Wednesday, July 31, 2013

All Aboard For Fruitvale Station

Originally, I wasn't going to see "Fruitvale Station," the just released film about the last twenty-four hours in the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit quasi-cop on New Year's Day in 2009. Fruitvale Station is the Oakland, California, stop Grant, his girlfriend, and their buddies reached after a night of New Year's Eve revelry in San Francisco. It was the end of the line for Oscar Grant and I didn't think I could handle it right now.

I had barely crawled out from under the rotted log the George Zimmerman verdict had dropped on my psyche. And I had things to do. So, when a student messaged me on Facebook asking if I was going to see the film, I responded instantly that I didn't have the emotional and psychological cool to go.

Still, as I jogged that morning before the Louisiana heat and humidity descended, I remembered that, if we don't attend films like this, they won't make them. And people that look like me need to show up in particular because (a) it's good for our consciousness (painful or not) and (b) Black people need to know that some of us give a shit. Sigh.

So I went.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Boondocks: "Return of the King"

Folks are always forwarding me stuff they've come across (for which I'm grateful). And they usually say two things: "You've probably already seen this" (which is often not the case) and "I'd really like your take on this" (which I'm not always sure of). The above Aaron McGruder video in The Boondocks series just showed up as a message on my Facebook page. I hadn't already seen it and I'm thinking it'll cause some consternation (as McGruder's work often does).

What do you think?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Coup Is NOT Just Going On In Egypt

I like to think I have a clue. Sometimes I don't; sometimes I do. I just found out about The Coup (an Oakland-based political hip hop band that's been leading the charge for twenty-three years). Where the eff have I been?

"Not Yet Free" (Kill My Landlord, 1993)

"Fat Cats and Bigga Fish" (Genocide & Juice, 1994)

"The Guillotine" (Sorry to Bother You, 2012)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blackmon: "America's Twentieth Century Slavery"

This is the first story in an eleven-part series of stories on Race -- Past and Present sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and originally published by the Washington Monthly Magazine. They've gone out of their way to invite folks to use these stories, and while I may not post all of them on this blog, if you haven't read Douglas Blackmon's Pulitzer prize-winning book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, this might make you want to.

"America's Twentieth Century Slavery"
by Douglas A. Blackmon

On July 31, 1903, a letter addressed to President Theodore Roosevelt arrived at the White House. It had been mailed from the town of Bainbridge, Georgia, the prosperous seat of a cotton county perched on the Florida state line.

The sender was a barely literate African-American woman named Carrie Kinsey. With little punctuation and few capital letters, she penned the bare facts of the abduction of her 14-year-old brother, James Robinson, who a year earlier had been sold into involuntary servitude.
Kinsey had already asked for help from the powerful White people in her world. She knew where her brother had been taken-a vast plantation not far away called Kinderlou. There, hundreds of Black men and boys were held in chains and forced to labor in the fields or in one of several factories owned by the McRee family, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Georgia. No White official in this corner of the state would take an interest in the abduction and enslavement of a Black teenager.  

Confronted with a world of indifferent White people, Mrs. Kinsey did the only remaining thing she could think of. Newspapers across the country had recently reported on a speech by Roosevelt promising a "square deal" for Black Americans. Mrs. Kinsey decided that her only remaining hope was to beg the president of the United States to help her brother.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Langston Hughes: Kids Who Die

Kids Who Die
by Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
Your are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

Monday, July 15, 2013

There Will Be No Peace Until There Is Justice

Atlanta, GA

Boston, MA

Chicago, IL

Detroit, MI

Houston, TX

Kansas City, Kansas

Los Angeles, CA

Memphis, TN

Miami, FL

Milwaukee, WI

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

New York City

Oakland, CA

Orlando, FL

Sacramento, CA

San Francisco, CA

St. Louis, MO

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dear George,

I know you think you won last night. When the verdict was read, I'm sure you exhaled for the first time since that fateful night last year when you stood on a patch of grass on a street in Sanford, Florida, and murdered a seventeen-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin. I'm sure you think you dodged a bullet yourself last night. But you didn't. And I'm writing this so you and everybody else will remember that there's no free lunch.

In the grand scheme of things, George, we get away with nothing. No matter how it looks. No matter how much suave and bravado and quasi-sincerity we put out there for the public, deep in our souls, we always know that what we plant grows -- for good or ill. You plant beans, you get beans. And my dear mis-guided fellow human, you have most definitely planted some pretty horrific beans. They're not magic, but they will grow into a vine that will choke you every day for the rest of your woebegotten life.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

For The Next Month, "Herman's House" Is The Place To Be

I have resisted writing this blog post for thirteen days. I know my readers have been waiting for a while now for me to suit up and show up again. I couldn't write about anything else until I wrote about this. And if I wrote about this, it would make it real. And I didn't want to face that.

So here I am up against a deadline and not taking no for an answer. Sigh.

The thing is: I've been blogging about the Angola 3 for five years now and visiting Albert Woodfox for four. In a nutshell, the Angola 3 are a trio of Black Panthers who organized the then infamous Angola Prison back in the early 1970's to stop the prisoner to prisoner violence there. They were successful, which meant to insiders that they had more power than the prison administration. Not something the warden was happy about. And the guards (whose corruption and criminality typically subsidized their meager earnings) were furious.

Then state legislators in Baton Rouge started looking into increasingly well-documented and well-presented prisoner complaints about the institution and the Powers-That-Be decided that something had to be done. So when somebody stabbed a White guard to death in April of 1972, it didn't take administrators a hot minute to recognize this as the opportunity they had been waiting for.

There were bloody footprints and fingerprints, but in an institution where everything is "handled" inside by insiders, those footprints and fingerprints were never matched to anyone. They were cleaned up and deep-sixed. And almost immediately, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were in solitary confinement charged with the murder, later to be joined by Robert King, who wasn't even in the prison at the time of the crime, but had the misfortune of also being a Black Panther and automatically deserving "special treatment."

Of course, there were "grand juries" called and multiple "trials" conducted and "witnesses" (one of which was legally blind, one of which eventually recanted, and one of which -- a serial rapist and acknowledged snitch -- was paid off and released from prison). Nevertheless, through it all, the Angola 3 have staunchly maintained their innocence. Yet, forty-one years later, Woodfox and Wallace are still in solitary. King was released a decade ago and has spent everyday since stumping around the world, raising awareness of his brothers still in torment.

Amnesty International has climbed on the bandwagon. Several films have been released. Mother Jones magazine, Democracy Now, and even MSNBC have made an art form out of covering the story. But Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell seems hell bent on personally keeping the key in these particular locks. One can only wonder what demons Caldwell is hiding that won't let him let them go. He means for Woodfox and Wallace to die in a 9 X 6 foot cell. And just now, Caldwell must be excited indeed.