Sunday, June 3, 2018

Keep 'em In Their Place

I am a white senior citizen who grew up in the racially segregated South. Even as a child, I sensed there was something terribly wrong with the way we were living. Nothing made any sense. I felt I was getting stop and go signals simultaneously.

Love your neighbor as yourself, said the church my family attended. But I was also taught I could not love my black playmates in the full sense of love. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” said my church and school. But this, too, was not what segregated life exemplified. Blacks were not treated as whites treated themselves. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Bill, the black couple who worked for my parents on the Virginia farm where I grew up, did not sit and eat with us at the same table. Why? When I asked my mother whose sister was Aunt Sarah, she patiently explained, after recovering from the shock of my question, that “Aunt” and “Uncle” were titles of respect that white children used for older colored people (Colored was the term used in the South during the 40s and 50s.) Well, then why didn't we respect them and eat together and visit together?

I was getting more and more confused. My brother and I could play with the children of our black neighbors at home but we could not go to church or school or movies or parties together. Nobody could explain in any way that made sense to me why we were had to live a divided life--intimate friends and playmates privately but separated in all public areas of life. I would sometimes examine my skin in a mirror and I knew that if my skin were brown I would be the same person but I would not be treated the same.

Whites, some in my own family, said, “Good niggers know their place.” It was mostly men who used this language. My brother and I knew that if we used that "N" word, we would be punished as severely as if we cursed. I wondered about this “place.” What was it? Where was it? It was clear it was not the same “place” whites reserved for themselves. I later learned it was a subordinate place. But why? What had whites done to earn a place of privilege?

The answer, of course, was nothing. They believed their white skin was enough to ensure privilege. It was their security blanket. But to maintain that superstition, they had to invent laws and traditions that punished Blacks for no reason other than the fact that they were not white. Sadly that attitude is a rabid infection in our culture today. Because of the changing demographics many whites act terrified of losing the privilege they believe they own solely because they happened to have been born with white skin. Instead of working to transform society and make things better for themselves and everyone else, they are beating a militant retreat into the racist sewer.

What Roger Goodell and the NFL have done by banning the respectful taking of a knee is the equivalent of segregationalists using every tactic at their disposal to put and keep Blacks in their “place.” The NFL was already guilty of gross injustice by effectively banning quarterback Colin Kaepernick from football because he exercised his First Amendment rights in the most respectful way. Taking a knee is basically a prayerful posture. This new policy takes the NFL to the bottom of the racist barrel. It is offensive that the NFL has chosen to endorse Trump’s blatant racism rather than showing leadership and acknowledging that athletes who take a knee have a constitutional right under the First Amendment to do so. Depending on which analysis you read, Black athletes make up some 70 percent of NFL players. Without those Black athletes, football as we know it wouldn’t exist. Black athletes are in leadership positions throughout sports. The NFL’s action says loud and clear: “Put those uppity Blacks in their place.”

I can’t believe I’m writing about football. I’m not even a football fan. But this is much bigger than football. It’s about the racist dregs of white supremacy being used punitively against Blacks who dare to bring attention to a huge social problem--police violence and brutality that target and criminalize Black men and boys in particular. In a sane world, their protest would be heard, examined and lead to vigorous efforts to transform the culture that continues to criminalize and punish Blacks. It is my hope that entire teams--and spectators, too--will protest in solidarity by taking a knee on the field and off. It would be great to see a stadium of spectators take a knee when the national anthem is played. Democracy is on the line here. Its promise still has not been fulfilled. It would be gratifying to see the NFL follow the Black athletes’ heroic lead toward greater democracy rather than taking us backwards into one of the ugliest periods of our history. It is no less ugly today.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

THE CRY OF JAZZ NEW UPDATED HD FORMAT

In 1958 my late husband Ed Bland and three friends and colleagues made a semi-documentary film they called THE CRY OF JAZZ. This film marked the first time American blacks directly challenged whites about white supremacy and the racist culture in the United States. So committed were the people who worked on the film that some 65 people gave their time and talents freely. First released in 1959, the 34-minute film ignited controversy wherever it was shown. In 2010, Anthology Film Archives received a grant from the Martin Scorsese Film Foundation to preserve the film. It was transferred from the original 16mm to 35mm and selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Over the years, the film has been shown widely in university film departments and film festivals. Now, for the first time, an authorized, updated version is available in high-definition digital format. Bonus features include two in-depth commentaries by Ed about the making of the film.

In 1971, Willard Van Dyle, pioneer American documentary filmmaker and then Curator of Films at New York's Museum of Modern Art, called the CRY "The most prophetic film ever made . . . [because] it predicted the riots of the '69s and '70s and gave the basis for them."

In the film, Ed used the musical structure of jazz as a metaphor for black life in the United States. The film is a milestone in filmmaking by black Americans. It was far ahead of its time in 1959 and is more timely than ever now. Ed Bland directed the film and co-wrote and co-produced it.

Writing about the film, journalist Matt Rogers said: "Relying on dozens of volunteers to pull it off, the short—shot on 16mm for a cost of roughly $3500 and first screened in '59—is a monumental literal and figurative black-and-white dialectic that uses jazz as both lens and springboard for interpreting America's past, present, and future ills (and possibilities.) Black life is seen as a reflection of jazz and jazz as a reflection of Black life, all broken down by Black men who are not only their white peers' equals but clearly are schoolin' them. The blunt, didactic style pushes a jungle-fever tinged (hey, kickin' that knowledge is sexy!) history lesson that not only peeks into ghetto life on Chicago’s South Side—from the streets to the church to the pool halls and jazz clubs—but also presages, among many things, the popularity of rock and roll, the rapturous embrace of jazz by other countries, the American race riots of the late '60s, as well as, believe it or not, the evolution of hip-hop. True, no rappers, but the science of the loop is heard in full effect. Not to mention the rare live footage of Bland's friend, Le Sun Ra and his Arkestra, featured throughout."

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Enough!

School used to be a place for learning,
A place for education,
Not a place to die from a shooter’s gun.
Not a place to cringe in fear,
Wondering if you would be alive at the end of the day.

One school shooting a week,
Since January 1, 2018:
Birmingham, Alabama
Jackson, Mississippi
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Norfolk, Virginia
Ita Bena, Mississippi
Savannah, Georgia
Nashville, Tennessee
Oxon Hill, Maryland
Los Angeles, California
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Italy, Texas
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Parkland, Florida
Oh, that one made news
17 human lives gunned down
The others not so bad--just one or two killed.
How many killings are tolerable?

Cry for the children
if you care
But celebrate the Parkland students who say “enough,”
Enough of thoughts and prayers
Enough of politicians and the NRA
with their BS and their campaign contributions
protecting guns over human life.
Enough!

Bullet-proof vests should not be the new school uniform
for students and teachers
No military occupation of schools either.
PTSD is not a college degree.

As for arming teachers,
Really?
Add lethal weapons to
language and literature and science and math and art?
And where should the teacher put her gun or his gun--
shoulder holster? Boot? Purse? Locked drawer?
And what if the gun goes off accidentally,
as it already has in at least one case?
Where does fear for one’s life fit in the curriculum?

Are we trying to develop minds
or set land mines to development?

Cry for the children
and the adults gunned down,
And after shedding your tears
Do something.

The school’s business is education,
not target practice.
ENOUGH!

Dedicated to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida, and students across the country who are challenging our legislators to pass gun controls.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Saving the World From Adolescent Leaders

Men like Trump who are insecure about their masculinity are especially dangerous in positions of power because their concept of manhood is associated with show of force. They have never learned that being a man involves much more than firing a gun or measuring the size of their penis. They lack the knowledge needed to conduct diplomacy. We now have two adolescent boys--Trump and Kim Jong-un--in positions of power where they can wreak destruction on the world. Each is jerking off with weapons of mass destruction. Trump can order a nuclear attack. In April we saw how impulsively he ordered a missile strike on Syria. In July we saw Kim Jong-un test an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts said could reach the United States. Each of these adolescent boys seems to be trying to assert his manhood in the least intelligent way.

We don’t know whether North Korea has a nuclear warhead it could mount on such a missile. But we do know the U.S. has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons on the planet. We know that Trump has access to the nuclear codes. We know Trump is ignorant and incompetent, and we know he will do anything--lie, promote violence, humiliate his minions, scapegoat others, threaten anyone he feels is in his way--to embellish his self-image and safeguard his fragile masculinity.

Trump and Kim Jong-un are on a collision course. The North Korean leader has no legislative control on his impulsiveness. Here we have Congress that so far in Trump’s presidency has not shown any collective spine to curb Trump. It’s up to the American people and concerned legislators who must raise their voices more strongly than ever before to demand that Congress impeach the mad man masquerading as president before he starts a nuclear war.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Doing Harm

“Do no harm” is the core principle of medical practice and bioethics. But Congressional Republicans, with a couple of exceptions (Senators Collins and Murkowski) have no ethics. Never have I seen so much frantic effort devoted to doing as much harm as possible to as many people as possible.

Under the guise of a healthcare bill, this McConnell/Ryan gang of suck-up toadies is trying to pass a no-care bill that would take medical insurance away from millions of the most vulnerable Americans and provide a huge tax break to millionaires and corporations. This is no healthcare bill; it’s tax relief for the rich riding on the backs of the poor and middle class.

For seven years, Republicans turned their backs on the American people and worked to destroy Obama’s presidency. Proudly declaring themselves the “party of NO,” they blocked, obstructed, and propagandized everything President Obama tried to do for the American people. They have been ranting and raving for seven years about what a disaster the Affordable Care Act, which they dubbed “Obamacare,” has been, but by many measures they are wrong. Not to worry. This is a party that does not accept facts or evidence about anything. Does the Affordable Care Act have problems? Yes. But it is a working structure that is in place. As many Democrats have pointed out, the problems in the ACA can be fixed, but Congressional Republicans will not hear of it. Working behind the scenes with no debate, until forced to do so now, they have repeatedly tried to force votes on a vicious bill that would only do harm by stripping benefits that people already have under the ACA.

Rather than working for the people who elected them, this gang, made up largely of men, has had three items on their agenda: repealing and replacing “Obamacare,” depriving women of reproductive health options, and giving tax breaks to the one percent of the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

In recent months, they’ve had the opportunity to reveal the plan they presumably have been working on for these past seven years. And they've come up empty. Neither the would-be emperor in the White House nor the so-called healthcare bill has any clothes. They are bare for all to see who they really are: a bunch of liars, con-men, and immoral stooges, many of them blatantly anti-woman and racist. They are cheered on by the infantile destroyer-in-chief in the White House whose only interest is in using every tool of government to enrich himself and his family. The country be damned!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

SALE on my Ebook; HOW TO HAVE SEX IF YOU'RE NOT HUMAN Half-price throughout the month of July 2017.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

School Visit Nansemond-Suffolk Academy

I love author visits to schools. On Friday, 7 April 2017, I had a delightful time presenting to young students, K through 2nd grade, at the Suffolk, VA, campus of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. During my presentation, "Where Do Ideas Come From," I told students where the ideas for several of my books had originated. Mrs. Ann Woleben, the school's wonderful librarian, had prepared students by reading the book, What Do You Do With Ideas? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom. Student questions are my favorite part of author visits. Lots of hands and eager faces were ready. Unfortunately there is never enough time for all of the students to ask their questions. My favorite questions: "Are we animals?" "When did you become a writer?""Do Mama and Daddy dolphins take turns caring for the babies?" I spoke about the ideas for my newest books, Baby Orca, Rattler, and Aliens From Earth (revised edition). This school has wonderful programs in science and the arts. The children who attend are so fortunate to be able to come to this truly great school.