the North Carolina case. If the North Carolina case gets to the Supreme Court, it is more likely to serve as a vehicle for the court to consider affirmative action as a whole”.

4. Asian students in the Harvard case are making a unique argument — that Harvard is lowering their rankings based on likability

While Harvard admissions officers consider grades, extracurricular activities and SAT or ACT scores, the Harvard trial revealed that they also consider “soft variables.” This can include an applicant’s general likability and leadership skills.

Having observed the trial, Amar questions why Asians, as a group, score significantly lower in the soft variables. “It’s hard to understand why as a group, [Asian-American applicants] would fare worse on those criteria unless there’s some implicit stereotyping bias going on,” he said.

5. Harvard doesn’t get a pass for being a private school

Previous challenges to affirmative action have targeted public universities, such as University of Michigan, University of Texas and UC Davis. Public schools are governed by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits racial bias in public universities.
However, Harvard does receive federal funding.

Congress passed Title VI that tells any university that receives public federal funding — which means any university, since public and private receive federal funding — that they have to also refrain from discrimination on the basis of race,” Amar said.

6. What about diversity when it comes to socioeconomic class?

A common argument against race-based admissions pushes for class diversity over racial diversity.

However, even within the same socioeconomic class, black and Latino students are less likely to graduate than white students. “So a poor person of color has an even stronger headwind in front of her than a poor white person. If you really want racial diversity in higher education, we’re not yet at the point where there’s really any good substitute,” said Amar.

7. So … should Asian-Americans be nervous about marking their race on college applications?

Well, it depends on the school. Professor Amar is a dean at the University of Illinois. “I don’t think here at the University of Illinois, there would be any statistical or other data to suggest that Asian-Americans are being biased in the undergraduate admissions process. But, you know,, the admissions process doesn’t have nearly as many subjective inscrutable criteria as the Harvard process does,” Amar said.

The post Affirmative Action As We Know It Could Change. Here’s What to Know. appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The 21 Savage Petition Isn’t the Only Proof Americans Support Immigrants

February 5, 2019 - 4:05pm

A rapper’s possible deportation is proving a bigger point: most Americans want undocumented immigrants to have a way to stay in the U.S. legally, according to recent polling.

Rapper 21 Savage was arrested over the weekend and placed under deportation proceedings for allegedly overstaying his visa, according to news reports.

The rapper, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was brought to the United States from the U.K. as a child, according to his lawyer in an interview with NBC News. When he arrived, Abraham-Joseph’s family had visas, but when they expired he and his family continued to stay in the U.S., his lawyer said.

Most fans assumed 21 Savage was originally from Atlanta, a city he’s closely associated with.

The rapper could face deportation and a 10 year ban from entering the U.S.

21 Savage is best known for his hit songs “X,” “Bank Account” and “Rockstar” in collaboration with Post Malone.

Since his arrest, there’s been an outpouring of support from artists and fans asking he be released. Black Lives Matter and United We Dream, along with other advocates, created an online petition, #Free21Savage, demanding ICE officials stop deportation proceedings and release the rapper immediately. As of today, the petition has more than 170,000 signatures.

This overwhelming support towards an undocumented immigrant reflects how Americans feel on the issue of immigration. The vast majority of Americans — 81 percent — support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S., according to a recent Gallup Poll

Here are some more interesting findings from Gallup:

  • 61 percent oppose deporting all undocumented immigrants back to their home country.
  • 60 percent oppose significant new construction on border walls.
  • 75 percent favor hiring more Border Patrol agents.

The post The 21 Savage Petition Isn’t the Only Proof Americans Support Immigrants appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Playlist: Alt State of the Union

February 5, 2019 - 3:13pm

The time of year has come where the president is finally going to tell us his plan for the year. Personally, I’ve never been one to watch these, but this year I have another reason as to why I don’t want to. The current state of the U.S. government is saddening to the highest degree. The fact that we are coming off the longest shutdown in history, to the SOTU, feels like an extra slap in the face. The current president is willing to endanger the well being of hundreds of thousands of people with government jobs for the sake of his temper tantrum. I created this playlist as an alternative way to spend your time instead of supporting the current mess that is our government. Some of these songs are here to just make you feel good, and some are here to help bear a reminder to the unity that we as a people should hold together during these stressful times.


BlackStar & Common – Respiration

Sam Cooke – Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

Kendrick Lamar – PRIDE.

Reflection Eternal & Vinia Mojica  – Blast

The Pharcyde – Runnin’

Ms. Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)

J Dilla – Fuck The Police

Fela Kuti – Water No Get Enemy

Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y

Jill Scott – Can’t Wait

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Categories: Blog

I’m an Immigrant with DACA Who Supports Trump. Surprised?

February 5, 2019 - 12:49pm

If you watch Fox News, you might have seen 26-year-old Hilario Yanez.

The young conservative has been on air several times in the last year, discussing his support for President Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall and other aspects of Trump’s immigration policy.

Those aren’t unusual viewpoints for a conservative. But what is unusual?

Yanez is an immigrant himself. His mom brought him here illegally from Mexico when he was 1. Undocumented immigrants like him — who were brought to the U.S. as children — have sometimes been called “Dreamers.”

Yanez is now only able to work legally in the U.S. because of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era program gave Dreamers like Yanez the chance to apply for a two-year, renewable work permit and to live free from the fear of deportation.

The fate of DACA recipients has been a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats, with the Trump administration calling for a complete end to the DACA program last year, a decision the courts overturned.

Recently, Trump offered Democrats a three-year extension of DACA — but not a path to citizenship for DACA recipients — in exchange for funding for the border wall. Democrats rejected the offer.

YR Media spoke with Yanez about how you can be undocumented but pro-wall.

(Photo courtesy Hilario Yanez)

YR Media: What opportunities has DACA given you?

Hilario Yanez: When I heard about DACA, I completely started crying and I knew it was going to be my only shot at living the American dream. I immediately applied for it. Having DACA allowed me to have a Social Security [card], a work permit and I was able to pay my way through college. Now I’m a first-generation college graduate and I worked for a Fortune 500 company. If it wasn’t for DACA, I don’t know how I would have had the opportunities I was able to have. So it was life changing and I’m always going to be forever grateful for DACA.

YR Media: As someone who really benefited from DACA, what do you think of it?

HY: We knew this was only temporary status and we knew that the next president or any other president could easily get rid of it. It wasn’t a permanent solution and so now, this is where we stand. You have President Trump trying to remove DACA. I think he has every right to do that and I think he should. [DACA] is unconstitutional and I think we need to find a permanent solution at this point.

YR Media: You’re saying that Trump should end DACA and that obviously would impact you a lot. Doesn’t that worry you?

HY: When he removed DACA, he said, “I want to take [DACA] because it wasn’t done correctly and I want Congress to fix it.” And right now, that’s exactly what I want. I want a permanent solution. I don’t want a temporary status where I have to plan every two years. It’s frustrating. That’s the issue you’re seeing with TPS [Temporary Protected Status] right now. TPS was supposed to be temporary status, but we kept renewing it, kept renewing it, and now we’re in this limbo where we don’t know what to do now. We need to find a permanent solution for DACA. The moment the Supreme Court rules on DACA and says it’s unconstitutional, everybody is going to run to the table and want to try to fix this, as soon as possible.

YR Media: What’s your stance on immigration in general?

HY: I’ll say this, in order to have immigration reform you need to have some kind of immigration control. I think that we need to upgrade our immigration and have more opportunities for people to come to the U.S. the right way and be here lawfully. I think right now there’s a perfect opportunity to have border security in exchange for a permanent solution for DACA recipients. I think that’s a quick win and it’s an easy win that most Americans agree with. Let’s talk about the rest of the immigration community because it’s also an issue there. People like my aunt, my mom, people who are good immigrants, who are contributing and are helping the economy grow and that have not broken a law. They’re law-abiding citizens, people that love this country. There’s always that misconception that the rest of the nine million, 10 million [undocumented] immigrants, [they] all want to be citizens tomorrow and I think that’s just a false idea. They just want peace. They want to remain here in this country without the fear of deportation.

YR Media: Why are you a conservative and what appeals to you about this administration?

HY: I believe in working hard. I believe in God. I believe in standing on your own two feet. Ronald Reagan said it best: “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.” We need government less in our lives. I’ve gotten this far without handouts or at least [without] help from the government. I think the Republican Party needs to do a better job of reaching out to the Hispanic community. I’m so tired of seeing the Hispanic community being represented by Anglo-American people that really don’t understand our issues.

YR Media: Why do you think we need a wall?

HY: I think the president has emphasized [the wall] a little too much. I think at the end of the day there [are] some areas where we do need barriers. I think the Democrats have voted for this in the past. I think the key issue is that the president has made [the wall] his priority and his promise. 

YR Media: Does Trump’s flakiness worry you? I say that because Trump has gone back and forth with an offer of citizenship to DACA recipients last year, but this year no offer like that is on the table yet.

HY: I think he’s a deal maker. I also feel strongly that in his heart he’s really for the DACA community. He really supports us. I think he’s a father first and I think he would love to get this fixed.

YR Media: What kind of response have you gotten after being on Fox, in particular from the Latino community?

HY: It is really surprising because there’s a lot of [conservatives] that are like, “Man, I used to be like anti-amnesty and I used to be, ‘All Dreamers are Democrats and all Dreamers want citizenship,’ and now I’m not.” I was able to open their minds and kind of touched their heart as well, so that’s one aspect. Now in terms of the Latino community, I’m getting called a traitor. I’m like, wait a minute, first of all, I’m trying to get a solution brought to the table.

YR Media: How would you answer people who might see you on Fox and say you’re being used by the right as a kind of token Latino who supports the conservative viewpoint on immigration?

HY: First of all, I’m not getting paid by anybody to say these things. No one is influencing my mind. I know there are real theories out there that I’m not getting paid under the table to say these things. I’m taking it all in as an opportunity to be at the table and to have my voice heard.  I’m just grateful. I’m not being influenced. I’m not being used as a token. At the end of the day I can say, “I don’t want to do this,” but I think this is a perfect opportunity to change people’s lives.

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Categories: Blog

Meet a Black Panther Party Member Who’s Been in Prison for 47 Years

February 4, 2019 - 4:39pm

Even though the Black Panther Party, or BPP, officially dissolved in 1982, several of its members have been imprisoned for nearly half a century or more.

Jalil Muntaqim is an author, poet and former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army member. He was arrested when he was 19 years old for the murder of two New York police officers and has been in prison for 47 years. His parole has been denied 11 times.

Muntaqim spent the first decades of his time in prison arguing he was innocent, but recently admitted to the murder during his last attempt for parole, according to a New Yorker article.

And incarceration has not stopped Muntaqim from contributing to the betterment of his community. From behind bars, he has authored multiple books, taught black history classes (which landed him in solitary confinement, according to several activist websites) and co-founded the Jericho Movement, which seeks to organize around and provide resources for political prisoners.

The Black Panther Party now serves as an iconic source of inspiration for many modern-day activists and artists. Colin Kaepernick, Beyonce, the hit Marvel movie “Black Panther” and, of course, Black Lives Matter all call upon the imagery and legacy of BPP.  In the fall of 2018, I sat down with Jalil Muntaqim in Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, to look back and intimately discuss the BPP’s history and his own personal transformation.

Shavonne Bryant: What originally sparked your interest in joining the party?

Jalil Muntaqim: At 16, I signed up to become a BPP member. However, I did not truly become active until I was 18 years old. In 1967, BPP members went to the California Capitol with guns demanding the law prohibiting open carry be nullified. It struck me how serious these black men and women were in support of the liberation of black people.

SB: Subscribing to an ideology is one thing, but sticking around and going down for the cause is another. I remember in 2014, circa the Ferguson protests, I thought, “OK, I’m willing to die for this.” Did you have a similar moment?

JM: My major transformative moment was the assassination of Dr. Martin L. King Jr., and the many riots in response across the country. That was a pivotal moment knowing that peaceful resistance could get you killed. Therefore, we need to do more than simply marching and petitioning for human rights.

SB: History informs the present to the point that they often reflect each other. In what ways is a mirror being held up to the ’60s/’70s?

JM: Today, we are finding a resurgence of white nationalism that seeks to reverse the gains won during the civil rights and Black Power era of struggle. It virtually reflects an era of Jim Crow segregation and the thought of white supremacy that we opposed. Similarly, today, we find young people — particularly in the Black Lives Matter initiatives — that oppose any effort to reverse gains won. To more or lesser degree, depending on your perspective, these are reflective not only of the past struggles, but indicative that the system of capitalism is unsustainable as a system of competition, class division and racial hatred for the profit of plutocrats. Therefore, these struggles are essentially a continuum, in the ebbs and flows, of a revolutionary determination.

SB: How have your political beliefs transformed since then? What about your religious and spiritual beliefs?

JM: I have matured and recognized to what extent our challenge back then was infantile. While we were prepared to die for the cause, we were not conscious to the means and method in which the U.S. government would apply to thwart our movement. I have since become Muslim, also recognizing each and every major leader in our struggle believed in a higher being.

SB: Can you pinpoint a particular thought or emotion that fueled your passion back then? What about now?

JM: The primary thought or emotion is my love for black people specifically, and love for humanity generally. There is no greater motivator for a revolutionary than a sense of love of self and love of humanity. That has not changed, but rather has become magnified witnessing many comrades make the ultimate sacrifice in struggle.

SB: I think a lot of folks would be shocked reading the details of the blunders of the BPP. What are some of the mistakes modern-day activists should avoid?

JM: Sexism and chauvinism, personality worship and commanderism, and failure to study and learn from history. In this regards, I have a specific issue that irks me, that being young activists’ failure to reach out to political prisoners. They fail to speak with and learn the lessons, first hand, from those who been there and made sacrifices in struggle.

SB: What is something you’d like to be remembered for? What action of yours do you believe will live on?

JM: My efforts to establish, keep and sustain a relationship with my child and grandchildren despite my decades of imprisonment. In terms of what I hope will be lasting and endure is the creation of Jericho Amnesty Movement. For as long as there are political prisoners, there needs to be an organization that works to support them in every way possible.

SB: What is the biggest transformation you’ve experienced over the last 47 years? How has incarceration influenced that change?

JM: For me, personally, it is to be more patient and less impetuous. To recognize the value and significance of education — to study relentlessly, and to share knowledge as widely as possible. Lastly, that getting old in prison ain’t no joke. Growing old in prison prevents one to disregard the daily misery imposed by a system bent on punitive sanctions and punishment. Couple that with the pervasive racism that permeates the system, the conscious suffers the daily indignities of dehumanization of incarceration. With the knowledge that this is no happenstance, but rather a planned determination, we learn our community is targeted for mass-incarceration, that the school-to-prison pipeline is real, causes a sense of despair. So, prison has further internalized, for me, an understanding this system of coercive capitalism is the ultimate anti-humanity governing institution in the world.

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Categories: Blog

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Should Black Players Protest?

February 3, 2019 - 1:45am

As Black History Month kicks off, YR Media’s Aaliyah Filos offers her take on all the controversy surrounding the Super Bowl, which is in part about whether Maroon 5 should have said yes to the halftime show, given what’s happened to Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, hasn’t played since the 2016 season, when he protested police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem.

But now, with all the focus on Maroon 5 and this year’s halftime show, what about the players themselves?

Aaliyah Filos looks back at the history of black athlete activism, from Muhammad Ali refusing to be drafted in the Vietnam War, to NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf not standing during the national anthem back in 2010.

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Categories: Blog