The Set Is (Properly) Lit With Issa Rae and Ava DuVernay, The Black Man Who Infiltrated the KKK Is Getting a Movie and Little Miss Flint Says Speak Up

People of a certain age (and certain hue) look back on old high school yearbook pictures with mixed feelings. Chances are, the more melanin you have, the less likely you would show up as anything more attractive than a smudge, a muddy smirk — or worse, a lurking presence — as you hovered in the back row of the chess club photo.

Part of the problem is that racism was built into film processing. Until the 1990s, professional film developers compared the skin tones in photographs against a universal guide known as “Shirley cards” which helped them figure out the right mix of chemicals to process a photo properly.

The Shirleys were always white and demure.

“The consumer market that was designated in the design of film chemistry was that of a lighter skinned market,” explains Lorna Roth, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, in this video produced by Vox. “So, when defining what an idealized skin tone would be, it turned out to be lighter skin.” It made black skin look terrible.

Ultimately Kodak, the primary supplier of film, did change its product after a public outcry — from companies trying to photograph wood furniture or chocolate.

This terrible history is one of the things that makes the success of Insecure, the transcendent show from HBO created by Issa Rae, so extraordinary.

The characters, who are a variety of darker hues and who are shown in a variety of settings, are absolutely gorgeous. But it’s not just that they are more beautiful than you and me, it’s that they finally look as beautiful as they are. And that has important implications for how we understand the humanity of others.

Ava Berkofsky, Insecure’s director of photography, has managed to solve the once intractable problem. “When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people,” Berkofsky said in this essential piece from Mic. “There are all these general rules about lighting people of color, like throw green light or amber light at them. It’s weird.”

But another Ava, DuVernay, has also been a big part of why the Shirleys are being retired for good.

“I don’t appreciate seeing black folks that are unlit,” she told Buzzfeed. Lighting to white characters means that black ones are shadowed. And unless black people can appear everywhere in a story, they’re not fully there. She says the lighting in her second film, Middle of Nowhere was “a deliberate decision to find the beauty of black people in dark spaces.” A light went on: The film won awards at Sundance in 2012.

Click here for the full story. You won’t believe your eyes.

On Point

Hidden Figures is getting a picture bookThe story of the mathematics and engineering badasses who delighted filmgoers in the 2016 Oscar nominated hit, Hidden Figures, will be adapted into a picture book aimed at 4- to 8-year-olds. The book will be published by HarperCollins, and is due to hit shelves in January 2018. The story will highlight the work of four perfectly visible black engineers and mathematicians, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the 1940s. Margot Lee Shetterly, who wrote the bestselling book the movie was based on, will be co-writing the book.Quartz

A black man once infiltrated the Klan, and Spike Lee and Jordan Peele are making a movie about it
The lighting will no doubt be outstanding in this new collaboration from Get Out’s Jordan Peele and Spike Lee. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news yesterday that that duo will be teaming up for the film version of “Black Klansman,” the true story of Ron Stallworth, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based detective who managed to rise through the leadership ranks of the KKK in 1978, largely by phone and correspondence, and by sending a white officer in his place for any meetings. John David Washington (son of Denzel) is in negotiations to star. Stallworth deserves a monument, is what I’m saying.
Hollywood Reporter

Diversity under fire at the CIA
Former CIA chief John Brennan, appointed in 2013 by Barack Obama, had made diversity a priority for the agency, in particular, breaking down barriers for LGBTQ agents and employees. Brennan’s extensive action plan for diversity and inclusion has been largely ignored or dismantled by Mike Pompeo, who took over the top spot in January. “For those who have worked inside the agency, the backtracking on diversity represents a threat to the workforce and national security,” says Foreign Policy, quoting numerous current and former CIA employees. "This isn’t just about today’s diversity issue. It’s about tomorrow’s lack of diversity that will erode the agency,” said one former analyst.
Foreign Policy

Shutting down hate speech on the web works and there is data to prove it
New research supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health examines the impact of Reddit’s ban on hate speech in 2015. The site closed several subreddits that had been in clear violation of the site’s terms of service,  specifically r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown. Click through for the fascinating methodology, but here’s the nut: “More accounts than expected discontinued using the site; those that stayed drastically decreased their hate speech usage — by at least 80%.” And the harassers didn’t head over to other subreddits in droves, either. Ellen Pao, now of Project Include, was the Reddit CEO at the time. The study is being published by the Association for Computing Machinery.

The Woke Leader

IncludeU30: Little Miss Flint wants you to stand up for someone today
Amariyanna Copeny, who goes by Mari, was only eight when she first started speaking out on behalf of her community. That was in 2016. “When we found out the water making us sick I decided I wanted to stand up and give a voice to the kids in Flint that couldn't stand up and speak for themselves,” she tells Fortune. She's spoken at the UN, at the Women's March, and has become a tireless campaigner for kids in her hometown. “You know, other people can help out Flint by not letting us be forgotten,” she says. There are other people who don't have a voice. What can you do for them today?

A new report aims to help school police officers better serve black and brown girls in schools
Police who work in public schools (called school resource officers or SROs) are disproportionately targeting black and brown girls for punishment. This report, titled “Be Her Resource: A Toolkit about School Resource Officers and Girls of Color,” aims to find out why. "Even as awareness of school-to-confinement pathways for girls has increased, and shocking images of SROs confronting black and Latina girls have continued to surface, little research has focused on ways to improve school-based safety for girls of color,” said the study’s lead author. While they're in thousands of schools across the U.S., they are typically untrained to work with kids of any color and are largely unsupervised. The report is part of a must-bookmark series from Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty that is designed to address ways to reduce the unfair punitive treatment of girls of color. 

Maybe we should re-think affirmative action
This is the careful thesis put forth by writer, poet and doctoral researcher Clint Smith, who suggests that the only smart way to fully understand the power of affirmative action is to look at the decades long, ugly history of entitlement programs — housing, education, for veterans, etc. — that were designed to benefit exclusively white people. “Until affirmative action is described and understood as one mechanism by which to make amends for historical wrongdoing against members of marginalized communities, it will fail to meaningfully address the inequality that exists as a direct result of federal policy,” he says. Yes, he does mean reparations.
The New Republic


It all made sense: my shyness, all the times I was dismissed for not being “black enough,” my desire to reframe the images of black film and television, which I started to do when I created a series in college called Dorm Diaries, my inability to dance. These were all symptoms of my Awkward Blackness. 
—Issa Rae

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