Saturday, June 30, 2018

"The Slave Detective of the South"

When you've been blogging for twelve years, you get a lot of emails from all sorts of strangers. They're all promoting some product or entertainer or idea and most of them I just delete based on what's in the subject line because they're not a good fit for what I publish. But a few months ago, I got one from VICE, a digital media and broadcasting company and when I opened it, I discovered that it offered a 20-minute video featuring a woman I've known for a decade. In fact, I had only been in Louisiana a few months when Antoinette Harrell approached me, put me on television, and undertook the project of educating me about the "old" and "not-so-old" South.

She remains not only one of my heroes, but a primary inspiration to me. Sort of a cross between a saint and a locomotive. You don't want to get in her way.

I've written so much about Antoinette and her work through the years that I'm not going to bring you up to speed. Besides, anything I write today will be old news tomorrow. But if you're interested, you can find out more by reading what I've written in the past. Just be ready to spend some time because you'll be a minute.

Anyway, I'm glad VICE found this woman and did her justice. She deserves every bit of spotlight she gets. She never lets up no matter what. And I, for one, am honored to call her my friend. Regardless, though, I'm posting the film VICE did with reverence. Antoinette Harrell will be joining Harriett Tubman and the other greats one day and you'll want to be able to say she touched your life, as she has mine.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What's Behind the Immigration "Crisis"?

Apparently, some folks don't know the back story on Mexico. Here it is: When Clinton pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, U.S. corporations were put in a position to gut the Mexican economy, which they have done. Those corporations (and even individual rich Americans) have bought up land in Mexico, displacing Mexicans who have been living on that land and growing the food for their families on it for thousands of years.

This forced poorer Mexicans to work for the corporations for pennies a day while we buy the products made by them for the same price we would be paying if they were made by U.S. workers (tens of thousands of which lost their jobs when NAFTA was signed -- see below). The corporations make out like bandits (literally) and the Mexicans starve.

The rampant poverty NAFTA produced in Mexico is what gave birth to the drug cartels (which were originally formed with the assistance of the CIA, by the way, as outlined in the movie "American Made"). And this is why Mexicans (and other Central Americans) come here like they do. Some leave their families behind. Some can't bear to do that. Besides it's dangerous. And so-called "legal" migration takes decades and costs a lot of money.

The real reason Trump is locking up immigrants is because millions of dollars (our money) is going into the pockets of those who created private prisons expressly for this purpose while U.S. farmers are going belly up because their crops are rotting on the ground and we're going to pay $5 a pound for imported food immigrants used to pick right here in our country.

Then, while we're all utterly focused on babies in cages, the present Administration is using Congress to push through legislation that will leave us without health care, without higher education, without workplace and environmental regulations necessary to the common good, and without protection from a run-amok criminal injustice system. Now you know.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

"Born and Livin' With The Blues"

I recently listened to The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois on Audible and one of the essays was on how Black people have created a historical record of their experience at the hands of White Supremacy through the legacy of their music. It was scholarly and detailed, but it was so interesting that it made me want to chase more information on the topic, which I did. And that made me spend some time on YouTube reveling in the kind of music DuBois was talking about.

The video above features Brownie McGhee playing guitar and singing, Sonny Terry on harp, and the legendary Willie Dixon on bass. And if you want to check out other music I've posted through the years, you may scroll down to "Labels" on the right and click on either "music" or "blues." Or both. (*wink*)

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Truth About the Cash Bail Industry

If you've seen "13th" (and if you haven't, why not?), you already know the information this little video produced by Color of Change provides. But options are excellent. This could be used for courses at any level from high school on up or for training on a range of topics for professionals in a number of fields or for community organizing, among other things.

I remember when I first started this blog twelve years ago, there was nothing on it but words. Part of the reason was that I wasn't technologically savvy enough to use much, but even as that improved, the pickins were slim except where music videos were concerned. So I unexpectedly found out at one point early on that I ranked fairly high in use of music -- something I wasn't trying to do, but that just happened because I was illustrating ideas by using great music videos with a message.

Now, however, I could probably post a very well produced video everyday that could easily take the place of a blog post. That seems like cheating. But if it accomplishes the purpose, what the heck...?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Warsan Shire: "Home"

by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it's not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did -
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage -
look what they've done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child's body
in pieces - for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don't know what
i've become.

but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.
NOTE: The graphic above is Holy Family Icon by Kelly Latimore.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Waging Revolution One Act At A Time

Yesterday morning, after yoga class, I broke down in tears over breakfast because the world is so full of suffering and I can't fix it. There are no magic answers. I've been telling my students for years I got no pixie dust. I know it's not a sprint; it's a marathon. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the world's so full of suffering and there seems to be so little I can do.

It's not that I've never done my part. In fact, I've always been altruistic. At six, I won a dollar in an art contest (at a time when you could buy a camera for a dollar) and I took my whole family out for ice cream. My father was stunned.

At eleven, I stomped out of Sunday School after telling off the girls in my class -- in front of our teacher -- for talking mean about a little girl because she was poor. At thirteen, I opted out of joining the church (a very radical stance in my world) about the same time I started dancing with Black guys at school (because the White guys didn't know how and I loved to dance). At sixteen, I did an all-interview term paper on racial discrimination in the city where I lived -- garnering me the class's "National Association for the Advancement of Cows and Pigs Award" at the end of the semester.

By the time I was in my late 20's, I had dropped out, blazed my way through San Francisco, and joined the National Prison Center in Iowa City, Iowa (the collective putting out the Prisoners Digest International and the headquarters of the Church of the New Song, a religion that formed in the federal joint in Atlanta and won all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court). Needless to say, this connection offered me many opportunities to put myself out there on front street. Such as the time I got Chief of Classification and Parole Witkowski at Leavenworth so worked up, he had a goon squad carry me to the edge of the concrete steps out front and threaten to throw me down them while he was screaming.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lesle' Honore': "We Already Made America Great"

"We Already Made America Great"
by Lesle' Honore'

on our backs
with our blood
on our souls
with our hands
on our shoulders
with our strength
with our tears
with our ancestors
and our legacies
on our hopes
with our will
on our prayers
with our courage
on our screams
with your lash
on our scars
on our lives
with our might
with our genius
with our light
with our magic
in spite of your hate
the children of slaves
have already made america great
NOTE: This poem is from Fist & Fire: Poems That Inspire Action and Ignite Passion by Lesle' Honore' (2017).

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Racist History of Laws Against "Loitering"

It's amazing how much information can be squashed into three or four minutes of film. It's also amazing how brutally cold-blooded and intentional White Supremacist oppression has been as it developed its stranglehold on North America over the past few hundred years. The next time somebody who's been taught to believe they're "White" says "racism" is a thing of the past or they "just don't see color," show 'em this little video.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Call For Action by IDOC Watch

IDOC Watch has issued a call for action on behalf of co-founder and Chairman of the New Afrikan Liberation Collective Kwame Shakur (Michael Joyner), presently incarcerated at Pendleton (Indiana) Correctional Facility. IDOC Watch has received word that Chairman Shakur has been attacked by Pendleton staff for the second time recently. It is thought that he may have sustained serious injury to the head.

IDOC Watch writes:

The assault comes shortly after Shakur was dismissed from a medical examination after insisting he be treated for an auto-immune condition caused by a TB outbreak in Pendleton. It also follows the most recent assault on him during a punitive shake down in retaliation for his political activity. 

Pendleton has made Kwame Shakur a primary target in their suppression of inmate struggle and if they are not stopped, the violence against Shakur will only escalate. Pendleton was most recently in the news for the arrest of three corrections officers caught on tape severely beating an unarmed inmate. Warden Dushan Zatecky assured the public that their arrest was proof of Pendleton's commitment to inmate safety. Yet assaults on inmates, of which Kwame Shakur is just the most recent is a constant occurrence at Pendleton. 

Indiana Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert E. Carter
at 317-232-5711. 
Press 0 for operator and ask for the Commissioner; then leave a message if no one answers. Ask for the commissioner, but if you are routed to a secretary, leave a message.

"I am calling because I am concerned about the safety of Michael Joyner #149677 of Pendleton Correctional Facility. Yesterday, he was assaulted by staff and likely has a severe injury to the head. I would like to know his whereabouts and request an investigation into the incident."

You do not have to say more than that and you do not have to give any information about yourself. Expect lies and dodges. The point is to make them aware that they are being watched and that Chairman Shakur has supporters on the outside.

Interestingly enough, the town of Pendleton has a long history of White Supremacist violence. According to Wikipedia, in 1824, three White men massacred a group of Seneca and Miami Natives. And in 1843, Frederick Douglass and two other men were brutally attacked by what Douglass called "mobocrats" when they visited Pendleton in response to an invitation to speak to the townspeople. Douglass was knocked unconscious, beaten while he was on the ground, and suffered a broken right hand that never properly healed. Realistically though, I guess any town that has less than 5000 residents -- 97% of which have been socialized to believe they're "White" and probably most of whom work at one of the three (count 'em, three) prisons -- may not have come too far.