Monday, April 12, 2010

TED Talk w/ Nina Jablonski: "The Illusion and Power of Skin Color"

"Nina Jablonski says that differing skin colors are simply our bodies' adaptation to varied climates and levels of UV exposure. Charles Darwin disagreed with this theory, but she explains, that's because he did not have access to NASA..."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Wish You Weren't Here...

The folks over at The Root posed an interesting question recently:

"Who would you erase from Black History?"

...but then they followed it up with a fairly obvious list:

Marion Barry
Michael Steele
O.J. Simpson
Sheila Dixon
Dennis Rodman
Alan Keyes
D.C. Sniper, John Muhammad
R. Kelly
Dr. Conrad Murray
Flavor Flav
Clarence Thomas
Bishop Don Magic Juan
Amarosa Manigault-Stallworth
Soulja Boy
Wesley Snipes
Karrine Stephans
Idi Amin/Papa Doc/Baby Doc/Robert Mugabe/Rafael Trujillo

Conservative commentator, John McWhorter, picked up on the lameness of The Root's list and posted his own, typically provocative, but I think ultimately much more interesting, list:

Malcolm X
Price Cobbs
Al Jolsen
Paolo Freire
William Ryan
Ron Karenga
Jonathan Kozol
O.J. Simpson
Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward

(Go to the articles to see the justifications for these choices.)

What do you think about these lists? Who would you "remove from Black History," if you had the chance?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Film: "Blood Done Sign My Name" (trailer)

I received my Ph.D. in modern U.S. History and African American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. My primary adviser, mentor and friend there was Tim Tyson, one of the great Movement historians of our time. Tim taught me a lot about being a scholar and an activist, about being a storyteller, about being a citizen. The research I conducted for my M.A. thesis, which was titled, "'Communist Front Shouts Kissing Case to the World!' The Committee to Combat Racial Injustice and the Politics of Race and Gender during the Cold War," became a part of one of the chapters in Tim's first book, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power. His second book, Blood Done Sign My Name, is part Movement history, part autobiography. It focuses on the murder of an African American Vietnam veteran in Oxford, North Carolina, during the early-1970s and the social impact of that event on the local community and beyond. Tim's family participated directly in this saga. The incredible thing about this award-winning book is that it is also a personal meditation on race, remembrance and, ultimately, reconciliation. What do we do with these troubling pasts once we unearth them? How do we honor the past, while moving forward into the future... together?

Blood Done Sign My Name has been made into a feature film, starring Rick Schroeder as Tim's dad! Here is the official trailer:

It is rare that this type of story makes it to the big-screen, so I hope you will check it out. Here are a few things you can do:

1. Go see it.

2. Ask your local independent cinema theater to book it.

3. Help spread the word to other folks in your networks.

Here is another clip of Tim talking about the film:

And here is the song, "Blood Done Sign My Name":

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ideas: What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds?

Neurologist, Oliver Sacks, is always exploring the fascinating lessons we can learn from various rare brain disfunctions. For a fun intro to his work, check out The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. During a recent TED talk, Sacks discussed a group of people with Charles Bonnett syndrome, who experience lucid hallucinations. What does this impairment suggest about the nature of "reality"? Check it out...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Solutions: Combatting Corporate Dominance of American Politics

How do ordinary citizens counter the massive influence that large monied interests have over our democracy? What is possible after the Supreme Court's recent disastrous decision opening the floodgates to corporate money in elections. Fran Kortan, publisher of Yes! Magazine, explains "ten ways to stop corporate dominance of politics."

UPDATE: NPR's Ari Shapiro has an excellent interview with Lewis Maltby, author of Can They Do That? Retaking Our Fundamental Rights in the Workplace, about the widespread restrictions on individual liberties in the corporate workplace. Maltby says, "What most Americans generally don't know is that the Constitution doesn't apply to private corporations at all." The full interview can be listened to here. Another excerpt and review of the book can be found at Alternet.

UPDATE: Robert Borosage has a good essay about
an amendment to the Constitution Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced in Congress aimed at overturning the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United, which gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds in election campaigns as a matter of free speech.

Ideas: Dr. King's Forgotten "Dream" of Economic Justice

I wrote an Opinion piece for the Omaha World Herald reflecting on Dr. King's vision of economic justice.

The essay ran on Monday, January 25, 2010, under the title,
"MLK: Justice Requires Economic Transformation."

On Tuesday, an older man called me at my office in Lincoln to let me know that he thought the ideas in the article were "communistic."

Judge for yourself. Here are a few excerpts...

King believed poverty was primarily the result of systemic economic failure and “ongoing economic exploitation,” not individual personal failing. The poor were “damned” to segregated, ghettoized neighborhoods, chronic unemployment and low-paying, meaningless jobs. “Pervasive and persistent want” demoralized the poor, undermined human dignity and led to family disintegration, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and crime.

* * * *

King linked urban poverty with suburban plenty. “The poor and discriminated huddle in the big cities,” he said, “while affluent America displays its new gadgets in the crisp homes of suburbia.” King called suburbs “white nooses around the black necks of the cities.” “Housing deteriorates in central cities,” he groused, while “suburbs expand with little regard for what happens to the rest of America.”

* * * *

Disillusioned with piecemeal reforms, King believed structural change in the economy was essential to end poverty. “True compassion,” he said, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

* * * *

King advocated “democratic socialism,” a mixed economy where citizens, through democratic processes, insert human values into the economy to temper the harsh edges of unbridled free markets.

He fought for an “economic bill of rights,” a $30 billion package guaranteeing full employment, a livable income and increased construction of low-income housing. King called for “massive public works programs (to build) decent housing, schools, hospitals, mass transit, parks and recreation centers.” These public investments would “enrich society” and spur private investment.

* * * *

In an era of ballooning military budgets, billion-dollar Wall Street bailouts, home foreclosures, double-digit unemployment and continuing urban crisis, perhaps we might listen anew to King’s prophetic vision of economic justice.

* * * *

To read the entire essay, click here.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below.