Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Documentary: "No End In Sight"



Check out the trailor for the new documentary, "No End In Sight."

"The first film of its kind to chronicle the reasons behind Iraq’s descent into guerilla war, warlord rule, criminality and anarchy, NO END IN SIGHT is a jaw-dropping, insider’s tale of wholesale incompetence, recklessness and venality. Based on over 200 hours of footage, the film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003) as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts... NO END SIGHT alternates between U.S. policy decisions and Iraqi consequences, systematically dissecting the Bush Administration’s decisions.  The consequences of those decisions now include 3,000 American deaths and 20,000 American wounded, Iraq on the brink of civil war, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, the strengthening of Iran, the weakening of the U.S. military, and economic costs of over $2 trillion. It marks the first time Americans will be allowed inside the White House, Pentagon, and Baghdad’s Green Zone to understand for themselves what has become the disintegration of Iraq."

Official Website of "No End In Sight"

Steely Dan - "Peg" (instrumental)

I know. I know. Steely Dan. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I'm in the former camp...

This is a really smooth, groovin' instrumental version of "Peg." I kinda miss the vocal, but dig the groove...

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Free the Jena 6", pt. 2: NPR report


NPR has a nice story on the Jena, Louisiana, case today:

NPR: Beating Charges Split La. Town Along Racial Lines

For more info, scroll through the archives of this blog (on the left side) and click on my previous post about this disturbing situation.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Burn, Baby, Burn"

Between 1965 and 1968, hundreds of American cities, big and small - Detroit, Newark, Harlem, Tampa, Watts, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Rochester, Cambridge, Danville, Chicago... - erupted into racial violence, the legacy of systematic racial inequality, poverty and urban decay. The violence climaxed during the summer of 1967 and in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination in the spring of 1968. Later that year, the Kerner Commission report stated that the civil disorders were the result of racism and poverty and warned that "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal."

For a time during the late-1960s and early-1970s, there were some who attempted to address the deep problems of urban America and a few modest gains were even achieved, but as Kevin Boyle, author of "Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age," writes in his essay (below), "In the late 1970s and '80s, the national commitment to the urban poor unraveled, destroyed by a furious white backlash and a resurgent conservatism that vilified big government and sanctified the free market. With that shift in American politics, hope gave way to neglect. It has been 30 years since the federal government really invested in America's inner cities. The only time anyone talks about segregation is when the Supreme Court prohibits another school district from employing the mildest of racial remedies. The welfare state has been eviscerated, not expanded. Even progressives prefer to focus more on the needs of the middle class than on the burdens of the poor. And on the streets of Detroit and in other urban cores, life grows inexorably grimmer."

Today, the "urban crisis" remains one of the most persistent problems confronting the United States. Unfortunately, for most white Americans, the urban crisis is little understood and often distorted. Mainly it is avoided or ignored. I'd like to suggest that in order to understand the ongoing chasm of caste and class in America, and ultimately fix it, we need to first delve into the roots of the problem. Recently, there have been a flurry of "40 years later" reports in the media about the riots of 1967 and their contemporary meanings. If you want to take a look, here are some examples:

Detroit riot of 1967, the largest of the era:
Kevin Boyle on 1967 Detroit riot, the largest of the era
Detroit News Special Series: "Panic in Detroit: Forty Years Later"
Detroit Free Press: "Lessons from the '67 Riot"
NPR: "Remembering the Riots: Detroit 40 Years Later"
NPR: "40 Years Later, Detroit Slowly Sees Renewal"
NPR: "Mayhem in the City: The Detroit Riots"
NPR: A Voice from the Detroit Riots: Loretta Holmes
NPR: Eyewitnesses to Detroit's Chaos
NPR: Blog of the Nation - A Long, Hot Summer in Detroit
NPR: Painting Depicts Desperation of Detroit Riots

Newark riot of 1967:
NYTimes: "With 40-Year Prism, Newark Surveys Deadly Riot"
NPR: Examining the Newark Riots 40 Years Later
Current TV: Newark Riots Forty Years Later
NPR: 40 Years On, Newark Re-Examines Painful Riot Past
NPR: Newark Still Affected by Decades-Old Riots

Other cities:
YouTube video on Watts Riot
Series of stories by NPR on 1965 Watts Riot
Hough (Cleveland): This One Was Planned (TIME Magazine)
Hough (Cleveland): The Jungle & the City (TIME Magazine)
NPR on 1967 Cambridge, MD, racial violence
NPR on 1967 Plainfield, NJ, racial violence
Chronology of 1967 Milwaukee Race Riot

Kerner Commission, or National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders:
excerpts from the 1968 Kerner Commission report
Kerner Commission, 30 Years Later

The Impact of 1960s racial violence:
Study: Economic Impact of 1960s Riots
Study: Economic Impact of 1960s Riots on Small Businesses
Study: Labor Market Effects of 1960s Riots

Other Relevant Stuff:
NPR: 'Root Shock': Urban Renewal and Black Neighborhoods

Friday, July 27, 2007

Prince: "All Mixed Up"


It's Friday, so listen up!

Go download this really fantastic mash-up of Prince tunes. It's free, too...

In general, I think mash-ups don't often deliver, but this one is really hot. Lots of funky grooves. A whole bunch of nice layering. Excellent, seamless transitions. And, just a boat-load of booty-shakin' possibilities, perfect for the weekend...

Dig it:
Prince: "All Mixed Up"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Plot to Seize the Whitehouse!

In 1933, a powerful group of U.S. industrial and banking titans - including the DuPonts, Prescott Bush, and leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire & Rubber - hatched a plan to overthrow the new government of Franklin Roosevelt. The plotters were afraid that the liberal reforms coming into view during the New Deal would erode the power of corporations and wealthy individuals and lead the U.S. toward socialism, bankruptcy and dictatorship. These people admired the fascist regimes sweeping to power in Europe and even studied those regimes and their paths to power as possible models for the U.S. coup. The conspirators were financed, at least in part, by the American Liberty League and attempted to recruit Gen. Smedley Butler, a popular military leader and one of the most decorated soldiers of his era, to lead the plot to seize the White House. Butler initially pretended to go along with the plot in order to find out more information, but ultimately spilled the beans to Congress. In its report, McCormack-Dickstein Committee supported Butler's claims, but failed to investigate further. In fact, some argue that Congress actually participated in a cover-up, pointing to the fact that the committee never called any of the plotters to testify and they erased the names of the conspirators from the transcript of Gen. Butler's testimony. Members of Roosevelt's own administration who had been connected to the potential plot also had an interest in minimizing the story once it emerged. Thankfully, now, many years later, we do in fact have an established paper trail verifying the basic substance of Butler's claims... Historians argue about how threatening the plot really was, but most accept the basic details as established. The question is, was it a "cocktail putsch," as a dismissive Fiorello LaGuardia claimed, or something more immenent, and therefore more ominous, as Butler and Jules Archer contend? Or, was it somewhere in between?

While never operationalized, and whether or not it was a real or perceived threat, the plot to overthrow Roosevelt's government was far along when it was uncovered. It illustrates the potential danger to democracy of massive, concentrated wealth in the hands of a small circle of individuals and large corporations and raises profound questions about who really rules America. It also underscores the way the powerful will act to defend their interests when they perceive them to be threatened.

If you are new to this history, here is a recent BBC audio story on the plot to seize the White House that provides a nice summary of the events and evidence (28 min.):

BBC documentary on plot to seize the White House

Or, read Jules Archer, "The Plot to Seize the White House" (recently reissued by Skyhorse Publishing):

Amazon link to The Plot to Seize the Whitehouse

full online text of The Plot to Seize the White House

If you are more inclined toward the audio/visual, you might want to check out the History Channel documentary, "The Plot to Overthrow FDR":

Amazon link to History Channel documentary, "The Plot to Overthrow FDR"

And, if you are wanting more on the Bush angle, see:

London Guardian article

Here are a couple more sources on the plot to seize the White House and corporate America's links to fascism during the depression era:

Wallstreet's Plot to Seize the White House website

"Profits ├╝ber Alles! American Corporations and Hitler," by Jacques R. Pauwels

Final thought: We have to ask ourselves why we tell certain stories about the past and not others. Why do some things get included in the popular narrative of our collective past and other things get left out? Why is it that we don't tell or teach the story of the 1933 coup? Why is our popular version of the past silent on this point? What does this tell us about the past? Perhaps more importantly, what does this tell us about the present?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Octopus Magazine

If poetry is your thing, you might like to try Octopus Magazine, which is put out by a group of young poets here in Lincoln. Like wine, I enjoy poetry and know what tastes good to me, but I am not articulate about it at all. That said, Octopus has garnered regional noteriety among poetry people who seem to know what they are talking about...

Here is how the folks at Octopus describe themselves:

"Octopus is an online poetry magazine named after a sea creature that is intelligent, lives in dens, and uses ink as a defense mechanism. Every issue features a combination of 8."

See for yourself:
Octopus Magazine

Monday, July 23, 2007

Michael Hedges - Because It's There

Here is Michael Hedges playing "the harp guitar." Hedges created some cool music for this strange instrument, including "Because It's There." This clip, again, gives a nice view of Hedges' hands. Watch how he does interesting things with BOTH of them at the same time.

The video highlights one of the many strange hair and fashion phases of Michael Hedges' life. Believe it or not, this look isn't as bad as the spiked dog collar with leather pants phase, or the animal print stretch pants phase... Even so, he was one of the most talented and unique guitar players of the 1980s-90s.


For more information on Hedges, check out this wesite:
Nomad: A Michael Hedges Site

Michael Hedges - Aerial Boundaries

I got up this morning with my friend Chris DeVine bouncing around in my head. Chris introduced me to the amazing guitar playing of Michael Hedges when we were in high school. I still thrill at Hedges playing style. There is no one quite like him. There is a kind of peace and beauty that pervades many of his songs. Unfortunately, Hedges died in a tragic car accident a decade or so back, so all we are left with is his CDs and videos. "Aerial Boundaries" is one of his more well-known tracks and this video, despite the funny setting, gives you a nice view of his hands as he plays.

It is also excellent "Monday morning music."

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

onBeing


The Washington Post has been doing a very cool and interesting ongoing (video) series at their website, titled, "onBeing." It is a collection of brief interviews with individuals who share their particular way of being, their philosophy of life.

Here is how the website explains it:

"onBeing is a project based on the simple notion that we should get to know one another a little better. What you’ll find here is a series of videos that takes you into the musings, passions, histories and quirks of all sorts of people. The essence of who they are, who we are."

"There will be a new video every Wednesday, so check back often. In the meantime, feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section and tell us about someone you’d like to see in onBeing. Over time, we should end up with a pretty cool community."

Each slice of humanity, if you are open to it, has something to offer. Through everyone's little (and sometimes big) wierdnesses, we catch sight of that which links us together. It is really quite affirming, I think.

Check it out...

onBeing

What would you talk about...?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Say It Loud! 65 Great Protest Songs


The folks at Popmatters have put together an interactive list of "65 Great Protest Songs," spanning from Beethoven to the Dixie Chicks, and including a bunch of YouTube clips, images, etc. As with any list, it leaves room for debate. Check it out here:

Introduction
Part 1: Beethoven to Phil Ochs (1824-1965)
Part 2: Janis Ian to Jimi Hendrix (1966-1970)
Part 3: Curtis Mayfield to The English Beat (1970-1980)
Part 4: Heaven 17 to N.W.A. (1981-1988)
Part 5: Public Enemy to Dixie Chicks (1989-2006)

Any reactions? Do you disagree with any of the choices here? Would you add anything to the list?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Beatles - "All You Need Is Love" (1967)

This John Lennon song was the Beatles' contribution to, "Our World," the first-ever live global television satellite link. The performance, which was broadcast on June 25, 1967, reached 350 million people in 26 countries. "All You Need is Love" became the de facto anthem of the Summer of Love...

When asked in 1971 whether songs like "Give Peace a Chance" and "Power to the People" were propaganda songs, John Lennon answered, "Sure. So was 'All You Need Is Love'. I'm a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change."

It is interesting now, in hindsight, to think about where the merger of global technology, consumerism and youth culture has taken us...

Martin Luther King, Jr. - "Beyond Vietnam: 40 Years Later"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NO! The Rape Documentary Trailer

This looks like an important and powerful new documentary. Here is what the website has to say:

"Produced and directed over a period of eleven years, seven of which were full time, by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, NO! explores the international reality of rape, other forms of sexual assault and healing through the first person testimonies, scholarship, spirituality, activism, and cultural work of African-Americans. This groundbreaking, award-winning documentary also explores how rape is used as a weapon of homophobia."

Please take a moment to check out the trailor, above, and encourage your local independent theater or university to screen it.

Here is an article about the film from In These Times:
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3227/stories_of_survival/

The official website for the film is:
http://www.notherapedocumentary.org

Monday, July 16, 2007

World Change: Change Your Thinking

Justin Kemerling, a brilliant young graphic designer here in Lincoln, turned me on to World Change recently when I posted about the Urban Culture Project in Kansas City. It is a fascinating website with all kinds of positive ideas and resources aimed at creating a better world.

From the World Change Manifesto:



"WorldChanging.com works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together."

"Informed by that premise, we do our best to bring you links to (and analysis of) those tools, models and ideas in a timely and concise manner. We don't do negative reviews – why waste your time with what doesn't work? We don't offer critiques or exposes, except to the extent that such information may be necessary for the general reader to apprehend the usefulness of a particular tool or resource. We don't generally offer links to resources which are about problems and not solutions, unless the resource is so insightful that its very existence is a step towards a solution. We pay special attention to tools, ideas and models that may have been overlooked in the mass media. We make a point of showing ways in which seemingly unconnected resources link together to form a toolkit for changing the world."

Check it out for yourself:

World Change website

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fannie Lou Hamer: "Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired" documentary

This amazing documentary was made by two 12 year old students in California. It runs about 10 minutes. Please take some time to have a look. Hamer is one of the great heroines of recent American history...

It's a "White Thing"

One of the most difficult dynamics of race in America is the invisibility of whiteness to most white people. Because whiteness is normative to white people - the water that we swim in as fish in this society - most whites fail to "see" their own racial identity or the ways they gain advantage and privilege from their racial designation. As a result, for most white people, if they think about race at all, they see it as a black thing, or a brown thing, or a yellow thing, or a red thing... but definitely not as a white thing. Race is removed from white people. It is "those people's" problem. Whites are thereby not invested in the problem of race directly and they thus don't often feel compelled to act to rectify this ongoing problem; There is no immediacy to racial issues for most whites because of this disconnect. But, we might remember that Martin Luther King and James Baldwin both eloquently made the point that the problem of race in America is, in fact, not a problem with black people, it is a problem with white people. The problem of race is the problem of white supremacy. Whiteness is at the root of this issue. Always has been. As a result, to overcome this historic tragedy, white people need to wake up to their racial advantage. The first stage in this process is rendering visible that which is too often invisible - at least to whites - in American society.

I'd like to blog more on this issue down the line, but for now I'll leave it at what I've just written. The reason I bring this up now is that the Jena 6 case is deeply rooted in the issue of whiteness and white supremacy. As my mind has been turning on this case, I was reminded of two recent articles on the subject that I think make sense to post near the Jena 6 stuff.

Check out articles here:

"Whites Just Don't Understand the Black Experience," by Margaret Kamara in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

"The Reality of Race: Is the Problem That White People Don't Know or Don't Care?," by Robert Jensen for www.Alternet.org

Free the "Jena 6": White Supremacy in Jena, Louisiana

"All white jury sitting before white judge agrees with white prosecutor and all white witnesses and convicts black youth in racially charged high school criminal case."

This tragic case speaks for itself:

"In a small, still mostly segregated, section of rural Louisiana, an all white jury heard a series of white witnesses called by a white prosecutor testify in a courtroom overseen by a white judge in a trial of a fight at the local high school where a white student who had been making racial taunts was hit by black students. The fight was the culmination of a series of racial incidents starting when whites responded to black students sitting under the "white tree" at their school by hanging three nooses from the tree. The white jury and white prosecutor and all white supporters of the white victim were all on one side of the courtroom. The black defendant, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, and his supporters were on the other. The jury quickly convicted Mychal Bell of two felonies - aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Bell, who was a 16-year-old sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, faces up to 22 years in prison. Five other black youths await similar trials on second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy charges."

And it gets worse... Check out the full story at Truth Out:
"Injustice in Jena as Nooses Hang From the 'White Tree'"

Here is the Chicago Tribune story referenced in the previous story:
Racial Demons Rear Heads

Here are two reports on the case by Democracy Now!
Democracy Now!, pt. 1
Democracy Now!, pt. 2

Here is an article on the case from Counterpunch:
Counterpunch article

Here is a website dedicated to supporting the "Jena 6":
Friends of Justice

To sign an online petition to support the "Jena 6" go here:
Online Petition

NYTimes: School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some


Following the recent anti-integration decision by the Supreme Court many school districts will be moving toward plans that emphasize economic diversity over racial diversity. The NYTimes ran an interesting piece about these plans. The result? Increased re-segregation. From the article:

"San Francisco began considering factors like family income, instead of race, in school assignments when it modified a court-ordered desegregation plan in response to a lawsuit. But school officials have found that the 55,000-student city school district, with Chinese the dominant ethnic group followed by Hispanics, blacks and whites, is resegregrating."

"The number of schools where students of a single racial or ethnic group make up 60 percent or more of the population in at least one grade is increasing sharply. In 2005-06, about 50 schools were segregated using that standard as measured by a court-appointed monitor. That was up from 30 schools in the 2001-02 school year, the year before the change, according to court filings."

To read the full report, go to:

NYTimes: School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some

March for Peace, pt. V

















Our time with Ashley, Mike and now Tom - "March for Peace" - came to a close yesterday (Saturday) with a music festival and peace rally in Carter Lake Park just outside Omaha, on the Iowa-Nebraska border. Two nights previous to that, I drove out to Ashland to meet Ashley, Mike and Drea after their 20+ mile walk that day. Drea had a new appreciation for what it really means to WALK 1,600 miles! The amazing Miller sisters - Lana and Carol - put the marchers up for the night and prepared a HUGE cook-out for all of us. They live on a gorgeous farm compound with two cows, two pigs and some chickens! We had a great time hanging out, talking, jumping on the trampoline, checking out the farm animals and laughing a lot. One of the great things about this experience has been the way it has connected more of us here in Nebraska! At the Saturday rally, there were booths from progressive groups, a number of bands, a slam poet, speakers on a variety of issues - anti-war, immigration, health care, etc. - and a lot of signs. Here are some pics. Again, I hope you will follow the progress of Mike, Ashley and Tom as they continue their journey to D.C.

Click here: March for Peace

Thanks guys! You made a big impression on all of us here in Nebraska and we won't soon forget your example, your courage or your inspiration! Keep on truckin' for peace...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street, pt. II - "Superstition"

Is there any question that the 70s were super-funky and that Sesame Street was one of the coolest shows ever? Again, keep an eye out for the little guy in the pink sweater FEELIN' IT!

Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street - 1-2-3 Sesame Street!

This is one of my all-time favorite YouTube clips. Super funky. I love the way the kid in the pink sweater is feelin' it... Dig it. Happy Friday!

Why No Movies About the Civil Rights Movement?

The Washington Post recently published an interesting piece about Hollywood's reluctance to make films about the civil rights movement. The article raises some important questions about race, the media and white America's unwillingness to confront its racial past (or present, for that matter).

From the article:

"That the story of the most important social and political moment in this country's history has gone untold in its dominant narrative art form is shocking on any number of levels (one being that among the movement's most effective tactics was creating media images). Here is a chapter of American life whose legacy and ramifications -- from Don Imus's idea of humor to the decisions of the current Supreme Court -- are still deeply, if painfully, felt. It's a chapter filled with charismatic characters and compelling stories. It's a chapter that -- considering the ever-increasing number of bankable African American stars -- seems not just worthy of Hollywood's attention but positively ideal for a major movie event."

"Ask studio executives why this is, and this is what you'll hear: Black-themed films don't play overseas. African American actors can't open movies. American filmgoers don't like dramas. Multi-character historical dramas are just too expensive."

Check out the whole thing here:

Waiting for 'Action!' Instead of Making Films About the Civil Rights Era, Hollywood Has Made Excuses

Thursday, July 12, 2007

March for Peace, pt. IV







The photos in this section, as well as the last one in the previous post are taken as Mike, Ashley and some locals (including my girlfriend Drea) set off on foot for Omaha, 50 miles northeast of Lincoln. The other photos in the previous post are of Mike and Ashley (and me) heading into Lincoln this morning. because they lost some time in the Nevada desert, they rode bikes for the last few days, but are now back on their feet...

March for Peace, pt. III





March for Peace, pt. II







Ashley and Mike - a.k.a. "March for Peace" - came through Lincoln yesterday and stayed at my house last night. These are really amazing people! We had a nice, energetic peace vigil at the federal building in Lincoln, with about 100 people in attendance. Far more honks for peace and two finger salutes than one finger salutes. This morning, we drove Mike and Ashley back to their bikes so they could finish the last 12-15 miles into Lincoln before going back to walking from Lincoln eastward. Here are some photos from the experience...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who's Behind the Recent Anti-Integration Decision?


Court decisions don't take place in a vacuum and judges are by no means "objective." This new court has certainly shown its (conservative) activist colors recently. So, what political interests were behind the recent anti-integration decision by the Supreme Court? The L.A. Times susses it out. Not surprisingly, the arguments put forth by the majority were the brainchild of a conservative, business-oriented legal movement that began in the 1970s as a reaction to civil rights, environmental and other liberal movements of the time. Check the full story out:

Who's Behind the Recent Anti-Integration Decision?

March for Peace


On May 21, two college students - Ashley Casale (age 19) and Michael Israel (age 18) - set off by foot on a 3,000 mile trek from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in what can only be called an amazing act of conscience. The goal of the march is to bring awareness to non-violent solutions to domestic and global conflicts.

In the "Values" section of their website, it states:

"Students from around the country are interested in engaging our generation in discussion of peaceful solutions to some of the world's greatest problems, and in taking action.... Marching for Peace means marching for:

- Nonviolent resistance to war efforts
- End of genocide in Darfur and all crimes against humanity
- Civil disobedience to social injustices and orders of war
- End of nuclear weapon holding and proliferation
- Principles of sustainability and global citizenship"

Ashley and Michael's "March for Peace" will be arriving in Lincoln this evening to participate in the weekly peace vigil held outside the federal building. Tomorrow, they will head off to Omaha where there will be a large music festival and peace rally on Saturday (7/14) from 1-7pm in their honor at Levi Carter Park.

For more information, to track the progress of, or to support these courageous students, check out the following website:

March for Peace

Olbermann Comment: "Bush and Cheney Resign!"

Olbermann displays courage once again. As a historian, I particularly appreciate the historical consciousness he brings to his analyses...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mavis Staples

I love this rockin' version of "Eyes on the Prize." A very powerful video, too. I saw Mavis at Bonnaroo this year and she and her band were magnificent.

Here is what soul music authority Rob Bowman (Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax Records) had to say about her latest album, "We’ll Never Turn Back":

"For over fifty years, Mavis Staples has been a national treasure, working her vocal magic on the highways and byways of gospel, folk and soul music. With both her family group, the Staple Singers, and as a solo artist in her own right she has helped to define much of what is righteous and soulful in American music. In the early 1960s, the Staple Singers began to work with Dr. Martin Luther King singing in support of the Civil Rights movement.

"With We’ll Never Turn Back, Mavis Staples has come full circle, singing songs that were seminal to a movement and time that helped form her as an artist. Alongside songs that were inextricably part of the Civil Rights movement, many of them associated with the Freedom Singers, Mavis co-wrote the title track with producer and guitarist extraordinaire Ry Cooder, sings a Cooder original, "I'll Be Rested," and opens the CD with a cover of bluesman J.B. Lenoir's "Down in Mississippi," connecting the disc to her own roots down South.

For many artists, such a project would be an exercise in recreating period pieces in much the same way that museums present the past as freeze-frame tableaux. Mavis takes a different path, personalizing the record, ad libbing spoken and sung commentary on several songs, connecting the lyrics to her own life, her family and, perhaps most tellingly, to the very real issues of today. Ry Cooder with the help of his son Joaquin Cooder, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Mike Elizando, many of the original Freedom Singers and South African choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo, creates soundscapes for Mavis' deep-in-the-well, heart felt vocals that redefines much of the material while simultaneously casting it in a rich, vibrant deeply rooted past.

We’ll Never Turn Back may have started off as an homage to a period in which everyday citizens exhibited incredible bravery and, in the process, wrought incredible changes to American society. It ended up being a deeply personal account of Mavis' life from childhood days in Mississippi, through the Civil Rights era and on up to her current anger and indignation over the fact that many Americans are still treated as second class citizens. The net result is perhaps her greatest life work and one of the most moving albums this writer has ever heard. If there is any justice, We’ll Never Turn Back will inspire many of us to find bravery in our own hearts, conquer the rampant apathy that blankets our society and take action to right the wrongs in our present day society."

Baby Got Book!

Well, as a native Clevelander and someone interested in spiritual matters, what better first spiritual post than this rappin' preacher from my hometown! Whatever reaches the flock, right? Dag. People are so strange...

Baby Got Book!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Focus- Hocus Pocus (live '73)

This is an amazing live clip. Keep a close eye on the keyboard player... Dig it!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Brown v. Board of Education, R.I.P.? (part III)


My good pal, T.J. Mertz, over in my old stomping ground of Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the smartest guys around when it comes to education and policy issues. He has written on the recent Supreme Court case over at his blog. You need to scroll through the local educational politics to get to the Supreme Court stuff, but it is worth the effort. T.J. has posted some excellent resources. Check it out and pester him with comments:

T.J. Mertz Education Blog

Urban Culture Project (Kansas City)

I am interested in urban redevelopment that is humane, democratic, environmentally sound, economically feasible for most people, and creative. In this vein, the Urban Culture Project in K.C. is doing some very interesting things. Thanks to my friend Dan Siedell, former Curator of The Sheldon memorial Art Museum here in Lincoln and current Art History professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, for bringing my attention to the UCP. Check it out:

Urban Culture Project (Kansas City,USA)

I'd be interested to hear more about similar organizations and projects aimed at revitalizing urban communities around the country. I'd also like to hear what folks think are the pros and cons of these types of urban redevelopment projects...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Brown v. Board of Education, R.I.P.? (part II)


More commentary is coming out in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision undermining efforts by local communities to promote diversity in public schools. I will continue to post links that I find interesting...

As usual, the folks at Black Commentator have something to say on the subject that is worth checking out:

"My Letter to Clarence Thomas The Man Who Desecrates the Legacy of Thurgood Marshall," by David Love

"Thanks to the Supreme Court, "Separate But (un)Equal" is Legal Again in Public Schools," by Anthony Asadullah Samad

"Uncle Thomas, Lawn Jockey for the Far Right" (reprint of 1996 Emerge Magazine cover)


Any thoughts?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Brown v. Board of Education, R.I.P.?


Last week, the newly emboldened conservative majority on the Supreme Court took a mighty whack at the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision by striking down two voluntary integration plans in Louisville, Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington, thereby ruling that race can no longer be used as a factor in public school pupil assignment plans.

Here are two good initial reactions to the decision:

"The Supreme Court Just Took Us Back to the Days of Segregation," Adam Bonino, Daily Kos, posted 6/29/07

NYTimes editorial, "Resegregation Now"