How vividly can you visualize the “good ole days” when dreams were like rivers flowing into the greater ocean of tomorrow? Do you recall the mouth-watering taste of what the future could possibly bring as you swallowed your inhibitions in exchange for life’s kiss of liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Could you ever fathom this state of blissful euphoria ending before it ever had the chance to begin? As if the ongoing genocide of our children’s dreams isn’t alarming enough an innocent young life has been taken in the case of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Justice has yet to be served.As it has been taught that history repeats itself I find our nation performing what I call “The Jim Crow Shuffle” while dancing around the theme of race.

                When I read the story of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenage black male who was shot and killed by a neighborhood crime watch captain, I was instantly reminded of exactly where I stand as a black male in this country. Why was Martin, who had no criminal record or history of being a deviant child, identified as a suspicious person in a gated community? It is evident that race is what led neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman to view the young teen as suspicious. This is a story of racial profiling that has been told far too often in America, yet we choose to dance around the severity of race relations in our country.

                As Americans we should all be equally outraged that an innocent life was taken. Martin’s mother and father deserve answers as to why their son left the scene in a body bag while George Zimmerman is still a free man. Just as many people were adamant about promoting the stop Kony 2012 campaign we should be as influential in spreading awareness to the injustice that has taken place in our own country. How can we possibly save anyone else if we don’t save ourselves? We have confused movement with progress in thinking that racism is no longer alive.

               Although the stories of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin are different there is a reoccurring theme that makes me question if the lives of young Black men hold any value to our justice system? When 14 year old Emmett Till was brutally murdered by two white men in 1955 justice was not served. There was a jury of all white men and Till’s murderers were acquitted of the heinous crime. Here we are over half a century later and fighting for justice in the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. If the outcome of Martin’s story is the same as Emmett Till’s how far can we say we’ve come as a nation?

          It is time for us to take off our tap shoes and put on our thinking caps. This Jim Crow Shuffle has been our national dance for far too long and we finally need to put an end to it. Utilize social networks such as twitter, facebook and tumblr to raise awareness and show that we have a voice. Spark conversations with everyone you encounter. Just as Emmett Till’s mother had the courage to hold an open casket funeral so that the world could see what was done to her baby we have to let the world see what was done to Trayvon Martin. It is imperative to show that our eyes and minds are open to the world around us and we will not settle for injustice. We are armed with minds that have the ability to think and inspire action. This generation will be just as powerful as our grandparents who marched for freedom. Let our hearts beat on the drum of justice as we dance to a new song of redemption, peace, and unity.


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Young Model Leomie Anderson Opens Up About Racism In The Fashion Industry

Model Leomie Anderson has penned an open letter to the Sunday Times in the UK about what it feels like to be a black model in the fashion industry and the overt and passive racism she experiences.  Read the eye-opening letter inside…..

We’ve all heard fashion experts and industry insiders talk about racism in the industrywhether its on the runways or in the magazines.  But now a true insider, 19-yr-old Leomie Anderson, is speaking about her own experience.  In an open letter published in the UK’s Sunday Times, Leomie says that racism is very much a part of her everyday struggle, forcing minority models to work twice as hard as their white counterparts.

Leomie adds that until the fashion houses begin to embrace a wider range of “beauty” and cater to a more diverse demographic of fashion consumers, the issue will persist.  But Leomie also says that she knows things MUST change and she uses the racism factor as motivation to work harder.  And she says the struggle makes her journey mean so much more.Read the entire letter here:

“I have been working as a model for more than three years. I’ve been photographed for Italian Vogue, Dazed & Confused and ID. I’ve modelled at Paris, New York and London Fashion Weeks, but I haven’t done Milan Fashion Week. I’ve heard from other black models that it’s much harder to get work in Milan. The successful black girls don’t even bother travelling there for castings, because they know they won’t do as well, even if they’ve walked for great designers in all the other cities. Even people from Milan will say that the fashion market there is very behind. They’d rather stick with what they know.

I’ve only had one racist comment made directly at me. I’d gone to a casting for a London fashion designer, I can’t say who. They just said: “We only want pale-skinned girls to be in our show.” To be honest, I didn’t feel emotional about it. I just thought: “Well, it’s not my fault. That’s their opinion. They are out of date, and in time, they’ll have to change; they can’t continue with that perspective.”

When I started at Premier Models, Carole [White, the founder] warned me that some designers would have outdated views, and that it’s not personal. Annie [Wil­shaw, her booker at Premier] is bored with it: she says black girls have to work twice as hard to get picked up. Actually, it made me feel better that they raised the issue with me, that they weren’t awkward about it. And Annie is right: it is a lot harder for us. If a show uses 20 girls, there’ll only be space for two ethnic minorities — if that. There’s nothing to stop a fashion designer using only white girls in a show. There’s no union representation for models, and a designer can do whatever works for them.

Even though it may not be right, fashion portrays what people want to be; it reflects society, it’s the world we live in The preference for white skin seems to happen especially if a designer has been in the industry for a long time. But it’s a generalised mentality among fashion houses — they used to have mostly white customers, so it made sense to have white models, but now there are many more eastern Europeans, Asians and women from the Middle East buying fashion. The houses are struggling to adjust to the new market. It’s also possibly recession-related. In any time of rapid social change, people stick to what they know, and in fashion that’s the white girl.

“Shadeism” definitely exists: there are different attitudes to different shades of black. Lighter-skinned models are used more than darker-skinned ones, and if darker models are used, it tends to be for a traditional African look.

When designers create an African or tribal print, they’ll get a black girl to model it. I’d say I was in the middle of the spectrum — I’m dark-skinned, but I don’t have traditional African features, so I tend not to be stereotyped. There can also be problems with hair and make-up. Hair stylists never pack black hair products, because they don’t expect to see black girls. They can be scared to work with our hair. I wouldn’t call it racism; it’s just that finding real black hair is rare. Make-up is improving — girls such as Jourdan Dunn and Ajak doing well has helped — but sometimes, when my make-up is finished, it doesn’t look as nice as it does on white skin. They don’t know how to adjust to our skin tone.

You’ll find bitchy models, but it’s not because of race, it’s just their personality. I’ve never had any comments that have made me feel uncomfortable. Once you’ve got the job, everyone just behaves normally. I read about James Brown’s comments. [He repeatedly called the black presenter Ben Douglas a nigger and his female companion a nigger’s bitch, following the Baftas ceremony.] Maybe he was trying to be funny, but using that word is not cool, and it’s pretty out of date to find it funny. I’ve actually met James Brown — he was nice and asked me about my mother. He didn’t seem racist to me. When people are drunk, they say things they don’t mean. Things always go wrong when people aren’t in their right mind. Especially if you’re in the public eye, you’ll always get caught out. And if you’re in the public eye, you have a responsibility not to offend.

Even though it may not be right, fashion portrays what people want to be; it reflects society, it’s the world we live in. The idea of fashion looking better on white skin is associated with an old sense of elitism, yet society has become much more diverse. In time, I think fashion will change.

Fashion is always outrageous, though, and famously politically incorrect. The bitchiness is part of that outrageousness. If fashion stuck to the rules, it wouldn’t be such a big industry. Even if racism went away completely, they would find something else to be outrageous about. I would like to see fashion be more open and less prejudiced to different ethnicities, but it is the way it is because it’s such an exclusive world. Its exclusivity is why people want to be in it. If fashion had a broader perspective of beauty, would there be such a thing as a supermodel?

As it is now, if a black girl does well, it’s seen as more of an achievement. That’s what drives me to succeed. I don’t think talking about racism in fashion will change anything. Even if fashion changes, it’s not going to change the world. I’d rather just have a positive attitude. If I were feeling discriminated against, I might go into a casting thinking I’m not going to get this job. It’s negativity that will disadvantage me.”