President Obama’s South by South Lawn
gives us a glimpse into what his post-White House goals will entail
10:00 AMBy the time President Barack Obama hit the stage at the first annual South by South Lawn (SXSL) Festival, the bulk of its mission had been accomplished. Yes, there was still the conversation set to take place with the president, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe and Leo DiCaprio, star of Before The Flood, a documentary that explores the effects of climate change. But at that point, the crowd was huddled on SXSL-branded giveaway blankets after making friends nearly all day.
This was not a celebrity pass-thru event, like the reception the week before for the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There were no too-cool-for-school types milling around unwilling to engage with people they didn’t know. There was palpable blackness, but this wasn’t just an excuse to have black folks running around on the back lawn of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The fellowship felt real, intelligent and productive. A spectacle, it was not.
— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) October 4, 2016
Want dynamic conversations about climate and the environment? Put people of color on stage. #SXSL
— Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) October 3, 2016
Don’t get it twisted, though. We were outchea. Lauryn Hill’s Lost Ones was blasting through the speakers when I walked in and the last song I can recall before The Lumineers took the stage was Nappy Roots’ Good Day. All sorts of tracks like D’Angelo’s Lady and John Legend’s Green Light were played, courtesy DJ Beverly Bond. There was a swag surf. Rap squats in front of the SXSL sign were a must. Common recording an NPR Tiny Desk Concert while he was there.
In the innovations portion, the installations were very popular. The Justice for Us exhibit used interactive slides to highlight the discrepancies in sentencing for drug offenses in the United States. Down the way, Black Girls Code had set up shop.
People lined up for a virtual reality experience that recreated what life is like inside of a solitary confinement cell. Titled “6×9,” it was the most attended of the day. A collaborative effort between The Guardian and The Mill, a VFX and digital design firm, it was one of the handful of installations that featured virtual reality headsets. For many, it was an intense experience to have such a direct interaction with social justice programming, right there on the White House lawn.
“Most of us have seen the news and we’ve heard the stories about solitary confinement, but none of us can say that we’ve had that experience. So, that’s what really drew me, was, we have an idea of how awful it is, but to be there and feel like you are present in that space, nothing compares to that,” said Traci Slater-Rigaud, who works on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “It’s amazing technology, of course. You’re there. Aesthetically is so well done and the stories that are piped in as you are looking at this room, it makes it very real.”
The panels were well-attended and insightful. When the food trucks re-upped in the afternoon, that’s when the most honest exchanges came. Individuals were forced to sit with people they didn’t know to break bread, which ultimately led to the question of, “What are you doing here?” With innovators, tastemakers and creators from all over the country, it led to some fascinating discussions.
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) October 3, 2016
As an aside, it was also a tremendous look at what can really be done with the White House grounds when you choose to activate it as an outdoor space. And as strange, yet comforting, as it felt to spend a day talking tech, art, innovation and social justice at the president’s house, you couldn’t help but feel like this was the future of Obama’s legacy. His ability to gather smart minds is no small accomplishment when you look at the prospects who may be inhabiting the place next year.
“SXSL was a big win for everyone involved,” said Hugh Forrest, director of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival. “The White House embraced the spirit of SXSW by bringing together innovators across disciplines in order to brainstorm new ideas and make new connections.”
It could have been gimmicky. It could have been overly wonky. It also could have just been a party. It was none of those and SXSL was ultimately inspiring in result. Sure, Obama will build a library somewhere. And of course, he’ll be on speaking circuits for the rest of his life, making plenty money. But Monday proved that how he chooses to spend his time and resources once he leaves office will be more than just the standard fare. You got the sense that many of the people around you might be the ones he spends it with, too.
Daily Dose: 10/4/16
‘Debate’ is so much more fun to say when you pronounce it ‘de-bah-tay’
The ‘Thrilla in Vanilla’ might be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s what some people are calling Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate in Farmville, Virginia, between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine. Why? Because both of these dudes are about as exciting as your neighbor’s dad, which is to say, not much. Considering how things went for Republican nominee Donald Trump after debate one against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, this could be critical from a “just don’t make it worse” standpoint. ABC News has five storylines to watch for Tuesday from Longwood University.
Speaking of Trump, he’s got a real problem with women. For example, you can’t just publicly denounce people about their behavior because of a beauty pageant, then expect people to think you have their best interests in mind. Not to mention that referring to women as dogs and pigs is inappropriate on all kinds of levels. S0, when it comes to actually trying to court votes, no one is going to forget that stuff just because of party affiliation. FiveThirtyEight’s Farai Chideya breaks down the white suburban mom vote.
Nigel Sylvester is not a household name. As a professional BMX rider from Jamaica, Queens, New York, he’s an anomaly in a sport dominated typically by white guys. He also is unorthodox, in that he doesn’t do competitions or contests. But he’s an interesting guy who is of Grenadian descent. In a new installment of VICE‘s “Autobiographies,” Sylvester goes back to Queens to see the first skate park he ever tackled and his childhood home. This is worth the watch for the cityscape views, alone.
Perhaps the most famous bat flip in Major League Baseball history belongs to Jose Bautista. When Joey Bats uncorked a three-run blast in last year’s American League Divisional Series, he uncorked a celebration for the ages. It solidified his reputation as a relatively not well-liked guy, for whatever reason. And because of the so-called codes of the game, that rep has stuck for some time. But why? If he played in South Korea, he’d be idolized for his post-swing histrionics. There, if you ain’t flipping, you ain’t trying, ESPN The Magazine’s Mina Kimes explains.
Coffee Break: One of the things that came out of President Barack Obama’s South by South Lawn event was a few celebrity sightings. For Common, who was on stage at the event as well, he got an impromptu Tiny Desk Concert out of it, too. Every thing about this video is pretty spectacular from set design to the music itself.
Snack Time: Speaking of Chicago rappers, Chance The Rapper can’t lose. Everything he touches turns out well, and you can add the new Kit Kat jingle to his recent list of accomplishments.
Dessert: R.I.P. Gloria Naylor. You should know her work. It’s a tremendous loss.
‘Race to Re-Unite’ panel with Jesse Williams and U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad
1:55 PMLast Thursday in New York City, actor Jesse Williams and U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad joined The Undefeated’s Kevin Merida on a panel called “Race to Re-Unite” in conjunction with Ad Week’s Town Hall series, #AWNewYork. Over the course of an hour, the three discussed the current state of activism in America as a movement, the intersection of demonstration and sports and discussed the complexities of untangling our concepts of normalcy when it comes to race, with moderator Clinton Yates.
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We’re talking to President Obama
The sit-down from Greensboro, North Carolina, is in a week
1:00 PMIt’s been a good couple weeks for President Barack Obama on the community outreach front. First, he held a star-studded affair at the White House to commemorate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Then, he brought in many of the country’s latest minds for his South by South Lawn pop-up on Monday. Now, he’ll be sitting down to talk with ESPN’s Stan Verrett for The Undefeated’s A Conversation with The President: Sports, Race & Achievement on Oct. 11.
It airs at 10 p.m. EST (ESPN and WatchESPN) from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, which means it promises to be lit. Why? Because the Aggies have been in the news a lot recently, unfortunately due to completely separate reasons, both good and bad.
Over the weekend, two students were killed by gunfire after a fight broke out at an off-campus party. According to reports, Alisia Dieudonne, 19, and Ahmad Campbell, 21 were not part of the melee. Details of the altercation are very sad, with social media playing a large part in how an otherwise normal situation spiraled into a fatal encounter. In addition, the situation is so bad that the university held a town hall over the matter.
People making it unsafe to wanna have fun..
R.I.P to the two fallen aggies, Ahmad Campbell & Alicia Dieudonne. 🙏🏾🐶💙💛 Prayers going☝🏾️ #NCAT
— DAIJ DADDY 🥀✨ (@DAI_MILADI) October 2, 2016
While the president is not necessarily expected to address matters of college-related gun violence, his mere presence will provide a spark to a campus that needs it. You might also recall that N.C. A&T board of trustees member Janice Bryant Howroyd was appointed by Obama to serve on his Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) back in May. As you can see from the clip above, they ride hard for the president in Aggie land.
On a better note, the school has also been in the spotlight because of its star running back Tarik Cohen. He’s a senior with NFL aspirations, who keeps showing out every time he gets the chance. The team took down Kent State University in a surprise win over an FBS team last month. The week before Obama arrives, the Aggies take on Norfolk State University in a game televised live on ESPNU.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is that Greensboro is the home of one of the most significant protests in the history of the civil rights movement. The Greensboro sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter started a wave of demonstrations that were focused on the economic impacts of segregation and used as a change agent for progress. At the site of that old lunch counter is the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. Also, police brutality issues are still as real there as anywhere else in America.
President Obama. The Undefeated. Greensboro. N.C. A&T. Enough said.
Trump hotel vandalized in Washington, D.C.
It was caught on video and Twitter is like …
5:20 PMIt’s one thing to disagree with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s political views, but it’s quite another to actively vandalize a building with his name on it in broad daylight, no less. Over the weekend, video surfaced of a person tagging the front of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., which is now a Trump Hotel. The end result was “No Justice, No Peace” written on the left side of the door and “Black Lives Matter” on the other. You can watch his work below.
— ManSitChoAzzDown (@AngryManTV) October 2, 2016
There are a couple things about this worth noting. Most obviously is the brazen nature of the act. It’s certainly not the dead of night, and people are walking by, watching this guy go to town with a paint can. He finishes his work and then just casually crosses Pennsylvania Avenue to roll out. Just another Saturday for my man, I guess.
Reaction has been fascinating. The person who originally uploaded the photo, a Twitter user who goes by @AngryBlkManDC, was sent the video by someone, and his mentions were promptly set on fire with people implying that he should have done something to stop said act of vandalism.
Folks are really more upset about a building being tagged with spray paint than lives being taken by rogue police.
— ManSitChoAzzDown (@AngryManTV) October 3, 2016
Also, people on social media are stupid. When there's a TMZ watermark on a video, you do mention TMZ to the Feds and demand their arrest?
— ManSitChoAzzDown (@AngryManTV) October 3, 2016
I just uploaded the video from a 'source'. Mentions in shambles. Folks @'n the Feds, Trump, DC police, etc., demanding my arrest. Idiots…
— ManSitChoAzzDown (@AngryManTV) October 3, 2016
Reached for comment afterward, @AngryBlkManDC explained, “Folks want me locked up. Calling me all kind of names. I don’t even respond. I was getting 20 mentions per minute. For like six straight hours.” The scrawls were cleaned up by the next day, but we’ll always have the video.
Daily Dose: 10/3/16
Master P was a mogul, but a horrible sports representative
1:00 PMOn Monday at the White House, President Barack Obama is holding South by South Lawn, a festival of sorts that mimics Austin, Texas’ similar function. I’ll be there, and you can check this space for updates on the proceedings.
Last week was a mess for Donald Trump. After the debate, the GOP presidential nominee completely fell apart and found himself in multiple quagmires, including and up to him appearing in a porn movie. But the other half of Trump’s ticket is on display tomorrow night in Farmville, Virginia. Mike Pence, the GOP vice presidential candidate, will likely be far less unhinged than his compatriot when he faces off against Tim Kaine. But Kaine will be on his home court, and Pence has a lot to lose. ABC News reports on how the former is preparing for Tuesday’s events.
Back when Master P was a relevant artist and music executive, he took a foray into sports. It was and felt super gimmicky at the time, but one player bought The Ice Cream Man‘s sports representation act. That person was Ricky Williams, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas. He was a top 10 draft pick and signed this absurd deal that basically forced him to be the best producer on the field anyone had ever seen in order to be paid what he deserved. FiveThirtyEight’s Reuben Fischer-Baum analyzes the details of the worst deal in NFL history.
Life as a Kardashian isn’t easy. You’ve got endless personal appearances, weirdo stalkers and scores of paparazzi constantly trying to invade your space. It’s easy to claim that such a life isn’t that hard, but you try living a life where every time you leave your house someone is trying to take 20,000 pictures of you. Yes, is their popularity how they make money? Of course. But there are downsides to being such a public figure. VICE reports that Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in a hotel room in Paris during fashion week.
The Dallas Cowboys got a win Sunday. They faced off against the San Francisco 49ers in a matchup that felt like it would have been way cooler 20 years ago. Alas, we’ve now got Dak Prescott vs. Blaine Gabbert instead of say, Troy Aikman vs. Steve Young. Anyway, internally Dallas is struggling. Wide receiver Dez Bryant didn’t play because of a hurt knee, an injury that owner Jerry Jones questioned slightly over the course of the week. Now, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Bryant has a serious behavioral problem.
Coffee Break: Every week it seems now, another person gets shot and killed by the police. They are often unarmed, and it occurs all over the country. The latest happened over the weekend in Los Angeles, where a kid was issued a death sentence over a stolen car.
Snack Time: I don’t like it when comedians fight. Sure, it may offer up good content for all involved, but sometimes it feels gratuitous. But, you have to feel for Dave Chappelle, who feels like Key & Peele stole his entire show concept.
Dessert: The homey Sonny Digital has a new EP out, and we like it a lot.
Daily Dose: 9/30/16
A week from being eligible to return to playing, Josh Gordon is entering rehab
2:00 PMIt’s the last day of September, which means Halloween is right around the corner. I already know who I’ll be dressing up as this year, and I’ll give you a hint. He’s the most famous backup quarterback in the NFL.
America’s most dangerous terrorist has been dead for five years. This is part of the headline of a story I couldn’t help but click on this morning. I thought I knew who the story was about, but I was wrong. Like many of you, I figured the article was about Osama bin Laden, who has, ironically, also been dead for five years. I know that because he was shot and killed during my senior year of high school, which at the time was a major victory for the Obama administration. “America’s most dangerous terrorist,” however, is not bin Laden, but American-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He was killed five years ago today, but his legacy has lived on as he’s inspired many terrorist attacks in the past few years. ABC News’ Lee Ferran reports.
One can only dream to get paid after retiring like Bobby Bonilla does. Every year, on July 1, the former New York Mets player’s name comes up for one reason and one reason only: Though he hasn’t played since 2001, he’s still getting paid — and I mean PAID — by his former team. In 1999, Bonilla signed a deferred contract with the Mets that will earn him a paycheck every year until 2035. This year, he made $1.19 million on July 1. So, how did Bonilla swing (no pun intended) this deal? FiveThirtyEight takes a look at the contract in the first installment of the new Contracts video series, while The Undefeated’s Ryan Cortes explains why Bonilla should be remembered for more.
Some people know more about fun than others. One of those people is Ben Fincham, a professor at the University of Sussex in England and the author of The Sociology of Fun. His job is literally to study and analyze the art of having fun, which is weird to think about, because “fun” is such a subjective concept. There’s no question, however, that some people seem to have more fun than others. When I was in college, the football team had a “Supervisor of Morale,” who I spent a day with for a story. VICE‘s Hannah Ewens spent a day with Fincham, the man she calls the “Professor of Fun.”
Josh Gordon has finally decided to seek help. Three years ago, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver caught 87 passes for 1,600-plus yards and nine touchdowns. For many people, Gordon was destined to be one of the NFL’s next great wideouts. But since that 2013 season, Gordon has proven to fit into the the classic, heartbreaking archetype of a player who has so much talent, but can’t seem to put it all together off the field. He only played five games in 2014 because of a DWI, missed the entire 2015 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and was also suspended for the first four games of this season. Gordon was eligible to return to the field next week, but announced Thursday that he’d be entering rehab. As much as we’d all like to see him suit up again, you have to commend him for confronting his problems and getting help. ESPN’s Pat McManamon has the story.
Coffee Break: With the start of the NBA season less than a month away, it’s beginning to sink in that the Golden State Warriors, with the addition of Kevin Durant in the offseason, just might shape up to be the best shooting team of all time. Though it’s just practice footage, check out 75 seconds of Durant and Klay Thompson straight splashing jumpers.
Snack Time: Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson this weekend. Nuff said.