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Protestors Gather Outside VMAs to Call Attention to Newark’s Water Crisis

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  • Activists staged a protest across from the VMAs on Monday to call attention to Newark’s lead-contaminated water crisis.
  • Protesters called the city out for hosting an award show while residents were still without clean water, and some asked for celebrities to use their voice to bring awareness to the issue.
  • Newark has been dealing with the water crisis for three years and on Monday announced plans to replace and repair pipes with the help of a $120 million loan.

Protests Staged Across from VMAs

While the biggest names in the music industry hit the stage in Newark’s Prudential Center for the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday, protestors gathered across the street to call attention to the ongoing water crisis in the New Jersey city.

The demonstration was organized by the Newark Water Coalition. Reports estimate that somewhere between 100 and 200 were in attendance, including both Newark locals and visitors who came to the city for the award show.

Newark has been facing a water crisis for several years now. The city tried to aid 38,000 residents who could be affected by high levels of lead in tap water back in October by giving them filters. A report from early August, however, showed that those filters may not be properly working, prompting the city to have to hand out bottled water. 

Protestors carried signs with messages like “VMAs, are you drinking this water?” and “this is environmental racism.” Many also chanted: “we don’t want no MTV, we want our water clean.”

According to the Newark Department of Public Safety, five people were arrested for attempting to cross police barricades. Other than this, the protests were peaceful and continued without incident.

Newark and Celebrities Called Out

Footage from NJ.com showed one leader of the demonstration calling the city out for hosting the VMA’s while its residents were struggling. 

“People are dying out here,” he said. “And you’ve got the nerve, you’ve got the nerve to have the VMAs in Newark. You’ve got the nerve to have these celebrities come here and not give a damn about the citizens of Newark.” 

Efforts were made to encourage celebrities to acknowledge the Newark water crisis while they were in town. The Newark Water Coalition tweeted at Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X asking them to use their voices to call attention to it. 

Actress Piper Perabo sent out a tweet with a similar sentiment, suggesting stars bring the topic up both on stage and in interviews with the press.

The story did not make its way to the VMAs stage and big stars remained largely quiet on the matter. Reverend Al Sharpton attended the ceremony and did acknowledge the choice to have the show in a city facing a crisis of this nature. 

“It brings a limelight to a city where not everybody has to say, oh, I didn’t know there was lead in that city,” Sharpton said speaking to CBS New York. “So there’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, but that’s no comfort to those that’s living in the middle of that dark cloud.” 

Others online thought Newark demonstrated poor priorities by giving a venue to the VMA’s.

Some also thought the stars should have felt heavier responsibility to shine a light on the water crisis.

Developments in Newark’s Water Crisis

The protests came as potential strides were made in handling the city’s water crisis. On Monday, the Essex County Improvement Authority announced plans to give a $120 million loan that would be used to replace and repair lead pipes, which would be completed in under three years.

The plan would speed the repair process up greatly. A previous plan would have cost Newark $75 million and taken close to a decade to complete. Residents are still skeptical of the plan, as they have been promised solutions in the past that fell through. Votes by the city and county will take place Tuesday. Another vote is reportedly taking place in September.

See what others are saying: (NJ.com) (CBS New York) (TIME)

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Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him

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“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.


Theater Named Announced

Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title. 

The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. 

A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”

Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.

The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”

Chappelle Defends Controversial Special 

According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students. 

“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.

Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda. 

“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said. 

“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special. 

According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Variety) (The Atlantic)

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Chris Evans Says People Upset With Same-Gender “Lightyear” Kiss Are “Idiots”

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The kiss was previously removed from the film until a surge of backlash from Pixar employees prompted Disney to reinstate it. 


Chris Evans Supports “Lightyear” Scene

“Lightyear” star Chris Evans is standing against people who have criticized the same-gender kiss scene in the upcoming Pixar film. 

“The real truth is those people are idiots,” the actor told Reuters this week when discussing negative reactions to the scene’s inclusion. 

“The American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good,” he continued. 

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and more have banned the release of “Lightyear” over the kiss, which is between two women. Right-wing pundits in the U.S. have also slammed it, and user reviews for the picture on websites like IMDB have claimed that movie-going has “become an avenue for political propaganda.”

Evans argued those opinions are outdated. 

“There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But those people die off like dinosaurs,” he said. “I think the goal is to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”

“Lightyear” hits theaters on Friday starring Evans as the titular Buzz Lightyear. Evans, however, is not playing the action figure made famous in the “Toy Story” movies and is instead playing an animated human astronaut who inspired the toy.

Kiss Scene Almost Never Made it to Big Screen

According to outlets that have reviewed the film, the same-gender kiss is between Alisha Hawthorne, a character voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her wife. 

Multiple reports have stated that Disney was always supportive of depicting a gay couple in the picture, but was more hesitant about showing an on-screen kiss between the two. The studio previously had the scene removed from the film until a swell of backlash prompted it to reinstate the kiss.

The decision came in March amid criticisms over Disney’s slow response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. At the time, a group of Pixar employees wrote an open letter claiming that they have pushed for more inclusion in their films, but “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest.” 

Now that the scene made the final cut of “Lightyear,” it has been a large topic of conversation leading up to the film’s release. On Monday, Evans told Variety that the inclusion of the scene makes him “happy,” but he hopes one day, scenes like this will be considered standard. 

“It’s tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion,” he said. “That it is this kind of ‘news.’ The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.”

See what others are saying (Reuters) (Variety) (IndieWire)

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YouTube Shorts Hits 1.5 Billion Monthly Logged-In Users 

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The company says the success of Shorts is bringing more viewers to its long-form content.


YouTube Shorts Reaches Milestone

Less than two years after its launch, YouTube Shorts is reaching 1.5 billion logged-in users every month, according to reports from TechCrunch and Variety on Wednesday.

YouTube launched its Shorts feature to compete with TikTok, the social media app that has taken over the internet with its bite-sized content. Its effort appears to be successful, as these new numbers put YouTube Shorts on track with the Gen Z-beloved app. 

In September 2021, TikTok announced it had reached one billion monthly users. It has not released updated data since, but analysts projected it could reach 1.5 billion sometime in 2022. 

While Shorts were created to rival the trending content on TikTok, YouTube has remained committed to the long-form content that has served as the platform’s bread and butter. In its announcement, the company touted that Shorts served as an entryway for viewers to watch more of this long-form content and discover new creators along the way. 

In a release, YouTube said the synergy built by this expansion has allowed for “the rise of the multiformat creator.”

“Long-form content remains the best way for creators to deeply engage and develop long-term relationships with their audiences,” Tara Walpert Levy, YouTube’s Vice President of the Americas, said in a statement. “But Shorts offer an exciting, new way to be a part of a viewer’s journey and to introduce themselves and their whole portfolio to new audiences. This approach is yielding real results; channels uploading both short and long-form content are seeing better overall watch time and subscriber growth than those uploading only one format.”

The Competition Posed by TikTok

For its part, YouTube put a lot of effort into making Shorts thrive on its platform. Among other measures, the company created a $100 million fund incentivizing creators to make the quick videos. 

The Google-owned video giant is far from the only social media company to try to wrestle with TikTok’s success. Facebook and Instagram began rolling out Reels two years ago while TikTok was experiencing a surge of pandemic users. 

In turn, TikTok has also made changes to its app to keep up with other social platforms. Recently, it extended its maximum video length to ten minutes, meaning its short-form content may not always be so short. 

By using short videos to drive more power behind longer content, YouTube is hoping to cover both bases. Neal Mohan, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer, said that even though the company is only at “the beginning” of its journey with Shorts, he knows “the product will continue to be an integral part of the YouTube experience moving forward.”

See what others are saying: (TechCrunch) (Variety) (The Verge)

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