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Newark, New Jersey the Struggle of Education as a Right Not a Privilege, Principals Silenced for Challenging School Closures
By Malik Sekou Osei 28 January 2014
We have seen a number of decades go by with Blacks in offices as elected officials, and still the African American has no real power of his life. From a number of mayors to governors and now, even as the president, yet there no political traction to move beyond high unemployment, lack of health care, police Stop-and-Frisk and the question of the right to education and training.
As we look across a river, we see the injustice still blooms very large in for the African American people of Newark as they whisper the screams of a sterile flower of Black political representation that only represents the attempts of Black elected officials of getting paid. They all preform a chaotic loud musical of silence as a militant minstrel show of emptiness. For it’s all just posture of becoming the brokers of discontent of a failed populism. Newark was one the first cities to have a Black mayor Ken Gibson, Sharpe James up to Cory Booker and still Black people still have no political capital. After the symbolic dance of militants of a spirited house that brought a house Negro to the mayor’s office in 1970, who still behaved as a house Negro in protecting the corporate interests of the city under the poems of artists of identity. Where the status quo would never use them as brokers of discontent, thus in their symbolism they would never draw up history for lessons.
Now, it seems under the present Black leadership of protest, we are still stuck in 1967 and growth of empty flowers of plastic without any real scent only pretty to look at as plastic roses of Black political symbolism without the reality of power for the poor.
While, in reality there are objective laws, if you put broken ice on the side walk you’re wide up with a wet street and nothing more. It seems that the symbol of militant reform can mobilize a militant populism, never drew up the lessons of history and the racial betrayal for access to recourses, by racial militant careerist. For the history of militant culturalism through of sloganeering of some great poetry in Newark has never created an urban populism.
As similar forces continue this same empty dance of militant populism around getting elected or around elected officials, will only leave the empty tune of symbolism and failure. What has to be understood is the role of African American careerist as collaborator.
While, as the people of Newark faces this question on the right of education on January 17, Cami Anderson, the Newark public schools superintendent picked by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was to suspended five school principals, including four who spoke at a local community meeting in Newark to oppose the “One Newark” program, one of the most up to date attempts to privatize public education in Newark.
What has to be understood is that under the “One Newark” plan, so-called because students will be permitted to register in any school in their age group in the city, while in fact, many public schools will be closed, and their students forced to show up in schools in other places, often at vast distance from their residences. The empty school buildings will be filled by privately run, as publicly funded charter schools.
Principals H. Grady James
Principals H. Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue School, Tony Motley of Bragaw Avenue School, Dorothy Handfield of Belmont Runyan School, and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue School were all suspended for declaring and expressing their opposition to the plan at a meeting at the Hopewell Baptist Church on January 15. The meeting was organized by Democratic city councilman and mayoral hopeful Ras Baraka (son of Amiri Baraka the poet and writer), who hopes to exploit opposition to the reorganization plan to further his own electoral ambitions.
After public protest, four of the principals resumed their duties last Monday, and one, Deneen Washington, was told to report to the central office of the school district.
It must be noted that the city of Newark has a population of just fewer than 300,000 and is New Jersey’s largest city. According to the latest statistics, roughly a third of Newark’s residents lived at or below the federal poverty line, and Newark is still largely African American.
The Newark public school system, with about 40,000 students and 3,000 teachers, has been in state receivership since 1995. The rights of teachers in particular have been under sustained attack for several years. In 2012, the Newark Teachers Union signed an agreement—widely advertised and hyped in the media as a “landmark deal”—with the state that applied a merit pay system based on the determination of a teacher’s classroom performance.
Principal Tony Motely
The contract abolished the annual raises for experience, standard for decades in American public schools, and abolished automatic pay increases for those teachers who obtained advanced degrees. Since teachers who already had advanced degrees were allowed to opt out of the new system—and most did—the Newark public school system now effectively has a two-tier system of appraisal for teachers.
The Newark schools were the recipient of a $100 million gift from billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010. Some of this money was used to found new charter schools, while much of the remainder was kept in a pool for teachers’ merit pay.
While speaking on the phone and E-mail with teachers they believed that the standards for student performance were set so high that they have little hope of receiving any raise. In fact, only %5 percent of eligible teachers received a merit pay raise last year in 2013.
In addition to this degrading of teachers’ rights, fully accommodated by the union, Cami Anderson laid off over 100 school employees last June.
Anderson, a personal friend and political ally of former Newark mayor and current US Senator Corey Booker, a Democrat, is portrayed in the media as a “gutsy reformer” who is challenging the out-of-date Newark educational system.
The truth is that the “One Newark” plan aims at transferring public wealth from the working Black people into private white corporate hands. This process has been going on at a national level with cities such as Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, and New York as the vanguard.
As elsewhere in the US, the domination of charters in Newark will allow for easy firing of teachers and the slashing of their pay, along with the subordination of education to standardized test scores and the labor demands of private corporations.
What separates the situation in Newark—and sets a treacherous pattern —is the anti-democratic silencing of opposition by educators to the privatization plan.
Teachers and school workers spoke about the issue at a recent public meeting on the suspension of the principals. They highlighted that they were under a gag order from school authorities and feared retribution if they remarked publicly.
It should be said, that Chris Christie was the one to give Anderson her job. She has no training in pedagogy or care about education. Her role is to drive out higher-paid teachers. Right now in Newark they already changed the tenure system, now for a teacher to get their tenure they must teach five years instead of three. While will happen at the fourth year the administration would make moves of changing teachers or giving bad reviews and holding low test scores against the teacher as the means to denies tenure and to seek to buy out senior teachers and replace them.
The game that the flunkies for Governor Christie will argue is that the Newark schools have very low enrollment. However, this was done because Superintendent Anderson was to close down feeder schools. Now those students under One Newark can go anywhere rather than local schools, where they are slated to go.
Now, forces in Newark are using the example of New Orleans and Katrina, where the excuse in Newark is low attention to begin the growth of charter schools on the public watch. If local teachers and administrators speak out, they are under the threat to be suspended.
As of right now Newark schools are %100 percent managed and controlled, while at the same time Camden and now Jersey City has only half of its schools are state run. They local leadership of these cities is selling the city’s property to make a personal windfall profit.
Now the fight around the right of education has become the struggle of not turning local teachers and administrators into proper pantomime of silence. For looking at the history of Black elected officials this has been their political method of political survival.
They would provide limited concessions to keep the urban space governable without challenging white corporate power. For in the long range objectives of corporate capital as they bring further austerity is to makes their political representative regardless of color dance as pantomimes without real music as empty symbols of actual distractions.
Unfortunately, Newark has had a long history of this, from the July 12, 1967 beating of the Taxis driver John Smith was beaten after he was picked up by the police and taken to the police station at the Fourth Precinct. At this point the people refuse to dance the pantomime in silence. They came out of the Hays Housing Project, while John Smith was the lit match of conditions that torn down Springfield Ave.
While, there was no formal organization and it was a spontaneous eruption against racialist police violence and without actual political leadership the motion collapse into cultural militant symbolism that would become broker of discontent that has left Newark politically vulnerable because of a tradition that never prepared anyone outside of militant symbolism to be the vehicles of militant sounding Black elected officials that was help by corporate monies to keep the cities governable for private profit.
For the people of Newark, history is on their side, but not time…
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Lost Radicals - A Review Essay of Blacks In and Out of the Left An attendee at the Black Panther's Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention, held at the Lincolm Memorial, June 19, 1970.Photograph: U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).
Eric Mann January 15, 2014
Blacks In and Out of the Left Michael C. Dawson Harvard University Press, $24.95 (cloth)
Since the March on Washington fifty years ago, the condition of black people has deteriorated; today they are subject to injustices ranging from mass unemployment to mass incarceration. Yet gone is the rhetoric of militant hope, black liberation, and economic equality generated by the Third World revolutions five decades ago. It is difficult even to draw on the lessons and legacies of these revolutions, for the state suppression of radical organizations in the 1960s has extended into the suppression of their history. As Mumia Abu Jamal explained, young black people are suffering from “menticide,” deprived of their tradition, its strategy and tactics, and the hope it provides.
Michael C. Dawson’s important new book Blacks In and Out of the Left, expands on Jamal’s diagnosis by characterizing one of its sources: the abandonment of the Black Power movement by white liberals and social democrats who claimed that a black-led movement was inconsistent with their “universalist” ambitions. Yet Dawson’s history shows the immense unifying power that black groups had. They brought together marginalized groups, created networks of support, and built a creative community. Indeed, restoring black politics means restoring a multinational, multiracial left.
• • •
In the ’60s many liberal whites believed black separatism threatened the possibility of a unified left. This belief led a generation of white leftist writers to attack the achievements of the black liberation movement, resulting in the repression, distortion, and caricature of the historical record of black leadership. In this context, Dawson’s frontal challenge to liberal and social democratic pontificates and his passionate defense of the black revolutionary tradition is a great gift to all students, especially black youth who have been robbed of their own history. Dawson brings to life the complexity of building a black and multi-racial left and highlights the profound achievements of black leaders and organizations that were purged from popular history. He emphasizes several important leaders who are too-little known today: Hubert Harrison, Cyril Briggs, Harry Haywood, Claudia Jones, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, and Fannie Lou Hamer. By reminding us that black revolutionary action has a long and influential tradition that extends well beyond the ’60s, Dawson challenges the white intellectuals who saw the unification of minority groups as a threat to their own interests. Here, for example, is Todd Gitlin:
In the late 1960s, the principle of separate organizations on behalf of distinct interests raged throughout ‘the movement’ with amazing speed. On the model of black demands came those of feminists, Chicanos, American Indians, gays, lesbians. One grouping after another insisted on the recognition of difference and the protection of their separate and distinct spheres. . . . from the 1970s on, left-wing universalism was profoundly demoralized.
As discouraged as white social democratic males may have felt, their domination caused a similar reaction among the revolutionary forces. Separation from the imposed universalism of the imperialist enlightenment allowed black groups to establish their own leadership, explore their own cultures, and use their own identities as the basis for self-determination. For most, separation was not separatism but an attempt to integrate self-determination into the multiracial, world struggle for socialist revolution. Indeed, the common future envisioned by blacks, Chicanos, and American Indians also attracted many whites. Rather than fracturing the left, black radicalism’s internationalist perspective provided an alternative to a universalism that was not universal. To recover this history from its ideological misrepresentation, Blacks In and Out of the Left calls attention to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW), who “developed their own unique version of Marxism-Leninism and black nationalism.” Dawson sees their work as both a black national struggle and a multiracial workers struggle, showing how the two can work in tandem.
Headquartered in Detroit from 1968 through the early 1970s, the LRBW built shop floor organizations in auto factories (as part of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement), led wildcat strikes, and organized white and Arab workers alongside blacks. By challenging Detroit’s auto industry—the symbol of American mass consumption—they “represented a real and present danger to American capitalism and the hegemony of unions that had reached an often racist accommodations with corporate America.” By extension, they challenged the aggressive support the American Federation of Labor and the United Automobile Workers had garnered for the anti-communist project internationally—including support for the war in Vietnam. Taking Lenin’s advice that workers should be tribunes of the people and respond to all forms of oppression, not just their own, they ran South End, a citywide paper; worked with “multiclass black united fronts”; opposed police brutality; initiated calls for reparations to be paid from white churches to black communities; and produced the influential film Finally Got the News (1970).
Another example of the effort to synthesize revolutionary black nationalism and Marxism was the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS), which operated from 1978 until 1990. It was the largest and in my view most effective of the groups that comprised the New Communist Movement. As Dawson explains, the New Communist Movement included groups that believed the United States needed a new Communist party, allied with the People’s Republic of China against the Soviet Union. The LRS was the first large multinational group created through the merger of formerly national communist groups—the Congress of African People, which had become the Revolutionary Communist League; the (Chicano) August Twenty-Ninth Movement; and the (Asian/Pacific Islander) East Wind and I Work Kuen groups. The LRS included whites who wanted to work in an organization the majority of whose members and leaders were oppressed nationalities and women of color. As the LRS demonstrated, oppressed groups conceived of themselves as promoting universalism rather than precluding it.
The internationalism of black radicals was an alternative to a universalism that wasn't universal.
The LRS envisioned a socialist revolution in the United States as part of a world revolution in which a black nation in the American South and a Chicano nation in the Southwest would ally with the multinational working class—including white workers—and the peoples and nations of the Third World. The LRS set up a national office and ran a national newspaper, Unity/Unidad. It also had hundreds of cadres working in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Newark, and New York. Taking seriously the Marxist slogan “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need,” those of us who were well-paid autoworkers—I was a member from 1975 to 1985—made non–tax deductible contributions of $250–400 a month, ensuring that the organization was staffed with comrades who, working long hours, could at least pay their rent and support their families. We set up a childcare service so women could play leading roles in the organization and so children would make friends of all races, growing up in the society we wanted to build. One of our goals was to advance cultural integration as well as economic justice.
Across the country, LRS members got jobs in meatpacking plants, molten foundries, and auto factories. Like the LRBW, the LRS was instrumental in union reform movements that challenged the UAW leadership’s class collaboration. In St. Louis the LRS built a powerful UAW black caucus in a major auto factory, and in East St. Louis, Illinois, it founded the Organization for Black Struggle, which challenged police and slumlords and recruited militant and politically conscious black youth. In Los Angeles, LRS members in UAW Local 645 led an unprecedented campaign to keep GM Van Nuys open. A large and diverse group of workers built a labor/community coalition rooted in the black and Latino communities. We threatened GM with a boycott in L.A. County—the largest new car market in the country—and built a movement so strong that GM backed down and kept the plant open for ten years. I worked on the assembly line at Van Nuys for a decade and was the chair of the campaign, a story told in my book, Taking on General Motors (1987), and in a fine film by Michal Goldman, Tiger by the Tail (1986). In Oakland black LRS cadres worked with the Transit Workers Union and in New York they helped to lead the fight against police brutality.
• • •
Given the creativity, tactical brilliance, broad appeal, courage, and moral vision of the thousands of independent black cultural, women’s, and social service collectives, how can we explain the decline of black-led radical organizations? Having participated in such organizations for almost five decades and studied the history of revolutionary movements my whole life, I see three major reasons.
First, we should not take for granted how difficult it is to build and sustain any revolutionary organization. Contradictions among members and constituent groups make voluntary unity difficult to maintain. The larger an organization is, the greater the diversity in race, class, sexual orientation, and personality and the more internal contradictions.
Second, since the 1960s, the U.S. government has increasingly refused to concede even the smallest demands of working people and the poor. Social welfare programs are being shut down, unions are being broken, and civil rights, voting rights, and labor laws are being reversed. While in theory this can also generate a revolutionary response, and sometimes does, it can also discourage people as they begin to see revolution as a lost cause.
Third—and, in my view, the primary reason for the decline—is the brutal suppression of social movements by the state. The history is unequivocal: it is when black people garner mass support within their own communities and achieve a high level of unity with revolutionaries of all races that the heavy hammer of the white power structure comes down the hardest. Marcus Garvey, the brilliant leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, was convicted in 1925 on a spurious charge of federal mail fraud, spent two years in prison, was deported to Jamaica, and was never able to rebuild his organization from exile. Claudia Jones, a great feminist and internationalist leader in the U.S. Communist Party during the 1930s, was deported to England where she played a major role in black politics but died in poverty. Paul Robeson said that black people would not fight in a war against the Soviet Union; as a result he was under constant police surveillance, denied his passport and therefore his livelihood as a globally renowned singer, and driven to a nervous breakdown from which he never recovered. W.E.B. DuBois was also denied his passport and prosecuted as “an unregistered agent of a foreign power.” He eventually left the United States to live and die in Ghana. Martin Luther King, Jr. was under constant police wiretapping; J. Edgar Hoover’s explicit plan was to drive him, as well, to a nervous breakdown. These prominent leaders were among thousands of dedicated freedom fighters who were beaten, tortured, and imprisoned.
But the largest victim of state suppression during the 1970s, and historical suppression now, is the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. With thousands of members in thirty major cities, it mobilized black, Latino, and white allies to carry out the only mass, armed self-defense movement for black people since black slaves joined the Union Army during the Civil War. The Panthers monitored police behavior, ran the Breakfast for Children program, produced the weekly paper The Black Panther, took a strong stand against the war in Vietnam, and traveled all over the world in solidarity with Third World movements. COINTELPRO, a counter-insurgency program run by the FBI, sent trained informers and agents provocateurs to infiltrate the Panthers and destroy the organization from the inside by instigating disputes among its members and even killing its leaders. Dawson documents the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, dynamic Panther leaders in Chicago, who were drugged by a police informer in their midst and assassinated by the police as they lay sleeping in their beds. Many of the negative actions attributed to the Panthers were actually initiated and carried out by the police informers in an attempt to bring the organization down.
That attempt succeeded. If you want to understand the decline of radical movements, don’t look first to the challenges of being revolutionary—look first to the state.
• • •
Dawson’s historical analysis provides a model for reinvigorating the revolutionary organizations of today. Emphasizing what he calls the “Third Path” leading from black self-determination to multiracial structures of resistance, Dawson rejects the white chauvinism of social democracy and the impressive but ultimately unsuccessful work of the predominantly white Communist Party in advancing black liberation and socialism. He courageously argues that the black revolutionary tradition—and, I would add, the black-Latino alliance—can lead “a radical domestic agenda that is tied to a worldview that demands justice for all of humanity, not just those who live in rich and privileged countries.”
There are many important experiments today trying to carry out that mission, among them the Black Workers for Justice and the Malcolm X grassroots movements. My own organization, the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, is based on the lessons of my many black and Latino teachers. The Labor/Community Strategy Center is a leftist initiative, which was launched in 1989, around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, to figure out what revolutionary organizing in the age of reaction would look like. Our work focuses on training a new generation of black and Latino activists in the traditions of black revolutionary, Third World, and communist organizing.
To understand the decline of radical movements, look first to the state.
We have won major structural changes over the past twenty-five years, a testament to the value of the black revolutionary traditions. By 1990 we formed the Labor/Community Watchdog to fight environmental racism by mobilizing Latino immigrants to demand reductions in toxic emissions from Texaco and other oil refineries. In 1991 we collaborated with Accion Ecologica in Ecuador to organize an international boycott of Texaco in light of its environmentally devastating “drill and run” policies.
We also formed the Bus Riders Union in 1992 to protest Los Angeles’s “third-class bus system for Third World people” and, with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for establishing a separate and unequal transit system. Through sit-ins, a “no seat, no fare campaign,” and federal court orders, we forced the MTA to buy 2,500 compressed natural gas buses, reduce overcrowding, and lower bus fares for a decade. When the “Fight Transit Racism—Billions for Buses campaign” began, the MTA ridiculed us. But so far we have won $2.7 billion for buses for low-income black and Latino riders. Our strategy was to demand change in funding using rhetoric that unified many marginalized groups against a transit system that favored the rich. Our campaign captured the imagination of black and Latino bus riders and many middle-class white allies.
Today, in an effort to combat menticide, we are mobilizing young black and Latino organizers in Los Angeles high schools to fight the school-to-prison pipeline and the mass incarceration of blacks and Latinos. As our recently released study, Black, Brown and Over-Policed in L.A. Schools illustrates:
It is common experience in many low-income black and Latino neighborhoods for a student to walk out their door in the morning and run a gauntlet of Los Angeles Police Department in their neighborhood, then Sheriffs (LASD) patrols on public transit (stopped and frisked for ‘fare evasion’) then Los Angeles School Police Department and Probation Department at their school all day, at the front gate, in the halls, the cafeteria at lunch, in random disruptions of their classes. At the end of the day, they must pass through the same gauntlet in reverse to get home.
Seventeen-to-twenty-five-year-old organizers are leading Taking Action clubs where the students share experiences and connect their lives to the study of political consciousness and strategy. With training, they see themselves as organizers building a black and Latino united front against racism and subjugation in the high schools of Los Angeles. The movement convinced the Los Angeles Unified School Board and the Los Angeles School Police Department to stop issuing truancy citations. In just four years, more than 35,000 tardy students were ticketed on their way to school, arrested, handcuffed, and forced to pay $250–$1,000 fines. Our current project is to end school police involvement where teachers, administrators, students, and parents should handle discipline. We are also proposing an Equal Protection Plan that decriminalizes fifteen so-called violations, including “disturbing the peace,” “disorderly conduct,” and “possession of marijuana, alcohol, and markers [used for graffiti].”
Last year we initiated Fight for the Soul of the Cities, which asks organizers and community members to rally around a political platform that, as Dawson advises, offers a vision of a new society in which minority groups unite. Can we motivate black people to support open borders and amnesty? Or Latinos to support justice for Trayvon Martin?
I have spent my whole life working for what Dawson describes as a radical, anti-imperialist movement independent of both capitalist parties, with strong black leadership rooted in the 20th century’s great black-led experiments in resistance. Dawson brings the work of many important black leaders and organizations to our attention while the ruling class works to suppress its memory.
--Aquarius Bookstore, Los Angeles in 1982--
Alfred and Bernice Ligon owned the Aquarian Book Shop, probably the oldest black-owned bookstore in Los Angeles. They specialized in a wide range of works mostly by and about black people.
As a critical part of this effort, I urge a new generation of “young, gifted, and black” revolutionaries, together with Latinos, indigenous people, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and whites to use history to inform your organizing work. Read Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto, W.E.B. DuBois’s Black Reconstruction in America, V.I. Lenin’s What is to be Done?, Harry Haywood’s Black Bolshevik, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Carol Boyce Davies’s Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones, Mao Tse-tung’s On Practice, Paul Robeson’s Here I Stand, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” Brooks and Houck’s, The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer,Malcolm X’s Message to the Grassroots, the LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader, Alexis De Veaux’s Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde, Alan Wieder’s Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Edward Galeanos’s The Open Veins of Latin America and—of course—Dawson’s Blacks In and Out of the Left.
Read as if your life depended on it; engage in the debate; join an organization; get out into the fields, the factories, the buses, the community, the high schools, and the prisons.
Another important book for Study & Struggle for the sake of Revitalizing the Black Liberation Movement in the US.
Our book is co-authored by Bob and Dr. Christian Davenport, and will be published by Pan-African Roots, the 501c3 publishing arm of the A-APRP (GC), and the Radical Information Project in the fall of 2014. It is a case study of COINTELPRO and cointelpro-like operations worldwide (by the right and the left) against Kwame and the movements, organizations, governments, events and key personalities with whom he collaborated, competed and conflicted. It is also an authorized biography, and a narrative and discourse changing history and socio-political analysis of his generation and times, of his contributions, achievements and legacy. This book will be politically explosive!
Bob will also help: (a) recruit and build circles and branches of the A-APRP (GC); (b) solidify and expand its network of local, national, Pan-African and International allies; and (c) build a militant, grass-roots network to Tear Down The Walls of the prison-industrial and military-industrial complexes in the United States and worldwide.
The A-APRP (GC) needs your help!
Click here, to invite Bob to your campus and community.
Click here, to RSVP your attendance and make a Donation, Today!
Your donation will help guarantee the success of this 2014 World Tour and empower Bob to travel to poor campuses and communities, cities and countries that cannot afford our modest travel expenses. It will also help finance the completion of our research and interviews, editing, design and publication of The War against Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael)!
Donors of $25 or more will receive a copy hot off the press when published.
Thanks for your support for our efforts to continue and intensify Kwame’s and our life-long work, study and struggle, which will intensify---quantitatively and qualitatively---over the next few months, as we approach a number of 50th Anniversaries (milestones) in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Tea leaf farmers gather to collect their share of the year-end bonus from a total amount of one million yuan ($165,272) handed out by a tea leaf company in a village of Jinan, Shandong province January 20, 2014. Picture taken January 20, 2014. Image by: CHINA DAILY / REUTERS
Zimbabwe's central bank has announced it would accept the Chinese yuan and three other Asian currencies as legal tender as economic relations have improved in recent years.
Skin-lightening is now considered an epidemic in Jamaica, reaching disturbing levels within recent months.
Even with the ubiquity of public health campaigns listing the risks and damages of the process, an alarming number of Jamaican residents still insist on bleaching their skin for what they perceive to be a more attractive appearance. While some Jamaicans believe that lighter skin will lead to a better life, others consider it a modern fashion statement and a way to appear attractive and favorable to the opposite sex.
The island’s obsession with skin-lightening gained national attention when reggae artist, Vybz Kartel debuted a startling and unsettling image of his new lighter look. His pride in the face of critics underscored the mindset of color prejudice within the Jamaican community that says that lighter is better.
That endless pursuit of lighter skin is causing Jamaicans to put themselves and even their family members at risk. In one particularly disturbing incident, a dermatologist in Jamaica encountered a patient who was bleaching her baby’s skin. Once the dermatologist told her to stop immediately, she became irritated and walked out of his office.
The effects of skin-bleaching are indeed highly dangerous. Harmful chemicals like hydroquinone and toxins like mercury can cause serious damage to the skin which cannot be reversed. The former is linked to ochronosis, a condition that leads to unsightly dark splotching. Doctors also blame skin bleaching for bunches of stretch marks across several Jamaicans’ faces.
Yet the threat of damage has not deterred many from bleaching their skin. In fact, some of the poorer people on the island have even resorted to using toothpaste or curry powder to give their skin a more yellow tint.
Health officials and some reggae artists are taking a public stand against skin-bleaching with radio advertisements, posters in schools and literature warning about the dangers of this process. In 2007, there was a similar anti-bleaching campaign called “Don’t Kill The Skin” which obviously wasn’t successful.
To be sure, the skin-bleaching obsession and color prejudice is not specific to Jamaica. Studies show that skin-lightening is prominent in India and Africa, where Jamaicans are said to get bleaching products on the black market.
In an allegedly post-racial society, it’s telling that light skin is still put on a pedestal in darker-skinned communities. This phenomenon shows that the roots of self-hate and idolization of whiter skin still run deep.
As a Brooklyn-born American with a Jamaican father, I was always taught to celebrate Jamaica’s rich culture and to honor our African ancestry. This cultural sense of pride clashes so violently with a desire to embrace European standards of beauty that it makes you wonder: are we prideful when compared to other blacks and islanders while still harboring an inferiority complex when it comes to whites?
No matter the underlying cause, the only way to tackle this problem is to address the color prejudice that’s alive and well in the black community. From rappers in pop culture who rap about preferring a “redbone” to even the exclusive usage of light-skinned models in videos and advertisements, there needs to be a collective dismantling of limited notions of beauty and a universal, renewed appreciation for darker skin tones.
With Jamaica’s new aggressive campaign to warn of the hazards of skin-bleaching, I can only hope this time around more people get the message on why skin-bleaching is dangerous—and the deeper message that they’re beautiful as they are.
Dear Editor, One gets the impression that Frederick Kissoon is bored, has run out of things to say, wants continuous attention, is cheating journalistically, or getting old and rusty – or all of the above! His KN 10-13-13 column, “Sex and skin colour: India confronts its white-skin obsession” is a case in point. Mr. Kissoon browses the internet and looks for topics that put India and Indians in bad light, and brings these to the fore in the Guyana newspapers to create a furor and irk the sensitivities of Indians. The only problem about that is that poor Mr. Kissoon moves too slowly for comfort. The hue and sex colour is not a recent phenomenon; the debate has been raging for years in India. And Mr. Kissoon should know that the biggest criticisms of the outrageous practices in India come from Indians themselves – through various forms in the media. So when Mr. Kissoon claims that the thing (Indian’s obsession with white skin) “is now wide open, thanks to Al Jazeera”, it evokes another chuckle from this journalist researcher. I quote verbatim from my KN letter of 11-02-13, “Freddie’s sensationalist column was typically partial and unbalanced”. In that letter, I stated, “Mr. Kissoon is angry that almost all of the ads have light skinned persons, and has repeatedly expressed his disgust that Indians in India have been partial to those with lighter complexion in the Bollywood arena. (I share this sense of disgust, as it is true not only to actors, for also those in certain employment, for those looking for a spouse, etc.). But does he know that Africans, from Jamaica to South Africa, use lightening creams to look lighter and non-black? A University of Cape Town study showed that one in three women in South Africa try hard to whiten their skin to look white, including local musician Nomasonto ‘Mshoza’ Mnisi, who is now several shades lighter. The situation in Nigeria is worse, where approximately 77% of the women use skin lighteners. And many African women in the continent and in the Diaspora, including Guyana, have used hair straighteners, thereby departing from the traditional appearance. In Jamaica, the most public proponent of bleaching is singing star Vybz Kartel , whose own complexion has dramatically lightened in recent years. His ‘Look Pon Me’ contains the lines: “Di girl dem love off mi brown cute face, di girl dem love off mi bleach-out face.” And residents of Denham Town, in west Kingston, say the introduction of a ‘new type’ of skin lightening cream has sparked fist fights and a rift among women in a section of their community. The women are reportedly accusing each other of spitefully purchasing too much of the commodity to get the other jealous. On 13-01-13, the Stabroek News carried an article, “Fly Jamaica inaugural flight delayed”, and showed a photo of the attendant crew. There were eight women shown in the photo; except for one, all of them were light skinned, most with dyed hair! The bottom line is people in many parts of the world like to look lighter, and advertisers hone in on that axiom. It is obvious that Mr. Kissoon browses the internet in search of material to insert in his daily column. There is nothing original about this cheap form of journalism. (If Mr. Kissoon wants some really juicy journalistic stuff, all he has to do is to check out the Indian media websites!). It is baffling why Mr. Kissoon would mention the Al Jazeera news item on the obsession of white skin colour of Indians, and ignore this dark side (pardon the pun) of the Africans. In a prominent article by that media house a few months ago (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/04/20134514845907984.html), Al Jazeera stated that almost 8 out of 10 women are involved in “bleaching” – a term used for whitening one’s skin – to look and feel more beautiful – far more than the Indians! Mr. Kissoon laments that the BBC has not carried the issue of India’s obsession with being “fair”. They did – on June 5, 2012, when Rajini Vaidyanathan wrote, “Has skin whitening in India gone too far?” Try again, Fred. Devanand Bhagwan
New York City will settle its long-running legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping, questioning and often frisking people on the street — a divisive issue at the heart of the mayoral race last year — by agreeing to reforms that a judge ordered in August, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.
In making the announcement, which he said he hoped would end a turbulent chapter in the city’s racial history, Mr. de Blasio offered a sweeping repudiation of the aggressive policing practices that had been a hallmark of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, but that had stoked anger and resentment in many black and Latino neighborhoods. He essentially reversed the course set by Mr. Bloomberg, whose administration had appealed the judge’s ruling.
“We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference. “We believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.”
The judge, Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, found that the department’s stop-and-frisk tactics were unconstitutional, and that it had resorted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling.” At the height of the program, in the first quarter of 2012, the police stopped people — mostly black and Latino men — on more than 200,000 occasions. A vast majority of those stopped were found to have done nothing wrong.
Judge Scheindlin had ordered the appointment of a monitor to develop, in consultation with the parties, widespread reforms of the department’s “policies, training, supervision, monitoring and discipline regarding stop-and-frisk.” That process will go forward as part of the agreement.
The remarkable shift that has occurred in the city’s policing tactics was sharply underscored by those present when Mr. de Blasio made the announcement. Among those standing beside him were some of the Police Department’s harshest critics, namely the directors of the civil rights legal groups that had pursued the two lawsuits that were covered by the agreement.
Mr. de Blasio, in seeking to fulfill a campaign pledge that had helped propel him to his landslide victory, said on Thursday that if the court approved the agreement the city would withdraw its appeal.
The mayor appeared with Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and the city’s corporation counsel, Zachary W. Carter, and chose a symbolic location to make his announcement: the Brownsville Recreation Center in a neighborhood of Brooklyn where the stop-and-frisk tactics had been widely applied.
A 2010 report in The New York Times found that the highest concentration of police stops in the city had occurred in a roughly eight-block area of Brownsville that is predominantly black.
“We will not break the law to enforce the law,” Mr. Bratton said in a statement. “That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.”
In discussing the agreement, Mr. de Blasio was generous in his welcome to the city’s former adversaries, who seemed delighted if not disbelieving at the turn of events in a legal battle that began in the late 1990s.
Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which helped to handle one of the lawsuits, Floyd v. City of New York, said: “This is where the real work begins. Nobody standing here is pretending this is ‘Mission Accomplished.’ ”
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which handled the other suit, said the agreement “brings us closer to closing the book on that tale of two cities.”
Bloomberg officials had credited the stop-and-frisk practice for the sharp reduction in murders and the removal of illegal guns from the streets. But while Mr. Bloomberg had characterized Judge Scheindlin’s ruling as dangerous and said it undermined public safety, Mr. de Blasio described the city’s decision to move toward reform as a moment “of profound progress.”
The mayor’s announcement comes amid a steep decline in the number of police stops, to about 21,000, in the third quarter of 2013, when Judge Scheindlin issued her opinion.
Mr. de Blasio said the stop-and-frisk practice was “broken and misused” and cited a “collective commitment to fix the fundamental problems that enabled stop-and-frisk to grow out of control and violate the rights of innocent New Yorkers.”
Indeed, the mayor not only agreed to accept the judge’s findings, but also embraced them. “This is what the democratic process is supposed to do,” he said, “and that includes the judicial process. It’s supposed to bring up the truth of what’s happening in our society, and oftentimes truths that are being ignored.”
In her ruling appointing the monitor, Peter L. Zimroth, a former corporation counsel, Judge Scheindlin did not address how long he would serve. Mr. de Blasio said that as part of the new agreement, the monitor’s role would be limited to three years, “contingent upon us meeting our obligations.”
Mr. de Blasio said he wanted to emphasize that a three-year oversight period was “a shorter window of monitoring than is customary, and that is in part because of our administration’s explicit commitment to reform, including the installation of an independent N.Y.P.D. inspector general.”
Jonathan C. Moore, co-counsel in the Floyd case, said later that the plaintiffs believed the reforms could be achieved within the three-year period.
“And if they drag their feet or they don’t comply, we have the right to ask for more time,” Mr. Moore said. She also ordered a pilot program to outfit a limited number of officers with tiny video cameras that would record while the officers were out on patrol.Among the remedies the judge had ordered were for “erroneous or misleading” police training materials to be corrected, and for the department to revise policies and training regarding racial profiling.
Judge Scheindlin also called for additional reforms, to be developed after members of the community, including the police, were given the chance to be heard at town-hall-style meetings and other forums.
As the deal was described on Thursday, the city formally asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to return the matter to the District Court.
The appeals panel that had blocked Judge Scheindlin’s ruling from going into effect had also removed her from overseeing the case, saying some of her actions could have led “a reasonable observer” to conclude that the appearance of impartiality had been compromised. (The panel found no “misconduct, actual bias or actual partiality” on her part.)
A new judge, Analisa Torres, will be asked to approve the agreement; once it is ratified, Mr. de Blasio said, “we will drop the appeal, and also with the court’s approval, we will settle the case.” The process of developing reforms would then begin.
It appears, though, that the city’s request to send the case to Judge Torres will not be decided immediately.
The appeals court on Thursday gave the police unions that had sought to intervene in the case until Feb. 7 to respond to the city’s request. Patrick J. Lynch, president of one of those unions, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said his group continued to have serious concerns about how the court-ordered remedies “will impact our members and the ability to do their jobs.”
“Right now we’re in this kind of no-man’s land,” he said. “I need to, as police commissioner, be in a position to say to my officers: ‘This is how you police constitutionally. This is how you police respectfully. This is how you police compassionately. And that these are the guardrails that you have to stay within.’ ”Mr. Bratton made it clear that he hoped the process would now move quickly.
“Police need that guidance,” he added, saying the settlement would provide that. “The quicker we move down this road, the better for all concerned.”
Correction: January 30, 2014
An earlier version of this article gave an outdated title for Eric Adams. Mr. Adams is the Brooklyn borough president; he is no longer a state senator.
Fight over hair weave leaves Brooklyn peacemaker dead, prosecutor says
Shawn Williams was shot twice in the back in August 2011 after he tried breaking up a row involving several women and his girlfriend, who mistakenly thought the others were making fun of her extensions, prosecutors said in court Thursday. Another woman’s boyfriend, Dennzel Holder, is on trial for second-degree murder.
Hair weaves, like the ones shown, inexplicably led to the murder of Shawn Williams after he tried to stop an argument between a group of women and his girlfriend that stemmed from talk about bad extensions, prosecutors say. Williams was allegedly shot in the back by Dennzel Holder, boyfriend of one of the fighting women.
He was shot to death during a senseless clash over a hair weave.
It started when a young Brooklyn man was locked in a furious street brawl in August 2011 in which five women threw punches and a bottle, a prosecutor charged Thursday.
“If it was not such a tragic incident, we would probably laugh about it because it’s so pathetic,” Assistant District Attorney Edward Purce told the jury in his opening argument.
Shawn Williams, the boyfriend of one combatant, was shot in the back “because two groups of young women were fighting about a hair weave,” the prosecutor said in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Dennzel Holder, 21, is accused of second-degree murder and faces 25 years to life if convicted. Williams, 27, was gunned down as he turned away from the shooter.
AARON SHOWALTER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Dennzel Holder, left, is facing murder charges for allegedly shooting Shawn Williams in 2011 after their girlfriends got into a physical fight over hair weaves.
The senseless shooting on a sunny summer day began as three teens walked along a shopping strip on Nostrand Ave. in Crown Heights, authorities charged.
Things took a turn for the worse when the conversation turned to hair extensions, according to the dead man’s sister.
Tiara Haynes recalled one of the trio making a catty crack, “My boyfriend wouldn’t let me walk out of the house looking like that.”
Sheniqua Cunningham, who was walking a few steps ahead of the trio with boyfriend Williams, believed the slight was aimed at her — and took offense.
DEBBIE EGAN-CHIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Dierdra Haynes holds a photo of son Shawn Williams, who was shot to death two years ago trying to diffuse a fight over his girlfriend's hair extensions. Accused killer Dennzel Holder's trial started Thursday.
“She didn’t look as glamorous, I guess, so she thought they were making fun of her,” Haynes said outside court.
But Holder “took this to another level,” the prosecutor argued. “He took it to a place where it was no longer something to joke about.”
Leonard Saunders, 51, says he is confident prosecutors will get a conviction — some justice for his slain son.
“I’ve seen some of the videotape of what transpired,” he told the Daily News. “I was wondering how the hell at around 3:40 in the afternoon somebody would come out with a gun in broad daylight with little kids running down the street, walking with their parents.”
The victim’s mother, Diedra Haynes, 51, laid eyes on the accused killer in the courtroom.
“He’s emotionless,” she said. “No remorse. No nothing.”
Before the Earth was I was Before time was I was you found me not long ago and called me Lucy I was four million years old I had my tools beside me I am the first man call me Adam I walked the Nile from Congo to Delta a 4,000 mile jog BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORYI lived in the land of Canaan before Abraham, before Hebrew was born I am Canaan, son of Ham I laugh at Arabs and Jews fighting over my land I lived in Saba, Southern Arabia I played in the Red Sea dwelled on the Persian Gulf I left my mark from Babylon to Timbuktu When Babylon acted a fool, that was me I was the fool When Babylon fell, that was me I fell BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY I was the first European call me Negrito and Grimaldi I walked along the Mediterranean from Spain to GreeceOh, Greece! Why did you kill Socrates? Why did you give him the poison hemlock? Who were the gods he introduced corrupting the youth of Athens? They were my gods, black gods from Africa Oh, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle Whose philosophy did you teach that was Greek to the Greeks? Pythagoras, where did you learn geometry? Democritus, where did you study astronomy? Solon and Lycurgus, where did you study law? In Egypt, and Egypt is Africa and Africa is me I am the burnt face, the blameless Ethiopian Homer told you about in the Iliad Homer told you about Ulysses, too, a story he got from me. BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY I am the first Chinese China has my eyes I am the Aboriginal Asian Look for me in Viet Nam, Cambodia & Thailand I am there, even today, black and beautiful BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY I used to travel to America long before Columbus came to me asking for directions Americo Vespucci on his voyage to America saw me in the Atlantic returning to Africa America was my home Before Aztec, Maya, Toltec, Inca & Olmec I was here I came to Peru 20,000 years ago I founded Mexico City See my pyramids, see my cabeza colosal in Vera Cruz and Yucatan that's me I am the Mexican for I am mixed with all men and all men are mixed with me I am the most just of menI am the most peaceful who loves peace day and night Sometimes I let tyrants devour me sometimes people falsely accuse me sometimes people crucify me but I am ever returning I am eternal, I am universal Africa is my home Asia is my home Americas is my home BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY
Marvin X tour schedule, 2014
New York University tribute to Jayne Cortez and Amiri Baraka
Schomburg Library, Harlem tribute to Amiri Baraka
Tribute to Watts Poets and Amiri Baraka
Eastside Arts Center, Oakland
Marvin X speaks at Hinton Center, Fresno CA
Marvin X speaks at Fresno City College
February 28 thru March 2
Marvin X at Black Arts Movement Conference
University of California Merced
Marvin X in Philadelphia for Mumia Abu Jamal's 60th Birthday
Marvin X in Newark, NJ for Ras Baraka, next Mayor of Newark
Marvin X and Nuyorican poet Nancy Mercado at the Harlem reception for Marvin X, hosted by poet Rashida Ishmaili in her beautiful home.
Hostess Rashida Ishmaili told the gathering of poets, professors, writers, singers, dancers and filmmakers that it was only fitting they each read a poem by Harlem's greatest poet Langston Hughes on his birthday, February 1. For his selection, Marvin X read Dream Variations: Dream Variations
To fling my arms wide In some place of the sun, To whirl and to dance Till the white day is done. Then rest at cool evening Beneath a tall tree While night comes on gently, Dark like me- That is my dream!
To fling my arms wide In the face of the sun, Dance! Whirl! Whirl! Till the quick day is done. Rest at pale evening... A tall, slim tree... Night coming tenderly Black like me.
Marvin X will perform at the NYU tribute to Jayne Cortez and Amiri Baraka on Tuesday, February 4. He will be joined by living jazz legend Henry Grimes on bass
Amiri Baraka with Henry Grimes
Henry Grimes on Amiri Baraka
"I cannot begin to describe the power of Amiri Baraka's influence on my life, or the many ways he enlightened me and uplifted my spirit, making it possible for me (and millions of others) to be proud of who we are and the people we came from, and to live courageously in the spirit of revolution, as he did. In the '60s, Amiri Baraka and I played benefit concerts for the civil-rights and black-power movements in New York City and the Village of Harlem, and we also participated in strategy meetings at Babatunde Olatunji's center and other secret locations in Harlem, coordinated and run by a number of organizations of that time -- SNCC, CORE, the NAACP, a few of the Panthers, Malcolm X and his people, members of the Organization of African Unity and the Black Arts Movement, and many more. I seem to remember Ralph Abernathy, Harry Belafonte, John Coltrane, James Farmer, Clifford Jarvis, Yusef Lateef coming through these meetings... Meanwhile, on the artistic side, in 1965 Amiri and I recorded an album called 'Sonny's Time Now' under the leadership of Sunny Murray, and also on that recording were Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, and Lewis Worrell. This was originally released on Amiri's Jihad label, and it is available now on the Japanese DIW label.
"A long time passed after that while I was in downtown Los Angeles, and then in September, 2005, Amiri and Amina and I worked together in a group playing to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; that group also included Edward 'Kidd' Jordan, Clyde Kerr, Kali Fasteau, and Hamid Drake, and it was sponsored by the Vision Festival people. My next time with Amiri was a duo with just the two of us at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn in March, 2009, and you can hear a small portion of that here:
After that, I played in a couple of Amiri's birthday parties in Newark and at the Schomburg Center. And our last date together (it hurts me to write that) was in the brilliant ARIKA symposium called 'Freedom Is a Constant Struggle' in Glasgow, Scotland last spring (2013), where we performed as a duo once again.
I love you, Amiri, a true hero for the ages."
There's much more information about Henry on his site, http://henrygrimes.com, and I'm working on updating his schedule for February shown there. We'll see you on Tuesday around 4 p.m. at NYU, with Chumma's assistance. Please contact us at any time if you need anything at all. Again, thank you so much!
Why not invite Marvin X to your venue for a reading/lecture/conversation on a variety of topics of critical concern: art and revolution, the psycholinguistic crisis of North American Africans, male/female relations, the death of patriarchal mythology, Pull up yo pants, so called Negro, it's about yo mind, not yo behind!? Call 510-200-4164. email@example.com
Marvin X tour schedule, 2014
New York University tribute to Jayne Cortez and Amiri Baraka
Schomburg Library, Harlem tribute to Amiri Baraka
Tribute to Watts Poets and Amiri Baraka
Eastside Arts Center, Oakland
Marvin X speaks at Hinton Center, Fresno CA
Marvin X speaks at Fresno City College
February 28 thru March 2
Marvin X at Black Arts Movement Conference
University of California Merced
Marvin X in Philadelphia for Mumia Abu Jamal's 60th Birthday
Marvin X in Newark, NJ for Ras Baraka, next Mayor of Newark
Frank Sherlock , whose appointment is to be announced by Mayor Nutter on Friday, succeeds Sonia Sanchez. "I think Frank Sherlock will make things happen," said the head of the poet laureate governing committee.
By John Timpane, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: February 01, 2014
At a City Hall ceremony today, Mayor Nutter announced the appointment of Frank Sherlock, 44, as the second poet laureate of Philadelphia.
Sherlock succeeds Sonia Sanchez. He'll serve for two years, during which he will receive a stipend of $5,000.
Duties include mentoring young poets, a couple of official readings, and community-service work. One of his first duties will be to help select a youth poet laureate, also the second, succeeding Siduri Beckman.
Beth Feldman Brandt, executive director of the poet laureate governing committee, said: "This position is not just an honorary appointment. We make it clear that the poet will be busy writing, working with younger poets, taking a lot of energy and commitment around the city." She said, "I think Frank Sherlock will make things happen."
Contacted at his South Philadelphia home, Sherlock, a native of the city, said he was notified "just before New Year's, but I haven't told many people, to keep the news in for the official announcement."
Sherlock is on a roll, having received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for last year. He is the author of at least five books of poetry, plus collaborative long-term works such as his project with fellow poet, Philadelphian, and Pew fellow CA Conrad titled The City Real and Imagined, based on walks through Philadelphia. He calls that "a conversation among different Philadelphias."
The appointment was the mayor's idea, announced in a speech in May 2011. It is organized by the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. The committee includes a range of writers, publishers, and cultural officials. An open call went out for applicants, and 26 poets applied. That was narrowed to about a dozen, "and then," says Brandt, "the hard part started. We had a small group of finalists come in to talk to us and tell us what they wanted to do as poet laureate. It was really hard to make a choice, because they were all so distinguished.
"Frank spoke in a really compelling way," Brandt says, "about his connections to Philadelphia."
Sherlock grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and attended Temple University, where he met poets. His interest in poetry began after he saw a reading by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko at the University of Pennsylvania. "I left there, and knew what I wanted to do," says Sherlock, who has worked with nonprofits that include the Food Trust and the Mural Arts Program.
His poetry, he says, is "a poetry of public spaces, a collaboration of encounters, a generative act." He is an urban poet, "because I've been in the middle of a city, and I love a good story, bits of speech you hear in passing. The real poetry is all around us: Everybody is putting it out there. You just have to have an ear for joint conversations."
His poetry is generous, as in these lines at the end of his poem Over Here :"Welcome home now get / back home The oven's been exploded / the bread is still expected This is for you let's eat."
The poem really is meant for the "you" who hears or reads it - and it's a collaborative act, something the poet and the reader make together, and consume together, thus the "let's eat."
There's also a sense of having a party in challenging surroundings. (Even though the oven's been exploded, we still expect bread.) From Ready-to-Eat Individual, a collaboration with the New Orleans poet Brett Evans: "Let us be this new city and liberate ourselves . . . This moment in the history of history, we might climb through the window to coronate ourselves as monarchs of our skin."
Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have poets laureate. Many cities, from Boise, Idaho, to Key West, Fla., do, too.
Is Philadelphia a poetry town? Stroudt says the experience of choosing a laureate showed that "there's an amazing range of really wonderful work being done out there."
The city "has so many contradictions, complications that somehow find a way to work together," says Sherlock. "Through my writing, my own Philadelphias have been transformed."
He says he hopes to start a program, titled "Write Your Block," in which residents "are encouraged to map their own neighborhoods through memories, stories, poetry."
Perhaps his greatest achievement as a poet is to merge Islamic cadences and sensibilities with scholarly American English and the language of the black ghetto.
With respect to Marvin X, declaring Muslim American literature as a field of study is valuable because recontextualizing it will add another layer of attention to his incredibly rich body of work.He deserves to be WAY better known than he is among Muslim Americans and generally, in the world of writing and the world at large. By we who are younger Muslim American poets, in particular, Marvin should be honored as our elder, one who is still kickin, still true to the word!
READ MARVIN X for RAMADAN!....
University of Arkansas-Fayetteville
Marvin X (El Muhajir)was a key poet and playwright of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) in the 1960s and early 1970s and is still active today. He is called the USA's Rumi and considered the father of Muslim American literature. He wrote for many of the leading black journals of the time, including Black Dialogue magazine, the Journal of Black Poetry, Soulbook, Black Scholar, Black Theater Magazine, Negro Digest/Black World and Muhammad Speaks. He founded Black Arts West Theatre with Ed Bullins, and Black House with Ed Bullins and Eldridge Cleaver, a political/cultural center which served for a short time as the headquarters of the Black Panther Party, the militant black nationalist group. Always a controversial and confrontational figure, Marvin X was banned from teaching at Fresno State University in the 1969 by the then state governor, Ronald Reagan. When asked in 2003 what had happened to the Black Arts Movement, Marvin X told Lee Hubbard: "I am still working on it..telling it like it is."
Marvin X was born Marvin Ellis Jackmon on May 29, 1944, in Fowler, California, an agricultural area near Fresno. His parents were Owendell and Marian Jackmon who published a black newspaper, The Fresno Voice, in the central valley. His father later became a florist, his mother ran her own real estate business. He has been known as Nazzam al Fitnah Muhajir, Maalik El Muhajir, and is now known simply as Marvin X. Marvin X attended Oakland City College (Merritt College) where he received his AA degree in 1964. He received his BA in English from San Francisco State College (San Francisco State University) in 1974 and his MA in 1975. The drama department at San Francisco State produced his first play, Flowers for the Trashman, 1965. Marvin X was involved with various theater projects and co-founded the Black Arts/West Theater with Bullins and others, 1966. Their aim was to provide a place where black writers and performers could work on drama projects, but they also had a political motive, to use theater and writing to campaign for the liberation of blacks from white oppression. Marvin X told Lee Hubbard: "The Black Arts Movement was part of the liberation movement of Black people in America. The Black Arts Movement was its artistic arm...[brothers] got a revolutionary consciousness through Black art, drama, poetry, music, paintings, and magazines." By the late 1960s Marvin X was a central figure in the Black Arts Movement in San Francisco and Harlem, New York (a member of the New Lafayette Theatre) and had become part of the Nation of Islam, changing his name to El Muhajir and following Elijah Muhammad. Like the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, Marvin X refused his induction to fight in Vietnam. But unlike Ali, Marvin X, along with several other brothers, decided to evade arrest. In 1967 he escaped to Toronto,Canada but was later arrested in Belize, Central America. He chastised the court for punishing him for refusing to be inducted into an army for the purpose of securing "White Power" throughout the world before he was sentenced to five months at Terminal Island Federal Prison. His statement was published in the journal The Black Scholar in 1971.
Despite his reputation as an activist, Marvin X is also an intellectual, and a celebrated writer. He is most concerned with the problem of using language created by whites in order to argue for freedom from white power. Many of his plays and poems reflect this struggle to express himself as a black intellectual in a white-dominated society. His play Flowers for the Trashman (1965), for example, is the story of Joe Simmons, a jailed college student whose bitter attack on his white cellmate became a national rallying call for many in the Nation of Islam and other black nationalists. Marvin X's own poetry is heavy with Muslim ideology and propaganda, but it is supported by a sensitive poetic ear. Perhaps his greatest achievement as a poet is to merge Islamic cadences and sensibilities with scholarly American English and the language of the black ghetto. Like his close friend Eldridge Cleaver, in the late 1980s and 1990s Marvin X went through a period of addiction to crack cocaine. His play One Day in the Life (2000) takes a tragicomic approach to the issue of addiction and recovery, dealing with his own experiences with drug addiction and the experiences of Black Panthers, Cleaver, and Huey Newton (1942-1989). The play has been presented in community theaters around the United States as both a stage play and a video presentation. After emerging from addiction Marvin X founded Recovery Theatre and began organizing events for recovering addicts and those who work with them. His autobiography, Somethin' Proper (1998) includes reminiscences of his life fighting for black civil rights as well as an analysis of drug culture. Drug addiction and "reactionary" rap poetry are two areas of black culture that he has argued have "contributed to the desecration of black people." His latest books are a memoir of Eldridge Cleaver, My Friend the Devil, BBP 2009 and Mythology of Pussy and Dick, a manhood/womanhood rites of passage, BBP 2009.
In the late 1990s Marvin X became an influential figure in the campaign to have
reparations paid for the treatment of blacks under slavery. He organized meetings, readings, and performances to promote black culture and civil rights. He has worked as a university teacher since the early 1970s, as well as giving readings and guest lectures in universities and theaters throughout the United States. Marvin X has also received several awards, including a Columbia University writing grant in 1969 and a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1972 and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1979.
Sudan Rajuli Samia (poems), Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1967. Black Dialectic (proverbs), Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1967. Fly to Allah: Poems, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1969. The Son of Man, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1969. Black Man Listen: Poems and Proverbs, Broadside Press, 1969. Black Bird (parable), Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1972. Woman-Man's Best Friend, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1973. Selected Poems, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1979 Confession of a Wife Beater and Other Poems, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1981. Liberation Poems for North American Africans, Al Kitab Sudan Publishing, 1982. Love and War: Poems, Black Bird Press, 1995. Somethin' Proper, autobiography, BBP, 1998. In the Crazy House Called America, essays, BBP, 2002. Wish I Could Tell You the Truth, essays, BBP, 2005. In the Land of My Daughters, poems, BBP,2005. Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality, essays, 2007. How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy,BBP, 2008 Eldridge Cleaver, My friend the Devil, a memoir, BBP, 2009 Mythology of Pussy, a manhood/womanhood rites of passage, BBP, 2009
Plays Flowers for the Trashman (one-act), first produced in San Francisco at San Francisco State College, 1965. Come Next Summer, first produced in San Francisco at Black Arts/West Theatre, 1966. The Trial, first produced in New York City at Afro-American Studio for Acting and Speech, 1970. Take Care of Business, (musical version of Flowers for the Trashman) first produced in Fresno, California, at Your Black Educational Theatre, 1971. Resurrection of the Dead, first produced in San Francisco at Your Black Educational Theatre, 1972. Woman-Man's Best Friend, (musical dance drama based on author's book of same title), first produced in Oakland, California, at Mills College, 1973. In the Name of Love, first produced in Oakland at Laney College Theatre, 1981. One Day in the Life, 2000, produced at Recovery Theatre, San Francisco. Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam, (with Ed Bullins),produced at the New Federal Theatre, New York, 2008. Sergeant Santa, 2002.Other One Day in the Life (videodrama and soundtrack),2002. The Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness (video documentary), 2002. Love and War (poetry reading published on CD), 2001.
Norman Richmond, aka Jalali and Marvin X were comrades in exile (Toronto, Canada, 1967) during the Vietnam War. Norman remained in Canada, Marvin X returned underground to America, later served time in Terminal Island Federal Prison.
From Negro History Week to African Liberation Month
Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali
“Who owns history? Not even the ones who made it.”
Kumasi, Black August Organizing Committee
Black History Month must be updated for the 21st century. February should be the month that we re-double our struggle against imperialism and white supremacy, and for reparations for slavery, the slave trade and colonialism.
This was the message that Gerald Horne, author of Black Revolutionary William Patterson and the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle An African American Communist's global activism for racial equality , left the audience with when he spoke at the beautiful Trane Studio in Toronto in February several years ago. While we joined back then in celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Haitian revolution, We must also stand with the people of Zimbabwe against the West and their vicious attacks on President Robert Mugabe. The people of Zimbabwe should be allowed to resolve the contradictions among themselves. "Hands off Mugabe!" should become the cry of Africans at home and abroad, and of all progressive people.
Human rights attorney Ezili Dantò is dedicated to correcting the media lies and colonial narratives about Haiti. A writer, performance poet and lawyer, Dantò is founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, runs the Ezili Dantò website, listserve, eyewitness project, FreeHaitiMovement and the on-line journal, Haitian Perspectives. Dantò is attempting to keep the Haitian question alive in the 21st Century.
Roy Agyemang’s film Mugabe: Villain or Hero?, is being screened around the world. British-born of Ghanaian parents filmmaker Agyemang was in Zimbabwe attempting to make a documentary on President Robert Mugabe at a time when all western media was banned. What was intended to be a three-month mission, turned into three life-changing years. Mugabe: Villain or Hero?,was a hit at the 2013 Pan African Film Festival.
Agyemang and his UK based Zimbabwean fixer, Garikayi, worked their way through the corridors of power, probing the cultural, economical and historical factors at the heart of the “Zimbabwean crisis”. In their quest to interview Mugabe, Roy and Garikayi were mistaken for the British Secret Service. Roy narrates this personal epic journey; as they gain unprecedented access to Robert Mugabe, find themselves on Colonel Gaddafi’s private jet, and around a host of prominent African leaders. February is the perfect time to shine the light on the work on Danto and Agyemang.
During February – and every month –we should also call on boards of education in North America to put C.L.R. James' classic book about the Haitian revolution, "The Black Jacobins", in classrooms; demand the U.S. government return Grenada's archives, stolen during the 1983 U.S. invasion; that boards of education in North America teach in the public schools about the global African presence and demand that reparations be paid to Africans at home and aboard for the enslavement and the colonization of the land and the people.
Because of African people's colonization, enslavement and dislocation, our people suffer what Harold Cruse, the author of "The Crisis of The Negro Intellectual", calls historical discontinuity. We as a people still allow others to define our reality. I am concerned how others are attempting to define the month of February for their own purposes.
McDonald's calls it Black History Month; Harbourfront Centre once referred to it as African Heritage Month. They have gone back to Black History Month. A growing minority prefers the term African Liberation Month.
Richard B. Moore, the great Barbadian revolutionary and author of the book, "The Name Negro: Its Origin and Evil Use", was clear on the issue of naming people and historical events. Moore always maintained that dogs and slaves are named by their masters; free people name themselves.
Where did the idea of Black History Month come from? Did it drop from the skies? No. Was it conceived in the lab of a mad African scientist? Wrong again. Personally, I'm tired of hearing uninformed people remark: "They give us the coldest and shortest month of the year to celebrate Black History Month."
First of all, they didn't give us anything. The great African American historian Carter G. Woodson, his organization – the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which was formed in 1915 – and the masses of African people in the United States and Canada forced the system to recognize the contribution of Africans to the world. Woodson's organization came into existence only 30 years after the Berlin Conference, where European colonial powers carved up Africa like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Why did Woodson pick February as the time to commemorate Africa's many gifts to humanity? Says John Henrik Clarke, in his book, Africans At the Crossroads: Notes For An African World Revolution: "Black History Week comes each year about the second Sunday in February, the objective being to select the week that will include both February 12, the birth of Abraham Lincoln, and February 14, the date Frederick Douglass calculated to have been his natal day. Sometimes the celebrations can include one day, in which case Douglass' date gets preference."
February never was meant to be the only month African people reflected on their past. Clarke states: "The aim is not to enter upon one week's study of (B)lack people's place in history. Rather, the celebration should represent the culmination of a systematic study of Black people throughout the year. Initially, the observance consisted of public exercises emphasizing the salient facts brought to light by researchers and publications of the association during the first 11 years of its existence. The observance was widely supported among (B)lack Americans in schools, churches and clubs. Gradually, the movement found support among other ethnic groups and institutions in America and abroad."
We've come a long way since Woodson created Negro History Week in 1926. His classic book, The Mis-Education of the Negro (the inspiration for the title of singer Lauryn Hill's The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill), is a must read for anyone who wants to be on the right side of history. The time has come to update Woodson's idea. As activist/scholar Abdul Akalimat, author of The African American Experience and Cyberspace, has pointed out: "Some of us have been promoting the notion that it was important to move from Negro to Black, from Week to Month and now it is time to move from general notion of history to the specific theme of Black history which is liberation."
The question is history for what? The answer is for liberation. Huge hamburger chains have appropriated images of the great kings and queens of Africa. President Barack Hussein Obama has been lukewarm of about Black History Month and has actually nationalized Black Music Month by changing it to African American Music Appreciation Month. The Black Music Association which was created by Kenny Gamble and Ed Wright put together Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley and the Wailers attempting to make it an All-African affair.
African people, like all people, have a right to determine who their friends are and who their enemies are.
Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles.
He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects.
Richmond is currently working as a producer/host of Saturday Morning Live on Radio Regent http://radioregent.com/ He can also be heard on Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio http://uhurunews.com/radio/?tzoffminutes=300 His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in the Burning Spear newspaper. The Burning Spear newspaper, known as the "Voice of the International African Revolution," is a print and online newspaper. The paper is the oldest Black Power newspaper in existence and has published without interruption since the 1960s.After leaving Los Angeles in the 1960s Richmond moved to Toronto, where he co founded the Afro American Progressive Association, one of the first Black Power organizations in Canada. Before moving to Toronto permanently, Richmond worked with the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers. He was the youngest member of the central staff. When the League split he joined the African Peoples Party. In 1992, Richmond received the Toronto Arts Award. In front of an audience that included the mayor of Toronto, Richmond dedicated his award to Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, the African National Congress of South Africa, and Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba. Richmond began his career in journalism at the African Canadian weekly Contrast. He went on to be published in the Toronto Star, the Toronto Globe & Mail, the National Post, the Jackson Advocate, Share, the Islander, the Black American, Pan African News Wire, and Black Agenda Report. Internationally he has written for the United Nations, the Jamaican Gleaner, the Nation (Barbados), and Pambazuka News.
Eyeing sanctions thaw, Western delegates race to Iran
By Siavosh Ghazi18 hours
Tehran (AFP) - Six months after the inauguration of Iran's moderate President Hassan Rouhani, Western diplomats and businessmen are racing to Tehran hoping that a diplomatic thaw will reopen lucrative markets.
A landmark agreement reached with world powers on Iran's controversial nuclear programme in November has raised hopes that Western sanctions could be lifted on the oil-rich country with a population of 76 million.
A delegation of 110 members of MEDEF-- France's largest employers' union-- is due in Tehran on Monday to resume talks after an absence of several years.
No contracts will be signed due to the strict international sanctions still in place, but the visit is seen as a key step towards regaining a foothold in the country.
Iran's auto market was once dominated by French giants including Peugeot, which halted operations in 2012, and Renault, which sharply scaled back its presence due to US sanctions on spare parts deliveries in June 2013.
The French firms hope to regain their share against Asian rivals, particularly Chinese firms, which are not bound by the Western sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a …
The number of cars produced in Iran was more than halved between 2011 and 2013, from 1.7 million to just 500,000.
Iran clinched the interim deal in November with the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- under which it agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
The six-month agreement, which took effect January 20, is aimed at buying time for a comprehensive agreement.
Western nations have long accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran.
The breakthrough in the talks has been largely attributed to the election last year of Rouhani, a reputed moderate who had vowed to pursue a diplomatic solution to the nuclear impasse.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) greets Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino during their meetin …
"Among the regional countries and compared to Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya, Iran is paradoxically known to enjoy a remarkable stability," an Iranian analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Western diplomats return
Iran has also seen recent high-profile political visits, including by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who led a delegation last week aimed at boosting economic ties between the two countries, which back opposite sides in Syria's civil war.
Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino visited Tehran in December.
And Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is due to arrive in Tehran on Monday, while his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski is expected in late February.
Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw (L) shakes hands with Iranian MP, Abbasali Mansouri (R), …
The recent visits of former British foreign minister Jack Straw and ex-UN chief Kofi Annan could be also added to the list.
Iran's diplomatic ties with Western countries were severely strained under Rouhani's predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his hard line on the nuclear programme and incendiary rhetoric towards Israel.
"These visits are a sign that the taboo of sanctions has been shattered," Amir Mohebian, a political analyst, told AFP.
"This is already a major success for the diplomacy of President Rouhani."
There is no sign of any diplomats from the United States -- still dubbed the "Great Satan" by Iran's hardliners -- making their way to Tehran.
But US Secretary of State John Kerry has met repeatedly with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, and on Sunday the two met on the sidelines of a Munich security conference to discuss the next round of nuclear talks.
Iran is set to resume negotiations with the P5+1 in Vienna on February 18.