Remember the Life of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela has left the planet. It is, at the time of writing, slightly more raw than the long-rehearsed curtains-down on 95 years ought to be. To South Africans like me, he has long been the man who held up the sky. Who will hold it up now?
Over the next few days, weeks, there will be a torrent of equally long-rehearsed, finely-pitched, predictably excellent journalism to commemorate him. This is not that. It is not “the Mandela I knew.” It is not “the Jesus of Soweto.” It is not meant to add to the coming scree of well-meaning hagiography.
Instead, it’s a bit of an antidote. A life story chopped into a few interesting lesser-known facts, the odder revealing moments, personal things, designed to give a flavor of the real man above the Morgan Free-man he’d become. To penetrate if possible through the reek of incense that is about to envelop our secular saint, towards something more measured, but perhaps all the more human for that.
Trans Model Carmen Carrera Is Transforming Fashion
Like most women, Carmen Carrera finds it a little rude when strangers ask questions about her genitals. But Carrera, a reality TV star, model, and, potentially, one of next year’s Victoria’s Secret’s “angels,” is trans, which means people ask her about them anyway.
I got the chance to talk gender—and fashion—with Carrera a few days ago during a Skype date. The call connected and I asked her to go on video. “I look like shit,” she whined, and then went on. Needless to say, she does not look like shit. She’s already got the mermaid-like Victoria’s Secret waves going on, and she has on minimal makeup, with the exception of black eyeliner and mascara. It’s a Saturday evening, and she wears a bare-bones, gray spaghetti strap top—the uniform of an off-duty Cindy Crawford in the 90s. Carrera seems to be getting more famous by the week, thanks to some of the amazing work she’s done lately. Plus, her fans made a petition calling for her to become the first trans Victoria’s Secret model.
Although she’s obviously been quite successful at this point in her career, Carrera still struggles with intense insecurity issues, and is constantly fighting the labels people try to stick to her. I ask her if there’s one thing she can’t stand being asked in the flurry of media attention.
“Yeah, when they ask me if I got the sex change surgery. It’s kind of weird. At the beginning of my transition when people would ask me, I would answer. But now, it’s kind of getting to the point where I don’t think that that’s relevant. Like, I wouldn’t sit here and ask you about your genitals.”
Meet the Real Rick Ross
“Freeway” Rick Ross sits at a corner booth at Denny’s on Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles and stirs his Earl Grey tea and adds a spot of honey. “Someone wants to buy ten T-shirts. He’s a new hustler,” he says ecstatically as he puts down his cell phone. He smiles and brushes off the egg scramble he accidently dropped on his T-shirt, which reads “THE REAL RICK ROSS IS NOT A RAPPER.” He now is selling shirts like these, as opposed to crack.
The now 53-year-old drug kingpin was introduced to cocaine dealing at age 19 and spent the next three decades in and out of prison for various offenses. He first got into trouble for selling stolen auto parts when he was in his early-20s. His most publicized arrest was in 1995, when he was set up by notorious smuggler and government agent Oscar Danilo Blandon and the DEA, for trying to purchase more than 100 kilograms of cocaine. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but, after a Federal Court of Appeals case, his sentence was eventually reduced to 14 years. He was released from prison on September 29, 2009.
Ross still recalls the poverty of his youth. “BeforeI started selling drugs, our cabinet doors were falling off at my mom’s house. We had holes in the cabinets where rats used to come up. We had roaches. It was just terrible.” He continues, “When I started having money, I rebuilt my mom’s house. I wanted a better life for myself, so I sold drugs. It’s what I knew.”
These days, Ross is currently working on numerous projects, one of which is getting financial backing for a Nick Cassavetes-helmed feature biopic about himself. In a similar vein, the documentary A Crack in the System by director-producer Marc Levin will be released in the spring. Ross is currently writing and editing his autobiography Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography with journalist Cathy Scott, which will be released in February. The book will chronicle Ross’s life and attempt to explain the decisions he has made. There also is a cable TV miniseries based on the book that’s currently in development with producer Mark Wolper, who’s also executive producing a remake of the miniseries Roots for History.
Noisey: When you were three, you watched your mother Annie Mae Mauldin kill your uncle George with a handgun. What was that experience like? How has it affected you to this day?
Rick Ross:I loved my uncle. At the time, he was probably the man in my life, and I looked up to him. I loved the way he drove his car. He used to do a little trick every time he came home. He would always open the door and stick his foot out of it, like he was stopping the car like The Flintstones. I got a kick out of it. To lose him was devastating. Having him gone and my mom in jail for a period of time was hard. She was away from me, so now I’m in a strange place with strange people living with my mom’s boyfriend’s mother.
How long was your mother in prison for? Did you resent her for killing your uncle?
I don’t remember. It was a short period. She got off with self-defense, I believe. They didn’t keep her. I understood what she was going through, and I know my mom wasn’t somebody who just killed people. My mom was a Christian, churchgoing person. I was there when my uncle stabbed my auntie, so I saw that, too. I saw the blood. I was standing right on the side of my mom when she shot my uncle. I could even hear him breathing when he was lying on the floor trying to get his breath.
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The Bangladeshis Who Make Your Clothes Have Been Given a Raise
As discouraging as it is, no number of documentaries or worthy articles is suddenly going to make everyone in the world care about the people making our underwear for $1.50 a day. A large part of that is probably because it’s hard to comprehend how shocking the working conditions in Bangladesh’s clothing factories are until you visit them for yourself—until you meet the workers being slapped around by their bosses and the kids being hidden on the factory roof every time Western buyers come to town.
In response to those working conditions and wages, which are among the lowest in the world, some workers have been striking for weeks, their frustration often turning to violence as they clash with police. And those violent protests have won them what looks like a victory: the Bangladesh government announced over the weekend that the minimum wage for garment workers is going to be increased by 77 percent, to $67 a month.
I flew out to Bangladesh a couple of weeks before the pay raise was announced to meet some garment workers. Upon arrival, a contact took me to a poor factory neighborhood—a slum, comprised as it was of a few beaten up huts—on the outskirts of Dhaka. There, he introduced me to Bilkiss, a sweet, pretty 18-year-old who had worked at the same garment factory for five years. She is one of an estimated 4 million in Bangladesh who make our clothes.
Everyone in This Wheelchair Sports Camp Is Stoned and Making Beats
Kalyn Heffernan is 42 inches tall, has been diagnosed with a brittle bone disease, is confined to a wheelchair, smokes lots of weed, and won’t hesitate to publicly shame anyone who gets on her bad side with a brutal rap track. Kalyn is the emcee and driving force of Denver’s Wheelchair Sports Camp, a hip-hop group that mixes classic beats with jazz and avant-garde sound experiments. The group formed while Kalyn was in college, with just her rapping and a DJ supplying the beats, but has evolved into a shifting lineup that sometimes features drums, a saxophone, and even a sitar.
Her music deals with social inequalities relating to handicap people, as well as getting blazed as fuck and how much cops suck. On her song, “This Bitch…” Kalyn attacks problems with healthcare, and on “Party Song” she taunts, “rock, let the midget hit it/cops on my jock, make ‘em, cough/cus I’m sicker with it.” More recently, she’s started to make beats for rapping Haitians who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake, and called out Goodwill for paying handicap people less than minimum wage.
Photo by Adrian Diublado
VICE: Hello, Kalyn. What is your writing process?
Kalyn: I’m a pretty slow writer. Sometimes I write faster, but more than not I have to sit down… well, I’m always sitting down, but I just have to go at it.
You used to sneak backstage at shows and meet people like Xzibit, Ludacris, Erykah Badu, and Busta Rhymes. How did you do it?
It was pretty easy. I would play the wheelchair card and say “oh, so and so” told me to come back here. I was a pretty good scam artist back then. I think, because of my disability and because of my advantages, that I’ve been able to milk the sysem. I could get backstage to almost any concert.
Jihad Selfies: British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media
After being publicly sacked by al Qaeda leader Aymann al-Zawahiri and accidentally beheadinga fighter from one of their main allies in Syria, it’s fair to say the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s PR campaign has suffered in recent weeks. So, like any half decent group of militant extremists, they obviously want to address this slip. Unfortunately, a traditional media outreach is very difficult for them, given ISIS’s policy of kidnapping journalists. So they’ve turned, like many before them, to social media.
Over the past few weeks, foreign fighters from ISIS and their subgroup the Muhajireen Brigade have been busy uploading selfies across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, in an effort to publicize their cause and win more recruits to the Syrian jihad. They offer a bizarre and fascinating look inside Syria’s most feared and least understood militant groups.
On paper, the Muhajireen Brigade are separate to ISIS, but they’re considered by some analysts to be a front group for the larger jihadist outfit. The social media evidence seems to support this view.
This picture (above) shows British fighter Ibrahim al-Mazwagi in battle with Omar Shishani, a Georgian Chechen who formerly led the Muhajireen Brigade, and is now ISIS’s military commander in Northern Syria.
Al-Mazwagi was killed in battle in February, aged 21. This is a collage made to honor him as a martyr, along with his friend and fellow casualty, Abu Qudama.
Above are two other recent British martyrs, Choukri Ellekhlifi, 22, and Mohammed el-Araj, 23. The pair are shown here at a jihadist internet café in Atmeh, a Syrian border town that is now firmly under ISIS control.