Saturday, January 31, 2009

Documentary Film: "Electric Purgatory"

The following 1 hr documentary - "Electric Purgatory" - focuses on the plight of black rock musicians and their struggles within the music industry. It is worth checking out:

What do you think?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Post-424: Minority Contracts Imperiled in Nebraska

Matthew Hansen of the Omaha World Herald has an article on the impact of the recently passed anti-affirmative action ballot initiative (Proposition 424) on state-level contracts for minority-owned and female-owned businesses in Nebraska.

Omaha city leaders hope - but can't guarantee - that minority-owned companies will get contracts to help build the new downtown ballpark this year.

That's a marked change from a decade ago, when the Omaha City Council mandated that at least $5.7 million in contracts go to women and minorities during the construction of the Qwest Center Omaha. The difference: Nebraska's new ban on affirmative action.

The ban, upheld in court last week, has halted the City of Omaha's protected business enterprise program, which for years shuttled a small part of giant public works contracts to minority- and female-owned businesses.

It also has sent the city and the University of Nebraska scrambling as they end programs that clearly violate the law, tweak scholarship requirements and strip from hiring policies newly banned language that mentions race, ethnicity or gender.

This seems to confirm what we feared, that the measure will make it harder for the state to develop mechanisms to address the historic inequalities faced by women and minorities when it comes to getting equal access to state resources/contracts.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

1138 Reasons Equality Matters

You may wonder what, precisely, is the big deal about gay marriage? Why has marriage become a key civil rights issue within the gay and lesbian community? Why does it matter? Well, when it comes to our civil society, the way rights, privileges and resources are dished out, it matters A LOT. Here are 1138 reasons why full marriage equality matters. This is about CIVIL RIGHTS, plain and simple. As long as society confers all these rights and privileges to married couples, EVERYONE should have access to that institution and those rights and privileges.

Check it out. Spread the word...

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Black, Brown & White"

This one goes out to Rev. Joseph Lowery for a fine benediction at the Obama inaugural. Many wondered about the end of the prayer, when Rev. Lowrey said,

"Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. Now let all those who do justice and love mercy, say Amen. And Amen. Amen."

Not suprisingly, a slew of white folks, including the usual round of conservative media blowhards, have gotten themselves in a tizzy, claiming Lowrey's words were "racist" and "divisive." That is nonsense...

... Lowrey, a lifelong freedom fighter who is well-known to have a hearty sense of humor, was commenting on the achievement of the day, and the struggle to get there, by riffing on a classic Big Bill Broonzy tune, "Black, White & Brown." Here is the original tune:

Here are the lyrics:

This little song that I'm singin' about
People you know it's true
If you're black and gotta work for a living
This is what they will say to you

They says if you're white, you're all right
If you're brown, stick around
But as you's black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

I was in a place one night
They was all having fun
They was all byin' beer and wine
But they would not sell me none

They said if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, stick around
But if you black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

Me and a man was workin' side by side
This is what it meant
They was paying him a dollar an hour
And they was paying me fifty cent

They said if you was white, 't should be all right
If you was brown, could stick around
But as you black, m-mm boy, git back git back git back

I went to an employment office
Got a number 'n' I got in line
They called everybody's number
But they never did call mine

They said if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, could stick around
But as you black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

I hope when sweet victory
With my plough and hoe
Now I want you to tell me brother
What you gonna do about the old Jim Crow?

Now if you was white, should be all right
If you was brown, could stick around
But if you black, whoa brother, git back git back git back

And here is a nice diary from DailyKos that details the history of the song and the meaning behind it.

Since I am at it, here is an interesting music track by Steinski which mixes Lowery's benediction with a vigorous rhythm and then a gospel groove...

Oh! And here is Rev. Lowery's benediction, in case you missed it:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Glory, Hallelujah!

Ding Dong the Witch is dead! Our long national nightmare is over!

Glory, hallelujah! A new era has begun in America!! Give thanks and praises for our new president! May he govern with wisdom and vision, with a sense of justice and human rights as his guide!

We've got a brand new funky president!! Here is to Barack Hussein Obama, OUR PRESIDENT!!!! Celebrate the moment:

A song for those who have come before us, particularly the many thousands gone, who struggled mightily against injustice, so that we might experience this day. This is their victory, too:

"Oh Freedom," unknown artist:

Oh Freedom - Negro Spirituals

A song for the millions of people captivated and inspired by the new President's vision of a better America and a better world:

"Power to the People," Curtis Mayfield:

Power To The People - Curtis Mayfield

And a final song for the Man himself, our 44th President, whose time has come:

"Funky President," James Brown:

Funky President - James Brown

Amen. Glory, hallelujah!

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day, 2009

Here is a smattering of worthwhile articles, essays and other stuff in honor of Martin Luther King Day 2009:

• First, a song of honor, Mahalia Jackson singing "Precious Lord Take My Hand"...

• The BBC has unearthed footage of Dr. King discussing the prospect of the "first black president." Well worth a look...

•  United for a Fair Economy has published an important report, "State of the Dream 2009:  The Silent Depression"

• NPR aired "a musical tour of MLK's Home."

• Slate has a slideshow of fantastic images of King and the Movement, more generally.

• Amazingly, the Meridian Star in Mississippi published an editorial apology for that newspaper's complicity in white supremacy during the Movement era.

• Michael Eric Dyson has penned a piece explaining "how the prophet (MLK) paved the way for the politician (Obama)."

• Michael Honey argues that Obama must fulfill King's dream of economic justice, human dignity and peace.

• The Washington Post has a nice piece on the Caldwell Family's "long civil rights journey" from the specter of slavery to the unbounded possibility of the Obama era.

• The post has a few other good pieces, as well: "President-Elect Sees His Race as An Opportunity"; "High Hopes for Obama in Mississippi Delta"; an opinion piece by MLK III; Michael Eric Dyson on the roots of King's words in Afro-Christianity

• Danny Schecter asks, "Will the Obama Generation Merge With the Protest Culture of MLK or Strike Its Own Path?"

• ABC News has a piece on civil rights activists' reflections on Obama's ascendance.

• A South Carolina newspaper reflects on the generations view the racial divide.

• The Washington Post has published some polling data on America's racial perceptions.

• One California teacher asks whether Obama's victory means we need to change our racial reading list.

• Finally, make your own Shephard Fairey-inspired image here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting the Best Out of Obama

Here is a nice article from The Progressive about how progressives can push Obama progressive-way.

The bottom line:
It is reasonable for progressives to assume that Barack Obama agrees with them on many funda-mental issues. He has said as much. It is equally reasonable for progressives to assume that Barack Obama wants to do the right thing. But it is necessary for progressives to understand that, as with Roosevelt, they will have to make Obama do it.

Check it out. There are lots of good insights. What do you think?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dr. King: Struggling Not to Lose Him

A passionate plea to reclaim the memory and legacy of Dr. King...

... and to put the challenging political strategist and activist that King was back into the story.

Take roughly 5 minutes and have a look:

What are your thoughts?

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Why? (The King of Love is Dead)"

One of my favorite tunes from one of my favorite singers:

"This Man is God-Sent," says Betty Shavers

As a black woman who lived through the Civil Rights struggle in Danville, Va. -- a former tobacco and cotton town best known as the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy” -- Betty Shavers never imagined she’d see an African American be elected president of the United States. Danville, which is located on the North Carolina border, in the reddest part of the state, had a 72 percent voter turnout; 59 percent of those voters supported Barack Obama. The city has a 45.6 percent black population. She shared her thoughts on the election and the coming inauguration with her niece, New American Media contributor Teresa Moore. Word From the Wise is a regular column of elder perspectives from the New America Media ethnic elder news beat.
You can read Betty Shavers's essay here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Michelle Obama: "An American Girl"

The Atlantic recently published an excellent article on the new First Lady...

When Michelle Obama told a Milwaukee campaign rally last February, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country," critics derided her as another Angry Black Woman. But the only truly radical proposition put forth by Obama, born and raised in Chicago's storied South Side, is the idea of a black community fully vested in the country at large, and proud of the American dream.

Drea and I have had the great fortune to see Michelle speak live on two occasions, once with a few hundred folks in a high school gym in Council Bluffs, Iowa, early in the primary/caucus process and later at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the eve of the state's first-ever Democratic CAUCUS. In both cases, she was impressive as hell: intelligent, compassionate, strong and always very human. We became fans of hers early on and were pretty disappointed when she was attacked during the campaign. She really got a raw deal from some in the media and on the Right. Our experience with Michelle bore no resemblance to the caricature being put forth by the political noise machine. We always felt that if people could just get in front of her themselves, they would see and feel what we did. So, we are thrilled that she will have the next 4-8 years to correct the record...

As a woman of color herself, Drea is particularly inspired by the example Michelle Obama represents for other women of color, particularly younger sisters struggling to realize their own visions of themselves. We are proud to call her our First Lady and look forward to seeing what her contribution will be to this exciting chapter in our nation's history...


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good Sheet: "Who's Going Where?"

Another interesting graphic from Good Magazine, this one on global mobility.

"People are moving around the world constantly—either toward opportunity or away from misfortune and fear. This is where people are going, and where they are coming from." (click image to enlarge)

One commenter also linked to another interesting map, this one on the time it takes to travel to major cities.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Has Obama Changed the Politics of Race?

According to a recent "News Analysis" piece in the L.A. Times by Peter Wallsten, Obama's election is "changing the politics of race." Wallsten contends: "Many black leaders are rejecting the old tactics of protest and the rhetoric of inequality. 'You can't use 50-year-old ideas in a new political era,' one pastor says."

I am ambivelent about these kinds of arguments. On one hand, it is true that 2008 is not 1958 or 1968, so we need to craft a political vision and political rhetoric that speaks to our own historical reality. No doubt about that. Yet, I'm not as comfortable "rejecting the rhetoric of inequality," when racial inequality is so readily apparent and persistent throughout American society. Heck, in my own city - Omaha - 60% of all African American children live in poverty. 60%!! If 60% of all white kids lived in poverty, the city and state would literally stop and make herculean efforts to deal with it, including pouring zillions of dollars into various programs to help white kids and their families out. Or, recently the Omaha World Herald ran two articles in the same week, one on an affluent white school in West Omaha where the public school is buying each kid a laptop (talk about the rich getting richer!) and the other on a school in the poorer and blacker North Side where parents are being charged an extra $5 just to provide basic materials to their kids, like paper. The inequalities are glaring and shameful. And we just went through an election, right? So surely the various political candidates all blustered on about the massive inequality in North Omaha (the third poorest black community in the United States)? Wrong. Not one candidate said a peep about black children or North Omaha, or economic or racial inequality. Nothing. Nada.

In a way, this effort to move away from the politics of grievance seems, in part, to reflect the class position of some leaders who themselves have made it to the middle-class or above, but more significantly, it appears to me to be an accommodation to the fact that most Americans are clueless about the reality not only of our racial past, but also of our racial present. Most have no clue what race is, how it works and persists, what is different from the civil rights era and what remains to be done. And, I fear this kind of political positioning, while strategically smart on some levels, might also reinforce the idea among many white folks that we are "beyond race" and that black people and other aggrieved groups simply play the "victim card" all the time in some unjustified way. A HUGE part of the remaining solution to racial inequality is a new consciousness among enough white people, a consciousness that is not mired in white guilt, but looks honestly at racial inequality in America, that places that inequality in its proper historical context and which owns up to the fact that we ALL are responsible for this mess and for cleaning it up!

What do you think?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Affirmative Action and the Blame Game

Why is it that anti-affirmative action folks only attack the racial dynamics of admissions, but not the other kinds of preferences, like those given to legacies, kids of big donors or prominent/famous alum, athletes, people from under-represented geographic regions, etc. Why no ballot initiatives to halt the unfair advantage given to the children and grandchildren of large donors to colleges and universities? Why no nation-wide, angry response to the way the children of legacies, large donors and the wealthy, in general - like George W. Bush and John Kerry, for instance - pull down the overall standards at colleges and universities? Why no concern that the children of wealthy alum are "stigmatized" by the unfair way they got admitted?

See what I am getting at?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Robert Coles and the Inner Lives of Children

It's Sunday and Speaking of Faith had a whole program devoted to a great interview with one of my favorite people, psychiatrist Robert Coles. The interview, which is from 2000, focuses on "the inner lives of children."  Coles "says children are witnesses to the fullness of our humanity; they are keenly attuned to the darkness as well as the light of life; and they can teach us about living honestly, searchingly and courageously if we let them." Righteous. I hope you might make some time and tune in here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"Best of..." 2008

I always enjoy looking through the "Best of... 2008" lists published at the end of each calendar year. Here are some links:

• Here are the NYTimes' 100 Notable Books of 2008 and what their critics selected as the Top 10 Books of the year.

• Here are the Washington Post's Best Books of 2008 and what their critics selected as the Top 10 Books of the year.

• NPR has a whole bunch of awesome books lists, from fiction to non-fiction, graphic novels, self-help books, crime novels, etc. Check them all out here!

•  Liz Spikol lists several books that should not have been published!

•  The editors of Seed Magazine list the top science books of 2008.

• The L.A. Times has a number of interesting picks on their lists, too.

• As always, NPR has a lot of really good year end music lists. Here is a list of ten unknown music gems from 2008. Here is a best of, jazz, kids music, African, Songs of the year, classical, top 5 jazz cds, mixtapes, top 10 albums, another top 10, listener picks, best vinyl and more jazz.

• Slate's critics countdown their favorite music of '08 and here they put out their best jazz CDs of 2008.

• Popmatters has a slew of different music-related lists that are worth looking at.

• Soul Sides has a best of 2008 old and new lists.

• Mark Anthony Neal offers up his 2008 playlist.

•  Mojo's top 50 CDs of 2008.

• Paste Magazine has listed the best live acts of 2008. Here and here you can find best of music lists by two of their critics, as well.

• Here, a Village Voice critic counts down his best jazz CDs of the year and here is their poll.

• Here is a Village Voice list of the worst lyrics of 2008.

•  Spin's top CDs of 2008.

•  Dan Sweeney's list of best CDs of 2008, plus a lot of reader lists in the comments.

•  Gabriel Beltrone lists 10 global artists to check out.

• Here are Rolling Stone's top 50 CDs of 2008.

•  Q's top 50 CDs of 2008.

• lists their best and worst films of 2008.

Slate's Top 10 Films of '08

• The folks at the Village Voice and LA Weekly polled alternative press film critics and came up with this list of best films of '08.

• NPR's top film critic gives his top 12.

•  The Best and Worst Eco-Films of 2008.
•  Slate has published a compendium of the best political cartoons of 2008 as well as the "best political viral videos of 2008"

• John Nichols, over at The Nation, lists "The Most Valuable Progressives of 2008"

Top 10 robocalls of 2008 elections.

• And here are Alternet readers' top videos of 2008.

• The Village Voice runs down the biggest scandals of the conservative blogosphere.

Other Cool Lists:
• Chief Theater critic for the NYTimes, Ben Brantley, offers a slide show and review excerpts of the best Broadway had to offer in 2008.  Here is what Brantley's colleague, Charles Isherwood, lists as the best theater of the year.

•  Project Censored has put out its annual top 25 censored news stories of 2008

•  Wired Magazine's 13 most popular science stories of 2008.

• Good Magazine looks ahead to the biggest disease-eradication efforts on 2009, 8 ways people are shirking good old fashioned capitalism, 7 technologies that will change our lives more than the new iphone and 7 advances in science that will change the world in 2009!

•  Not quite a list, but still very interesting, Seed takes stock of "the state of science" in 2008.

•  Popular Mechanics has a list of the best gadgets in 2008.

•  Harper's magazine offers a typically Harper's-ian year end review.

•  Wired Magazine lists the 10 most awesome applications for the iphone in 2008.

•  Doctors Without Borders lists the 10 biggest humanitarian disasters of 2008.

•  Jamie Frevele lists the biggest WTF moments of 2008!

•  24/7 Wall Street lists the ten companies that laid off the most workers in 2008.  

•  The best and worst fashion trends of 2008.

•  The Washington Post lists the best tv of the year.

•  100 friends you should see before you die.

• The people at Paste Magazine have made a "meta-list" of the 10 best lists of 2008...