Here’s Why This African Country Is Banning Skin Bleaching

The harmful practice of skin-bleaching remains a serious issue across Caribbean, African, and Asian countries; but fortunately, one country is doing something about it. The West African nation of Ghana has taken a stand against the multi-billion dollar skin-bleaching industry with a new daring piece of legislation. 

According to Answers Africa, the Food and Drugs Authority of Ghana has issued a ban on the importation of all products which contain the skin-lightening chemical hydroquinone. Hydroquinone, found in popular products like Fair & Lovely, has been known to cause side effects like skin irritation, blistering, and severe discoloration. It’s also been suggested that skin-lightening products have the potential to cause skin cancer. 

Ghana joins countries like Australia, the United States and Japan which have already isntalled regulations against these kinds of products. The ban in Ghana is especially significant given the prevalence of skin-bleaching on the continent, where 70% of Nigerian women alone admit to using skin lightening products

In large part, the popularity of these products is the result of colorism: the discrimination of people with dark skin complexions. In many countries in Africa, men and especially women with lighter skin are favored over those with darker skin, leading to better opportunities and treatment in society. 

As a result, millions of women across the continent choose skin-bleaching products in order to achieve a “yellow” or “red” glow, putting themselves at risk for all kinds of skin issues and diseases. 

Hopefully, the ban in Ghana and other African countries like Cote d’ Ivoire will encourage other nations to crack down on a harmful and archaic practice. It’s a tiny step in the right direction, but the fight to solve the systemic issue of colorism still has a long way to go.

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‘Mary Poppins’ Returns To The Big Screen With Some ‘Hamilton’ Magic

No spoonful of sugar required to make this news go down. 

Everybody’s personal fave Emily Blunt and “Hamilton” maestro Lin-Manuel Miranda have officially signed on to star in Disney’s “Mary Poppins” sequel scheduled for release on Dec. 25, 2018. That means you have two years to learn how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (we copied and pasted). 

“Mary Poppins Returns” will pick up with P. L. Travers’ iconic nanny (Blunt), as she reunites with the children, Jane and Michael Banks, whom she once duped into taking medicine. From the synopsis, it sounds like Blunt’s Poppins could not have returned at a better time, as Michael now has three young children and the family has recently suffered a personal loss. 

“Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack (Miranda), [Mary Poppins] helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives,” reads the Disney press release

The sequel will be directed and produced by Rob Marshall, who recently helmed Disney’s big-budget adaptation of “Into the Woods” starring Blunt. Mark Shaiman will produce an all-new score for the film, as well co-write original songs with Tony Award-winner and frequent collaborator Scott Wittman. 

“I am truly humbled and honored to be asked by Disney to bring P.L. Travers’ further adventures to the screen,” Marshall said in a statement. “The iconic original film means so much to me personally, and I look forward to creating an original movie musical that can bring Mary Poppins, and her message that childlike wonder can be found in even the most challenging of times, to a whole new generation.”

This is undeniably exciting, but did NO ONE alert Tobias Fünke?

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10 Spot-On Comics That Sum Up The Struggles Of Being A Grown-Ass Woman

Adulthood isn’t always a breeze. Just ask artist Caitlin Quijano. 

The 26-year-old Canadian artist is the brains behind Anemone Lost Comics, a series of illustrations that chronicles the struggles of being a grown up. The comics cover the good, the bad and the ugly of growing up including college debt, new jobs and making friends in the real world. 

“I’m inspired by the ups and downs of 20-something life, and exploring what it means to be a ‘real adult,'” Quijano told The Huffington Post. “Mostly, I just try to draw comics that take an honest look at my life. I figure that if I’m going through something or feeling something, there’s probably someone else who is, too.” 

Quijano added that she creates the illustrations with the help of her husband who helps edit and upload them onto Facebook and her website

From grown-up dinner parties to friends having babies — the struggle of adulthood is real, people. Scroll below to see a few hilarious and spot-on comics from Quijano. 

Head over to Facebook to see more of Quijano’s comics. 

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LeVar Burton: Being A Black Man In America Is ‘Still A Dangerous Experience’

Despite John Amos and Snoop Dogg’s strong disapproval of The History Channel’s remake of “Roots,” executive producer LeVar Burton says the reboot still resonates with today’s social issues.

In this week’s issue of People magazine, Burton says though it was “a different time” when he starred in the original 1977 series as Kunta Kinte, he’s “acutely aware” of the social implications of airing a remake in 2016, and hopes the show will create a deeper dialogue.

“I’m hoping we can create a conversation about race that is absent fear, anger, guilt and shame, and just deal honestly with what continues to hold us back.” he told the magazine. “This is an opportunity.”

Among those onboard to support Burton’s mission is Rev. Al. Sharpton, who has used his public platform — ranging from his national syndicated radio show to his MSNBC talk show, “PoliticsNation” — to help advance the conversation on the importance of “Roots” with viewers and listeners. 

“If we can create the conversation, [Roots] will not only get a wide viewership, it will evolve the discussions about race,” Sharpton told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month. “Hopefully, from yelling at each other to really talking about the pain and what we’re going to do in the post-Obama era.”

For Burton avoiding the implications of racial profiling by law enforcement is a much needed skill he has shared with his son.

“I roll down my window, take my hands and put them on the door of the car, because I want that approaching officer to be as relaxed and comfortable as he can be,” Burton told People, “It’s a survival skill. Being a black man in America is still a dangerous experience. That’s simply a reality.”

To read more of LeVar Burton’s interview, head over to People.com. The History Channel’s four-night series event of “Roots” will continue to air tonight, and simulcast on A&E and Lifetime.

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What Losing All of My Hair Taught Me About Black Womanhood

A month ago, I had one of the biggest scares of my life. As I was sitting in my room, getting ready for bed I had decided to take my hair out and piece by piece it began falling from my scalp, into my hands with ease. Handful after handful, I was losing my curls and gaining fear of the unknown. I had no idea what was happening nor why.

This wasn’t dead hair or buildup from braids, I know what that looks like… but this was strand after strand of the healthy, curly locks I had been tending to for the past two years coming out in front of my eyes with no reasonable explanation why. As each minute, which seems like hours, passed by, I kept reassuring myself not to cry, holding back the tears as thoughts of chronic illness and death crossed my mind.

I should be strong, that’s what I’ve always been taught. But in those moments, I felt powerless as the tears began to pour from my eyes.

After the initial shock died down, I had multiple doctor’s appointments and blood tests to find out that before the age of 25, I had been diagnosed with Alopecia, an auto-immune disease that never goes away. The disease affects your hair leaving some people with bald spots, but in my case, a completely bald head. Despite what happened, I am grateful to be healthy and alive. I took it as a sign from the universe that this had happened so that I can reassess where I am in life and prioritize what really matters.

We know that the relationship between hair and black women is a very intimate one, but throughout this process, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons.

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Three weeks before “the incident”

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After the Shave

Allow Yourself Time To Heal

So often, when women of color face tragedy or hardship, we don’t allow ourselves time to fully recover and reflect on what has happened to us or those that we love. We feel the need to consistently be strong for everyone else around us, to be the superheroes that the world needs. This situation put into perspective that we need to allow ourselves to be human too. We deserve to take our time, slow down and deal with our emotions.

Sometimes Hardships Happen to Teach Us A Lesson

Even though I’ve been diagnosed with something that will change my life forever, I’ve come to terms with it and learning how to live with it more and more each day. Everything happens to us for a reason, whether we’re supposed to learn about ourselves through the situation or inspire others with our story. Hardships happen to allow us to reevaluate our lives and bring into focus what should really matters.

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Even When We Think We Have It Figured Out, See A Professional

Whether it’s a mishap with our body or struggles with mental health, there has been a long running stigma with people of color and seeking help. We can’t do it all on our own and sometimes, seeing a professional will benefit in many ways. Even if you think you know what’s going on and you’ve Googled it endlessly, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional. Although it might be terrifying, having that security once it’s all over will allow you to feel better.

Your Beauty Radiates From the Inside Out

When you feel comfortable in your own skin, anything is possible. After losing all of my hair, a wave of insecurity passed over me for a few days. I was nervous about if I would still feel desirable, if others would view me differently, how would I explain what had happened… and then I had a realization. I slay no matter what.

When you’re full of life and have confidence in who you are as an individual, tedious details like what hairstyle you have (or lack of hair) won’t matter. After taking agency and shaving off the rest of the few strands that I had, I felt in control of the situation. Choosing not to hide behind masks and fully embrace who I am had allowed me to feel even more beautiful and ready to take on the world.

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No matter what situation you might be going through, the most important thing to remember is that you define your narrative. You have the power to take an unfortunate situation and to learn from it, coming out better than ever.

And also remember, like India Arie once said, you are not your hair. There is so much more to your intricate, beautiful self than what lies on your head.

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DOJ Pushes Back On Judge’s Order Seeking Ethics Sanctions For Administration Lawyers

The Department of Justice on Tuesday contested a federal judge’s order that imposes ethics sanctions and other wide-reaching remedies against the federal government in the ongoing challenge to President Barack Obama‘s executive actions on immigration.

The case, which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide between now and the end of June, has remained active in the Texas courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who earlier this month determined that department lawyers were not truthful and had acted in bad faith while the dispute was still in its early stages.

Specifically, Hanen determined that DOJ lawyers were not forthcoming about the fact that the administration had granted relief to thousands of undocumented immigrants under the challenged programs while the lawsuit was still pending. Hanen called this conduct “unseemly” and “unprofessional.”

But the government on Tuesday “emphatically but respectfully” disagreed with that assessment, and asked Hanen to put on hold his ruling — which, among other sanctions, orders U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to take steps to ensure her department’s ethics are in order — while DOJ seeks to appeal to a higher court.

“The sanctions ordered by the Court far exceed the bounds of appropriate remedies for what this Court concluded were intentional misrepresentations, a conclusion that was reached without proper procedural protections and that lacks sufficient evidentiary support,” DOJ said in its request to Hanen.

Lawyers for the department argued that if Hanen did not stay his order, the government “will suffer irreparable injury… resulting from impaired enforcement of immigration law.” They added that compliance with the ethics education requirement could cost up to $8 million in direct expenses and lost manpower.

Hanen’s order, which could affect up to 3,000 DOJ lawyers, “intrudes on core Executive functions and imposes heavy administrative burdens and costs on both DOJ and [the Department of Homeland Security] that cannot be recouped,” the administration said.

More critically, DOJ challenged the part of Hanen’s ruling that instructs the department to turn over the identifying information of thousands of immigrants who received deferred action from deportation under the announced initiatives. Immigration advocacy groups roundly denounced Hanen for going that route.

DOJ said that complying with this directive would be “extraordinarily burdensome” and “could undermine public trust in DHS’s commitment to protecting the confidential information contained in immigration files.”

This portion of Hanen’s order “risks injury to tens of thousands of third parties who were brought to this country as children, and who are not parties to this litigation, in circumstances where the States have not identified harm that would justify such an intrusion,” DOJ argued.

Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement that the government intends to seek review of the order in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

In a separate declaration filed with Tuesday’s motion, Leon Rodriguez, the director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, warned the court that disclosing this information would intimidate the kind of people who apply to his agency for various kinds of relief.

“I believe the production of such information would have a chilling effect on the willingness of individuals to seek a wide range of immigration benefits from USCIS,” he said.

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. — On Tuesday afternoon, Hanen agreed to hold a hearing regarding DOJ’s request on June 7. Stay tuned.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story described the events therein as having taken place on Monday, May 30. In fact, they happened on Tuesday, May 31. 

 

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Rio Gang Rape Reveals Our Society’s Shocking Acceptance Of Violence Against Women

“Across the world, violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious–and the most tolerated–human rights violations,” — UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

A 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped by over 30 men in a Rio de Janeiro favela. Among the 30 men, not one of them stopped to ask why? Her body and all of her rights were completely violated. She was filmed with her vagina bleeding and men laughing in the background. The video was liked by more than 500 people on the Twitter feed of one of the rapists. She was unconscious. She had been raped by over 30 men.

This heinous crime was then transformed into a joke on social media. “They knocked her out, understand?,” read one of the comments. The girl’s grandmother told CBN radio that the she used to go to favelas and at times would be away for days without any news. She also revealed that she had been a drug user for around four years, and was the mother of a 3-year-old boy.

Soon, the victim’s personal life gave way to excuses for the crime, giving continuity to the machinery of rape culture that normalizes such horrible acts of violence. For some people, men in particular, it is easier to forget about the crime and focus on the victim. What follows is a cruel line of questioning that usually looks something like this:

“What if she were asking for it?”
“Oh, but wasn’t she a user?”
“Why did she go out, then?”
“Maybe she deserved it?”.

Visibly shaken, upon her release from the hospital, the girl told O Globo: “When I woke up, there were 33 guys all around me.”

Nothing can justify rape. Nothing.

She told the newspaper that she had gone to spend the night at her boyfriend’s house on Friday, and that she only woke up on Sunday, after everything had taken place. The investigation is ongoing.

Nothing can justify rape. Nothing.

Further, the practice of trying to direct blame towards the victim is sad, disturbing and revolting. It is often perpetrated by relatively healthy men who live in a society in which relationships are guided by power and submission. This type of culture allows men to commit this type of crime and then delegitimize the victim.

Rape is the cruelest way for a man to show a woman “who’s in charge.” Rape is not sex, it is not an exchange of emotion, it is not affection. Rape is a clear demonstration of power over another person. It is violence, it is constraint, it is violation, it is torture, it is disrespect, it is cruelty, it is atrocity, it is a crime which manifests itself in various ways.

More than accepted, rape is taught. From the time we are young, we are taught to protect ourselves. It is assumed that because we belong to the female sex, we will be attacked, violated at some point in our lives (in fact, it is estimated that nearly one in every five women will be a victim of sexual abuse during their lifetime). However, with boys, the cult of the “phallus” and open legs, free and ready to take charge, rules the day.

It is as part of this unbalanced cycle in which these children become adults.

Men who rape are not far away. Men who believe that women exist solely in relation to themselves are not far away. Women are abused every 11 minutes in Brazil. And we must not forget that until 2009, rape was considered a crime against honor. Even today, in 2016, rape is one of the least reported and most silenced crimes in Brazil.

Around 50,000 cases of rape are registered every year in Brazil, and it is estimated that this represents only 10 percent of the actual number of cases. An abused woman, most of the time, withdraws her complaint in fear of retaliation, shame of being exposed, fear of being judged for violence that another has committed against her.

It’s the silence that echoes.

We repeat, relentlessly, that women are treated like objects, so that cases like this one do not take place. And so that they understand, for once, that women want autonomy over their own bodies because (surprise!), we have that right. We have the right to say no. The right to report. The right to not want to be converted into an object ready to be used and thrown away. The right to walk the streets peacefully, to be respected, to point fingers, to speak.

It is easy and selfish to back down from the powerful. We look at the rapist as a “normal guy.” Sometimes, it’s because that’s exactly what he is. The vast majority are right beside us. It is a father, a boyfriend, a grandfather, a brother, a husband, a neighbor, an uncle. Society justifies and pardons the criminal, to the same extent in which it blames the victim.

We are more beautiful when we are together. And when we are angry.

It is necessary to break this vicious cycle of power that inhabits people’s minds. It is a cultural matter. It is deep rooted, and it is oppressive. What is so liberating about invading another’s body together with 30 other people, and then disclosing this publicly? Where is the romance in domination, in violence against another? In silencing rights, in exercising power? How can anything positive and pleasurable emerge from all this?

Some men may show solidarity with the case and even be revolted by other men. But this means nothing if the same man pats a friend’s back when he makes an objectifying comment, or if he doesn’t recognize the poisonous machismo in himself. Look, 30 men. None of them asked why. None of them stopped participating in the crime.

We exist in a society that uses every opportunity to subjugate, violate, disrespect and crush the rights won over by women. Clearer than this, for me, is the feeling that we can only trust in each other: only another woman is capable of understanding what that means.

There’s no use in expecting something to be done if we keep our arms crossed. There’s even less point in expecting something from governors who choose to invite Alexandre Frota to speak about education; who wind up the Ministry of Human Rights, Racial Equality and Women and who create a “secretariat,” headed by a woman who is a “defender of the family and life from conception” in its place; who ensures that PL/5096, which withdraws rights already won by women, is presented for voting and approved.

The statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of UN Women, is increasingly clear. Violence against women is still the world’s most tolerated human rights violation.

A case like this is about all of us. It reminds us of who we are and the long road we have ahead of us. We will not be quiet. We will speak out even for those who cannot speak for themselves. We will be reborn with very gesture, in every tear.

We are more beautiful when we are together. And when we are angry.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Brazil. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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