Monday, December 12, 2011
It's been a minute since I posted. Had to close out the semester. Whew! Glad that's over. Anyway, here's Nina Simone to prime the pump, let you know I'll be around, clear out my head and lay the groundwork for whatever comes next.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Remember those who grew this food
Who picked and packed
Who shipped and sold.
Bronze rainbow arms
Have set this food upon our table.
Remember those who built this house
Assembled, weaved, created
Light and warmth and health.
Remember those who fought and died
To break the king’s command, the slaver’s yoke
And slay the Nazi beast.
Remember those who walked in darkness
Eyes on the gourd and the Trail of Tears,
Marching in Selma, martyred in Memphis
They can’t kill the dream, Jesús y Maria,
Che on his cross in the Andean highlands
Shot in the stadium, pushed from the airplane
Martyrs for freedom
Our ancient foe
His craft and power,
His cruel hate
His endless thirst
Through blood and oil
For profit, profit
Remember those whose songs of love
Restore us still
Pablo, Diego, Woody and Giant Paul
Mus’ keep on fightin’, Comrades all
Remember those who grew this food
Who mined and forged
Who sang and loved
Who fought and died
Who made all wealth
All honor and glory,
All power and peace
Be unto you
Be unto you.
NOTE: This poem/prayer was originally published in People's Weekly World in March 2006. Updated Nov. 23, 2010 and Nov. 23, 2011. Learn more about Rick Nagin here
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The following article on the "nativist movement" that originally appeared, as far as I know, at Reader Supported News, was written by James Ridgeway, one of the writers I respect most in the world today. The more I think about it, the more important I think it is. Especially as the Occupy movement has developed in recent months, which must, I would assume, make nativists and others who are already agitated, more nervous (and thus more dangerous) than ever.
It is quite interesting, I think, to scan the comments after Ridgeway's piece and notice the range of commentators outside (and sometimes far outside) the box. Which is one of the reasons I'm re-posting it.
Sometimes, I get tired of scaring myself and others. I don't think it's always effective in moving people in the direction we need to be going. Nevertheless, it often seems to me that not to be scared at this juncture is to risk putting oneself in mortal danger. So what are we supposed to do?
Read on, that's what.
"The Threat of America's Nativist Far Right"
by James Ridgeway
As emerging reports would have it, Kevin William Harpham, 36, who is accused of setting a bomb to go off at the Martin Luther King Jr Day parade in Spokane, Washington, was yet another "lone wolf" terrorist, acting at his own behest and on his own behalf. Even groups on the racist, radical far right that so clearly inspired him are rushing to disown and denounce the indicted man. Regardless of whether he was a "member" of an organised group, there can yet be no doubt that Harpham saw himself as part of a movement – one that has an especially broad reach in the age of Obama, and roots as deep as American culture itself.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Northwestern Law School professor and author Dorothy Roberts was recently interviewed by Tavis Smiley about her new book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics and Big Business Recreate Race in the Twenty-First Century. I haven't read it as yet, but it sounds interesting, indeed, while certainly controversial.
Francis L. Holland, Esq. suggests in his review of the book on Amazon.com:
There's a new book out in which author Dorothy Roberts explains that what we have called "race" for hundreds of years is, in actuality, not a biological reality. "Race" is also a name that has been used to refer to social, political and cultural realities.
The Root says:
"According to Dorothy Roberts, author of Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century, it's because, despite centuries of efforts to treat race as if it's a biological category, it is no more than social construction -- created to oppress people -- that changes with place, time and perspective."
Saturday, November 05, 2011
We didn't go to the last Fair, so it had been a year since we saw them. They wondered if we had moved on with our lives and left them behind, as so many others have.
"We went through some changes," I explained. "We split up for a minute, had some things we needed to work through on our own. But now we're back together and ready to reach out from the center again."
They were glad to see us. But some of them had gone through changes, too.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
This semester, I'm teaching a Racial and Ethnic Relations class, which I present more or less as a course in White Supremacy 101. Last week, I showed "Passin' It On," the story of Dhoruba bin Wahad, a Black Panther Party member who was targeted by the criminal justice system and spent nineteen years in a cell until he was finally acquitted and released. Reading the startled reactions written by my students after watching the film, I was caused to think about another Black Panther: Lil' Bobby Hutton.
Bobby was the first recruited member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, joining in December of 1966 at the age of sixteen. Sixteen months later, two days after Martin Luther King, Jr., was gunned down by a police officer in Memphis, Tennessee, the Oakland, California, police department attacked the BPP office and shot Lil' Bobby more than twelve times when he walked out into the street in his underwear so they would know he was unarmed. Long live Lil' Bobby Hutton and all people who unite to fight those who carry on the traditions and practices of White Supremacy.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
In honor of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which celebrates its 45th year this month; in remembrance of all the brothers and sisters (Black and White) who struggled, suffered and died to advance the goals and aspirations of the Party; and in solidarity with those brothers and sisters (Black and White) who remain in the belly of the beast in prisons and jails throughout the not-just, not-legal system in the United States because of their political beliefs and most particularly Albert "Shaka" "Cinque" Woodfox and Herman "Hooks" Wallace who have spent their last forty years in solitary confinement, I am posting this recent interview with Billy X, one of the earliest organizers for the Black Panther Party. Learn more here or here.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
And it gets weirder than that.
She has a bunch of drawings on her wall of famous Black men, including among others, Tupac Shakur and Barack Obama (one can only wonder how she made her list of who to...er...hang). And she told a British journalist that she sees no contradiction in the fact that she hung both the pictures and the flag.
I can't imagine why she moved into a Black neighborhood last year with her White-is-right perspective. Maybe somebody left her the house in a will. Maybe she just couldn't wait any longer for her fifteen minutes of fame so she hung the flag a month after she got there. Maybe she's crazy as a bedbug.
But one thing I know for sure: she uses the words "White heritage" without the foggiest clue what they mean. Because if she thought about it, she'd think again.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
This is how we do it in New Orleans.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has ruled that Troy Davis will die at 7:00 p.m. tonight. Davis was convicted of the shooting death of a police officer twenty-two years ago. I blogged about the case yesterday and the media is blazing with discussion on the issues involved. As I go through my day today, I will be mulling over some questions:
1. How many innocent Black men do you suppose have been gunned down in cold blood by the police in this country over the past twenty-two years without it even being considered a crime?
2. The family says they need closure in the death of their loved one. Wouldn't "closure" include knowing that the actual murderer was held accountable, rather than that he walks around free -- bragging about getting away with killing a police officer -- while an innocent man is sacrified?
3. Doesn't Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm (phone number: 912-652-7308) realize that, since he can personally intervene to save Troy Davis' life -- or not -- public attention to this case and how it's handled will make it political suicide for him to let Davis die?
4. How long are we going to continue begging for relief from a rampant White Supremacist criminal not-just system before it dawns on us that it isn't going to change until we make it change?
5. What would it take to make it change?
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Three years ago -- almost to the day -- I first heard and blogged about Troy Davis. And here he is, having been on death row for nineteen years, facing execution once more (for the fourth time) on Wednesday, while a horrified world watches. The Atlanta Journal Constitution says the case has been "perhaps the most extraordinary and controversial legal odyssey in the state’s history."
Despite the fact that most of the family of the police officer Davis was convicted of shooting to death twenty-two years ago still hold fast to the idea that he is, in fact, guilty, seven of the nine "witnesses" recanted their original testimony in 2003. One of the remaining "witnesses" is, unsurprisingly, a guy who is said to have confessed to his family and friends that he was the one who actually committed the murder. These folks have come forward and signed sworn statements, which would seem to make a difference in the state's commitment to kill Troy Davis, but such is not the case.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Sometimes, when a Person of Color says or writes something I could never have adequately expressed because it is communicating something extraordinary from their perspective, I try to serve as a bridge between them and others. It's part of the responsibility I feel as a person who looks like me to work toward change in a White Supremacist world. Yesterday, I read a blog post by Brotha Wolf I felt that way about. He had been inspired to write it by another blogger's post and that is how the blogosphere works. Here's to modern technology. And here's to Big Man and Brotha Wolf.
Big Man, the brotha behind the popular blog Raving Black Lunatic, wrote an excellent piece about the thoughts and feelings about today’s world relating to how some people have been on top for so long mostly due to the destruction of other people without any large-scale repercussions while those who still benefit from it avoid any responsibility to try and do the right thing. It also describes the need for vengeance as a way to ease the pain and sadness, and questions why such destruction happened or was allowed to happen in the first place.
I think I know what he was getting at. For me, personally, they were thoughts that I constantly have every day and night, thoughts about the history and reality of white supremacy. Despite the fact there are some whites who do accept responsibility and are working hard to change things, most whites are still so blinded by a world they’ve created they see nothing wrong with it. It is a reality that keeps me either angry or depressed.
Monday, September 05, 2011
In the past few weeks, I had read a number of reviews of "The Help" (one of the hot movies of the summer), but nearly all of the ones I saw began with the words, "I haven't actually seen this movie, but..." followed by a castigation of every possible aspect of the film. Reviews without the benefit of reading the book, seeing the film, or hearing the music send up a sociological flag on my analytical playing field. So despite the fact that I thought I'd probably agree with the reviews even after watching the movie and very concerned that I was about to waste time and money on one more flick about how only White people can save Blacks, I decided I needed to see it. Then one of my Black students who is very forthright about pretty much everything -- and especially race -- told me that she had gone to see it twice and loved it. So today, I gathered up my trepidations and went to the theater.
In brief, I give it an eleven on a scale of one to ten with one being "made a White person look like a Savior-figure while making darkies look like sheep" and ten being "made White people in general look like icy-faced monsters who probably deserve to drown in shallow water while being stung by killer bees and eaten alive by starving red ants simultaneously." I have absolutely never seen a better, more nuanced, more ghastly depiction of what real ordinary White people in the U.S. acted like in the 1960s. The fact that many White people still act the same way today is another point and I'll come back to that momentarily. But I kid you not, White folks walked out of the theater after watching "The Help" today veeeery quietly, while Black folks were talking to no one but each other. It's that kind of flick. I give it a "must see" with a warning: if you have any consciousness at all, this one will piss you slap off and if you haven't gotten ahold of your rage yet, you should probably just go ahead and skip seeing it for now.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
I just finished watching "The Trials of Darryl Hunt" and I'm ready to stick my head out the window and scream. Darryl Hunt, for those of you who may not know, is a a 46-year-old man who did twenty years in prison for a crime of which he was "wrongfully convicted" in 1984. The crime was the brutal rape and stabbing murder of a young White newspaper woman. The location was Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And Darryl Hunt, of course, is Black.
Friday, September 02, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
I remember the first time the subject of prisons and prisoners was presented to me. It was 1971. I was in San Francisco, working on an underground newspaper, the San Francisco Good Times. Black Panther Huey P. Newton had been released from prison the year before. George Jackson had just been gunned down in cold blood by guards in California’s San Quentin Penitentiary during an alleged “escape attempt” that nobody believed. And former prisoner “Popeye” Jackson of the United Prisoners Union dropped by our collective to engage our interest. I spent that afternoon listening to his tales of what was really going on behind the prison walls. But it would be another few months before I locked into what I call “the prison abolition movement.”
I was living now in Iowa City, Iowa, recuperating from a broken jaw I received while riding in a BMW that managed to wind up under a snow truck during a blizzard. Thanks to what I had learned in San Francisco, I was quick to pick up on a conversation in a bar that soon led me to the Prisoners Digest International. When I arrived, the collective was busy fighting efforts of the administration at Attica Prison to keep a special 90-page Attica uprising edition complete with photographs out of the hands of the prisoners inside; the courts eventually said otherwise and we shipped hundreds of copies into the institution.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Yesterday, I got my student evaluations from my spring courses. I was glad to know I'm "cooler than John Travolta" (whatever that means), that most students gave me high marks and that a healthy handful wrote that I changed their lives. One student even said I should get a raise (a sentiment with which I heartily agree).
But, needless to say, a few students were made uncomfortable enough by my admittedly somewhat ruthless examination of racial issues that they felt the need to mention it. A few always do. Sometimes graphically. This time, for example, one evaluator suggested in three different boxes under "Improvements Needed" that I hate White people, suggesting that the improvement would be to put more Black people in my classes "to make [her] happy."
These are, of course, my favorite evaluations. In fact, if my boss doesn't see enough such potshots, he thinks maybe I'm losing my edge. Nevertheless, I know they don't mean it to be funny. They're trying to communicate something. Some more than others. My first academically-related death threat, after all, was over the phone in the middle of the night while I was in the process of teaching my very first course ever.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
But here I am. After all. And maybe there's a few more words in the old girl yet.
It's been a hairy summer.
I thought it was going to be a down time when I could consider my overdriven life and make sense of what to prune and what to keep or even -- Goddess help me -- what to add.
Then, as I mentioned in passing in June, I was blindsided by needing exploratory thyroid surgery with only five days' notice. Everything turned out fine, though I now have a faint but permanent three-inch smile in my neck and the jury's still out on whether or not I'll need replacement hormones to take up the slack for the half of my thyroid that got left where it was.
Exciting? Yes. But, though still in a serious state of recuperation, the initial physical, psychological and emotional trauma of the operation was pretty well over by the time I started teaching full-time again for the month of July.
Friday, June 24, 2011
As most of you are aware, I've been recuperating from surgery the past ten days or so and my body is confused. Sometimes, I can't keep my eyes open and sometimes, I'm all the way awake at midnight. Even my emotions are all over the place. You can imagine the havoc this plays with the likelihood of my blogging.
But right in the middle of it all, last night, I decided to watch the film made at Eric Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago. This kind of show is a perfect example of why I support Public Television. A kick-ass concert and no commercials. Yes, indeed.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Eight days ago, facing surgery, I decided to spend the weekend visiting Albert "Shaka Cinque" Woodfox, one of the Angola 3. Of all the places I might have gone and all the ways I might have spent that time forty-eight hours before going under the knife, I never really considered anywhere else.
I'm not alone in this. Another A3 supporter who had to drive even farther than the five hours I spent on the road (each way), came tearing into the visiting room at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, announcing, "I know I won't get to stay long, but it's my birthday and I just had to see Woodfox on my birthday!"
The guard at the gate, knowing I was already inside, had asked her coming in, "Why do so many people want to come visit this man?"
"That's just who he is," Jackie replied.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I won't lie. I was never a rocker. And for whatever reason, I thought Bruce was way too White for me. But you couldn't be in my generation and not know Clarence Clemons played sax.
And now, the Big Man (as he was often called because of his 6'5", 270 pound frame), has played his last solo.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
I'm a photo freak. A black and white enthusiast. I have stacks and shelves of books that feature photos.
The topics vary. The first one I remember "collecting" -- The Family of Man compiled by Edward Steichen -- is legendary, though I didn't realize it at the time. Decades later, the photo of an indigenous South American flute player that appears on the cover of that book is the wallpaper on my computer at work.
Since that first one, I've added enough such books to my collection as to cause myself to wonder on occasion what I'm thinking. I rarely look at them after the first long, slow time through. Yet I'm a veritable sucker when I see one that reaches out and grabs me. In fact, I've begun to wonder what my poor daughter is going to do with them all when I move on. Some old ladies collect cats or balls of rubber bands. I'm apparently accumulating art works and photo books.
Anyway, yesterday, I came across my next acquisition, I'm sure. It's pricy, but I really must have it and in a minute, you'll understand why.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
It appears that I'm gearing up to do some more posts on the criminal justice system here in Louisiana and some of the cases that highlight it's...shall we say...peculiarity? I realize that it's not just Louisiana. I recently watched "Conviction", for example, the movie released just last fall about Kenny Waters, who did eighteen years on a life sentence for a robbery/murder he didn't commit. The payoff of $3.4 million came, of course, but eight years after Waters died of head injuries sustained in a 15-foot fall that occurred when he was taking a short cut on the way to his brother's house for dinner six months after his release. He had earlier said he was suffering from anxiety attacks, but the fall was considered an accident. Still, we'll never know.
This weekend, I'll be viewing "American Violet", the fictionalized account of the real life case of Regina Kelly, a single mother who took on and beat the District Attorneys in Hearne, Texas, after 28 innocent African-Americans were arrested for dealing drugs there. This was only a year after the infamous Tulia, Texas, case, by the way, wherein 15% of the local Black population was arrested for drug dealing, subsequently sharing a six million dollar settlement because, yet again, it was all a big, orchestrated lie.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
The main problem with waiting so long between what I call "real" blog posts is that they don't stop writing themselves in my head. Consequently, while I don't publish them so that you, my Faithful Readers, can actually faithfully read them, the process keeps rolling. And when I finally do have time to sit down and write, I'm so backed up, the idea set has gone from being a forty-minute "lecture" to being a three-day "workshop."
It never occurred to me before, but this might be why some of my posts run WAY longer than you have time to read. None the less, it is what it is and here I am, keyboard (rather than hat) in hand, hopeful there's somebody still out there who will wade through what I'm about to sketch out.
The train of thought began back in February, when I was invited to take a look at this post about a situation on a "Christian" college campus in Kentucky. The blogger was basically asking the Black students on the campus (who had apparently had enough of what I imagine was an on-going racist context) to continue sucking it up until White folks have time and the motivation to change. In other words, business as usual.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
|Activists protest in Atlanta after police killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, November 2006.|
(W.A. Bridges Jr./Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The racism of the American “war on drugs,” especially in the south, is notorious. So is the racism faced daily by Palestinians. In Atlanta, a university program allows these two manifestations of racism to feed off each other and community activists are organizing to shut the program down.
On the evening of 21 November 2006, the Atlanta Police Department’s recently disbanded Red Dog Unit killed Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old Black resident of the northwest Atlanta neighborhood of English Avenue. As she sat in her home watching television, several Atlanta policemen bashed in her front door to execute their fraudulently obtained “no-knock” search warrant. After firing 39 shots, the police officers handcuffed Johnston, placed a dime bag of marijuana on her corpse and vacated her home, leaving her to bleed to death there (Ernie Suggs, “City to Pay Slain Woman’s Family $4.9 million”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 16 August 2010).
Friday, April 08, 2011
I'm old school. In fact, I'm darn near old as the hills. Next Thursday, I'm going to hit one of those landmark birthdays that is assumed to put a human over the hill and out of commission (and I wish I could say it's only the big 5-0, but that ain't even close).
So I'm thinking about things. Taking a look around. Flexing the old muscles, physically and mentally, and pleased to discover that, thus far, at least, I appear to be largely functional. For the most part.
I get a lot of positive reinforcement for living my belief system. I still have hotties coming after me. (Hey, you get here and tell me that's not important any more!) And I can still put in a week of twelve-hour days and not wind up in a hospital.
But one of the things I value most as I age emotionally, psychologically and even physically -- if I'm going to do any of those gracefully -- is input from younger people who care enough about me to urge me in new directions when it's appropriate to move along.
Friday, March 25, 2011
I haven't blogged for a minute and my plate, as usual, is busy dropping figurative food all over the floor of my agenda. I'm preparing for a presentation for the art department on "Creating Resonance at Will" (the sociology of art) for which I will be flying almost entirely by the seat of my pants. I'm working to set up a presentation on dance as social commentary (working topic: death and dying as a manifestation of oppression). I'm making notes to produce a booklet on how Black students can make it successfully through the first two semesters on a majority White campus without sacrificing what's left of their souls. I'm still teaching 350 students per week. And I have yet another, a superbly talented and highly educated Nigerian raised in Britain and set of midterms to grade (besides all the rest of the "less important" papers).
I have a small stack of topics I'm itching to get on here about. But it won't be today, unless I forego clearning the bathroom, in which case, I'll have to start using the ditch out back since it's becoming a bummer to have to face what a slovenly housekeeper I am.
While you're waiting, though, I have a treat. Someone kindly sent an email tipping me to an artist about which I was unaware: Siji immersed in Brooklyn. I couldn't bring myself to choose between the two videos I'm posting here. What a wonderful dilemma. Enjoy!
SIJI - "Yearning For Home" Music Video from SIJI on Vimeo.
SIJI - 'Ijo'(Official Video) from SIJI on Vimeo.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Every now and again, I blog about a blog. And that's what I'm doing today. I had been vaguely aware of The Louisiana Justice Institute for some months, having run across some of its activists here and there in the course of doing the work I do. It's not like they're low profile folks. In fact, Institute Co-Director Tracie Washington was named this month by The Root, the daily online magazine published by the Washington Post, as one of its twenty Leading Black Women Advocating Change. And somewhere along the line, I started noticing links on my Facebook site to posts on Justice Roars, the blog of the Institute. But you know how it is, you're moving at the speed of light through your own life, trying to stay on top of the 419 plates you have spinning, and who has time to really pay attention, right?
Then, one day (this morning, obviously), you wake up knowing you don't have to leave the house before you have your coffee (for a change) and you somewhat arbitrarily read a post from one of those links and get blown the eff away. Now, I'm asking myself, how did I avoid realizing the nature of these folks' work all this time? (*shakes head ruefully*)
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Please allow me to introduce to any of you who are unaware of this brilliant man Dr. James Hal Cone, the Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Whether or not you identify yourself as a Christian, whether or not you believe in a Supreme Being, and whether or not you would normally even care about or listen to a presentation on this topic, I strongly urge you to spend the twenty minutes necessary to hear what this man has to say. I guarantee he will expose you to some ideas you will not hear anywhere else, ideas which I for one think are important to any dialogue on power and justice related to the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" in America.
Monday, March 07, 2011
At the Detroit city limit, however, the marchers were met by Dearborn police and doused by fire hoses. Despite the cold weather, they continued to the Employment Office at the Ford River Rouge plant, from which there had been massive layoffs. Five workers were killed and nineteen wounded by police and company “security” personnel armed with pistols, rifles and a machine gun.
Dave Moore, one of the marchers that day (photo above), said, “That blood was Black blood and White blood. One of the photos that was published in the Detroit Times, but never seen since, shows a Black woman, Mattie Woodson, wiping the blood off the head of Joe DiBlasio, a White man who lay there dying...It’s been 75 years, but when you drive down Miller Road today, your car tires will be moistened with the blood that those five shed.”
Sunday, March 06, 2011
It's Mardi Gras in Louisiana, folks, and this makes my fourth year here without going to New Orleans, only 45 miles away. It's been raining cats and dogs for two days. I have hundreds of papers to grade by Thursday, thanks to falling behind (again) when my community activities claimed too much of my time. And I threw my back out carrying great big potted plants back outside only to have to haul them in again last night in anticipation of the temperature going back down to 30 degrees after we were all in sandals a week ago.
So...unless someone kidnaps me (and I'm secretly hoping they will), I'll put my eggs in next year's Mardi Gras basket for now, but I absolutely must post this YouTube video of the Rebirth Brass Band (oh, yeah!) playing while the Treme' Sidewalk Steppers second line. 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky...
Saturday, March 05, 2011
The following fall, the sociology student club I advise decided to plan and execute a big two-day Angola 3 awareness event. They worked their butts off, plastering the campus with announcements for weeks in advance and even inviting Robert King (the third member of the Angola 3, who was released in 1991) to speak, as well as supporters and former Black Panther Party members from as far away as California. It put the club on the campus map for certain, but the turn out was disappointing, at best. Still, hundreds of postcards with information about the Angola 3 were distributed by sociology club members wearing handcuffs in the student union breezeway. And you can still see the Angola 3 t-shirts we had made at that time bobbing around the campus occasionally.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
...[T]hey certainly want that freedom which they thought was mine -- that frightening limousine, for example, or the power to give away a suit or my increasingly terrifying trans-Atlantic journeys. How can one say that freedom is taken, not given, and that no one is free until all are free? And that the price is high. -- James Baldwin, "Take Me to the Water"
The conceited villager believes the entire world to be his village. Provided that he can be mayor or humiliate the rival who stole his sweetheart or add to the savings in his strongbox, he considers the universal order good, unaware of those giants with seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot or of the strife in the heavens between comets that go through the air asleep, gulping down worlds. What remains the village in America must rouse itself. These are not times for sleeping in a nightcap, but with weapons for a pillow, like the warriors of Juan de Castellanos: weapons of the mind, which conquer all others. Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones. -- Jose Marti, Our America
At some point, you have to say "Enough is enough. You will not bury me in it so that I become a zombie among the walking dead."
Your spirit of resistance is in danger! Hollowness becomes fashionable. The dead seek to infect or drain you of that spirit.
Misery loves company.
But it is futile to seek freedom in battle with the dead. Strategies to gain freedom must have as a central goal the removal of human-made systems of oppression -- no matter how many corpses surrounding you say otherwise in an attempt to distract you.
Monday, February 14, 2011
One of my faithful readers turned me onto Nappy Roots last night and I've been humming this song ever since. So, because it's Valentine's Day and everybody reading this is my valentine, I'm sharing it with you. Enough with the bummers for a minute. Just for this one day, I'm gonna have a good day. Wanna join me?
Friday, February 11, 2011
It's "Black History Month" in the United States again. So we'll be inundated with various performances and presentations of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech." We'll be reminded that African-Americans used to be slaves and that now (praise God!) they're not. Not only are they not slaves any more (we'll be reminded), but they can vote, use any bathroom they want to, ride in the front of the bus, and walk right up to any water fountain and drink if they please. They can go to private schools right along side the White kids who live in other neighborhoods. They can try on clothes at "better" stores. And they can sue for damages, if they're locked up for thirty years when they were, in fact, innocent. Why, they can even be President of the United States.
What we won't be encouraged to think about is that the life of the average ordinary Black person in this country is still routinely structured and strictured by White Supremacy. I've written about it so often on this blog, I feel as if I repeat myself endlessly. Yet White people often don't get it. And even many African-Americans I meet have been socialized to be in denial about it, as well.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
I told her, laughing, that they're welcome any time. And they are.
But today I received an email informing me that one of the professional organizations I belong to as a sociologist has recently signed a statement being circulated by the American Sociological Association. The statement was written in support of Frances Fox Piven, a well known Ph.D., social scientist, author and professor whose work related to poverty and inequality has been some of the most highly regarded in the world for decades now. No one -- and let me underscore this statement -- no one who is committed to rigorous research in the interest of understanding how our society works (rather than just accepting whatever those in power want believed) doubts the truthfulness of her writings.
But Glen Beck (the racist media mogul whose idea of rigorous research is apparently whatever hairbrained analysis he can suck out of his thumb and sell to those who drink his kool-aid) has decided Piven is "one of the most dangerous people in the world". Beck is so malicious toward this "dangerous" 78-year-old woman, he has whipped up a froth of panic sufficient to bring out the crazies he knows perfectly well he can direct to attack her.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Anyway, I've added Black Voices to my blogroll and want to steer you to catch one of Watkins' video commentaries on that site, where you will find many more. I tried to figure out how to embed the video here, but apparently they don't want that done, so I have to send you there instead. But not without adding my two cents first (or afterwards, if you like it like that).
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
This is not a one-time shot. North Paran's whole game plan is to continue this process by partnering with not-for-profit organizations who already work with low income families. So they're always going to have this giving program in place. But they want to get the word out and start with a bang.
North Paran is a comprehensive website for books by and about Black people. It's probably the best collection I've ever seen because, while it has lots of books that you would expect them to have, it doesn't focus primarily on only one genre. They have them all and some you may not have heard of before. I'm on a budget right now, and it was a real chore to wade through the hundreds of wonderful listings to find my choice of the day. And I only explored a couple of categories.
The prices are comparative to the big boys like Amazon, but this is a Black family-owned enterprise with a heart. I'm going to make North Paran my first stop for book buying from now on. I love books and buy often, but here's an opportunity to parlay that love into blessing kids with books while I indulge my guilty pleasure. I hope you'll consider joining me to support this business and the kids who need it to succeed.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I am always reassured when I take the time to look around that life is yet thriving gloriously. And as a way to celebrate the beauty that is all around us in spite of the Dark Forces that seem to lay wait around every corner, I'm posting the YouTube video below of Charlotte O'Neal, a Black Panther activist who, with her husband, Pete, moved to Tanzania in 1972, where they have become deeply enmeshed in the life of the community. People from the United States visit them regularly to learn and grow in their understanding of what is possible and what is important. In addition, Charlotte, called by many "Mama C", writes, sings, and performs on occasional tours in the U.S.
This video shows Mama C reading her piece, "The Red Cockatoo Feathers" at the 14th Annual International Poetry Africa Festival in Durban, South Africa, last October. I found it on the website of The Liberator Magazine. Enjoy.
Friday, January 28, 2011
"Surely, there will be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful," Obama told reporters in the State Dining Room after speaking with the long-time leader from the White House.
Somebody better tell the Egyptian protester in the photo above what Obama said. The teargas canister he's holding was made in the United States and he looks pissed.
Also...I guess...somebody oughta mention this to Obama so he can stop making himself look foolish in the international mass media. If he really wants the world to believe that the United States intends to "stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people," he might should ask Mubarak for the teargas back. I'm just sayin'.
NOTE: I found the photo above on the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition website, along with a list of U.S. cities where protests are about to be held in solidarity with the Egyptian people.
I just learned that the infamous prison on Riker's Island in New York City holds 14,000 prisoners, about three times as many as Angola State Pen here in Louisiana. M-m-m! So of course, at some point shortly, I'll be posting again on the topic of prison.
In the meantime, I came across the YouTube video above that tells the story of what happens to put some men in those places. In her poem, "To An Aspiring Junkie," Maya Angelou wrote: "Climb into the streets, man, like you climb into the ass end of a lion." Guitarist Ronny Jordan and spoken word artist Dana Bryant communicate the same message in their own inimitable fashion.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I don't remember when I first became aware of Burge. It was some time ago. And I was disgusted.
As a Chicago Police Department Detective and Commander in the 1970's and 1980's, Burge, now 63, oversaw the torture of more than 200 Black and Latino "suspects" (one as young as 13-years-old and all of whom "confessed" to the crimes with which they were charged), using techniques that included, but were not limited to the repeated use of a stun gun; hitting the victim in the head with a telephone book; applying electrical current to the victim's anus or genitals using a cattle prod, violet wand or antique crank telephone; putting plastic bags over the victim's head so he couldn't breathe; burning him with cigarettes or hair dryers; and putting a gun in his mouth, all of which are methods of physical and psychological torment that leave few if any scars.
Monday, January 17, 2011
"The issue is injustice...Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness, let us stand with a greater determination, and let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be."
This quote is from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., to the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, the day before he was shot and killed by an off-duty Memphis police officer.
You hadn't heard? You find it horrible to imagine? You don't want to believe me? Check out what Dick Gregory and Steve Cokely have to say about it (prepare to be seriously shocked, depressed, disappointed and angry):
Sunday, January 16, 2011
It's been a rough week for America. And those of us who write for publication find ourselves in a bit of a bind. Political correctness has taken on a whole new meaning in the aftermath of the shooting spree by a mentally ill young man in Arizona a week ago yesterday. Six people are dead; thirteen more were injured. And even Sarah Palin (ever the clever) was reduced to defending her "don't retreat, re-load" rhetoric as the perfectly reasonable "political debate process" in which all elected officials participate (proving yet again that she believes no one else is paying any more attention to reality than she is).
Fwoan at For Want of a Nail discussed last week how the incident is now being used to suggest that any criticism of the Powers-That-Be may incite to violence -- using a tragedy to further entrench Power and push any fascist agenda. Jack Crow at The Crow's Eye reminds us in the wake of President Obama's oration at the funeral of nine-year-old Christina Green, one of the shooting victims, that the collective Presidency since 9-11 has been responsible for the deaths of many innocent children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (at least), so Obama's words are disingenuous at best. And, frankly, I think about violence so much -- because we are surrounded by it 24/7 -- I sometimes worry I'm going to succumb to compassion fatigue and be found in a closet somewhere with my thumb in my mouth. Even if I'm not bleeding, I ache for those who do.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Five years ago today, I created this blog on the socially-constructed, political notion of race. I've had a few two-month hiatuses during that time and I've seen some of the best come and then go. And I understand. But for whatever reason, I can't seem to walk away.
At five years, it's the longest commitment I've ever had. Longer than any job. Longer than any marriage. And if I don't stop soon, I may not be able to.
Last week, I got a notice of "unusual activity" on my gmail account and was blocked from entering it. They asked me for a phone number in order to send me a "verification code." More than a little wary and basically unwilling anyway, I sent out some questions to a computer savvy young person I know. But before I could get an answer, I discovered that my blogger account was also blocked.
I went into such an instant tailspin that I gave them the phone number without another thought. Hell, I'd have given them my bra size if they'd asked for it. You're my peeps. And the thought of being pushed into never-never land without a chance to say good-bye was more than I could bear.
The day may come, Faithful Readers, but it looks as if they'll have to carry me out of here. Everybody has a niche. And I'm busy on a number of fronts. But this blog is apparently my foxhole. And after five years, I may be chained to this laptop. I hope so.
So I'll go into the next five putting Dead Prez in the spotlight tonight as they tell us why it's important not just to know, but to study the truths handed down by those who went before. Upward and onward. There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Last night, I watched The Battle for Haiti, the PBS Frontline special on the 5000 prisoners who escaped en mass from the main prison in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake hit. I hadn't heard anything about this previously, though I am more knowledgeable than most in the U.S. about Haiti, in general. And I did, in fact, already know that the criminal justice system in Haiti is beyond broken. As the Frontline special reports, men and even young boys who are accused of something as small as stealing a chicken can sit in literally hellish conditions for five or six years waiting to go to trial, if they don't have the money to navigate through the corruption.
Nevertheless, even the ones who weren't criminals when they were locked up were, I'm sure, "different" when they unexpectedly escaped their horrible bonds. And now they live -- and operate -- in the tent cities with all the other folks who are waiting for something besides more military forces to show up.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
1) As an appetizer with just the right amount of spice, read what Elle at Elle, PhD, has to say in response to CNN calling "ethnic" beauty the new "It" factor for models.
2) Then, head on over to My Name is JuJuBe, to check out what Joanna, a relative newcomer to the pack I read when I can, writes on the difference between "ignorance" and "bigotry". I liked this one so much, I posted it to my list of Some Basics, which are permanent links always available to bring any new readers up to speed on what I believe to be true.
3) Sister Toldja at The Beautiful Struggler takes on Time Magazine's review of a new book on biracial identity and demonstrates why we're gonna hear more about and from her in the future, both on her blog and more than likely, I predict, on television, as well.
4) And while we're talking about books, I was very impressed with how GrannyStandingforTruth connected New York former Governor David Patterson's commutation of John White to the book Uncle Tom's Children by Richard Wright. Good stuff.
5) Finally, just because I love it so much and because I will miss thefreeslave and his blog (unless someone knows how to connect me to a new site), I am winding up with what was apparently one of thefreeslave's last posts: Black Power. Again, added to my Some Basics list to your right. And forever, loved and appreciated. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, Free, you da man.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
I met Martin through a couple from Botswana. He was massively intelligent and exquisitely articulate. And his voice was like velvet, barely above a whisper. Our conversations were beyond seductive to me, so hungry for news of the real world outside our borders, so ravenous for analysis of power relations more in depth than what I was wont to get on average. I often stopped by his apartment for tea on my way home from class in the afternoon. Sometimes he would cook a chicken. We ate with our fingers and, for special occasions, peanut soup with fufu. He told me tales of his homeland, of acres and acres of mahogany; of hundreds of oil wells already dug and capped, waiting for later; and of chunks of gold lying on top of the ground in a region where people didn't value metals as much as family. But most often, he spoke of missing home.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
I thought a while about this one before I decided to post it. One has only to scan the right side of my blog to see that I have a sensitivity to the way police power is all too often used in this country and in the world. When push comes to shove, unless we're talking about serial murderers, my sympathies tend to lie, more often than not, with the underdogs -- and they're usually the ones doing the running rather than the chasing.
Nevertheless, I was moved recently when I saw a New York Times article with the video above about what's been going on the last couple of years in the City of God.
I remembered the location, 15 miles from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, because it was the subject of an award-winning film released in 2002. It was painfully dramatic, but even more dramatic was an hour-long special feature documentary I also watched while I had the DVD. Gripping was not the word for it.
Monday, January 03, 2011
Many African-Americans in the United States live in what might as well be called a war zone. Unexpected violence waits around every corner in many, if not most, poverty-stricken communities as some residents are forced to engage in dangerous practices in an effort to pay the rent or alienated souls prey on others because of the demons that torment them or law "enforcement" officers, often twitchy with fear themselves and in advanced stages of White Supremacy sepsis, lash out randomly at unsuspecting "suspects" powerless to protect themselves.
A friend who lives on the border between Texas and Mexico recently told me that her region also has come to look like a war zone of late, with pit-bullish browbeaters wearing various kinds of uniforms attacking people at will and thinking up "explanations" later.
But we know that neither of these situations is precisely what is being experienced in other parts of the world, too often bankrolled by our own hard-earned wages (and I can't begin to tell you how it goads my soul to work a day every week for the U.S. government so that they can spend my money on killing people I don't know and don't want to kill). The war zones this nation's government is not bombing personally (like Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, just as examples and just at the moment -- it could change in a heartbeat) depend on a continual flow of U.S. dollars and weapons and influence to keep the process escalated and dangerous on both sides and endlessly, infinitely profitable to corporate coffers. There's a reason why we strike terror in the hearts of humans all over the world and terror is not the same as respect.
In any case, since the subject of this blog is the socially-constructed, political notion of "race," I don't write often about other things, no matter how strongly I feel about them. Like the situation in Palestine, where Zionism (a political movement, not a faith) is trying to wipe out the Palestinian people completely -- as in genocide. This week, however, I'm posting about role models -- people who are choosing to demonstrate to the rest of us how one person can make a stand, alone if need be, just because they know it's the right thing to do -- and for 2011 Role Model #2, I've chosen to feature any member of the Rabbis for Human Rights organization. As you'll see from the New York Times op-ed video above, these valiant individuals put themselves boldly in harm's way to make even the tiniest difference in the lives of others to whom it means so much.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
I'm starting off with Deonte Bridges, a young man who graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia, last May. During the commencement exercises, Deonte gave the address captured in the YouTube video above.
So often, we feel as if the obstacles we face as individuals and as a society are just too massive to overcome. Sometimes we get tired of trying to rise above whatever is pushing us down. Shaking our heads in frustration, we're quick to say "somebody ought to do something," adding "and as soon as I..." (fill in the blank here), "I'm gonna step up and..." (fill in this blank, too).
But that's not how it works. Life happens. And we don't get to wait. We're presented with an evolution of realities on a daily basis. We don't have to kill every dragon. We don't have to win every battle. We don't have to bankroll an army. We just have to do the next right thing as we go along. If we're honest with ourselves, we know in our gut what the next right thing is. And if you're not sure, take a couple of minutes and listen to what Deonte Bridges -- our 2011 Role Model #1 -- has to say.