Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tom Barry, Truthout: US Customs and Border Protection has launched its drone program without undertaking a cost-benefit strategy that includes a specific role for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The agency continues to buy drones without planning for their support, maintenance or strategic value.


Notice in the picture - on the desk. A hat  -a calling card like Lester Young.





Things are going well with my new television show - The Scholars.  Yesterday I interviewed the librarian Adia Coleman. Coleman is an information and patent specialist at Howard University.
Look for The Scholars to be on the air in March.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013



must be more careful    item     learn to use okay
their pass word    okay

I met Robert Hayden when he served as the poetry consultant at the Library of Congress in the late seventies. I recall sitting next to him once while he read a poem. I was attracted by his thick glasses and how he placed his face so close to the page in order to read. It was as if he needed to kiss each word. I came late to the arguments between the Black Nationalists and Hayden. His work was cerebral and I first encountered it among the series of chapbooks Paul Breman published – A Ballad of Remembrance.  My mentor Dr. Stephen Henderson loved Hayden’s work, as did Michael Harper. Next to them I place May Miller Sullivan and Delores Kendrick –a choir of Hayden supporters. I never viewed Robert Hayden as being a writer slipping into obscurity. I disagree with Arnold Rampersad’s comments in the afterword of the newly released Collected Poems of Robert Hayden edited by Frederick Glaysher.

Thanks to organizations like Cave Canem and a new generation of African American poets and teachers, Hayden’s work might be more popular today than ever before.
This best explains why the writer Reginald Dwayne Betts has written the introduction to the new Hayden release. Betts at times reminds me of a combination of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. His own narrative and memoir (A Question of Freedom) has received wide recognition and praise. When he talks about what Robert Hayden’s poems mean to him it’s no less than a man given light after the release from a dark cell.

But Betts would have us look to the poems more than the man while Rampersad writes like a referee checking the scoreboard and counting how often Hayden writes about race.
Future scholars might have to explore how Hayden’s personal “trama” might be responsible for the presence of violence in his poetry. This is hinted at when Rampersad
mentions issues of sexuality in Hayden’s life. How an artist might “cope” with trama
can be veiled by how they wrestle with key emotional aspects of their childhood. One learns from a poet’s life as well as their poetry. Neither should stand alone.

I think Hayden was a visionary writer. He looked backwards first and then forward. His best work is rooted in African American history. The poems “Middle Passage,” “Runagate Runagate,” and “The Ballad of Nat Turner” are the ones that kept calling out to Betts when he was in prison.  “American Journal” points us in the direction of hope. It’s one of my favorite poems. There will always be something very black and American, about Robert Hayden. The work he left behind is for us to chew and digest. It’s also work that is instructional for all who wish to know how to live and be free.

Introduction by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Edited by Frederick Glaysher
Afterword by Arnold Rampersad

Liveright Paperback
A Division of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
$18.95 paperback

Quote of the Day

I broke my favorite coffee mug this morning. While I was washing it in the sink, it slipped from my hands and shattered. How could I have been so careless? O that lovely mug! Here one minute, lying in broken pieces the next. No long, lingering illness. No warning signs that something was awry. No chance to prepare for the day I'd no longer be able to reach for it, cup my hand around it, bring it to my lips. This is that day.

    - Sy Safransky
Richard D. Wolff, Truthout: Wolff takes issue with New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman's view that online education is the revolution that will close the poverty gap. It is, says Wolff, little more than another capitalist tool to support outsourcing jobs to the Third World.



Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Treve de blues
 - Leon Damas

Compassion is my art
- Grace A. Ali

God makes stars. It's up to producers to find them
- Samuel Goldwyn


E: What type of restructuring is taking place at The Black Scholar? What can readers look forward to?

We’ve undertaken a complete restructuring but with the intention of maintaining as much as possible the iconic imagery and the consciousness of being in tune with generational transformation that made the journal so significant for so long.  This being such a different generation—one made possible by what TBS and its generation achieved—our challenge is to be as relevant now as the journal always strove to be.  The advisory board has therefore been changed to include a greater variety of writers, scholars, artists and activists who have risen to prominence in the last couple decades and we have updated the active board to include folks who are currently making an impact in their respective fields.  Though the journal has always had a global focus, the multiple types of globality at work right now mean that what we once considered to be “pan-African” or “Diasporic” has to engage even contentious intra-racial differences and cross-cultural debate and operate without the guiding ideological frameworks of previous generations; the same goes for issues of race, sexuality and gender.  Our restructuring intends to thematize this radical diversity of cultural, geographic, political and intellectual practice and make the journal/magazine a forum for it.  But also, we have undertaken a physical revamp: fewer annual issues but more content, more reviews, an entirely different format and size and a sharper visual presence.  We are also now officially peer-reviewed.

E: Across the country newspapers and magazines are either folding or are ending their print publications.  How will The Black Scholar survive in this changing world?

The most amazing thing about TBS as an economic entity is the fact that it stayed solvent throughout the difficulties facing print publications over the years.  In fact even as the journal faced its own internal complexities and its presence wavered, it managed to stay afloat, or if not always fully buoyant, it stayed alive.  This was due to the passion of its founders and the publisher’s commitment to the journal as an iconic brand.  However, much of the credit for that has to go to the enormous support for the journal maintained by its long-time subscribers and to the vast amounts of good will and respect it had generated since its founding. TBS continues to have one of the highest subscription rates of any black studies journal.  Few journals actually have this history and present behind them, and so for us the new editors it's an honor but also a buffer as we undertake reinvention.  But like most if not all print journals out there today, we have begun to vamp up our web presence as well as to make use of our considerable archive.  As a black journal, though, it’s clear that there is a great need for/interest in more spaces for black expression and ideas—black in its most radical plurality, I must always add.  In business terms, there is a market far larger now for this material than there are outlets.  If you think about it, there still are precious few zones/spaces for the publication of rigorous black thought, unconventional yet disciplined black arguments and the exploration of ideological shifts, trends and cultural forms.  The world of black ideas has continued a two decades long explosion, yet there have been very few notable spaces available to attempt coverage.  Not only does TBS have the name and the infrastructure to do so, it has the support.

  E: What are some of the new trends within black scholarship?

Due to the diversity of what “black scholarship” could be said to signify—and radical diversification is not only a new trend but a permanent necessity—its difficult to answer this without the suggestion of a listing of priorities.  So it should be clear that we are open not only to the various new trends but to even trends-to-be and would like to be the space where novelty is generated.  But clearly issues of sex/gender continue to be fruitful in the multiply black worlds of contemporary thought—queer discourses as well as new modes of feminist thought as well as black masculinity; popular culture, technology, music and media; new African/black immigrant work as well as materials reflecting shifts and changes throughout the black world but rendered without the sometimes implicit prioritizing of African-American views and perspectives; the now established structures of black/African-American/African visual arts; Afro-Europe and black Latin America; critical political economy but also materials engaged with how market forces creatively work…not to mention the very foundational questions as to what constitutes “black” and “scholarship.”  I do want to stress, though, that TBS is, has been and must be a space of rigorous thinking but rendered accessibly, inter-disciplinarily and shared with those who are not necessarily institutionalized academics and scholars.

E: Who are the black intellectuals living today one might do a special issue on?

Ok now you are asking me to dream publicly!  Special issues could be on public figures, literary/art/music figures, media personages as well (we, for example, have an exciting issue on Michelle Obama under development); but academic intellectuals that immediately come to mind include Hortense Spillers, Edouard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, Stuart Hall, Orlando Patterson, Samuel R. Delany…but as you can imagine, the list could go on and on given how many important black intellectual and cultural figures here and abroad need to be identified as significant.  We aim to be the kind of organ that helps confer significance as well as reflect it.

E: Will your publication explore the "making" of the black scholar?  Will it examine the politics behind the awarding of fellowships and research grants?

If by the “making” of the black scholar you mean how black scholars are produced--especially now that such a thing as a “black scholar” does exist as an institutional product, and therefore subject to the problems of institutionalization--keep in mind that our definition of “scholar” is a broad one.  It includes what used to be called (and I say that only slightly in jest) “public intellectuals” as well as cultural, social and political figures.  The presence of so many visible black figures in mainstream politics is as important to TBS as are so-called “oppositional” figures (though we do intend to explore the changing nature and value of “the oppositional”) as are those who are becoming influential in ways and spaces that might not conventionally be recognized by formal scholarship.  This includes activists and artists of all stripes, and so the process of their making will vary.  But this is definitely a worthy topic and we are open to it—in fact, we plan to feature more special issues on such topics since special issues are going to now be a cornerstone of our annual publication schedule.  So we invite and welcome proposals and suggestions as well as the appropriate contributors. 

  E: Will scholars of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds, who are writing on issues of race, find a home for their work at The Black Scholar?

Though TBS will consider good work by reviewers and contributors regardless of their background, the fact is that despite the great variety of cultural, intellectual, scholarly and political journals out there, a still precious few are a) run by blacks and b) prioritize black content, certainly at this level.  Also, the fact that so much valuable, important and engaging work on race isn’t necessarily being done by blacks is generating a worrying by-product.  That by-product is this: work by black thinkers, writers and critics often gets marginalized due to that great variety of other work on race being done by non-black writers.  We see a version of this operating in terms of academic hiring and tenure: an easy way to marginalize blacks is to emphasize how much work on race is being done by non-blacks!  So we do aim to privilege black content but are without question open to quality content no matter where it comes from.



Tricycle Daily Dharma January 29, 2013

Understanding and Respect

Learning about other faiths helps us to understand, and to live side by side with, differing views and belief systems. To remain in one tradition without absorbing the benefits of the others seems disrespectful to the gifts that the Buddha passed down to us. Only through mutual understanding and respect can we successfully implement what the Buddha taught.
- Scott Hunt, “Scott Hunt’s Seaworthy Dream In Two Parts”


In 1953, Harper's Magazine published James Baldwin's essay "Stranger In The Village."  Baldwin begins by writing:

From all available evidence no black man had ever set foot in this tiny Swiss village before I came. I was told before arriving that I would probably be a "sight" for the village; I took this to mean that people of my complexion were rarely seen in Switzerland, and also that city people are always something of a "sight" outside of the city. It did not occur to me - possibly because I am an American- that there could be people anywhere who had never seen a Negro.

Yesterday my beloved friend Grace A. Ali sent me a picture (see below) of her that had been taken at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It's obvious that Grace is not a stranger in the village. In fact in the photo Grace's elegance suggests ownership of the facilities seen behind her.
In many ways this picture tells the story of Baldwin's children. They continue to move, live and work beyond Harlem. Once again blackness must be defined as international. Grace's participation at the World Economic Forum is just another example of how she continue to be a person of note in a changing world. Connect with her at:

Monday, January 28, 2013

I think peace should be pursued not only among governments but among people.

    - Shimon Peres


National News Alert

Report: Treasury approved excessive pay for executives at bailed-out AIG, GM and Ally

A watchdog says the U.S. Treasury Department disregarded its own guidelines and allowed large pay increases for executives at three firms that had received taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis.

Read more at:


It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with you about our climate and energy work here at the Institute for Policy Studies. With President Obama back on the job for another four years, we thought it would be an opportune time to share the exciting work going on here.

President Obama promised in his inauguration speech that climate change will be a priority in his second term. This pledge couldn’t come a moment too soon. Science tells us we have just a few short years left to halt emissions if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A recent report issued by the U.S. Government showed that we’re on track for a 9-15 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperatures by 2100 – unless we act swiftly and aggressively.

We know Obama has been dealing with a difficult Congress. But there are other measures he could take as president that would have real impacts on our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. And we’re pushing him to do so.

We are following the money for climate change adaptation and mitigation, knowing that who gets the money and how it’s spent matters in terms of lives saved and lives lost.  My colleague, Janet Redman, is working with U.S. and global allies in the climate justice movement to call on developed countries to enact a financial transaction tax and commit a significant part of the revenue to the new Green Climate Fund. Eleven European nations just passed the tiny tax on Fat Cat bankers, and we think with a strong movement behind us, we can have it in the U.S., too.

I’m also eager to finish up some unfinished work I started back in 1996: Get the World Bank (and all development banks and export credit agencies) out of fossil fuels.  With a new report released by the World Bank that found that a 4 degree Celsius rise in temperatures would mean all of their work on poverty alleviation and development would be undermined, I've written and spoken out about the need to get the World Bank out of fossil fuel lending entirely. I’m now working with an array of allies—from religious groups to developing country allies—in calling on World Bank President Kim to get the World Bank to end all fossil fuel lending.

We would love to engage you in this process and get your ideas on how to make these and other victories possible this year. Send me an email with your thoughts.


Daphne Wysham
Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies




Obama's Inaugural Address 'One Of The Hardest Speeches I've Written,' Jon Favreau Says

Sadness at the edge of January...

The father of my friend and poet Hind Shoufani recently died.
Sending prayers and love...

Ethelbert & Hind. Photo by Hind Shoufani

Sunday, January 27, 2013



Ethelbert Miller's Fifth Inning
This is real E. Ethelbert Miller and a little book to treasure. Note: Paul Buhle threw a no-hitter at age 12, in 1956. It was his last season.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


 THE QUESTION:  Why are you doing a documentary film about World War I?

Glenn Marcus:

The lessons, conflicts and questions provoked by World War I are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.  What is America’s role in the world?  What are justifiable reasons for going to war?  What responsibility does the country have to the men and women who fight the battles?  What are the responsibilities of those who remain at home?  To what degree should civil rights and freedom of speech be compromised for the sake of security?  How disproportionately does war favor the powerful and wealthy over the weak and the poor?  With the coming of the war’s Centennial, it is time to remember and reevaluate this truly cataclysmic event in world and American history. 

America’s WWI experience was unique from that of the other combatants because the country’s security was not directly threatened by the bloody conflict in Europe.  For this reason, most Americans opposed entering the conflict, but a potent public relations effort was mounted to frame the war in high-minded ideas:  a great crusade to save western civilization, to make the world safe for democracy.  But it was also a war in which most Americans hoped there was something to be gained.
Women hoped to earn the right to vote by unquestioningly contributing their labor, and their husbands and their sons.  Social reformers used it as a platform to address some of the country’s intractable problems:  a restless immigrant population, alcoholism and vice, child labor, and redistribution of excessive wealth.  Groups such as African Americans and Native Americans hoped to show their loyalty to the country and thereby gain the full rights of citizenship.  As a result, the homeland became a battleground between forces for social stability and forces for greater social justice and a more inclusive society.   These battles continued after the war in many manifestations, the "Red Summer" of 1919, and the Palmer Raids, and Tulsa 1921 are three of the most dramatic examples.

And finally, the expansion of government power during the war dwarfed anything before, and set the stage for all that followed hence.  And the failure of the US to work its will at Versailles, and to join the League of Nations, virtually guaranteed that another world war would follow.

Bio Note:
Glenn Marcus is a documentary film producer and an Adjunct Professor, Advanced Academic Programs at John Hopkins University.


Look for Tiger Woods to move back into the headlines...


 Winold Reiss. Pastel on illustration board, c. 1925.
Reading Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks.

Tricycle Daily Dharma January 26, 2013

Helping Each Other Through

History's accelerating like technology's accelerated. Can't go back. We can blow the whole show up. Or we can calm fear, see the world is really changing, like a dream, & go explore & help each other through. It's all safe because as Einstein & the Buddhists secretly tipped everybody off long ago: the whole show is a harmless wave-illusion.
- Allen Ginsberg, “‘Letter to the Wall Street Journal,’ 1966”

Friday, January 25, 2013





                              Teodross Avery: Blowing Jazz Into The Future

Jazz! It didn’t begin with Louis Armstrong’s innovative style of improvisation nor did it end with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (1970). This seems to be the conscious among some music writers. The state of jazz is in flux and it always has been. If it hadn’t then every style of jazz and offspring from it after Jellyroll Morton wouldn’t have happened. The tendency to typecast jazz musicians and then rebuff them for playing anything but jazz may only be, if we look the other way, a recurring human flaw instead of the inability to express knowledgeably what the artist is doing and the evolutionary linkages between jazz and other music genres. Some writers have either forgotten the direction of Miles Davis’ musical output in the last decades of his life, i.e. Tutu (1986), Amandla (1989) and Doo Bop (1992) or they have no knowledge of it. And Miles was a major link in that evolutionary process.

Many jazz musicians have cut their own directions on the path that Miles helped open up. Teodross (pronounced with long “o” s) Avery, a highly gifted 39 year old tenor/soprano player, can be registered in that category as well. For the last ten years he has been blowing on the R&B/hip hop scene mostly as a collaborator. His last three albums The Diva’s Choice (2013), Bridging the Gap (2008), and New Day New Groove (2000) combine the rhythms and beats of jazz, hip hop, R&B, house and Brazilian music. But Amery’s musical roots are grounded in the jazz idiom, but not constrained by it as his 1994 debut album In Other Words and his second release My Generation two years later might suggest.

Avery was born to Ethiopian parents in Oakland, California in 1973. At an early age his father encouraged his musical curiosity. For a while he studied classical guitar, but then switched to tenor after listening to John Coltrane’s Giant Steps (1959). Coltrane imprinted in indelible influence on Avery’s approach to the saxophone. Giant Steps represented a pivotal point in Coltrane’s development as a jazz musician especially the approach to melodic and harmonic structure he learned from Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. In Giant Steps Coltrane made a definitive statement about what jazz had become up to that point and also suggested where it could go accompanied by a subtle understatement of bluesy spirituality. Avery has taken Coltrane’s suggested path and reinterpreted it in tandem with the music he grew up with; r&b, rock, reggae, funk, and hip hop.

While attending Berklee School of Music Avery was discovered by GRP/Impulse A&R executive Carl Griffin through the National Foundation for The Advancement of The Arts which led to his first two albums, critical acclaim and wide exposure. Avery’s musical gifts and expressively fluid lyricism put an instant demand on his talents by musicians from every musical genre he grew up with leading to collaborations with: Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, soul vocalists Leela James and Jos Stone, jazz/r&b vibraphonist Roy Ayers, hip hop rappers Mos Def, Allen Anthony and Talib Kweli, the late jazz vocalist Betty Carter, hip hop rapper/vocalist Lauryn Hill, the late r&b/pop vocalist Amy Winehouse, hip hop artists, G-Unit All Stars, singer/performer Shakira and the rock group Matchbox Twenty.

Given the powerful statements of his first two albums, to borrow Herbie Hancock’s phrase, “the jazz police” would lament Avery’s wide ranging collaborative work and his last three albums because they are outside the imaginary confines of the jazz conservatory. But deconstructing jazz, reconfiguring it, rebuilding it and deconstructing it again is the essence of its evolution so that the thread of musical ideas extends even farther. Avery’s latest projects should remind us of that. They are an extension many ideas not the least of which are influenced by John Coltrane, but are also represented in James Brown’s “Super Bad” where Brown urges his tenor player, Robert McCollugh; “Come on! Come on, Robert! Come on, brother! Blow it, Robert! Blow me some Trane, brother!” And Miles’ into to the title cut of his final studio and first hip hop album Blow, “This is Easy Mo Bee and Miles Davis, we’re gonna blow.”

It’s because of Avery’s jazz roots that he has been asked to collaborate in other areas rather than the other way around. When listening to In Other Words it isn’t difficult to understand why. Avery blows jazz into the future.

From Teodross Avery’s 1994 debut album In Other Words

Teodross Avery, tenor & soprano sax
Roy Hargrove, trumpet & flugelhorn (on High Hopes, Edda and Positive Role Models respectively)
Charles Craig, piano (except on The Possibilities Are Endless)
Ruben Rogers, bass
Mark Simmons, drums

High Hopes
Our True Friends
One to Love
An Ancient Civilization
The Possibilities Are Endless
What’s New
Urban Survival
Positive Role Models
In Other Words
Our Struggle