Noose Found In African-American History Museum Exhibit In D.C.

For the second time in a week, a noose was found on the grounds of a Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C.

When visitors walked into an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesday, they saw a small noose lying on the floor. It had been left in an exhibit with galleries from the segregation era, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told HuffPost.

Two of the visitors who discovered the noose “were very upset,” St. Thomas said. The gallery was “closed pretty quickly” and remained closed for about an hour. 

It’s the second time in less than a week that a noose has been found on or around museum grounds on the National Mall. Last Friday, a noose was hanging from a tree outside the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, St. Thomas said.

“We don’t know how long that was there,” St. Thomas said of Friday’s discovery. “It was in a public space outside, but this [newly discovered noose] was obviously intended to be in the segregation exhibition.” 

St. Thomas said the museum has “full security,” including metal detectors and bag screening. But a small noose would not have set off any immediate alarms, she said.

The U.S. Park Police are now investigating the incident.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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What’s The Link Between Creativity and Depression?

The relationship between depression and creativity is often romanticized as the key to creating good art. It’s been called the dark side of creativity, or the key to genius. There’s hundreds of think pieces online about how depression can supercharge your creative endeavors, but do those think pieces actually hold any weight?

The short answer is yes but it’s complicated. It’s one of the world’s most common mental disorders and creative types are proven to be the group most affected by this disorder.

Psych2Go’s new video breaks down the relationship between creativity and depression. By citing many different studies on depression, the video highlights the nature of the very complicated relationship. Many studies suggest that creative people are more exposed to the causal effects of depression while others suggest that depression causes creativity.

It’s hard to find a streamlined relationship between creativity and depression. The truth is that the two things are so inherently tied to one another that it’s impossible to determine cause and effect, although they do seem (at least on the surface) incredibly related.

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Margaret Atwood And Other Library Heroes Are Teaming Up To Help The NYPL

Speculative fiction queen Margaret Atwood has done so much great work, and she’s getting recognized more and more these days. She’s lending her newly heightened cachet to a worthy cause: Encouraging New York Public Library patrons to sign a petition in support of continued funding for the city’s libraries.

In an letter headlined “There are no public libraries in The Handmaid’s Tale’s Gilead,” Atwood drew a clear line between access to books and having a free and open society:

There are an infinite variety of tyrannies and dystopias, but they all share one trait: the ferocious opposition to free thought, open minds, and access to information. Where people are free to learn, to share, to explore, to feel and dream, liberty grows.

This is why the library matters so much. It is a democratizing and liberating force like none other.

Hear hear.

“It’s no coincidence,” she added, “that there are no public libraries in the dystopia I wrote about in my novel The Handmaid’s Tale.” For those who have been eagerly binging on the foreboding Hulu adaptation of her book, that comparison is chilling.

Atwood’s letter is part of a letter-writing campaign, headed by literary luminaries including Malcolm Gladwell and Junot Diaz, urging the city to allocate more funding in 2018 for New York City public libraries, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library: $34 million in additional operating funds and $150 million in capital funding. The requested funding would be used, respectively, to expand library services (even keeping some branches open all week) and to perform necessary maintenance, according to the NYPL. 

All too often, local governments target libraries for budget cuts at the expense of the mission of providing accessible education and literacy to the public. In the midst of all the political chaos today, Atwood and her fellow literary advocates remind us, we can’t lose sight of the power of free access to learning and literature.

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At Least Trump’s Black Music Month Statement Got This Right

President Trump has officially declared June 2017 as African-American Music Appreciation Month.

On Wednesday, Trump continued the annual presidential tradition by issuing this year’s proclamation. In his announcement, President Trump credited the influences of black music pioneers for giving “all Americans” a better understanding of American culture.

“During June, we pay tribute to the contributions African Americans have made and continue to make to American music,” the statement reads. “The indelible legacy of these musicians who have witnessed our Nation’s greatest achievements, as well as its greatest injustices give all Americans a richer, deeper understanding of American culture. Their creativity has shaped every genre of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and rap.” 

The month-long observance, honoring the vast musical contributions of black artists, was first declared in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. In 2000, President Clinton signed the African-American Music Bill, which formally established Black Music Month as a national observance.

In this year’s statement, Trump called out such greats like Chuck Berry, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald as black musicians who have exemplified how music can bring people together.

“These musicians also remind us of our humanity and of our power to overcome,” the statement reads. “They expressed the soul of blues, gospel, and rock and roll, which has so often captured the hardships of racism and injustices suffered by African Americans, as well as daily joys and celebrations.”

“Their work highlights the power music has to channel the human experience, and they remain a testament to the resilience of all freedom-loving people,” he continued. “We are grateful for their contribution to the cannon of great American art.”  

Read more of President Trump’s Black Music Month Proclamation in its entirety here.

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This Artist Is Reimagining Your Fave Cartoon Characters As Grown-Ups

If last summer’s ubiquitous “Arthur” memes didn’t leave you feeling old as dirt, imagine seeing the “Arthur” cast and your other animated faves as full-blown adults.

Welp, prepare to count your every crow’s-feet. Brandon Avant is reimagining characters from classic cartoon shows as grown-ups ― and the swag is unreal. Avant, a 29-year-old Mississippi native, began putting adult spins on classic cartoons when he drew a mature version of the “Peanuts” crew in February 2016. 

The University of Portland fashion design student regularly posts his artwork ― everything from supernatural anime creatures to politically charged illustrations ― on Instagram. But his desire to reminisce on the days of dope cartoons by aging animated characters is what has really attracted thousands of double-tapping fingers to his work.

It wasn’t until March that Avant posted another one of his recreated cartoon characters, this time a tatted-up version of the “Doug” gang. 

After the “Doug” drawing, which garnered nearly 3,000 likes, Avant told HuffPost he decided to continue experimenting with the cartoon faves. He committed to doing at least 10 more drawings of the same concept because he saw it was so well-received.

“I like making people happy and making their day,” Avant told HuffPost. 

He said he enjoys reminding his audience of the earlier cartoon days, especially those that helped black children understand their culture like “The Proud Family” and “The Boondocks.”

You can relive all the blissful days of aardvarks, recess and Penny Proud below. 

If you feel he’s missing any classics *cough* “Hey, Arnold” *cough* or you aim to have a standalone Susie Carmichael drawing, Avant takes commissions. 

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Jamaican-Chinese-American Woman Tells Little-Known Story Of 2 Blended Cultures

One woman’s story shows just how diverse the Chinese community actually is. 

Paula Williams Madison, a retired NBC Universal executive who’s Jamaican-Chinese-American, decided to begin actively looking years ago for ties to her Chinese grandfather, Samuel Lowe. In 2012, her search led her back to Lowe’s home country, where she not only learned about his backstory but also finally connected with her Asian relatives.  

The emotional journey is the subject of the 2014 documentary, “Finding Samuel Lowe,” which is currently streaming online for free until June 13 on In it, it’s clear that Madison’s Asian heritage has become a crucial part of her identity. 

“It felt like a hole in my heart and my soul has finally been filled,” told CNN of meeting her Chinese family members, who are of the Hakka ethnic group. 

Madison, who was raised in Harlem by her Jamaican-Chinese mother Nell, said she often asked about her family’s past but details were scarce. Lowe, a shopkeeper in Kingston, last saw Nell when she was about 3 years old, ABC News reported. He allegedly left Kingston and returned to China, where he died. 

Armed with the little information she had on Lowe, Madison chipped away at her heritage on genealogy websites, uncovering more about the grandfather’s immigration to Jamaica and past as a sugar plantation worker, according to Poynter. She ended up with a huge lead after attending a Hakka conference in Toronto, where she met scholar Keith Lowe, another Chinese-Jamaican with her grandfather’s last name. She asked him to help attempt to connect her with her family in China. 

Sure enough, the scholar reached out his family and gave Madison some eye-opening news ― his uncle’s father was Lowe, ABC News reported. 

Madison made the trip to China later that year and met with her Chinese relatives. Today, she’s close with her Chinese family members and visits the country often. She said she feels comfortable in the country. 

“(When I’m there) I’m very happy,” she told CNN. “I don’t feel like a foreigner. I’m feeling very at home.”

While Madison’s story is a rare one, her Jamaican-Chinese background isn’t all that uncommon. Hakka people, who hail mostly from South China, arrived in Jamaica in four main batches beginning around 1854. The Chinese Benevolent Association of Jamaica points out that although most Chinese immigrants who came to the country weren’t “coolies,” or indentured servants, those who arrived early were in fact brought there due to the “coolie” trade. They later established a social infrastructure that allowed for more migrants to follow. 

Chinese workers were initially brought to the country to fill a labor gap that opened up when the European slave trade with western and central Africa drew to a close. While these contract laborers were paid, they lived and worked in poor conditions, often similar to what slaves were subjected to. 

Several other waves of Chinese immigrants followed, many as workers from from other parts of the Caribbean, establishing a chain of migration. And by the late 19th to early 20th century, when they became a significant part of the local retail sector. 

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This Town Is So Adorable, You’re Forbidden To Take Pictures In It

One municipality in Switzerland has instituted a fine for anyone who takes photos there, saying the pictures will cause envy and extreme unhappiness for people who see them on social media.

Lawmakers in Bergün/Bravuogn claim their region is so beautiful, footage may prompt crippling FOMO.  

“It is scientifically proven [that] beautiful vacation photos on social media make the viewers unhappy, because they themselves can not be on the spot,” the tourist office said in statement. Naturally, the office recommends visiting the village of Bergün to avoid this dreaded FOMO. 

They have a point: Every Instagram already taken there is gorgeous. 

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Local lawmakers passed a law on Tuesday that threatens a fine of about $5 for anyone who takes a photo in Bergün/Bravuogn. Of course, the whole thing is mostly a marketing ploy to attract tourists, and it’s unlikely the fine will actually be enforced, tourism director Marc-Andrea Barandun told The Local. 

The ploy is clearly working: We’re newly fascinated with Bergün, a stop on the century-old Albula railway line which starts in the town of Thusis and ends in St. Moritz. Bergün boasts painted houses, an 800-year-old church and a Roman tower, and the 1952 film “Heidi” was filmed in a village nearby. There’s skiing in winter, hiking in summer and perfect vistas all year round. 

Looks like the perfect place for a camera-free trip.

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H/T Travel + Leisure

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I Only Recently Gave Myself Permission To Start Embracing Life As An Indian-American

“A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her development years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.” — Ruth Van Reken

People find wonder in being in two places at once, as though one is defying her human capabilities and transcending into the impossible. But I know firsthand the suffering, the questions, the inconsistencies and the inner torment that comes with straddling two spaces at once, with no sense of belonging to one or the other. 

It’s only in the last couple of years that I starkly realized I’m a brown girl living in America. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not like I never knew I was brown, but since I was born here, I assimilated seamlessly into American culture with a quintessential American childhood – including school dances, league sports, male friends, growing pains and heartbreak.

But along with my adaptability into the American lifestyle came long discussions and arguments with my parents over the fact that I was very “American” — and whether that had to mean traditional Indian values were sidelined. Sleepovers and school dances were threats to my focus on education (and came second to community obligations). Male friends were a threat to my purity. Discussions on love weren’t even on the table until I was old enough to suitably marry. But nonetheless, I fostered and catered to my individuality, directly opposing the collective mindset deeply rooted in my family and our Indian culture.

My adaptability into the American lifestyle brought long discussions with my parents over the fact that I was very “American” — and whether that had to mean traditional Indian values were sidelined.

The constant debate of whether I was “acting” like an American or an Indian forced me to defend my choices and my third culture mindset with an intense necessity. Conversations, even now, on how thinking one way or doing one thing makes me more American, have nurtured a deep inner conflict on who I am and what I can identify as. By coming off as American in certain ways, I’ve assumed by default that it means I’m less Indian.

This was reaching a boiling point for some time, but after Trump’s victory, this idea was completely shattered. The country I was so enthusiastic to be from and identify with forced me onto the other team. 

I am realizing this is inherently the problem, though — that I’ve felt like I needed to stand on one side of the line. 

I have spent so much of my life defending being American that I have only recently started to give myself permission to embrace being Indian. 

I can be an opinionated, assertive woman who will submit to my elders and help clean up in the kitchen while the men get up and go do anything else — not because I think it’s ‘my place’ but rather to be respectful and helpful.

I can cut my hair and still identify as Sikh, write about our struggles and attend conferences to learn about the religion and connect with other people who practice it to varying degrees. I can be an opinionated, assertive, free-speaking woman who will submit to my elders (even if I disagree) and help clean up in the kitchen while the men get up and go do anything else — not because I think it’s “my place” but rather because I want to be respectful and helpful.

I can have male friends, get dressed up to go out dancing and unabashedly enjoy my weekends… but still prefer a modest one-piece bathing suit and female-only dorms when I travel. I can know how to take care of myself first but still struggle to not immediately drop everything to be available when a family member calls me (as so much of my identity is wrapped up in being a good daughter to my immigrant parents).

These (seemingly minute) differences in how I act and think are ways my two cultures have shaped the way I occupy space in this world. It’s most definitely a perpetual struggle, but I am realizing that I get to pick my battles as I continue on my long personal journey.

These differences in how I act and think are ways my two cultures have shaped the way I occupy space in this world.

I suppose this is my definition for what is known as biculturalism — facing the incessant inner conflict and appreciating that I have the luxury to pick and choose my favorite values from both Indian and American cultures and redefine them for what they mean to me.

I am American. I am Indian. I might feel more one than the other, but neither personal experience negates the other. 

This piece was originally published on

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Women Writers Face Major Hurdles, Especially In Bestselling Genres

You’ve probably read the stats: books by women are being reviewed more and more by prestigious outlets, but gender equity in the literary world has yet to be achieved. And, books by women are far less likely to win major awards.

Organizations such as VIDA work to hold reviews and awards committees accountable for not only their coverage of women, but of all kinds of women. However, they tend to focus on the so-called literary genre. So, how do women in other genres — science fiction, mystery, street lit, women’s lit — fare?

Ahead of a panel at the Bay Area Book Festival centered on “Feminist Activism Through Popular Fiction,” authors Meg Elison, Aya de Leon and Kate Raphael weighed in on the challenges they face as women writing in their respective genres. Raphael, an activist who writes mystery books, says there’s an active feminist community among her fellow mystery writers. But, she says she struggles to publish stories about women characters who indulge in the same antics as their noir-ish male counterparts.

Meanwhile, Elison and de Leon ― a dystopian writer and a street lit writer, respectively ― both say there is a dearth of the types of stories they want to tell, stories about the reality of women’s struggles, amid an action-centered plot. Below, they discuss the specific road blocks that women who write popular fiction face:

What is the genre you write in, and what specific problems does it pose as far as gender parity goes?

Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife: I write speculative fiction, which comes under the big umbrella of science fiction. My first books are post-apocalyptic stories. Science fiction was invented by a woman, and most of my favorite writers in the genre are women. Post-apocalyptic fiction, however, is crazily unbalanced. Most of the stories that take place after the end of the world are by men, about men and written for men.

I read hundreds of books in the genre where women were irrelevant, used as plot devices and barely verbal. They almost never needed birth control and they definitely never needed tampons. I realized that the story that I wanted to read really hadn’t been written yet: What if the apocalypse was very asymmetrical? What if it (like everything else) was harder on women and children than it was on men?

Aya de Leon, author of the Justice Hustlers series: My Justice Hustlers series mixes elements of women’s fiction, street lit and erotic romance. They are politically charged tales of labor organizing, women’s health care and wealth redistribution that center on the planning and execution of multimillion dollar heists. 

Street lit is traditionally male-dominated, and — as in most parts of the literary industry — male gatekeepers and audiences tend to ignore women’s writing. Every genre has its trademark cover art imagery. They function like signals to genre audiences: This is your type of book. The symbols of urban fiction are guns, money, jewelry and urban landscapes. While male cover models are sometimes shirtless, they are generally heavily muscled and often armed. Typically, women’s book covers in the genre skew toward romance tropes, rather than action.

In order to be consistent with other books in the imprint, my novel covers have a single young woman of color looking sexy in a sort of “come hither” way. A more accurate representation of my series would be a sexy, multi-racial group of armed women in the midst of a heist operation. A male writer wouldn’t have the same problem, because the mainstream images of male strength and sexiness are the same: power is sexy and power is power.

Kate Raphael, author of Murder Under the Bridge: I write mysteries, and women actually make up over 50 percent of published mystery and crime fiction writers, but as Sisters in Crime has documented, get fewer than 50 percent of reviews and far fewer in the most prestigious outlets. There is also a narrower range of characters that are acceptable for women in crime fiction. An agent rejected my book because my main character, a Palestinian policewoman, disobeyed her boss. So many mysteries involve a male detective pursuing an investigation after he’s been ordered not to, having his badge and gun confiscated, that it’s a cliché. 

There’s much ado lately about the “strong female lead.” Why do you think that’s an insufficient literary exploration of feminism?

Elison: The “strong female lead” is just another trope. Too often, it means a stereotypical cool girl who eschews femininity to be one of the guys and wield weapons. Too often she carries her own internalized misogyny, or she’s just a regulation hot chick who happens to know kung fu.

It’s insufficient because the movement for the correct representation of the wild spectrum of human gender and sexuality is just getting started. We’re just staring to see tender boys in films like “Moonlight,” or fully realized tough women in books like Chuck Wendig’s Atlanta Burns. We’re just now seeing realistic trans and nonbinary characters, asexual characters and so many more. Ripley in a mecha suit is great, but not enough. A disabled Furiosa is a wonderful start, but it’s got to keep rolling.

De Leon: Pop culture stories with a strong female lead are an important component of feminism, especially in a media world that skews so strongly toward men: Male writers of books, and male protagonists on-screen with male creators behind the scenes. But Andi Zeisler’s recent book, We Were Feminists Once, reminds us that the ultimate goal of feminism isn’t to applaud an individual woman being “empowered,” but about creating gender equality for all women. I am most excited about the feminist potential of stories that have a broader scope of what they envision as far as interrupting and ultimately ending sexism in the world.

Raphael: So many of the strong female leads are still very stereotyped. There’s still an expectation that a woman can be beautiful, fashionable, f**kable, vulnerable, not shrill and at the same time be kickass. Of course some women are all those things, but many aren’t. The real-life struggles of women are often oversimplified. Like, who’s doing the childcare? And how does the driven woman cop or spy or agent or lawyer feel about leaving her kids to go running off after the murderer at all hours? If she’s heterosexual, is her husband resentful, and if so, what does she do about it? I try to introduce those dilemmas in my books. In a feminist novel, women should see characters like themselves ― women of different races and cultures, different body types, dykes, mothers, single women, poor women and hopefully not in a United Colors of Benetton way, but in the messy, complex way that exists in the real world. 

In a feminist novel, women should see characters like themselves ― women of different races and cultures, different body types, dykes, mothers, single women, poor women.
Kate Raphael

Would you say you set out to write a feminist book?

Elison: Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. There is no part of my outlook or my work that is not shaped by my experience as a woman, and my belief that we are entitled to equality and almost always denied it. Writers and artists will often try to dodge or soften this label, claiming their work is for everybody, that it’s just a story about people. My work is for everybody who agrees that women are people. That isn’t too much to ask.

De Leon: Definitely. I’m not interested in turning readers on or off with the feminist label. I’m interested in embodying feminist values.

Raphael: Feminism is really core to who I am so I can’t conceive of not writing a feminist book. 

In what way do you think your politics work alongside your storytelling abilities? Do they complement one another? Enhance one another? Work against one another, at times?

Elison: The story must come first and definitely did for me. Wrapping a story around your politics invariably turns out a monstrosity like Atlas Shrugged, where somebody just rants for 40 pages about your philosophy. Nobody is fooled. Letting your life and your truth come through in a story without fear cannot help but be built partly of your own politics. My stories contain myself, my sexuality, my identity. Those things are political; they do not come apart. If a writer finds that their politics work against their story, it is likely because there is some part of themselves about which they cannot or will not tell the truth.

De Leon: I was really interested in reaching beyond the traditional feminist audience. That’s why I wrote a book that has elements of chick lit and romance. I wanted to mainstream subversive political ideas by serving them in the forms that women have been taught to consume. And I was interested in remixing tropes of romance and chick lit that seemed to conflict with feminism: hunky men, swooning moments, stiletto heels, shopping, competition between women. I wanted to engage all those mainstream appetites, but challenge them, as well.

Raphael: It’s a tough question. Again, the crime genre lends itself to political storytelling because it’s concerned fundamentally with questions of justice and injustice. A good crime story lays bare the power relations in a society ― in my case, in Palestine and Israel. So it was well suited to what I wanted to do. I could never set aside my politics to tell a story, because a radical analysis of social relations is how I view the world. If I didn’t bring in radical politics, and activism, I wouldn’t be telling a true story and certainly not one about Palestine. I just am not interested in apolitical stories, they seem flat and devoid of meaning to me. I can barely stand to read one, so I could definitely not write one.

Have you always felt comfortable imbuing your work with your identity as an activist or feminist? What obstacles have you faced in trying to do this?

Elison: I don’t know if “comfortable” is the right word to describe it, but it has always felt right. The obstacles are mostly that people whose opinions don’t matter will shout them at me on the internet. I’m perfectly capable of handling that. I’ve had a lot of thoughtful conversations about my depictions of gender and sexuality, and it’s fascinating to hear different interpretations of my work. But the difference between that conversation and an anonymous all-caps accusation of feminazism is pretty easy to discern. Though I respect the work of authors like Roxane Gay and Lindy West who give of their time and patience to try and educate trolls, I find it a poor investment of both in my case.

De Leon: In the past, I think I was more preachy. I had a harder time writing flawed protagonists. I wanted everyone to be much more honorable, but they weren’t very interesting. […] I hope to bridge some of that with a book that is politically charged but delivers all the feels in the romantic arc, and a good heist plot, as well as upending stereotypes of race, gender, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, and class. Ultimately, that’s what I want to do, whatever the cover or the genre or the shelf in the bookstore.

Raphael: I have no choice because if anyone Googles me, the first hundred things that come up are going to be my activism. I do a feminist radio show, I used to write for feminist and queer newspapers, I was interviewed by the FBI after 9/11 because of my feminist and antiwar organizing, there are stories about me being deported from Israel ― that’s just who I am. For sure, it narrows the market. 

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J.K. Rowling Shuts Down Homophobic Twitter Troll Perfectly

Once again, J.K. Rowling has no time for homophobia. 

The Harry Potter author, who has never shied away from expressing her political views on social media, found herself the target of an anti-gay Twitter troll on Tuesday. The user blasted the 51-year-old scribe for criticizing President Donald Trump when he appeared to shove Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way at the NATO summit in Brussels last week. 

“JK Rowlings thinks shes tough. Stupid dyke,” the Twitter user, who reportedly had no followers, wrote. 

True to form, Rowling wasn’t feeling it. An outspoken LGBTQ rights advocate, she shot back: 

The author has come under fire a number of times for expressing her political views on Twitter, but her responses are often priceless. Look at what happened earlier this month when another conservative Twitter user suggested Rowling, who resides in Scotland, relocate from the U.S. 

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