A scale for NBA playoffs teams’ current power ratings

While it’s easy to use point spreads to determine the perceived superior team in each ongoing NBA playoff series, building a Power Ratings scale that accurately reflects the current market is tricky because of varying home-court values. It’s been awhile since VSiN has had a chance to update this theme amidst the NBA and NHL…
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Ms. Muse: Amy King on the Power of Stories and the Weight of the Current Political Moment

We’re carving out a new discovery place for riotous, righteous and resonant feminist poetry to nourish and give voice to a rising tide of female resistance—and you’ve clicked right into it. Click here to read more Ms. Muse.

“There comes a point in everyone’s lives where we start to recognize that we are making choices, that we are determining who we are by the actions that we make,” poet, educator and activist Amy King stated in a 2015 speech at SUNY Nassau Community College, where she is a professor of English and creative writing. “What we do says a lot about who we are, not just what we say.”

As a young child growing up in the Bible Belt, King remembers going to the grocery store with her grandfather—her one source of stability, love and unconditional support at that time who, “everyday,” made comments that she was learning to understand were racist. She recalls watching her grandfather flirt with a Black woman who was checking out their groceries. “I was very young,” she told students about that day. “I didn’t even have the vocabulary at that point to recognize this feeling or to articulate what this feeling was, but it was the feeling that something hypocritical was going on.”

That was when King, who identifies as queer, began trying to figure out how to address those moments in her family. “A story begins when a protagonist recognizes a conflict and begins to address how to correct that conflict,” she shared, “and some of us choose not to address that conflict—and that is a story too.”

After growing up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, King lived with her father in Baltimore, Maryland. As a teenager, she worked for the National Security Agency after testing high for analytical skills, but says she felt “uncomfortable” there, even just at 17, and “didn’t like the way the institution was run.”

Two consistent themes throughout King’s life are “social justice and story.” Her latest book, The Missing Museum, is described as “a kind of directory of the world as it rushes into extinction, in order to preserve and transform it at once.” Publishing it won her the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize and vaulted her to the ranks of legends like Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson and Pearl Buck when she received the 2015 Women’s National Book Association Award. (Named one of “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees by the Feminist Press, King also received the 2012 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.)

King is co-editor of the anthology Big Energy Poets: Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change and the anthology series Bettering American Poetry; her other books include I Want to Make You Safe, one of Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011. Much of her prose, activism and other projects focus on exploring and supporting the work of other women writers, especially writers of color. King is a founding member of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and former Editor-in-Chief of VIDA Review.

During a 2014 interview King gave for Houston’s Public Poetry Reading Series, she spoke on the subject of trying to understand poetry by asking a pivotal question: “What is ‘understanding’ and what is an ‘experience’ with a piece of art?” She went on to say poetry should “jostle” us out of our regular ways of thinking—it should “undo” us in ways that are both good and uncomfortable.

For this installment of Ms. Muse, King opens up about learning to speak up and step up—and shares three new poems with Ms. readers. Here’s to hoping that they “undo” you.

Amy King (Photo: Ana Božičević)

THE POEMS

Selling Short

I cannot afford to live in the city I teach in,
& the number of people sleeping in cars has grown,
indivisibly. This is not a dream of guarantees
but the pursuit of handwritten freedoms that night the sting away.
Demons of clinics devise distribution mechanics
based on who you were born to & who you might know.
The 2 a.m. quiet promises no solace or silence when days
are hobbled & taken. Soon, light will be privately owned.

I’m Building a Body to Burn My Effigy In 

I will not mention stars Today. They have been used
for purposes not their own. Listen to them. Give them space.
Observe but leave them distant. If you think you know everything
about them now, you have outgrown yourself.
In the south we say bigger than your britches burns,
but I do not wish to confuse. I want to learn.

Joy Even

The denim and calico patchwork
of my childhood. Mothballs in a little black box,
felt lining each crevice. Michael Jackson
on a hobbled turntable someone left
at the apartment complex curb.
Costwald Village. Regal.
British. Anything but.

The dislocation of Backwoods, Georgia.
The first time a man touched me,
his semen glistening my inner thighs.

“Thriller” and the plywood coffee table.
The hoarder grocery bag maze
and Childcraft Encyclopedias flayed across the shag.
My 12-year-old amazement.
My 12-year-old embryo.
The fact of a body electric, searing for days.
Turning that birthed another world with a song and dance.

So many ways to joy. Some to death.
My anything. Me, anything. Joy even.

Amy King (Photo: Kimberly Evans)

THE INTERVIEW 

Can you tell me about your process of writing “I’m Building a Body to Burn My Effigy In,” “Joy Even” and “Selling Short”?

I don’t have one process. Sometimes compiled notes take shape. Or a poem just falls out of me as if, gored, the liver drops from my body. The heart seeping sounds more fitting, but a liver plop fits better.

“I’m Building a Body…” comes from an interest in physics and mortality.

“Joy Even” is part of the slow-burn of outlining a memoir.

“Selling Short” emerges as predictive dream, touching on issues that have recently led me to Rosi Braidotti’s “The Posthuman.”

What childhood experiences with language informed your relationship with poetry? 

When I first moved to live with my father in Baltimore at 15, I spoke slowly and heard the same. I often said “What?” in a deep southern drawl, uncertain of my own ears, which was probably also testament to a deeper uncertainty too. My father was my only safety line in a house full of strangers and with a stepmother who, quite quickly, began to play her own uncertainties out on me.

One day, as usual, I asked “What?” and my dad, no longer riding the romance of his daughter’s betrayal of her mother to be with him, the winner, suddenly shouted at me, “DO YOU REALLY NOT KNOW WHAT WE’RE SAYING?” It shocked the shit out of me. I made adjustments over time to alter the way I spoke, how I heard, to absorb unknown word usages and infer what I could. And to recover from what that moment meant.

You might prefer the story of how I used to read Gertrude Stein to friends over the phone to annoy them until I realized I had tricked myself as I was enjoying sounding her poetry aloud. Or how I grew up reading Nancy Drew and science fiction late into the wee hours and then woke up and watched Saturday morning cartoons in black and white. But this moment with my father shattered something. Luckily, the cracks are often where we make things and the broken pieces what we make things with.

I’m stunned by that moment with your father and your struggle to understand what people around you were saying. I’m also struck by the notion of the poet as a young girl not trusting her own ears, as you say. How did you learn to make out the words all around you–and to trust yourself?  

I don’t think I ever have really. I just embrace the temporality of life a bit more than usual and go with what comes across. It’s why I am not embarrassed to ask someone to pass the “lotion” for the salad or to verb nouns for decades now. I think subconsciously I suppressed my accent as a response to my father, but that shock taught me that not only is my mother unreliable, but so is the alternative, my father. I had already been disabused of the notion of unconditional love; I was holding out hope in him for at least a lasting, warm embrace. I’ve grown since that bottoming out: DNA is not all, and one can find family—and become family—elsewhere.

This is all linked to the notion that people speak to signal group intimacy; language is shaped by mutual alliances and allegiances. When family rejects your language needs, believe the message it sends and seek anew.

Do you seek out poetry by women and non-binary writers? If so, since when and why? More specifically, how has the work of feminist poets mattered in your childhood and/or your life as an adult?

I won a city-wide fiction contest for Baltimore ArtScape during my senior year of high school. It was judged by Lucille Clifton, which made a lasting impression on me. I was not a writer, but my high school English teacher, Carolyn Benfer, encouraged me tremendously. I was attending a vocational school in the city and, up to that point, was destined to become a CPA.

From there, I attended the University of Maryland at Towson State and had the good fortune to enroll as a double major in English and Women’s Studies. The latter program is especially noteworthy as the program served as the model for many other Women’s Studies programs across the country, as envisioned and spearheaded by Elaine Hedges, who was also an active feminist, affiliated with the Feminist Press. This program led me to numerous marginalized writers back in the early nineties that I likely would not have encountered so early on independently or simply from core English classes.

I cannot speak highly enough about the work that Women’s Studies program did. The short answer is that the program taught me to seek work by marginalized writers as I would be missing out on so much otherwise. I do not seek literature simply to reflect my own experiences—I seek to learn beyond them.

What groundbreaking (or ancient) works, forms, ideas and issues in poetry today interest and concern you? 

There is no one work, and as such, I continue to read widely. There are so many books I have not read yet, which is thrilling. Some of my touchstones range from Cesar Vallejo to Leonora Carrington to Audre Lorde to James Baldwin to Lucille Clifton to Gertrude Stein to John Ashbery. There are numerous younger poets I look to for energy, shifts in consciousness and awareness of current cultural concerns and who also signal structural and formal changes. A handful include Billy-Rae Belcourt, Chen Chen, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Vievee Francis, Airea D. Matthews, Raquel Salas Rivera, TC Tolbert, Ocean Vuong and Phillip B. Williams—but this by no means is an exhaustive list. Check out the poets anthologized in the Bettering American Poetry series I am lucky enough to be a part of.

As a woman, and as a woman who writes, what do you need to support your work? What opportunities, support, policies and actions can/could make a direct difference for you—and for other women writers you know?

Besides the room, money and time Virginia Woolf called for, I’m beginning to find that a support network is vital. I don’t think this needs to be formal or a writing collaboration. I simply mean that it is encouraging to have regular check-ins with a small group of writers, as few as two even, where you discuss what you’re each working on, maybe share a small piece/excerpt, get feedback and discuss ideas.

It is often the idea exchange, even with just a friend on the phone, that I find generative. I find myself articulating ideas and vision in a way that is as revealing to myself as to my friend. I leave those conversations with ideas of where to head next with a poem or on what to research to build foundational ideas for a concept.

What’s next? What upcoming plans and projects excite you?

I’m outlining a memoir—fingers crossed—and writing poems. I may birth an essay down the road, but that is gestating for now. And volunteering time and support to a program called La Maison Baldwin Manuscript Mentors, a nonprofit arts and culture association that remembers and celebrates James Baldwin in Saint-Paul de Vence, to save James Baldwin’s house and turn it into a vital residency in France.

How has the current political climate in the U.S. affected you as a woman writer? 

I am not so much shocked as often startled. I think we all knew white supremacy, colonialism and toxic masculinity were at the helm, but the built-in invisibilities kept them shrouded in respectability politics and notions of civility, and of course, that begs the question: Whose civility? I also don’t think we are in some unique moment of history where shocking things have taken hold and the end is nigh, but that is how it feels at times. Power and paradigm shifts are often premised on tectonic shifts, and folks have to finally step up, choose sides.

That seems key at the moment: one can no longer pretend to be above the fray. And that may be most painful for those of us with privilege. No one is outside anything after all.

The post Ms. Muse: Amy King on the Power of Stories and the Weight of the Current Political Moment appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.

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We’re All Degrees of Separation From Cardi B: The Ubiquity of Hip-Hop’s Current It Girl

Anyone abreast of current trends, conversations, and the happenings of the times are merely degrees of separation from rapper Cardi B. Whether you love her, hate her, or are indifferent; whether you consider her a skilled rapper, or believe she is a flash in a pan at the current moment, Cardi B is music’s current “it girl.”

As of now, Cardi B is one of the ubiquitous ones — celebrities or pubic persons who dominate for a time, or for a lifetime, and if they are fortunate, dominate all or most facets of entertainment. She can be heard in most of the current music on the Billboard Hot 100. She is all over our televisions, and as of this past September, she is in women’s make up cabinets as she adds her name to the products of fashion daddy Tom Ford. Cardi can also add multiple Grammy nominees to her resume as her debut album Invasion of Privacy scored five nominations. Even after dealing with the not-so-fresh press, following her dust-up with Nicki Minaj at a New York Fashion Week event, fights with strippers and bartenders in strip clubs, beefs with other peripheral, women rappers, and as of recently, breaking up with husband Offset of Migos (more on that later), she has proved her brand is intact. 

Unquestionable Success

 

Cardi B

(Twitter.com/IamCardiB)

The Bronx-born half Trinidadian, half Dominican rapper has seamlessly weaved her way through various genres of music as her voice is heard in not just Hip Hop music, but also R&B, and most recently, pop music. She formerly had the highest selling opening week of any female artist in 2018, when her debut album debuted at No.1 on the Billboard Top 200 with 255,000 equivalent units her first week of sales tracking. The album has scored near-universal acclaim, headlining and turning out almost all of the worldwide music festivals. She even having to cancel a few after the birth of her daughter Kulture. She has amassed fans from all over the world in the process, and is becoming a global force

To compound the depth of her success, Cardi recently accomplished a feat no other woman rapper has done. She has amassed three No.1 Billboard Hot 100 hits: Bodak Yellow, I Like It, featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and a feature on Maroon 5’s Girls Like You that sat at the penthouse of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for seven weeks. With her feature on the remix of Maroon 5’s Girl Like You, spending that many many weeks on the top of the Billboard charts, she also has the accomplishment of spending 11 cumulative weeks at No.1, solidifying her place in Hip-Hop culture. Not only is this noteworthy because it was attained while riding high on the success of her debut, but two of her chart toppers were tracks from her debut album with her first No.1 hit; 2017’s summer banger, Bodak Yellow was a chart-topping success with no features.  While that may seem like a trivial layer of accomplishments to some, to Hip-Hop heads devouring today’s Hip-Hop output, most albums are pregnant with features of contemporary rappers so this is a significant accomplishment. Therefore, none of her detractors are allowed to take away her shine by surmising her success is based on her features or being linked to other famous rappers.

Lastly, to reiterate for effect, her debut album was nominated for five Grammy awards with two of them being in the big four categories: Album of the year and song of the year for I Like It. The other three nominations were for best rap album, best rap performance, and best pop duo/group performance for Girls Like You shared with Maroon 5.

Notoriety’s Dark Side

 

(Image: Instagram)

As is the case with fame and fortune, detractors and the proverbial haters show themselves and began to tear down whatever success an artist attempts to achieve. People who may have supported her in 2017, now dig through her social media past to come up with problematic material in order to highlight any perceived ignorance, or ratchet behavior as some have termed it. It’s what’s expected of fame and ubiquity. For the most part, hardcore fans and casual listeners alike applaud her for her authenticity and ability to speak on matters with a raw, urbane, assertiveness that is familiar to some, but very much her own. However, others bristle at her ways and predict if she doesn’t get the right people behind her to set her up for continued success, a fall from grace is inevitable.

Cardi hasn’t exactly helped herself at times. There is the bar brawl at Angel’s Strip Club in Queens, New York, where sister bartenders got into a scuffle with members of Cardi B’s entourage in which they were alleged “to have thrown furniture recklessly, causing injuries to employees’ feet and legs,” according to USA Today. It was alleged that the sisters slept with Offset, and that ordering members of her crew to fight them was the rapper’s revenge.

However this lawsuit ends, someone in Cardi’s camp may need financial assistance, for actions of this nature, which will inevitably come from Cardi’s bank account. Settlements for the actions of careless friends rack up and get expensive. Recently, the tide has turned as news of Cardi and Offset’s impending breakup. Cardi took to Instagram to speak on her break up in a video that has since been removed. But here is what she said in a nutshell:

“He’s always somebody that I run to, to talk to — and we got a lot of love for each other, but things just haven’t been working out between us for a long time.”

Many sighed in relief because Offset has a wandering eye, and saw the writing on the wall when she first announced she was pregnant. This is a step in the right direction.

Then there is the ongoing beef with Nicki Minaj that won’t seem to crash, burn, and fade away into the memories of our smartphones. Shots are taken in radio interviews from one side and a brutal response is given on Instagram from the other side, resulting in eight-minute videos, uncovering all the facets of their multilayered squabble. The battle between the women probably won’t be over for some time, especially since Nicki Minaj recently took aim at Cardi B in her “Good Form” video. However, Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj’s ex, and the only rapper to publicly get herbed by Drake on wax, dropped a track on Nov. 30, entitled ‘Championships” which features Cardi, Jay-Z, and Meek’s former nemesis, Drake. The track garnered much attention on Twitter as users began trolling Nicki Minaj because of the interesting entanglements of this collaboration — that is Nicki Minaj’s arch-enemy and her ex on the same track. 

What Listeners Hope

 

(Image: Instagram/iamcardib)

What we hope for the young, multiplatinum superstar is longevity in her career. We want the hits to keep coming and for her star to continue to rise. Most importantly, we want her to retain her authenticity; that raw, raucous, New York City, but specifically Bronx way of being that many of us have come to appreciate — even love. We don’t want to see her fall victim to the same pitfalls that have befallen some of the most popular celebrities: bankruptcy, addiction, surrounding oneself with the wrong support system among many things. We hope she follows through with her separation plans from Offset and get far away from him. Offset, like many young rappers with money, fame, and their own brand of ubiquity, are hot in the trousers, attempting to “smash” anything walking. Monogamy is the last quality they will cultivate in relationships.

We want Cardi to make it because we the critics, social scholars, fans, and casual observers alike know ubiquity doesn’t last forever. One day you are on top of the charts, and the next day casual listeners are asking one another, “Remember (insert former celebrity’s name)?”

But in the meantime, keep shining; keep winning; keep reppin’ for New York City and the Boogie Down BX.

The post We’re All Degrees of Separation From Cardi B: The Ubiquity of Hip-Hop’s Current It Girl appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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Black Voters Gloomy About Current Conditions as Midterms Loom

With midterm elections approaching soon, many black voters don’t view current economic circumstances for them glowingly.

In fact, a fresh poll paid for by the new Black Economic Alliance PAC reveals that 62% of registered African American voters are discontented with the nation’s direction and convinced conditions are “poor” or “very poor” for the black community.

The findings stem from a poll of voters from the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee. About half of the respondents think economic conditions are getting worse for African Americans; 56% of respondents are tracking midterm election news and political information “very closely.”

The Black Economic Alliance is a U.S. political action committee started this year by black business executives. In August, the Alliance announced it would spend millions of dollars in the midterm elections backing candidates working to boost the economic interests of African Americans.

“In cycle after cycle, black voters have played a major role in determining who wins elections from the statehouse to the White House—but there remains a real disconnect between the elected leaders who depend on our support and the kinds of economic policies that determine the opportunities available to our community,” stated Akunna Cook, the Alliance’s executive director, stated in a press release.

“Our research sends a clear message to candidates and elected leaders on both sides of the aisle: Black voters are deeply dissatisfied with the status quo, and we want champions who will drive an economic agenda that benefits black Americans.”

Other findings from the poll:

  • The top five issues respondents would include in an economic agenda: Health care affordability (87%), investing in skills training (85%), affordable childcare (86%), college affordability (83%), and eliminating race and gender wage gaps (83%)
  • Just 14% of those polled believe economic conditions are improving

The Black Economic Alliance poll, which surveyed 804 African American voters, was done by telephone from Sept. 20–27. Based in Washington, D.C., the Black Economic Alliance includes a group of executives from a broad range of industries.

So far, the Alliance has endorsed over 24 candidates in key congressional, U.S. Senate, and gubernatorial races—including gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida, Rich Cordray in Ohio, former Tennessee Governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen, Lauren Baer (FL-18), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Debbie Powell (FL-26), and others, according to its website.

 

The post Black Voters Gloomy About Current Conditions as Midterms Loom appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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