Monday, February 28, 2011

Top Ten Disastrous Policies From the Wisconsin GOP You Haven't Heard About
Kevin Donohoe, ThinkProgress: "As the standoff between the Main Street Movement and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues for the twelfth day, much of the media coverage - and anger - from both sides has focused on Walker's efforts to strip Wisconsin public workers of their right to collective bargaining. But Walker's assault on public employees is only one part of a larger political program that aims to give corporations free reign in the state while dismantling the healthcare programs, environmental regulations, and good government laws that protect Wisconsin's middle and working class. These lesser known proposals in the 144-page bill reveal how radical Walker's plan actually is."
Read the Article
Is that Ethelbert reading poetry tomorrow night at the University of Maryland (College Park)?
8PM. Ulrich Recital Hall.


Sometimes it takes the vision of an artist to see the full beauty and folly of humanity’s deeds on Earth. Throughout human history, in fact, writers and musicians and other artists have given voice and soul to campaigns for social change. Candlelight vigil

Today we need that voice more than ever as we struggle to solve global warming. Which is why the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, joined by, is proud to announce our 5th annual Artists for the Climate event, held this year in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. On Sunday evening April 17th, you’ll hear the words of one of America’s most distinguished poets: E. Ethelbert Miller. You’ll hear the stirring prose of best-selling nature writers Bill McKibben and Janisse Ray. And you’ll hear the music of local folk-rock favorites emma’s revolution and the new women’s a cappella group SongRise.

Get your tickets now. Artists for the Climate, 7:00 to 9:00pm on Sunday, April 17th.

Bill McKibben and Janisse Ray will not only read from their work, they’ll lead a special candlelight vigil right after the event, joined by Rev. Bob Edgar. For those inspired to come along, we’ll silently march three blocks to Alexandria’s Potomac River coal-fired power plant at 9:00pm. Groups ranging from CCAN, to Sierra Club, to Energy Action Coalition and U.S. Congressman Jim Moran have all called for this aging, polluting, planet-warming plant to be shut down. So come out Sunday night April 17th and be part of the art and the activism: light a candle with us and walk with literary greats to protest coal combustion in the D.C. region.

Get your tickets now. Artists for the Climate, 7:00 to 9:00pm on Sunday, April 17th.

If you’ve been to one of the CCAN and artists events before, you know you’re in for a treat. In the past we’ve featured legendary writers such as Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, and Jeff Biggers. But our featured poet this year is truly special. The Washington Post has described E. Ethelbert Miller’s work as “generous, loving, youthful, soft-spoken, outspoken, curious, uplifting and ever-changing.” And the award-winning music of emma’s revolution includes such masterpieces as “Swimming to the Other Side” and “Kilimanjaro.”

I’m really excited about this year’s event and the chance to poetically protest the local coal plant. I can’t wait to see you there.

Mike Tidwell
Director, CCAN
P.S. The modest ticket prices mostly go to cover the event costs. But for a special extra donation, we’ll feed you, give you wine, and introduce you in person to all the special performers during a reception before the event. Learn more at
CHAOS meets Desolation Row: Cry Me A River.

Beyond the reach of the news media, and Internet, is nothing but chaos.
The new technology has created electronic tribes. The death of the nation state greets the 21st Century.
Natural disasters will further weaken governments and create more economic misery.
Meanwhile, financial greed will create small pockets and islands of wealth.
The poor will steal from one another. Robots will be more ethical than human beings.
Life on this planet (as we know it) can only be measured in years, not decades or centuries.
The darkness descends because we don't want to share the light.
Out of the deserts of the Middle East will come the Middle Ages.

Once again Jerusalem will weep.

Your bridges were burned, and now it's your turn
It's your turn
To cry, Cry me a river

  • As Labor Goes, So Goes the Nation

    By the late 1940s and early 1950s, a still-divided labor movement represented the largest single electoral bloc in the nation, and it would remain that ...
    In These Times - 3922 related articles
    I found this article by Melvyn Dubofsky to be one of the best I've read in the last few months.
    Share with others. It's a bleak but honest assessment of where we stand right now.

  • LAURA PEGRAM, Founder of Kweli


    Good Afternoon,
    CBCF’s Avoice Virtual Library is co-hosting two great events in April and would like to invite you to attend. Below are event descriptions. Please RSVP directly for each event with the information listed. Hope to see you there!

    CBCF/Howard University Symposium Celebrating 40 Years of the CBC
    April 5, 2011, Howard University Campus
    Day-long event (see website for panel times)
    Howard University and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will host a symposium on April 5th at the Ira Aldridge Theater. During this day of reflection and exploration, the CBCF and Howard University will publicly revisit the Caucus' struggles and triumphs. In four separate panels, former and current caucus members and political scholars will retrace the CBC's journey from 1971 to present. Continental breakfast will be served. Panel sessions include – The CBC from the Beginning (1970-1979), The Reagan Years (1980-1989), Representing the Conscience of the Congress (1990-1999) and The CBC and the New Millennium (2000-Present). For detailed descriptions of each panel, listing of speakers and to RSVP, visit
    US Capitol Historical Society/CBCF Roundtable – “Congress and Civil Rights: The Movement Continues”
    April 14, 2011, Cannon Caucus Room
    7:45 – 9:30 am
    This discussion will take a contemporary look at the civil rights movement by exploring how voting rights laws enacted in the 1960s have affected the rights of all Americans. Rep. Clyburn, other members of Congress and former members of Congress along with CBCF Fellow Ifeoma Ike will trace the expansion of civil rights laws and explore the next frontier of the civil rights movement. Breakfast will be served. To RSVP – or 202-543-8919 ext. 23
    To learn more about other CBCF events and programs visit or call (202) 263-2800.


    Alison Kootstra
    Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.
    Avoice Virtual Library – (202) 263-2818




    Wisconsin: Health Care, Democracy and the Middle Class Are At Stake
    Jeff Leys, Truthout: "Walker's - and the Republicans' - initiative will undermine worker rights and ... the health care of the 1.1 million Wisconsin residents who rely upon Medicaid. He proudly proclaims: 'Wisconsin is open for business.' Yet a healthy business climate requires a middle class that will be destroyed by his union busting. A healthy business climate requires that workers have access to decent health care, for themselves and their families... As my mom directed me from her hospital bed: Go to Madison. The heart of Wisconsin depends on you."
    Read the Article
    Please read:
    John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

     Spring 2011

    Click here to make a reservation or call 617-514-1643.  
     For more information, visit
    All forums are free and open to the public.  Reservations for forums are strongly recommended. They guarantee a seat in the building but not the main hall.  Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.  Doors to the main hall open one hour before the program begins.

     Watch Kennedy Library Forums LIVE on-line at
    Senator Dodd 
    50th Anniversay of the Peace Corps
    Thursday, March 3, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Former Peace Corps volunteers Sarah Chayes, Chris Dodd, Elaine Jones, Joe Kennedy III and Paul Theroux reflect on their service and how the Peace Corps changed their lives.  Stanley Meisler, author of When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years, moderates.
    David Brooks on What Makes Humans Tick
    Thursday, March 17, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

    New York Times columnist and best-selling author, David Brooks, talks about his new novel, The Social Animal.
    Ernest and Hadley Hemingway 
    A Novel Based on Hadley Hemingway
    Wednesday, March 23, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Paula McLain discusses The Paris Wife, her novel based on Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, during their marriage in Paris.
    Ernest Hemingway  
     A Conversation with Past PEN Hemingway Winners
    Saturday, March 26, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

    Joshua Ferris, Ha Jin and Marilynne Robinson describe how winning the PEN Hemingway Award for their first novels affected their careers.  Helene Atwan, Director of Beacon Press, moderates.
    Marilynne Robinson
    PEN Hemingway Awards
    Sunday, March 27, 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Join Patrick Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's sole surviving son, and Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winner in fiction, for the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Awards ceremony honoring an American author's first published work of fiction.  The Kennedy Library is the major repository of Ernest Hemingway's works.

    Senator Scott Brown
    A Conversation with Senator Scott Brown
    Saturday, April 2, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

    Senator Scott Brown discusses his new memoir, Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances with NECN correspondent, Alison King.
    Caroline Kennedy
    A Book Signing by Caroline Kennedy
    Thursday, April 7, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Caroline Kennedy will be signing copies of her new edited collection of poetry, She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems, after readings by local poets.
    Deval Patrick jacket cover
    A Conversation with Governor Deval Patrick
    Thursday, April 14, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Governor Deval Patrick discusses his new memoir, A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life, with Bob Oakes, host of WBUR's Morning Edition.
    Bay of Pigs
    50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Invasion
    Sunday, April 17, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

    Historians Timothy Naftali, Peter Kornbluh, and Alfredo Duran, a Cuban exile who participated in the assault, examine the steps leading to the Bay of Pigs and the lessons learned by the Kennedy Administration.
    Callie Crossley
    50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides
    Wednesday, April 20, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    PBS and the Kennedy Library invite you to the Boston screening of American Experience's "Freedom Riders."  Following the documentary, there will be a discussion with Bernard Lafayette and others.  WGBH radio host, Callie Crossley, moderates.

    Jimmy Carter
    A Conversation with President Jimmy Carter
    Tuesday, May 17, 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

    President Jimmy Carter discusses his new book, White House Diary, with PBS Newshour senior correspondent Ray Suarez.

    Visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Online  

           JFK Library Button
    Poetry Events March 2011

    March 6 (3-6pm)   Writing the Body, poetry workshop for those with experience of life-threatening or chronic illness as patient, caregiver or family member. Instructor, Anne Becker.  5 meetings in Takoma Park: March 6 & 20, April 3 & 17, May 1.  $250.  Contact for more information or to register.
    March 7 (7pm)   Café Muse features poets Eleanor Wilner and Sue Ellen Thompson read, with a tribute to Jacklyn Potter.  At Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 South Park Ave., Chevy Chase, MD 20815.  The evening begins with classical guitar played by Mike Davis.  Reading begins at 7:30, open mic follows.  (April 4, Grace Cavalieri’s The Poets Cookbook: Recipes from Germany is featured with a tribute to Robert Sargent.)

    March 13 (6 pm)   Kim Roberts and Kimberly L. Becker are featured readers at IOTA Club and Cafe, 2832 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, VA.  Open reading will follow. For more information, contact or (703) 256-9275. (On April 11 Frederick Feirstein and Claudia Gary read.)

    March 17 (7:30pm)  Third Thursday Reading Series, hosted by Martin Fitzpatrick, features poets  the Kaffeeklatsch Poets: Ellen Cole, Judy Neri, Jill ; and Kathi Wolfe. Takoma Park Community Center, 7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912.

    March 21 (7-9:30pm)  Writing a Village, free monthly poetry workshop led by Anne Becker, poet laureate of Takoma Park.  “Comrades of the word,” near and far, of all levels of experience, are welcome. Bring a poem and ten copies to share with the group.  Hydrangea Room, Takoma Park Community Center, 7500 Maple Ave. For more information email  (Next meeting April  21.) Please note new start time is 7:00pm.
    Fall 2011 Internship Application

    The application for the White House Internship Program’s fall 2011 session has been posted. Please take the time to think of five future young leaders you believe would serve as great White House Interns, and personally encourage them to apply. Below is more information that might be helpful to prospective White House Interns:

    -          Visit the White House Internship website:
    -          Apply to the White House Internship program:
    -          Learn more about the selection process:
    -          Send this flyer today to interested applicants, or contacts who may know interested applicants
    A White House Internship provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office of the President and prepare them for future public service opportunities.
    Please encourage all eligible young leaders to take advantage of this incredible opportunity! The deadline to apply is March 13, 2011.

    We greatly appreciate your support in this effort.


    The White House Internship Team

    It's Time for a National Digital-Library System 1  
    A People's Library
    By David H. Rothman
    We need a national digital library that includes practical as well as scholarly material, and is easily accessible to everyone.

    So 2,000 people gather in Phoenix and decide to take away your underwear and then your federal condom. How is this possible? How can a few people get together and convince us that gravity doesn't work anymore? I don't get it. 2,000 members of the Tea Party Patriots gathered for a national conference last Saturday and they decided to push their agenda all across America. Many of these folks are new to politics. They are always talking about taxes and the federal government. I take it that they all have jobs or have decided to run for public office in order to find one. When these folks talk about patriotism and the good old days, I keep seeing Dixie flags, slavery and segregation. Please don't tread on me? Who are they talking about? I look in the mirror at my coffee self.
    Weather Alert: Tornado watch issued for D.C. area
    February 28, 2011 9:11:14 AM

    The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for the D.C. area until 4 p.m. today.

    The Capital Weather reports severe weather should spread over the area this afternoon and evening. Periods of thunderstorms are likely, some of which may be severe with torrential rain (flash flooding), damaging winds and hail.

    These storms could impact the evening commute.


    Tricycle Daily Dharma
    Why the Zen Poet Speaks
    Sitting zazen [meditation], you really become intimate with the limitations of language, of narrative, of thought itself. With every thought there’s a “Yes, but....” With every idea comes another idea. This is the labyrinth of thought. Ultimately, you realize that “truth” is not to be found in words. I think it’s from this realization, this awareness, that the Zen poet speaks.

    Seido Ray Ronci, "No Words"

    Each week, host Krista Tippett looks at the common and larger themes of American life ... Civil rights veteran Vincent Harding has a long lens of wisdom on ...

    Krista Tippett on Being: meaning, religion, ethics, and ideas on ..

    February 24, 2011
    Does African-American Literature Exist?
    Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle
    Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle
    By Kenneth W. Warren
    I'd like to make a claim that runs counter to much of literary scholarship. Historically speaking, the collective enterprise we call African-American or black literature is of recent vintage—in fact, it's just a little more than a century old. Further, it has already come to an end. And the latter is a fact we should neither regret nor lament.
    African-American literature was the literature of a distinct historical period, namely, the era of constitutionally sanctioned segregation known as Jim Crow. Punctuated by state constitutional amendments that disfranchised black Americans throughout much of the South, legitimated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896 with the infamous "separate but equal" ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, and stumbling into decline in the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s, Jim Crow and the fight against it gave rise to—and shaped—African-American literary practice as we have come to know it. Like it or not, African-American literature was a Jim Crow phenomenon, which is to say, speaking from the standpoint of a post-Jim Crow world, African-American literature is history. While one can (and students of American literature certainly should) write about African-American literature as an object of study, one can no longer write African-American literature, any more than one can currently write Elizabethan literature.
    That this fact should occasion no lament is because the society that gave us what we know as African-American literature is a society that black Americans did not want then and certainly don't want now. In consolidating Jim Crow through violence, state statutes, and judicial decisions, Southern states foreclosed on many of the avenues of political and social participation that had opened up for Southern blacks during Reconstruction and had managed to survive various forms of opposition during the two decades after the 1877 Hayes-Tilden compromise effectively ended Radical Reconstruction. It was in response to the rising tide of disfranchisement and segregation that calls for black Americans to produce a distinct literature began to proliferate and to shape black literary practice.
    In light of recent literary criticism, my assertion may seem wrongheaded. Much scholarship has sought to justify taking a longer view of African-American literature: Some work argues that what defines African-American literary texts is the way black authors, consciously or unconsciously, have reworked rhetorical practices, myths, folklore, and traditions deriving from the African continent. Others have defined African-American literature by its prolonged argument with slavery, seeing even contemporary black literature as indelibly marked by the ways that enslaved blacks coped with the brutalities of the Middle Passage. To be sure, before the Civil War, abolitionists had cited and encouraged black achievement in literature to refute charges of black inferiority. For the most part, however, they wanted to demonstrate that blacks could produce literature, not that they needed to produce a distinct literature.
    By the end of the 19th century, though, that had changed. From an array of writers—including Frances E.W. Harper, Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Sutton E. Griggs—came exhortations to blacks to write a literature by and for themselves. Not only had literature been enlisted in the fight against Jim Crow as a way to challenge the enforcement and justification of segregation, but with so many black Americans effectively shut out from the political process, literature, and writers themselves, could play an outsized role in what became a seemingly endless round of trying to figure out just what it was that "the Negro" wanted. The question mattered because defenders of the white South were insisting they had created a society that conformed to the natural order of things, while critics of the region's sociopolitical order were trying to determine how far down the road of equality the nation would need to go to appease its aggrieved black citizens. Both sides solicited black voices for confirmation or denial.
    When, in 1944, the University of North Carolina Press brought out an anthology under the title What the Negro Wants, featuring essays by 14 black authors and edited by the African-American historian Rayford W. Logan, the press's publisher, a white man named W.T. Couch, felt compelled to include an introduction telling the reader: "This book was written at the request of the Press. The idea back of the request was that the country, and particularly the South, ought to know what the Negro wants, and that statements from leading Negroes might throw some light on this important question." Among the 14 "leading Negroes" were four whose fame rested significantly on their literary productions: Du Bois, George S. Schuyler, Langston Hughes, and Sterling A. Brown.

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    In sum, what produced African-American literature as we know it was that, in a Jim Crow society, black writers and their works could plausibly be perceived as voices for a largely silenced population.
    As a consequence, literary work by black writers came to be discussed in terms of how well it served (or failed to serve) as an instrument in the fight against Jim Crow and in terms of what it showed about the development (or lack thereof) of black literature, the race as a whole, or the nation's progress in accepting African-Americans as full and equal citizens. Of course, not every black writer accepted or embraced those terms; some objected to the demands being placed on them as writers.
    Many critics of black literature also cited such expectations as imposing a considerable liability on black literature. Writing in 1942 in the short-lived journal Negro Quarterly: A Review of Negro Life and Culture, edited by Angelo Herndon and Ralph Ellison, for example, the upstart young black critic Edward Bland lamented the lack of literary accomplishment among Harlem Renaissance authors in the 1920s: "One of the outstanding features of the Negro novels that appeared during the twenties was their literary incompetence." Attributing that alleged incompetence to the political burden imposed on black writers by the black middle class, Bland complained that for the black petit-bourgeois reader, "literature was a medium through which the black man could state his case to the world and exhibit those details of Negro life that would redound to the credit and goodwill of the race. Writing became a function of changing the world through what became explicit propaganda; and the primary consideration governing its subject matter and presentation was the welfare of the race."
    Bland was far from alone in making that sort of criticism. Many Harlem Renaissance authors had themselves faulted their predecessors in similar terms. And many writers after Bland did so as well. The point here is not to agree or disagree with such withering assessments of black fiction. Rather, it is to recognize that the impulse to offer those assessments reveals how inextricably black literature and the social conditions imposed by Jim Crow were tied together. In every instance, the critique expressed a hope that black literature could shed the very qualities that had previously identified it as black literature. Sometimes the argument was that in doing so, it could finally become what it had striven to be at the outset—truly representative of black people and a true index of the creativity and capacity of the race. Others argued that after Jim Crow, black writers could be freed entirely from the burden of representing a race—writers would at last be free to be themselves.
    Despite the differences in the answers they produced, both lines of argument were responses to the same questions. Just what would the status of black literature be when at last the walls of Jim Crow came tumbling down? Would the true contours of black difference finally shine forth? Or would racial difference and the need for a distinct literature prove to have been only a function of a system of imposed inequality?
    While one might have expected those issues to have become salient during the late 1940s and early 1950s, as the modern civil-rights movement began to achieve the victories that signaled the coming end of constitutionally sanctioned segregation, the truth is otherwise. From the inception of black literature, at the beginning of the 20th century, Frances Harper, Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ellison were only some of the writers to pose the question explicitly. The tour de force response, and the literary work that truly, and paradoxically, sits at the center of African-American literature, is George S. Schuyler's controversial 1931 satiric novel on racial difference, Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, A.D. 1933-1940.
    Schuyler conjured up a scientist, the ominously named Dr. Junius Crookman, who invents an effective and inexpensive method to make blacks indistinguishable in appearance from whites. Crookman markets his invention as the solution to the race problem, and in the brave new world of Schuyler's novel, blacks decide en masse to take advantage of the opportunity to be black no more, leaving virtually no visually black people remaining in the United States. Schuyler, a prickly, prideful individual, and an archconservative, pitched his satire as, in part, an indictment of black self-hatred and racial shame. But as it unfolds, Black No More becomes something different. For if race were more than skin deep, a new skin color would prove to be an insufficient disguise; some cultural dissembling would be in order for the trick to play out. As it turns out in Schuyler's story, however, if blacks can't be physically identified as different, then they simply aren't all that different. In the main, blacks in the novel become black no more not because they feel their culture is inferior to that of whites. They make the change because they are tired of being shut out of good jobs, good housing, and decent services solely on the basis of skin color.
    Tellingly, it is the elites of both races who speak most fervently in the book on behalf of racial differences. Unable to be demagogues on the basis of skin color, white Southern politicians scramble desperately to reconstruct some basis of racial difference, probing into genealogies in hopes of determining once and for all who is black and who is white. But here they meet with disastrous results because they discover that most American whites turn out to be tarred somewhere on their family tree with the brush of black ancestry. Paralleling the distress of white segregationists is the plight of black leaders, whom Schuyler sends up in a series of scathing caricatures of figures like Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, Madam C.J. Walker, and Du Bois—caricatures that did not prevent Du Bois and Alain Locke, a key force in the Harlem Renaissance, from reviewing the book favorably. Despite the fact that he and his ilk were among the novel's targets, Du Bois, for one, felt strongly that the health of Negro literature depended on freeing black authors to write about the race in whatever manner they pleased, even if the results were unflattering. On that score, Black No More delivered marvelously.
    But it is the novel's delineation of the class commitment to the race line that helps make apparent why it is proper to see African-American literature as having come to an end. Although Black No More is unsparing in its negative depiction of all civil-rights and protest organizations, Schuyler's plot device underscores Jim Crow's role in forging a link between the actions and writings of elite blacks and the nation's black population as a whole. The novel shows that, whether for good or for ill, the activities of the group whom Du Bois deemed the Talented Tenth could serve to represent all black Americans only in a world in which Jim Crow could be enforced. Because segregation rested informally on claims and beliefs about racial difference and inequality, it lent coherence to the notion of a collective race interest. That also meant that the publication of a work of literature or the success of a particular black individual could call attention to the falsity of racist beliefs and, through argument or demonstration, conceivably affect all blacks regardless of their class status.
    The present moment is different. As rendered vividly in a work like Michael Thomas's 2007 novel, Man Gone Down, which was awarded the 2009 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, racism still stings. Tracing the four-day odyssey in post 9/11 New York City of an unnamed black protagonist and former English Ph.D. student with an ancestry as mixed as Du Bois's, it shows how discrimination remains a problem. It is, for example, infuriating for Thomas's protagonist that white patrons at trendy markets react with surprise upon encountering a black male shopping alongside them as if he belonged there. Yet, as Thomas notes, it is also clear that a society that takes in stride the appearance of blacks in upscale markets, neighborhoods, and schools, or a society that recognizes black literary achievement, can also be a society that tolerates a great deal of poverty and inequality. Again, in itself, that observation is nothing new. Langston Hughes, in his 1940 autobiography The Big Sea, mercilessly panned his Harlem Renaissance contemporaries for having believed "the race problem had at last been solved through Art plus Gladys Bentley," and that "the New Negro would lead a new life from then on in green pastures of tolerance created by Countee Cullen, Ethel Waters, Claude McKay, Duke Ellington, Bojangles, and Alain Locke." Hughes then continued, acerbically, if somewhat disingenuously, "I don't know what made any Negroes think that—except that they were mostly intellectuals doing the thinking. The ordinary Negroes hadn't heard of the Harlem Renaissance. And if they had, it hadn't raised their wages any."
    Of course it hadn't, and at some level Hughes recognized the injustice of his criticism. The targets of his censure were not as naïve as he made them out to be. But he knew where the knife's edge was keenest. What made work by a select group of blacks African-American literature was the claim and belief that their work had something to do with the welfare of black Americans generally. Sever that connection, and works, however accomplished, would settle into the literary universe according to style, theme, genre, or whatever. Writing in the 1940s, Hughes knew that the connection hadn't been severed yet. American society was still a Jim Crow society, and writing by black Americans was African-American literature.
    Under Jim Crow, by helping to draw attention to the wrongs of segregation, the literary artists who gave us African-American literature assisted in establishing a politics based on appealing to a white-power structure, putatively on behalf of the whole race, to proclaim (to quote Du Bois's most well-known text, The Souls of Black Folk)  that "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." That politics was limited by being a politics of elite appeal rather than of direct action. In truth, that was because racial discrimination, enforced by violence and by statute, impeded most black Americans in the South from effectively being able to act politically on their own behalf.
    At present, however, a literature insisting that the problem of the 21st century remains the problem of the color line paradoxically obscures the economic and political problems facing many black Americans, unless those problems can be attributed to racial discrimination. If the nation's black citizens are suffering largely for the same reasons its white citizens are suffering, then that is a problem about which such politics has nothing to say. In the world we inhabit, discrimination stands out most blatantly as the problem to be addressed when you've got a lot of life's other problems whittled down to a manageable size—which is why college professors being snubbed by cab drivers and accosted by police officers in their own homes, or wealthy celebrities being dissed by upscale retailers, have become iconic figures in demonstrating that race still matters.
    A literature highlighting discrimination is a literature of that class stratum. And make no mistake, the late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen the publication of many very fine novels and poems by writers like Thomas, Colson Whitehead, Paul Beatty, Danzy Senna, Andrea Lee, and Carl Phillips, to name a few. By the criteria we use to determine matters of racial identity, all of these authors may indeed be African-American. The works they've written, however, are not.
    Kenneth W. Warren is a professor of English at the University of Chicago. His most recent book, "What Was African American Literature?," was published last month by Harvard University Press.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Heading to Montgomery County this afternoon to read poetry to senior citizens.  Hey - I'm a senior citizen. I'm glad I can still chew poems with my own teeth.
    Death of a Homemaker

           (for Enid Miller)

    3 months after her funeral,
    I find myself weeping
    as I fold my clothes.

    Where are my mother's
    hands? Why are the sheets,
    towels, socks, so cold?

          - E. Ethelbert Miller

    Saturday, February 26, 2011



          - Bradley Whitford
    Quote of the Day:

    In fact, invisible is how we've been taught to think of ourselves since coal was first discovered here. When I was little, teachers would stand over my desk and tell me that I had to change my accent if I wanted to get ahead in the world. Never mind that I had nearly perfect grammar and spelling.

    We were also told the success of the mines mattered above all else, that if we complained about the dust, noise and disrespect pumped out by the mine in our community, people would lose jobs.

    The coal companies, the news media and even our own government have all been complicit in valuing Appalachian lives less than those of other Americans.
    Otherwise, it might be harder for them to get that coal out as quickly and inexpensively as they do.

    Those of us who protest mountaintop removal do it for the environment, but we're also fighting to prove we are not unwarranted burdens. Our water and air
    are being poisoned but the most dangerous toxin is the message that people don't matter.

     -Silas House (The Washington Post, February 20, 2011).

    BROOKE KENNY sent me her new novel - ECHOES OF HER.  Good to see this book out.
    A few years ago, Brooke saw me at a cafe in Takoma Park, Maryland. I think I was reading Poet Lore submissions. I had a Poets & Writers bag. Brooke came by my table and the rest is history. We met several times over several months, having wonderful conversations about a manuscript that was trying to swim, struggling to find air. So happy to see this new book out - walking on land and slipping into the hands of readers.

    Walker, Christie, and more to come. Look for everyone to jump on the austerity bandwagon. They will propose ridiculous hard cuts to state programs and pensions. The media will see them as "tough guys" and will promote them as the answer to Obama who still "looks" weak at times. Is it a color thing? The poor O can't show any anger or emotion when it comes to the issues. Do you want him to appear out of control? Look for Christie to capture the American imagination. A big man in lean times. Yes, we might as well elect another Taft. Can anything besides poetry come out of New Jersey? Time for Chris Christie to cut and run.

    If you want to know how bad things are in the world. Just consider this news out of Somalia:

    President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, said Friday that a government offensive was gaining ground after a week of fighting against militants who for years have confined his administration to a few blocks of the capital. "The fighting is going on an our troops are winning. Our operation will continue until we secure the country.

    LOL. Let's do the math here. This guy for years has been confined to a few blocks. How long will it take to secure the country? 2000 years????
    Good News:

    Bob Herbert the last few weeks has been writing some of the best OP-ED essays for The New York Times. His topic has been poverty.
    In today's paper he makes this accurate observation:

    The predators at the top, billionaires and millionaires, are pitting ordinary workers against one another. So we're left with the bizarre situation of unionized workers with a pension being resented by nonunion workers without one.

    1. Best Negro with a short haircut.
    2. The very dark skinned woman with blond hair.
    3. Best sound effects for the creative use of MF.
    4. Best black leader in a supporting role.
    5. Best dressed black public intellectual without a scholarly book.
    6. Best recording by a black hip hop artist who can't sing or rap.
               The First Student Based Relief & Service Organization.
    MWB Libya Emergency Response: Initial Assessment
    FEBRUARY 26, 2011
    Muslims Without Borders' medical convoy arrived at the Libyan border on Wednesday, February 23rd with a shipment of emergency medical supplies. The shipment was delivered to to Al Jalaa Hospital in Bengazi on February 24th. MWB was the first American NGO to operate inside Libya.
    MWB's initial assessment of the situation in the eastern cities of Tobruk, Darnah and Benghazi shows no imminent disaster pending. Hospitals are prepared to handle medical needs for the short term, but are still lacking basic medical equipment and medication. MWB is preparing a second convoy with general medical equipment and medication.
    MWB is also preparing an advance team for the western region on the Tunisian border where the situation may change to a sudden emergency due to the fluid situation in the capital Tripoli. Please continue to support MWB's aid and logistics network which is now also assisting other international relief agencies sending aid into Libya.

    I'm just back from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History- 85th Annual Conference. I participated in the author/exhibitor session. I sat behind a table next to my friend Eurydice Stanley. I hadn't seen her in a number of years. She was looking lovely in her military attire; a major in the U.S. Army. The morning was filled with much laughter and conversations with Thomas Battle, Janet Sims -Woods, Lonnie Bunch, Sharon Minor King, Bernice Reagon and folks who I only remember by head shape, size and lips. I sold a couple of books (The 5th Inning) but more important I had a good time on a Saturday.

    Too often we don't pay attention to some of our local elections. Too often we don't vote or maybe our neighbors don't vote. I know many poor people don't vote - they often feel outside the political process. Often is a word I want to use because if we're not careful we are going to see not 1, 2, but many Wisconsins. From out of nowhere will come Republican leaders with strange money backers and a friendly media. Watch how quickly the media will try to push Gov. Walker into the national arena. America loves a tough guy. Reagan returns. Everyone loves a rerun -it gives them a chance to win again. Many future American workers are going to be born losers if the political process does not bend towards justice. Nothing like a little violence to poison the well of activism. Somewhere I'm looking for a Right wing talk show host to demand that someone send in the camels and breakup this fragile thing we call democracy. Send in the replacement players. Bust the Unions. We've seen this before. Now what will we do about it?  Without control of the media - it will be difficult to win the long term battle. The media loves only the "entertainment" associated with protest. Serious power changes often comes after an ugly fight. Watch out for the first stone thrower. Is the Civil War here?
    Somebody hum Dixie for me. I feel like I'm gonna to be a slave again. Should I pray to Joe Hill or John Brown? Maybe I should just organize...