Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here's To Making The World A Better Place

Just got back from spending three days visiting Albert Woodfox, one of the Angola 3, who's been in solitary confinement for forty years. Ordered a fancy ham to share with my daughter who'll visit me from New York City for the holiday. And heard from a young relative who has four months sober after years of sneaking up on the decision to try it.

Maybe next year, Albert will be eating Christmas dinner out here, money from In-Your-Face Women will be rolling in to bankroll projects I dream about funding, and the Occupy movement will have occupied Wall Street for real. The world can be a better place, you know. But we gotta include everybody.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Down To Business

I originally intended to embed a video produced by a group in Boston on how to beat back the bank attacks. Unfortunately (and I can't imagine why), they chose to disable embedding for some reason. Normally, I don't post music videos I can't embed, but I was so impressed with the production -- and the message -- of this one, I'm doing it anyway. So, much less dramatically (and I'm sorry about that), I give you  Twice Thou with "The Bank Attack".

After you watch it, visit The Billfold to learn about how to do something about our student loan debts. And after that, jump over to The Rolling Jubiliee to learn about how some folks are working to wipe out other folks' debts. (Apparently, that can be done.)

The election is over. Problems abound. Let's get down to business, shall we?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Malcolm X: The Ballot or the Bullet

I've been thinking about whether or not I'd like to post something just before the election, but for weeks now, I've known what I was going to do. And this is it. I'm not going to campaign. I'm not going to tell you what I think about who. I'm not going to outline anybody's shortcomings or castigate anyone for not being the person I think we need or deserve. I'm just going to post part of Malcolm X's famous speech on the ballot or the bullet.

I'm not going to post the whole thing because, while I am in agreement with the whole thing, I don't want people to get distracted from his major point. And I have updated his statistics because I think that what he says is as pertinent today as it was in 1964.

What you do on Tuesday is up to you. But remember: it's the ballot or the bullet.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Same Love

As some of my Faithful Readers may have noticed, I also teach courses in gender and sexuality. So I now paint oppression with a broader brush than I used to. Considering how the Christian church was used during slavery as a lethal mechanism to quiet Black frustration and bribe slaves to obey, I have often been fascinated by how African-Americans in the U.S. have become the most church-focused group in the nation.

Unfortunately, many of those church-goers are now being as brutal against people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered or queer as slave-holders used to be when they came home from church and whipped their darkies bloody, claiming it was necessary and even Godly to do so. Frederick Douglass had some pretty strong things to say about that back when he wrote his autobiography.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who created the video above, have some things for us to think about today. They aren't alone. Prominent Black clergy have begun to take a stand in support of gay rights and gay marriage. And some have become quite publicly vocal without having their congregations bolt and run. As I recall, Jesus was quoted as saying, "Judge not, lest you be judged." One can only wonder  what some folks think that means.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brotha Wolf Is Tired

As my regular readers know, I sometimes get down off my soapbox just long enough to make room for another blogger to have his or her say. One blogger I've presented more than once is a young man of color, Brotha Wolf, a good writer with something to say, but when I step aside, it's not just because I'm feeling lazy. It's because he has opened his soul and I cannot but love him for that.

This opening of the soul is not an accident or the egoistic machinations of a would-be intellectual. Opening the soul relieves pressure sometimes, but always at a cost. Opening the soul occurs only after its very fabric has ripped. Then, for a few hours or days, a certain clarity of vision and expression makes possible a breakthrough of understanding and statement that can, if heeded, benefit us all. Today, with gratitude and his kind permission, I'm presenting this recent post by Brotha Wolf.

The Tired Rant
by Brotha Wolf

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kamau Bell for President...?

What with all the intensity of the debates and such, I thought it might be a good time to lighten things up a tad in the political arena. So here is a YouTube video of a comedian I got turned onto recently. This is political commentary Kamau Bell style. And after watching this a couple of times, I'm thinking I hope he runs for election some day. Options are good. ;^)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

On This Day in History

On October 9, 1990, the United States government began making $20,000 payments to Japanese-Americans who had suffered internment in concentration camps during World War II. Despite the fact that no Japanese or Japanese-American person was ever convicted of spying for Japan during the war and despite the fact that the most decorated unit of the war (the 442nd Infantry Regiment) was made up almost entirely of troops of Japanese heritage, more than 110,000 (62% of which were U.S. citizens) were forced to move into "War Relocation Camps" that even President Franklin Roosevelt referred to in speeches as concentration camps. Old army bases and even former horse stables served as locations and as some of the horrified prisoners -- who had been stripped of their homes and businesses without opportunity to secure them for the future -- lost their minds and ran for the fences, they were shot without remorse.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan, called the government's actions "a grave injustice" based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." Eventually, $1.6 billion was dispersed to those who were interned and their heirs.

My question: if four years of internment is "a grave injustice" worthy of redress, then what is four hundred years of slavery followed by another one hundred fifty years of Black Codes, Jim Crow laws and policies, segregation, public lynchings, police brutality, minority over-representation in the nation's prisons and full scale unapologetic educational, economic and social discrimination as recently as five seconds ago? I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

White History Month...?

"One of the things that most afflicts this country is that White people don’t know who they are or where they come from. That’s why you think I’m a problem. I am not the problem; your history is. And as long as you pretend you don’t know your history, you’re gonna be the prisoner of it. And there’s no question of your liberating me, ‘cause you can’t liberate yourselves. We are in this together. And finally, when White people talk about progress in relation to Black people, all they are saying, and all they can possibly mean by the word ‘progress’, is how quickly and how thoroughly I become White. I don’t want to become White; I want to grow up! And so should you." ~ James Baldwin

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal"

I am re-posting here an interview Angola 3 News did with filmmakers Noelle Hanrahan and Steve Vittorio about their new documentary on Mumia Abu-Jamal. It stands on its own, I think, so plunge right in:

On October 6, the new documentary film entitled Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal, will be making its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival, just north of San Francisco.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a veteran journalist, author of seven books, and a former Black Panther who was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of white Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in a 1982 trial deemed unfair by Amnesty International and many others. Abu-Jamal, who has always maintained his innocence, spent almost 30 years in solitary confinement on death row in Pennsylvania. The death sentence has now been officially overturned and since early in 2012, Abu-Jamal is out of solitary and in general population at SCI-Mahony, with such new ‘privileges’ as contact visits with family and friends (view photos).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Conference: "The Business of Incarceration in Louisiana: Do Prisoners Have Human Rights?"

With one out of every 86 adults behind bars, the State of Louisiana has more people incarcerated per capita than any other societal group in the history of the human race. Additionally, the practice of incarcerating individuals for natural life without the expectation of parole – for a wide range of offenses – has been elevated to an unprecedented level here, with Louisiana currently utilizing the option at nearly 4 times the national average. In real numbers, this means that more than half of the 5,100 prisoners at Angola State Prison will die in that institution, despite the fact that an ailing elderly prisoner costs the state $80,000 per year.

With cost-cutting issues frequently touted as of crucial importance in every area of our government, financial considerations alone, then, would seem to call for a more rigorous examination of prisoners’ rights in the interest of lowering the sheer numbers of those warehoused by the state. Nevertheless, Louisiana doubled its prison population in the past 20 years. And it is meaningful that 70% of the state’s prisoners are African-American. According to a New Orleans Times-Picayune expose’ published in May, 2012, more than half of the inmates in the state are housed in local prisons run by local law enforcement agencies that sorely need the funds generated in this way. So, arrest and incarceration are now very much driven by financial incentives.

On Friday, September 14, 2012, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., the Southeastern Sociological Association at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond (halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans) will host a conference for academics, lawyers, students, advocates, activists and former prisoners to examine prisoners’ rights in Louisiana today. The intent is that those who attend will be able to share information and create a plan for networking in the future to maximize their effectiveness in the work that they do.

Topics will include, but not be restricted to: schools as a pipeline to prison, prison conditions, community re-entry issues, minority over-representation, women in prison, long-term solitary confinement, natural life sentencing, capital punishment, and the burdens of prisoners’ families. Speakers, breakout sessions, planning workgroups, and time to network will be provided, and the keynote address will be delivered by activist/lawyer Bill Quigley, professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University in New Orleans and Associate Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City.

The conference is open to the public and the registration fee (which includes breakfast and lunch) is only $25 for professionals, $12 for students and low income individuals, and free for ex-prisoners. For more information, call 985-549-5731.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Letter to White Southern Women from Anne Braden

As I mention from time to time, I've been studying the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" for fifty years now. That's a while. But I just keep learning. Which amazes me.

A year or so ago, one of my students mentioned Anne Braden because the Flobots had sampled one of her speeches to include in a spoken word/rap cut on one of their albums. The student thought she sounded like me -- and she did. But she sounded like me now back in the 1960's, so I was impressed.

Then, last month, Appalshop (an arts and social justice collective in the mountains of Kentucky in a little tiny town named for one of my notorious and very likely super racist ancestors) came out with a documentary entitled "Anne Braden ~ Southern Patriot." And now we can see her in action for ourselves.

Braden was the genuine article, the no-holds-barred, go-for-broke, take-no-prisoners real deal. And the film is beyond inspiring and all the way into challenging. At the risk of sounding like all the other commercial hawkers out there, I'm going to say this film is a must-see if you're a regular reader of this blog. You can buy the film directly from Appalshop or from California Newsreel. Or you can ask your local public or school library to buy it (they have money for this sort of thing and are just waiting for people to make good suggestions).

To whet your appetite, there's a letter floating around from Anne Braden to White Southern women. I've edited it slightly to leave out a few lines that are now untimely. But this will give you a sense of who she was and how far short many of the rest of us fall when it comes to the fight for social justice.

A Letter to White Southern Women from Anne Braden

Monday, September 03, 2012

White Denial and a Culture of Stereotypes

One topic I have to keep coming back to over and over, it seems, is the topic of White denial. What I mean by this is that many White people instantly deny that the experience of people of color in the United States is different from the experience of White people. The particular White people in question (like some of those in my course on race that just started a couple of weeks ago) will suggest that anyone can be racist (most especially Black people who are still angry at White people for holding them in slavery); that White Supremacy is only evident in folks that wear hoods made of sheets; and that oppression is something that happens only to people who live under extremist Islamic regimes.

The fact is that White denial is the Number One form of "playing the Race Card." In fact, White denial is probably the hands-down biggest Race Card of all time. And it's been discussed ad nauseum to no avail. White people ain't listening. But maybe (I keep thinking), if we try it one more time, somebody will say it differently and somebody new will catch the drift.

In hopes of this, I'm re-posting an excellent piece by Dr. David J. Leonard. It's somewhat more scholarly than the language usually is on this blog, but it appeared last week on the Huffington Post (not exactly the Journal of the American Sociological Association), so I'm going to give you an opportunity to check it out and see if it helps make sense of a few things better than I already have. If the post by Lesley didn't do it for you last week, maybe Dr. Leonard can bring it home today.

White Denial and a Culture of Stereotypes
by Dr. David J. Leonard

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Power to the Online People

As many of you know, I live 45 miles north of New Orleans, so this has been a tough week. No lights. No air-conditioning. No internet. So having the folks at OpenSite send me this graphic really struck home. The only reason I'm able to blog right now is that I've crawled out to an empty office building that has power. Mother Nature is nothing to fool with. But our Auntie Internet's pretty damn powerful herself.

Thank Goddess.

Power To The Online People

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Discipline and Race: The Newest Jim Crow

I read this in March, but it's beyond crucial information on the racialization of school discipline and was covered by Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report. This is why the prisoners' rights conference I'm organizing right now is going to have a breakout session on Schools as a Pipeline to Prison. For certain kids. That would be, of course, kids of color. Sigh.

New Data Show Black Students Have Been New Jim Crowed
by Black Agenda Report Executive Editor Glen Ford

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Real" vs. "Casual Racism"

I don't watch The Today Show or anything else early in the morning. I have other things to do. More than I can get done, as a rule. But I'm not whining. Most of the time, I wouldn't watch commercial television if I was poverty-stricken and they were paying viewers by the minute.

But that doesn't mean I don't hear about the craziness that shows up there from time to time. Like Monday, August 6th (apparently) when, Matt Lauer proved once more that many people from the U.S. just love to embarrass themselves in public. Particularly as pertains to race.

Still, I'm not re-posting this piece from because I give a care about Matt Lauer or The Today Show or mainstream U.S. culture. I'm re-posting it because of what Lesley has to say about what she calls "casual racism." Good stuff.

Casual Racism Is Not My Spirit Animal
by Lesley

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Danger of the Single Story

A couple of months ago, I posted a YouTube video about life in the 'hood. It was produced by talented young Black actors, writers, directors, and musicians and has gotten a lot of play on the internet. But I asked when I posted it, "What's wrong with this picture?"

The video I'm posting today answers that question.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Standing Up To Bullies In Church

It's always fun to see what new application of the same old story manages to hit the radar here in this part of the woods. Recently, it was a White minister that buckled to a few of his parishioners when they decided a Black couple needed to marry elsewhere. This in the Bible belt, of course. Where Christianity is bigger than the flag, mother and apple pie all put together. My friend Dayne Sherman had a little something to say about this story and I thought you might enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Standing Up To Bullies In Church
by Dayne Sherman

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To Rage Or Not To Rage...?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the level of my passion. When I teach. When I speak. When I blog. When I'm on Facebook. When I'm chatting casually over coffee at Starbuck's. When I'm sprawled on my couch talking to my significant other as if, being Black, he isn't already one step of ahead of whatever I'm going to say.

One of my student evaluations for last semester said, "Don't be so honest."

As compared to what? Lying? Putting it out there in bite-sized chunks? Whitewashing the truth (literally)?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

If I just can't get here the way I need to on top of what I am being "forced" to write at In-Your-Face Women these days, then at the very least, I should be tipping you to what I'm reading myself here and there.  For example, S.E. Smith posted the piece I'm re-posting here the other day at I'm so disgusted that any journalist would snipe Gabby Douglas for having a hair out of place after winning a gold medal, it brought me out of retirement (as it were). I know I didn't write this, but I wish I did.

Racism in Olympic Coverage
by S.E. Smith 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beauty and the Beat

After seeing this on Facebook and watching it twice, I showed it to Boxer, who said, "Show it again" and then, "You gotta post this on your blog."

Okay. Here it is.

White Girl sings, "There's must be more than this to a hood rat's life!"

Is there? What do you say?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Have You Heard About The Slaughter?

What if the U.S. military shot to death and disappeared the bodies of more than one thousand Black soldiers at an Army camp in southwest Mississippi in the middle of World World II? I know, I know. But what if it really happened? Would you want to know about it? Would you just shrug and say "let sleeping dogs lie," "don't stir up stuff you can't do anything about," "that was then and this is now"? Or would you hover around the fire to hear the tale told?

I'll be listening to Blog Talk Radio on Sunday, July 1st, at 8:00 p.m. (CST) to hear Antoinette Harrell and her guest, author Carroll Case, talk about The Slaughter ~ An American Atrocity. What about you?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Born to Fight

 The daily demand of In-Your-Face Women is continuing to kick my ass. I'm not complaining, you understand. At least, not most of the time. I'll be half way through the project tomorrow and so far, it's a success. It's now read in nearly one hundred countries (though Why Am I Not Surprised? is read in nearly two hundred, to give you a sense of perspective). And the campus radio station wants to submit recorded segments from IYF Women to the Public Radio Exchange (which will take it global in a whole 'nother medium). Satisfying, indeed.

Nevertheless, if In-Your-Face Women is my mistress, Why Am I Not Surprised? is -- still -- my wife. And for the time being, I will go forward as things are, hoping my "wife" doesn't pack up her shit and drop my cell phone in the garbage disposal on her way out the door.

By way of apology, I'm posting Tracy Chapman this morning, singing in South Africa in 1990, and I'm dedicating it to Albert Woodfox, who I just visited last weekend in prison up in BumFreak, Louisiana. We talked about boxing, our respective relationships, and the campaign to free him and Herman Wallace after forty years in solitary confinement. And we argued about gender relations in the abstract. The usual.

But as I watched this video today, I thought of him, languishing away in a tiny cell year after year. Born to fight. And I hope he knows how many fight beside him.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A New Perspective on the Motor City

I write a lot about the negative effects of five hundred years of aggressive White oppression against people of color.  Here's a stunning example of one of the positive effects: tried-in-the-fire, full-tilt-boogie, way-way-over-the-top wonderfulness!  The phoenix, indeed, rises out of the ashes in full glory.  Lead us, children, to the light.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Momentum for Racial Healing

A couple of months ago, I took one of my fairly frequent trips down to New Orleans to meet with Southern University Law School Professor Angela Allen-Bell and Keith Weldon Medley, author of We As Free Men ~ Plessy v. Ferguson about the fight against legal segregation. We met on the second floor of a bank building at what must surely be one of the best kept secrets in downtown New Orleans, over a delightful lunch of fried catfish, collard greens rich with flavor and buttered corn bread. And before we parted ways, I had bought Medley's book to add to my collection of autographed volumes.

Since then, I've been rushing -- as always -- through my life, barely hanging on by my fingertips, and I only just realized that a rash of emails I recently started getting, but to which I had not paid any attention, has been trying to make me aware of the work of the folks presented in this YouTube video.

I'm paying attention now, Keith. ;^)

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Phoenix Will Rise

“If you cannot remember or imagine what it is to lie down finally and wait for an end – that or deliverance; if you cannot consciously feel the pull of your wretched past or the pitiful attempts at a carefully planned life for yourself, there can be no windows or answering tools with which to say ‘this is so’ or ‘this is why.’ And there is no joy, no secret part of your thoughts that can exalt at simple pleasures, simple achievements. You must be fired in adversity, greatly torn, to take any satisfaction in having lived. Pity the poor who’ve never fallen, never lost; the sum of their losing now can be pitifully small and a great price for them alone.”  ~  Charles Ricehill (False Spring, 1974)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Release the Angola 3 Now!!

I will be in class today. I will be talking about religion as a social institution and the sociology of gender. I will be holding office hours and speaking with students on the campus about their grades or their extra credit or their problems. But my heart will be in Baton Rouge, standing on the State House steps with the other Angola 3 campaign supporters, with representatives of Amnesty International, the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Action Network, and others, to present a petition with tens of thousands of names from all over the world calling for the immediate release of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, the remaining members of the Angola 3 still incarcerated after forty years in solitary confinement.

Forty years. Forty years. Forty years. My heart cries. Because ten days ago, I stood in the visiting room, hugging Albert's neck and leaving him behind...again. Because solitary confinement is torture (see the film above). And because the administration at my place of employment demands that my presence in the classroom take precedence over my taking a stand personally on the State House steps today.

We are kept in position by our slavery to wages, but my soul will stand tall beside Albert's and Herman's on the State House steps this afternoon. If you look very hard at the faces in the crowd, you will see us there. As we always and forever will be wherever truth speaks to power.

Monday, April 16, 2012

By Way of Explanation

I have, from time to time, over the six years since I began writing this blog, been less available to it than usual. When this happens, it wrecks my life on some level, following me around at my heels like an orphan child asking for alms or food or attention. Still, it is what it is.

Do I have things to say about the socially-constructed, political notion of "race"? Oh, yeah. Do I walk around accomplishing the more pressing matters of my life with a half-baked post turning to stone in the oven of my mind? Ad nauseum. Yet, in the greater scheme of things, there are only twenty-four hours in the day and I'm already using seventeen of them -- on average -- at break-neck speed.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Are African-Americans Citizens Or Not?

"We refuse to believe this country, so powerful to defend its citizens abroad, is unable to protect its citizens at home."

~Ida Wells-Barnett, journalist/activist
April 9, 1898

Friday, April 06, 2012

Amnesty International Demands That Louisiana Do The Right Thing For The Angola 3!

The following is the text of a mass email Amnesty International sent out this week. If you didn't receive it or didn't as yet sign the petition to demand the release of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, please consider doing so now. I'll be going up to visit Albert tomorrow and I'd hate to have to tell him you weren't on board. (Yes, I would rat you out to him in a minute, so don't make me go there.)

Two Black men, confined to isolation in tiny cells for the last 40 years.

No human being deserves this.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Skolnik: From Martin to Martin (Hoodies Up On the Mountaintop)

The following was posted today by Michael Skolnik at Global Grind. Please read and pass it on.

The echo of Martin's last words ring in my head. It rained that night. A drizzle. Not a downpour, just a Memphis, Tennessee drizzle. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like someone had let him know. His words that night would be his last. The mountaintop. Not getting there with us. But, as a people, we would get there. Somehow we would get to the top of that mountain without Martin. He told us that, that night, his last night. And we believed him.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Get Away With Murder and Other Things the Killing of Unarmed Black Teen Trayvon Martin Teaches Us

This post by Max Read appeared originally at If you'd like to follow its embedded links, you may find it there.

If you want to kill someone and get away with it, do it before the NBA All-Star game.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hope and Hopelessness

Shuffling around my kitchen this morning before the break of day, I was thinking about a couple of young Black men I spoke with this week. They're different from each other, in different situations, and I suspect they will ultimately reach quite different outcomes. But one thing I picked up from both, though manifesting itself differently in each case, was an undercurrent of hopelessness on some level.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's Not Just Too Short, Y'all. It's Too Little.

I've been posting on this blog for more than six years now and, as best I can remember, I've never taken on the topic of woman hating as it's been mastered by some Black rappers. But every dawg has his day, they say. And I guess it's about time I should go on record.

I'm not even sure why I didn't do it before, especially since I've been teaching courses on the sociology of gender and sexuality every semester for the past several years. I mean, I always knew women got screwed out of their power somewhere along the line. I was born one and I definitely got the memo. But once I started teaching the topic and realized how cold-blooded and mean-spirited male dominance -- as a system -- is, it would seem that I would have wanted to have my say. Besides, I was never a big fan of the genre to begin with, I guess, though I tried to reserve judgement for a number of reasons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On Being Black and Gay

Six years ago, when I started this blog, I decided to focus it on the socially-constructed, political notion of "race." Consequently, I have only occasionally broached other issues, even issues I feel fairly strongly about, such as women's reproductive freedom, Palestinian national autonomy, and rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, trans-sexual and queer people, including same sex marriage.

Since I've been teaching courses in gender and sexuality from the sociological perspective in recent years, I've been made increasingly conscious of the rabid homophobic panic that many Black folks seem to feel in the face of the fact that there are millions of people in the U.S. who are GLBTTQ and a statistically representative number of them are Black. Once, during the second lecture of a sexuality course, before anyone had as yet gotten comfortable, I mentioned the word "gay" in passing only to have a young Black male student throw up his hand instantly to announce out of nowhere, "I'm not gay!" I was speechless.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Double Dog Dare Ya!

Last night and the night before, I watched two separate documentaries that took the top of my head off. So you know you're gonna hear about 'em. They were both on my local Public Broadcasting channel and they are available online for free even as I write, though my understanding is that they will disappear in fairly short order, so you need to look lively if you're going to get a freebie while simultaneously having your mind blown. I realize this doesn't appeal to everyone, but c'mon now, you're reading this blog. You could invite a few friends over, order some pizza, and watch a double feature. I dare ya. In fact, I double dog dare ya.

The Framing of Kevin Cooper

If I read in its entirety every email I get about issues around the globe, I would have to quit my day job and get paid just to read.  I do usually pay special attention to the work of Hans Bennett of Prison Radio, however. I won't front. I don't read every word he writes. This guy is prolific and I just don't have that kind of hours in the day. But I do pay attention.

The piece I'm re-posting here got the nod for another reason, as well. Several years ago, I posted a photo link on the right side of this blog to a site calling for the freeing of Kevin Cooper. I probably responded to a call for action related to an eminent execution date. I'm opposed to capital punishment regardless. Somebody I usually agree with must have asked for a show of solidarity to keep Cooper alive and I put up the link. And then promptly forgot about it. Like I said, I can't stay on top of everything.

In any case, when Bennett sent this interview, I read it. About time, huh? And, needless to say, it was one more of those Oh-my-God-how-do-these-sh*theads-sleep-at-night? moments. So, I'm putting it here. Take a minute. You need to know about this case.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Bogalusa Still Burns in 2012

This article first appeared in TheFightBack, which comes out of Washington, D.C. I heard about the incident it discusses at an NAACP meeting where I live. I then saw the following reposted at the Louisiana Justice Institute. Sigh.

Growing up in a civil rights family in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Chuck Hicks remembers the constant threats. “We were a marked family,” he told TheFightBack, in an extended interview on the eve of the October dedication of the MLK Memorial. It turns out, Hicks’ use of the past tense may have been wishful thinking.
Around 3 a.m. on Jan. 16, Barbara Hicks Collins, Chuck’s sister, heard a loud knock. She opened the door only to find no one there and her Mercedes Benz in flames. It appears an attempt was also made to burn down the family home, where Collins and her 82-year-old mother, Valeria Hicks, live.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Among the Living

On January 27th, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist and Black Panther Party member who spent thirty years on death row related to a case that many feel is a miscarriage of justice, was released into general population at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy. Three days later, he had his first contact visit and kissed his wife for the first time in three decades.

Last Thursday, he had his second contact visit and the following letter was posted by Johanna Fernandez (left above) to share the experience with the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Justice

"When justice is present, tranquility transcends a land much like the calm, flowing waters of the Niagara. When justice is absent, there is outright unrest; equilibrium in society is disturbed, and progress is paralyzed. Absent justice can be felt as impactfully as the waters gushing from the hoses of police spraying civil rights marchers. It stings. While these raging waters did not kill the civil rights workers, it forcefully halted their functions for the time. Absent justice has the same effect on society. Justice that is selectively present or disparately applied is no less deleterious. Disparate justice leaves a sect of society disconnected and breeds a spirit of divisiveness. Much like a person standing knee-deep in the murky, debris-filled swamp waters of Louisiana, those on the receiving end of disparate justice see what is across from them and know it is within close reach, but experience great frustration knowing they can only get to it if they fight great resistance."

~ Angela A. Allen-Bell, from 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Passageway on a Journey to Justice: National Lessons Learned About Justice From Louisiana's Response to Hurricane Katrina' in the California Western Law Review, Spring 2010

Sunday, January 22, 2012

OMG! Red Tails!!

I've seen "Red Tails" now and the Boxer and I give it an enthusiastic four thumbs up. We all watched "Roots" in 1977 and were suitably impressed by the fact that someone would be allowed to portray the nightmare of Black oppression during slavery. Then, in 1985, we all watched "The Color Purple" and were suitably impressed that a movie about Black people surviving their pain could make it to the big time. Now, in "Red Tails," we finally have the opportunity to watch Black people outshine -- and even save -- White people just because they were better at flying and fighting than anybody else doing it at the time. It's a matter of public record, y'all, but who expected to see it done like this?

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Red Tails"

"Red Tails," the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, arguably one of the most heroic tales of all time and certainly one of the most inspiring chapters in the Black struggle for respect in the United States, opens today at theaters across the country. One would think that such a film would be a slam dunk for attention, recognition and support. After all, it was produced by George Lucas of Star Wars fame (and who better to offer us heart-stopping aerial dog fights?). It was directed by Anthony Hemingway who was part of the directorial team for the award-winning and highly touted television series, "The Wire." And it stars most of the finest young Black male actors in or even near Hollywood of late (including Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.).

Cast & Director of Red Tails with former Tuskegee Airman Roscoe Brown

But it turns out that's a problem. It features so many fine Black actors, there just weren't any major roles left for White folks at all. Gracious. In fact, the lack of White actors meant that nobody would step up to help Lucas fund it (so it took him twenty years to get it done). Once produced, nobody wanted to distribute it, claiming they didn't know how to go about marketing a movie without appeal to White audiences (and why would White people want to watch a bunch of African-Americans saving White bomber pilots?).

So the deal is this: if "Red Tails" doesn't make a boatload of money, George Lucas takes a financial beating for risking his reputation to make such a film, Black directors like Hemingway will continue to be shut out of the making of high budget movies, and Black actors will remain, too often, tokens of color in stories that forever feature Whites. Lucas, the film, and the Tuskegee Airmen deserve better.

Frankly, I have my concerns about the presentation of this film at this time. I'm concerned that it glorifies war at a time when the American public should be gut sick of dying in and paying for wars, wars and more wars all over the world. I'm concerned that economically and emotionally discouraged young Black men will follow the dashing young heroes on the screen down the yellow brick road to fight today's battles for old White politicians. And I'm concerned that Black folks will turn out en mass, but mostly only Black folks, "proving" yet again that Whites won't pay to watch a movie that's not about Whites.

But all that notwithstanding, I know I'm gonna love "Red Tails." I might just see it twice. And I hope you'll go, as well. With all your friends and relatives. And "like" the Facebook site. And, when the time comes, buy the DVD. ;^)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hear, Hear

"The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, master and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.” ~ Dr. Martin L. King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967

Sunday, January 15, 2012


A couple of months ago, I received the following email.  I don't think it needs comment from me to get the point across, do you?

"Hi. I'm in your Racial and Ethnic Relations class. I recently had an experience and I don't know what to make of it. I had to bring my son to turn in a paper I was walking around campus with my son in his stroller, I started to notice the way people were looking at me. I knew the look because you get it from teachers and co-workers all the time. It's that look people give you when they are associating your race with some kind of negativity. I've been getting that look my whole life so I know it when I see it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The MisAdventures of Awkward Black Girl

This is not clever, ingenius, intelligent, funny and entertaining because it's about being Black. It's not. It's clever, ingenius, intelligent, funny, and entertaining, all right. But it's about being human and it just happens to be done by a Black woman. A very clever, ingenius, intelligent, funny and entertaining Black woman. For real. With more available at Awkward Black Woman. Enjoy. And remember you first saw it here. (You're gonna love me for this.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A. Phillip Randolph, Organizer Extraordinaire

"Justice is never given; it is exacted and the struggle must be continuous ~ for freedom is never a final fact, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economic, political and religious relationship." A. Phillip Randolph, who demonstrated how to make 'em listen

Monday, January 09, 2012

On This Day in History

The perception that many people in the United States have is that Africans were helpless victims of their own inability to protect themselves from their "betters" (that would be the White Europeans, of course) and that, as a result, they sort of "deserved" whatever came after that. The 30 million or so who died crossing the Atlantic from abuse, disease, starvation, suicide, or just being thrown overboard so the White slavers (all God-fearing men, needless to say) could avoid prosecution for the crime of being slavers were just collateral damage, as it were. Mutinies on slave ships with the exception of The Amistad have been largely ignored. And the African-American uprisings that have occurred in the past one hundred years have invariably been called "riots" and used to suggest that Black folks are that know?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Les Twins!

It occurs to me that this is just one example of why White Supremacy is a joke. It also occurs to me that any group that can produce things of this caliber in absolutely every category of human endeavor (especially under the literal lash of unrelenting oppression) will never be utterly bested. Maybe this is why White folks stress so much. Ya think?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Body and Soul

On January 14th, 2006, I published the first post on this blog site.  It read:

When I wrote the end of last September that I was going to start blogging only on the topic of what I call the "socially-constructed, political notion of 'race'," I really thought I meant a few days later. Apparently, I meant three months later. Regardless, I hope to have a book on race (the story of my life, actually) published this year. Then, I'd like to travel around and tell people what I've got on my mind. But in the meantime, while I work on a couple more books and teach and live my life and all, I'll do this, too.

I did my first piece of research on race in 1963 (I was sixteen) on racial discrimination in the area in which I lived with my college-educated, white-bred (pun intended) parents and four younger brothers and sisters. Years in the prison abolition movement, years on welfare, and years in college and grad school later, I am still learning about "race." And talking about it. Loudly. And writing about it. Passionately.