Saturday, May 28, 2016

Homelessness: Black Existential Reality & Other Ills

Trump, Clinton, and Other Black Alliances

Resisting Arrest: poems to stretch the sky
By Mark Doty, Martin Espada, Joy Harjo, Marilyn Nelson, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Afaa Michael Weaver Rita Dove (Author), Tony Medina (Editor)

An anthology of poetry addressing violence against African-Americans featuring work by Jericho Brown, Kwame Dawes, Rita Dove, Cornelius Eady, Martin Espada, Ross Gay, Jaki Shelton Green, Joy Harjo, Patricia Spears Jones, Allison Joseph, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jamaal May, Thylias Moss, Marilyn Nelson, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Quincy Troupe, Frank X Walker, Afaa MIchael Weaver, Mark Doty and more. Edited by Tony Medina. Proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to the "Whitney M. Young Social Justice Scholarship" sponsored by The Greater Washington Urban League, Thursday Network.

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Cornel West: Trump is a “narcissistic neo-fascist
in the making” Clinton is a hawkish “milquetoast neoliberal

Activism, the corporate media and Trump

Prof. West also addressed the dismal state of U.S. electoral politics and the tempestuous 2016 presidential election.

“This is the age of Ferguson, and some people are affected by some of the larger social movements that are taking place in different parts of the country, and much of the world,” West said, stressing the importance of activism.

Progressives should be “letting people know why it is that we have such limited options in terms of the ballot box and what forms of activism can we engage in to be thermostats and shape the climate of opinion, rather than just be thermometers and register and reflect that climate of opinion,” West said.

When asked why he thinks the political options are so limited, West blamed the capitalist system, emphasizing, “We’re ruled by big money.”

He slammed the corporate media that has enthusiastically profited from Trump’s meteoric rise.
“Trump is a Frankenstein of corporate media and there is no way he would have the status that he did if they didn’t cover every word, every tweet,” West explained.

“Of course the CEO of CBS made it very clear, very, very clear, that Donald Trump is bad for America but he is very good for us,” he added.


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50 Cent cursed by Americans coz of supporting Trump

If you thought that it only happens in Uganda where people abuse, attack and hate people who have different political ideologies, calm down, that character started in the U.S and latest to fall a victim is 50 Cent who posted a photo with Donald Trump.

50 Cent was trumped more than 1000 times by angry Americans who think that no responsible person should support Donald Trump. In the photo posted by 50 Cent on his social media page, 50 Cent was with Donald Trump and he captioned it “Me and My President maybe, only in America”.

Fans started throwing abuses and insults as they say that their loyalty has ended, others said that they no longer respect him while one fan said that “He’s such an ugly piece of shit 50 cent You just lost allot of respect in my eyes.Donald trump is garbage” while another one said “I have officially lost all respect for you.”

Fans started throwing abuses and insults as they say that their loyalty has ended, others said that they no longer respect him while one fan said that “He’s such an ugly piece of shit 50 cent You just lost allot of respect in my eyes. Donald trump is garbage” while another one said “I have officially lost all respect for you”.

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By Sojourner Truth
Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? 

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man -- when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.—Feminist

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Cornel West Says Civil Rights Leaders
That Support Hillary Clinton Have Lost Their Way

"There's no doubt that the great John Lewis of 50 years ago is different than the John Lewis today," West remarked. "He's my brother. I love him, I respect his personhood, but there's no doubt he's gone from a high moment of Martin Luther King-like struggle to now [a] neoliberal politician in a system that is characterized more and more by legalized bribery and normalized corruption. That's what big money does to politics. And the Clinton machine is an example of that."

Lewis' home state of Georgia will vote on Super Tuesday and has 116 delegates at stake, making it one of the most consequential states that will vote next week. In 2008, African-Americans made up more than half of Georgia's Democratic electorate.

West repeatedly referred to both Lewis and Rep. Jim Clyburn, who was also involved in the civil rights movement and now represents South Carolina in the House of Representatives, as "neoliberal politicians." The classification, he explained, refers to "a politics that proceeds based on financializing, privatizing, and militarizing."

West said that Clyburn and Lewis had become "too well adjusted to Wall Street." They are now a part of a system, he said, "in which politicians are well adjusted to injustice owing to their ties to big money, big banks, and big corporations, and turning their backs, for the most part, to poor people and working people. Poor people and working people become afterthoughts."

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Teenage Culture: Slim, Emmett Till, and Shaka

Street Poison
The Biography of Iceberg Slim
By Justin Gifford  

"Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim" by Justin Gifford.  He has been researching the life and work of Robert Beck for a decade, culminating in "Street Poison," a colorful and compassionate biography of one of the most complicated figures in twentieth-century literature. Drawing on a wealth of archival material—including FBI files, prison records, and interviews with Beck, his wife, and his daughters—Gifford explores the sexual trauma and racial violence Beck endured that led to his reinvention as Iceberg Slim, one of America's most infamous pimps of the 1940s and '50s. From pimping to penning his profoundly influential confessional autobiography, Pimp, to his involvement in radical politics, Gifford's biography illuminates the life and works of one of American literature's most unique renegades.
Literature professor Justin Gifford has been researching the life and work of Robert Beck for a decade, culminating in Street Poison, a colorful and compassionate biography of one of the most complicated figures in twentieth-century literature. Drawing on a wealth of archival material—including FBI files, prison records, and interviews with Beck, his wife, and his daughters—Gifford explores the sexual trauma and racial violence Beck endured that led to his reinvention as Iceberg Slim, one of America's most infamous pimps of the 1940s and '50s. From pimping to penning his profoundly influential confessional autobiography, Pimp, to his involvement in radical politics, Gifford's biography illuminates the life and works of one of American literature's most unique renegades.

"The first biography of Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim, (1918-1992), builds a compelling case that the pimp-turned-popular author provided the foundation for gangsta rap, Blaxploitation movies, and so much of the underground culture that became mainstream. Gifford transcends the opacity of academic writing in this lively account... 'This is not a story without tragedy....But it is a story of redemption and breathtaking creativity, too,' writes Gifford, who not only tells the story well, but shows why it's so significant."—Kirkus  

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Writing My Wrongs 
Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison
By Shaka Senghor

In 1991, Shaka Senghor was sent to prison for second-degree murder. Today, he is a lecturer at universities, a leading voice on criminal justice reform, and an inspiration to thousands.

In life, it's not how you start that matters. It's how you finish.     

Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. An honor roll student and a natural leader, he dreamed of becoming a doctor—but at age 11, his parents' marriage began to unravel, and the beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home, turn to drug dealing to survive, and end up in prison for murder at the age of 19, fuming with anger and despair.    

Writing My Wrongs is the story of what came next. During his nineteen-year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature, meditation, self-examination, and the kindness of others—tools he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Upon his release at age thirty-eight, Senghor became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

In equal turns, Writing My Wrongs is a page-turning portrait of life in the shadow of poverty, violence, and fear; an unforgettable story of redemption, reminding us that our worst deeds don’t define us; and a compelling witness to our country’s need for rethinking its approach to crime, prison, and the men and women sent there.    

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Black Tambourine

The interest of a black man in a cellar
Mark tardy judgment on the world's closed door.
Gnats toss in the shadow of a bottle,
And a roach spans a crevice in the floor.

Aesop, driven to pondering, found
Heaven with the tortoise and the hare;
Fox brush and sow ear top his grave
And mingling incantations on the air.

The black man, forlorn in the cellar,
Wanders in some mid-kingdom, dark, that lies,
Between his tambourine, stuck on the wall,
And, in Africa, a carcass quick with flies.

Hart Crane (1899-1932) 

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On "Black Tambourine"

R. W. B. Lewis
When he wrote "Black Tambourine," Crane was himself hobnobbing with Negroes in a cellar—Negro chefs and waiters, in fact, in the basement of his father’s tea-room and candy shop in Cleveland; he was also busy composing an article on Sherwood Anderson in which he expressed the hope that Anderson might some day "handle the Negro in fiction." Crane’s feelings, however, were mixed. A Negro had been dismissed by Mr. Crane to make room for his son; and, as Philip Horton [author of a 1937 biography of Crane] tells us, "It became a certainty in [Crane’s] mind that his father wished to make a humiliating comparison by this move." Crane associated himself, and by extension the modern poet, with the Negro, as victims of comparable persecution and exclusion; the world closed its doors equally on both – such, anyhow, had been Crane’s experience

from R. W. B. Lewis, The Poetry of Hart Carne: A Critical Study (Princeton: Princeton U P, 1967) 27-29    

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Bob Kaufman
By Katherine V. Lindberg

Poet, prose poet, jazz performance artist, satirist, manifesto writer, and legendary figure in the Beat movement, Bob Kaufman successfully promoted both anonymity and myths of his racial identity and class origins. While romanticized biographies ascribe him with such names as griot, shaman, saint, and prophet of Caribbean, African, Native American, Catholic, and/or Jewish traditions, respectively, Kaufman was most likely the tenth of thirteen children of an African American and part Jewish father and a schoolteacher mother from an old New Orleans African American catholic family. After an orderly childhood that probably included a secondary education, he joined the merchant marine and became active in the radical Seafarer's Union.

An itinerant drifter and self-taught poet (but a brief stint at the New school for Social Research and among the Black Arts and Beat literati of New York), he identified with the lives and cryptically quoted the works of poet-heroes such as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Arthur Rimbaud, Guillaume Apollinaire, Federico Garcia Lorca, Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, and Nicholas guillen, as well as improvisational artists and jazz musicians, including Charlie Parker, after whom he named his only son. In individual poems he is, variously, an experimental stylist in the Whitman tradition ("The American Sun"), a French surrealist and existentialist ("Camus: I Want to Know"), a jazz poet after Langston Hughes, and in dialogue with bebop and the Black Arts movement ("African Dream," "Walking Parker Home").

I Have Folded My Sorrows

I have folded my sorrows into the mantle of summer night,
Assigning each brief storm its allotted space in time,
Quietly pursuing catastrophic histories buried in my eyes.
And yes, the world is not some unplayed Cosmic Game,
And the sun is still ninety-three million miles from me,
And in the imaginary forest, the shingles hippo becomes the gay unicorn.
No, my traffic is not addled keepers of yesterday's disasters,
Seekers of manifest disembowelment on shafts of yesterday's pains.
Blues come dressed like introspective echoes of a journey.
And yes, I have searched the rooms of the moon on cold summer nights.
And yes, I have refought those unfinished encounters. Still, they remain unfinished.
And yes, I have at times wished myself something different.

The tragedies are sung nightly at the funerals of the poet;
The revisited soul is wrapped in the aura of familiarity.

Bob Kaufman [April 18, 1925 – January 12, 1986]

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

White Nationalism and Reparations


In this powerful and controversial book, distinguished African-American political leader and thinker Randall Robinson argues for the restoration of the rich history that slavery and segregation severed. Drawing from research and personal experience, he shows that only by reclaiming their lost past and proud heritage can blacks lay the foundation for their future. And white Americans can make reparations for slavery and the century of racial discrimination that followed with monetary restitution, educational programs, and the kinds of equal opportunities that will ensure the social and economic success of all its citizens.

In a book that is both an unflinching indictment of past wrongs and an impassioned call to our nation to educate all Americans about the history of Africa and its people, Robinson makes a persuasive case for the debt white America owes blacks, and the debt blacks owe themselves.  

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Americans more conservative: study
Scott Kaufman
10 Apr 2014

Two researchers from the Department of Psychology and Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University demonstrated that the more white Americans know about the changing demographics of the United States, the more likely they are to endorse conservative policy positions.

Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson conducted three studies in which white Americans were presented with information about the racial demographic shifts that have led the U.S. Census Bureau to project that “racial minority groups will make up a majority of the U.S. national population in 2042, effectively creating a so-called ‘majority-minority’ nation.” 

In the first study, self-identifying political independents were randomly asked to learn about the majority-minority racial shift in California or about how the number of Hispanics in the United States is now roughly equal to the number of African-Americans. They were then asked questions about their political party leanings and ideology.

The result was that, “[d]espite being self-identified political independents, respondents who were asked about the [majority-minority] racial shift reported being somewhat more conservative than did respondents” who were asked the less salient question about Hispanics being roughly equally to African-Americans. . . .
As Jamelle Bouie noted this study strongly suggests that the coming majority-minority shift “could lead to a stronger, deeper conservatism among white Americans. The racial polarization of the 2012 election—where the large majority of whites voted for Republicans, while the overwhelming majority of minorities voted for Democrats—could continue for decades.”

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by Brenda Marie Osbey

The six sections of the book reveal the breadth of her poetic vision. The first, “House in the Faubourg,” contains poems focused on the people and places of Osbey’s native New Orleans, and the penultimate section, “Unfinished Coffees,” examines the Crescent City within a broader, more contemporary meditation on culture. “Something about Trains” features two suites of poems that use trains and railway stations as settings from which to inspect desolation, writing, and memory; and “Little History, Part One” recounts tales of European settlement and exploitation of the New World. The poems in “What Hunger” look at the many facets of desire, while “Mourning Like a Skin” includes elegies and poems addressing the lasting presence of the dead.

Dynamic and unflinching, the poems in All Souls speak of a world with many secrets, known “only through having learned them / the hardest way.”

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Being deliberately out of touch with much that is trendy and fashionable in the world of 2016, I am not impressed with outpourings of grief each time a person who has accomplished something dies.  Did you know the person as more than a name in a newspaper or magazine or a reproduction on a television or cinema screen?  Did you have meaningful conversations with the person?  Did you have a meal, drinks, tea or coffee, laughter or tears with the person as the two of you discussed issues of mutual interest?  Was the person your teacher or mentor?   

Did you exchange correspondence ( letters/emails) with the personal rather than just professional?  Did you publish constructive criticism of the person's work?  If the person was a fellow writer, did you review the person's  book (s)  or an isolated work that gave you insights about genius, craft, wisdom or just plain common sense? Did you try to help that person get a job or a fellowship by writing recommendations?  Did you publish the person in a magazine or an anthology that you edited?  Did you explain, first to yourself and then to the person, why her or his artistry or argumentation is more than a throwaway item in cultural, social, or intellectual histories?

If you can't say "yes" to most of these questions (and to others I've not itemized), I suspect your grief is not genuine.  I suspect you are an opportunist, lacking a judicious measure of respect or honesty or humanity.  I am so old-fashioned, old school, or downright antiquated in my navigation of feelings as to believe you should share the esteem you have for people when they can see, hear or read it.  In some instances the expression of regard is quite private and remains forever unknown by a public.  

That's cool.  It is more important that the person knows where the regard is coming from.  After the person is dead, cremated or buried, your weeping or your wording of grief contributes nothing to the person's happiness or spiritual balance.  Your chatter is an ephemeral gesture of self-serving desire.  It is merely your ego calling  attention to itself. Publishing well-researched, thoughtful critical assessments of a dead person's achievements and legacy to humankind is quite a different matter.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.            May 13, 2016

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by Ishmael Reed  

Including material and photographs not included in most of the 100 other books about the champion, Ishmael Reed’s The Complete Muhammad Ali is more than just a biography—it is a fascinating portrait of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. An honest, balanced portrayal of Ali, the book includes voices that have been omitted from other books. It charts Ali’s evolution from Black Nationalism to a universalism, but does not discount the Nation of Islam and Black Nationalism’s important influence on his intellectual development. Filipino American author Emil Guillermo speaks about how “The Thrilla’ In Manila” brought the Philippines into the 20th century. Fans of Muhammad Ali, boxing fans, and those interested in modern African American history and the Nation of Islam will be fascinated by this biography by an accomplished American author.

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by Ishmael Reed

The Complete Muhammad Ali is twelve solid rounds of writing. Throughout the text, Ishmael Reed jabs and juts fades and dances. He even plays a little rope-a-dope. In the end, his biography of Muhammad Ali stands above its competition. It is not always pretty and parts of it leave the legend of Ali somewhat bloodied. In doing so, it rings closer to the truth than the sanitized tale today’s public has accepted as real. This text is an in depth and studied look at a man, a sport, a nation and a history. In his contemplation of all of these, Ishmael Reed paints a canvas that is simultaneously darkened with shadows and brightened with hope; defined by history that is certain to be riven with a fair amount of controversy. Muhammad Ali became and remains much bigger than the man who bears that name. Ishmael Reed’s biography of Ali is similar in its breadth and scope.

50 Years: Ivanhoe and a Band of Brothers

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul
 By Eddie S. Glaude Jr

Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, it argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap”—with white lives valued more than others—that still distorts our politics today. Whether discussing why all Americans have racial habits that reinforce inequality, why black politics based on the civil-rights era have reached a dead end, or why only remaking democracy from the ground up can bring real change, Glaude crystallizes the untenable position of black America--and offers thoughts on a better way forward. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, Democracy In Black is a landmark book on race in America, one that promises to spark wide discussion as we move toward the end of our first black presidency.

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Will Racism Ever End, Will I Ever Stop Being a Nigger?
By Kevin Powell

Finally, we have heard for years, at least going back to the presidency of Bill Clinton, this call for a national conversation on race. What I have come to realize is that that is a political football for certain kinds of political leaders to toss about when there is yet another racially motivated tragedy in our America. That if there is truly is to be a conversation, a raw and real dialogue, that it must come from the bottom up, from we the people. I’ve said all I can say about America, about American history, about what racism has done to me, to my family. I am drained and near tears, to be downright honest, from writing this piece, because it forced me to revisit both new and old traumas, to revisit new and old wars with myself, with others, wars that I really do not want to fight. I want to heal; I want us all to heal.

This healing work must happen with White sisters and brothers and it must happen with Black sisters and brothers, and sisters and brothers of every racial and cultural upbringing in America. Protests, rallies, marches should continue to happen as long as racism exists, as long as there is inequality, injustice, and the absence of opportunities for all people. They must. But we also must be conscious of how this racism cancer eats at us, how it destroys us from the inside out, how we must learn the difference between proactive anger and reactionary anger. Proactive anger builds bridges, possibilities, alliances, movements, and, ultimately, love. Reactive anger destroys bridges, breeds dysfunction, and spreads more madness and confusion. Yes, passion is necessary, and we should be angry because of what I have described in this essay, for it is a natural human emotion. But that anger must not become the very hate we say we are against.

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The Education of Kevin Powell
A Boy's Journey into Manhood
By Kevin Powell

In the traditions is a good collection of poetry and short stories from african americans from the early 90's. Some of the writers included are even more known today for some of their other works since this collection was written. . . . Wow! Ten years have past and this collection can still hold its own! I can across it during a sociology class--it offers a vivid snapshot of a generation of thinkers. Many like Powell and Anderson-Thompkins have gone on to write books and articles about race.

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Ivanhoe Donaldson
October 17, 1941 – April 3, 2016
Raised in New York City, New York

As SNCC’s voting rights campaign in the Mississippi Delta expanded in the winter of 1962, state and local officials responded with economic reprisals, as well as violence. The desperate need for assistance of all kinds attracted the attention of Ivanhoe Donaldson, a student at Michigan State University.

Although he did not have direct experience with life in the rural south, Donaldson understood the potential of Black voter registration and decided to organize food and medical assistance. After a supply drive on campus, Donaldson rented a truck, loaded it with over-the-counter medicines, and along with fellow student Ben Taylor, drove down to Mississippi. Reaching Clarksdale after a long day’s drive, the two fell asleep in their truck and were awakened by the police. The policemen found aspirin and vitamins in a search of the vehicle and arrested Donaldson and Taylor.

The two spent a week in jail before the NAACP bailed them out on a $15,000 bond. Donaldson’s arrest convinced him to commit to working full-time in the Movement. In 1963, he began working in Mississippi as a SNCC field secretary. While registering people to vote, a police officer threw Donaldson in the back of his car and shoved a pistol in his mouth. In that moment, Donaldson thought, “this guy [is] going to blow me away.” Such experiences with violence were routine for SNCC field secretaries; the youthful organization had more field workers than any other in the civil rights establishment.

Like many Mississippi field secretaries, Donaldson initially opposed the Freedom Summer Project. He wanted to prioritize the empowerment of local people and was concerned that northern volunteers would take leadership roles away from local Blacks just beginning their involvement with the Movement. He also criticized some other movement strategies. When asked about the March on Washington and similar demonstrations, he said, “They created a lot of hoopla, a lot of drama, but didn’t accomplish much.”
These concerns notwithstanding, Donaldson remained committed to SNCC. 

He was campaign manager for Julian Bond’s 1965 successful campaign for a seat in the Georgia state legislature and was SNCC’s point person at the Selma-to-Montgomery march. After the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Donaldson urged SNCC to place more emphasis on economic justice, opposition to the Vietnam War and international solidarity. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nathaniel Turner & Other Monsters

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Now a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with an introduction by Elizabeth Kostova and cover art by Ghost World creator Daniel Clowes, Mary Shelley's timeless gothic novel presents the epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.

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Bop: M. Shelley’s Frankenstein

They say he had a son—in the lore after his death.
But he never knew a woman, nor a wife. He was
wed to the Son most pure. His diary he drank
fully while he was a child and worshipped
 him as a man. He plowed his brother’s field til he
was 21, ran away, returned father of his brother’s son.

Ya runnin’ and ya runnin’ but ya can't run away from yourself

At his wake they said he in the open casket had no son
to cry forgiveness before his sister’s coffin, I was
there—entangled in unsettling memories. My burden
heavy as an outsider at a Baptist send away. As I
sat indulgently quiet, the services ran on and on.
My residence in a more ethereal world, my mother
said his elder sister forgot my birth.  Aunt baldheads
plow with no handles, forget teary mementors.
My story of strife is well known. I was sixteen.

Ya runnin’ and ya runnin’ but ya can't run away from yourself

They did not know he had a son of his own creation. For
he had no wife that he consummated. He gave his son no
name, no identity that the son could claim, but ugliness.
He asked his father to give him beauty, for he had so much love
and no one on which to satisfy his desire. He knew only rage.
The father refused his love. Cold they left the world in flames.

Ya runnin’ and ya runnin’ but ya can't run away from yourself

Rudolph Lewis        24 June 2010  

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An Overview

In the last stanza I point to a particular film version (1994), in which Frankenstein's son is played by Robert DeNiro.

This Frankenstein film was in color and ends in the arctic.  It was difficult to discern who was the real rationalist, the real human, the real monster. This monster notion is questioned throughout the film. It is a deceptive classification: Is it man or man's creation that is monstrous?

It was shown how Frankenstein's son could be gentle, caring, and thoughtful (he was a reader, a reader of his father's journal). Frankenstein Junior is profoundly hurt, abandoned, injured. But he can kill also without feeling.

Turner of Southampton was also called "monster": his killing or ordering the killing of man, woman, and child is disturbing. Whites today in the environs of Southampton still view him through these lens. One can at one’s peril ignore this warning. The notion that slavery and all of its consequences is not felt or grasped then or now.
There too is this notion of "madness" that is explored in the film. There's the emphasis as well on beauty and ugliness and its recognition in terms of possessing a "soul." So there is a lot going on in the film and in the story of Turner. I have placed my own biography in the midst of all of that in the middle stanza, as a means of exploring family relationships.

Whether the poem encapsulates all of this is still up for question. The poem may still need work, some additions (deletions). I have the time and energy and interest to see the poem through this vision of the poem and Turner.

Loving you madly, Rudy

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Okay, Rudy, 

Your tying the Frankenstein story to Nat Turner is a stroke of genius   Anyone who cannot see the connection is being deliberately blind.  I had a sense that there might be a family history connection; this clears up some things.--Wilson

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Poetic Form: The Bop 

 A recent invention, the Bop was created by Afaa Michael Weaver during a summer retreat of the African American poetry organization, Cave Canem. Not unlike the Shakespearean sonnet in trajectory, the Bop is a form of poetic argument consisting of three stanzas, each stanza followed by a repeated line, or refrain, and each undertaking a different purpose in the overall argument of the poem.

The first stanza (six lines long) states the problem, and the second stanza (eight lines long) explores or expands upon the problem. If there is a resolution to the problem, the third stanza (six lines long) finds it. If a substantive resolution cannot be made, then this final stanza documents the attempt and failure to succeed.

Although it is a young form, the Bop already exists in variations. In addition to the three-stanza Bop, some have added a six-line fourth stanza, still ending on the refrain. A good example of how a Bop introduces the crisis at hand, is a poem by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, whose first book, Black Swan, features three Bop poems. One of them, called “Bop: Haunting," begins:

“In the evening she comes, her same unsatisfied self,
with the hard, smug look of salvation. Mama,
stop bothering me. When we argue, she says
what you’re saying is not scriptural.
You need to get back in your Bible.

In one dream, I slap her. I’m tired of her mouth.
I hate to see the evening
Sun go down”

In this case, the refrain “I hate to see the evening / Sun go down” appears at the end of the subsequent two stanzas, suggesting the mournful, blue tone of the speaker who, at the end, seems not to have found the solution to her “conjuring” woes.  

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Mass Lynching 1919

237 Forgotten in Arkansas

In 1919, after the end of World War I, Black sharecroppers in Arkansas began to unionize. This attempt to form unions, triggered white vigilantism and mass killings, that left 237 Blacks dead.

Towards the end of 1918, attorney Ulysses S. Bratton of Little Rock, Arkansas listened to Black sharecroppers tell stories of theft, exploitation, and never ending debt. One man by the name of Carter, explained how he cultivated 90 acres of cotton and then had his landlord confiscate the crop and all of his possessions. Another Black farmer, from Ratio, Arkansas said a plantation manager would not give sharecroppers an itemized record of their crop. No one realized that within a year of meeting with Mr. Bratton, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. would take place. In a report released by the Equal Justice Initiative, white people in the Delta region of the South, started a massacre that left 237 Black people dead. Even though the one-time death toll was unusually high, it was not uncommon for whites to use racial violence to intimidate Blacks.
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Black Hollywood Unchained  
Edited by Ishmael Reed 

In Black Hollywood Unchained, Ishmael Reed gathers an impressive group of scholars, critics, intellectuals, and artist to examine and respond to the contemporary portrayals of Blacks in films.  Using the 2012 release of the film Django Unchained as the focal point of much of the discussion, these essays and reviews provide a critical perspective on the challenges facing filmmakers and actors when confronted with issues on race and the historical portrayal of African American characters. Reed also addresses the black community’s perceptiveness as discerning and responsible consumers of film, theatre, art, and music. Contributors to this collection are: Jill Nelson, Amiri Baraka, Cecil Brown, Halifu Osumare, Houston A. Baker, Tony Medina, Herb Boyd, Jerry Ward, Ruth Elizabeth Burks, Art Burton, Justin Desmangles, Jesse Douglass, Jack Foley, Joyce A. Joyce, C. Leigh McInnis, Heather Russell, Harriette Surovell, Kathryn Takara, and Al Young.

Black Hollywood Unchained—Once again Ishmael Reed demonstrates prescience in creating a forum for discussion of the American mindscape and some of the pathological critters that range so freely in it. Readers who wish to engage in critical thinking about aesthetics and cognitive manipulations, about sinister and thoroughly racialized discourses in our nation, can profit greatly from reading BLACK HOLLYWOOD UNCHAINED.—Jerry W. Ward Jr.

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The Border That We Keep

Lynchings--A century ago, in 1916, a Wisconsin newspaper remarked: “That there are still lynchings in the far west, especially along the Mexican border, would hardly seem to be open to question, although they escape the average collector of statistics. The subject is one that invites searching inquiry.” For more than 80 years, from 1848 to 1928, systemic analysis failed to assess the lynching of Mexicans that took place in the United States. There was very little scholarly concern for Mexican lynchings during this time, and the resultant models that sought to explain the mob violence that Mexicans suffered did not really exceed the narrower, racial focus on blacks in the South. 

A conservative estimate finds that nearly 600 Mexican lynchings took place between 1848 and 1928 in the U.S. Historians put forth this number with a word of caution: the definition of lynching has changed so much over time that an accurate collection of mob violence data is practically impossible. Used here, the term “lynching” indicates an act of murder that is retributive and/or committed by a person or persons claiming to act on behalf of the interests of justice, tradition, and the community or common good. Even despite all efforts towards a working definition of lynching, a precise count of Mexican victims is generally considered impossible to render.

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The Niggerization of Palestine
By Jonathan Scott

The parallel between the nature of Israel’s establishment in 1948 and the Anglo-American extermination of the indigenous population, the Native Americans, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is clear and many Palestinian scholars have always stressed it. In 1948 Israeli Zionists executed a genocidal war against the Palestinians, the style of which would have made Joseph Conrad nod in instant recognition. Recall his description in Heart of Darkness of the murderous British imperialism let loose in the Congo: “They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale.” 

More than 800,000 Palestinians, or 80 percent of the indigenous population, were forcibly expelled from their land and the ripest parts of it, the beautiful and bustling port cities of Haifa, Jaffa, and Akka, immediately confiscated by Israeli Zionists and set aside for Jews only. Palestinians had fled in horror after having either witnessed first-hand the massacre of fellow townspeople and villagers or heard the stories of the hundreds of neighboring towns and villages razed to ground by Zionist militias, who murdered everyone refusing to abandon their homes. 

Many works of Palestinian historiography are available that document these basic facts, and there are several classic works of Israeli historiography that do the same, which came out of the 1980s period in which a great deal of declassified material was released by Israel. See in particular Rosemary Sayigh’s Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries and Nur Masalha’s Expulsion of the Palestinians; for the Israeli accounts, see Benny Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem and Simha Flapan’s The Birth of Israel. These Israeli scholars use the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the establishment of Israel and its dispossession of the Palestinians. By the logic of the Israel Lobby, these Jewish scholars are guilty of “anti-Semitism” and worse are “self-hating Jews,” even though both scholars are actually staunch Zionists.