Monday, August 31, 2015

Playing with one's P. Aww...shucky ducky.

Can we Trump the dumb stuff? Neither Donald Trump or Ben Carson is going to be sitting in the White House after Obama. Politics as entertainment is peeing in our water right now. Every four years we listen to the same music. At the end of the day it gets down to a slug match on the ground. It's about delegates and votes. It's about political organizing and fundraising. It's not about saying something outrageous or even smart. It's about the long distance runner breaking the tape. Did you ever think Herman Cain was going to be our next president?  Sarah Palin?  Has anyone voted for president yet? The sad thing about all this is that business as usual continues behind the curtain and closed doors. Many of us are not even going to vote Republican. Do we care?  Of course we do - the media will "Cruz" everyone into a panic and tell you hell is coming as well as high water. Drown or burn baby - drown or burn.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


So it's around 8AM in the morning. I'm having breakfast at the Parkway Deli on Grubb Road in Silver Spring with Miyuki. It's a few hours before she will be on the air doing her "Sunday Kind of Love" show on WPFW. We are talking more about movies and music than eating our food. Miyuki wants to know if I've seen "Straight Outta Compton." Before I can say -no, two female police officers walk in and sit down in the booth next to ours. Why are we so aware of police these days?

Remember when you felt safe the moment you saw an officer?  Now you turn around and in your head the lyrics "F- the police" are playing. I'm afraid something has just slipped off my fork and it has nothing to do with eggs. Reality is cracked these days. It's sad to see police on the front lines all across this country. What are they doing?

They seem to be guarding borders and boundaries these days. Holes in our economy has resulted in many falling into unemployment and despair. It's going to get worse. Certain kinds of jobs are disappearing as I write this. These jobs are not coming back. Gone are manufacturing jobs that could provide a ticket into upward mobility and perhaps even the middle class. Today many people are just being paid bubblegum money. Chew, blow a bubble and it's gone. A smack in the face. It's just a matter of time before the service industry turns to a robotic work force. Walk into a fast food place and you'll touch a tablet before you talk to anyone.

The future is going to require a smaller workforce. The smaller workforce will be a highly skilled one. People who have a limited amount of education will have to hustle for most of their lives, buy lottery tickets or try to sing and spin a basketball into a paycheck. The future looks dark for black people. Meanwhile the rage factor is on the increase and so is protesting. After Selma on the screen it's was just a matter of time the movie camera would smile LA and test our Watts. I recall several years ago when a few people started reading scripts about a New Black Panther Party. Too much leather can be misleading and a beret without the French seems more like a posture than a political position. Is that letter in your pocket from Beverly Axelrod?

August 27, 1944-June 19, 2015
National City Christian Church
Washington, DC 


I believe it was in a recorded speech by Sekou Toure presented at the, 6th Pan African Congress, in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania, in 1974 that addressed the issue of brothers and comrades. If my memory is correct Toure spoke about how being brothers is simply an accident of birth; being a comrade means that one shares a common vision and purpose in life. One see’s the world the way it is and is motivated to change it.  One recalls words by Margaret Walker reminding us that we have been believers, and what we do should be for our people.  The term comrade in 2015 might seem somewhat outdated but I think it’s one that I can use when remembering James Miller. By coincidence we shared the same last name, as if we had emerged from a common womb or simply the same plantation.

I first met James Miller in Chinatown. Maybe we needed an Eastern backdrop for that meeting the same way John Coltrane once realized he needed two drummers in order to play the music in his head. It must have been during James early days teaching at George Washington University. The scholar Howard Gillette  contacted me by phone and said there was someone he wanted me to meet. So I took the #70 bus down Georgia Avenue from Howard.  If you’ve ever taken a ride on the # 70 bus you know it could probably take you to Oz or someplace not even Samuel Delaney or Octavia Butler could imagine.

When Gillette introduced me to James it was instant friendship, stirred with laughter; it was like the opening of a fortune cookie after a good afternoon meal.  He reminded me of a jazz musician. A man that might have played with Miles, Mingus or Monk. James Miller was cool as if he had just returned from Europe and people had finally learned how to play his music.

The problem with being black is that we too often mistake blackness for darkness.  We embrace the blues as if we had never hummed a spiritual. There was always a sparkle and a glitter in the eyes of James Miller.  He was the man across town I could discuss African American  culture with. He was the professor  who invited me into his classroom to talk about the Black Arts Movement.

It was the Black Arts Movement that connected us more than our last names.  A cultural period that continues to be as misunderstood as Warren G. Harding’s race or continually distracted by someone saying – “get your hand out of my pocket” in a Harlem ballroom.  James Miller was a scholar who could inspire a young person to read a book or write a paper. When I met his graduate students they were always asking questions, learning to swim in a Big Sea.

If today we look around our country and see the new Biggers of the world, struggling to find their voice before the next Chicago snowfall, we will fully understand the numbness within our hearts.  James Miller was right as in Richard Wright. If our Native Sons are filled with rage, how do we explain our black classics to them.  Miller once edited the Richard Wright newsletter.  In 2008, when many were celebrating the 100th year of Wright’s birth, I invited him to speak on Howard’s campus. On the September 25th program with him was friend and colleague Michelle Simms-Burton.

Recently I came across the remarks I made on that day introducing James.  The way we came together to honor Richard Wright several years ago is similar to how and why we gather today.  There is much work to be done in the field of African American Studies.  New scholars must do the heavy lifting and learn to live the legacy.  James Miller was a scholar and teacher, he knew for example that a term like Black Power was an elastic one. 

It is important that we mentor scholars who will follow in the footsteps of James Miller.
A man’s life is nothing but a sign or symbol at times. A gift from God.  A reminder that God’s fingerprints are everywhere.  The love we now return on this day is as essential as air.

May we continue to breath memories ,knowing in our hearts that when one departs by way of death,
each departure is a beginning. It’s the telling once again of this glorious story call life. 

It was Richard Wright who gave us a blue print for black literature.  James Miller was aware of this.
It was Wright who wrote:

“Negro writers should not hesitate to tell the truth about their people for fear of harming them or for fear that these truths may be used by belligerent whites against them. The problem of judgement for Negro writers is bound up with the problem of  their becoming whole men, human beings.”

In the arts, as well as in every act of our lives, the task is always about truth telling. It’s about giving testimony wherever we are.

Today our words shed their clothes and naked they say this:

James A. Miller once walked among us. His shadow is gone but his light remains behind.
Shining bright. A morning star.  A bright shining morning star.  To this we all bear witness and may our eyes be given back their sight.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August ends with me putting the home office in order. I packed 4 boxes of material for my archives at George Washington University. Pick-up is next week. Still much to file or discard in the basement. This fall begins the serious downsizing of my personal collection. That could mean more E-Boxes for selected writers.

The new crystal ball is social media. Things will really turn ugly the first time a robot calls a black man - nigger.

 - E. Ethelbert Miller


Well, school started this week. I joined the faculty at the University of Houston -Victoria. So far I have 6 interesting students in my online memoir class. I hope the next 8 weeks will be a good experience for all of us.

Stories from Our Classrooms

A writing course for DC area social justice teachers.

Brave New Films

You see it almost everyday in the media now: confrontations with people that have mental illness and the police—and far too many times these encounters end with death. Or, mentally ill people find themselves in a totally abusive and dysfunctional prison system, instead of getting the appropriate care they so desperately need.

Part one of this series shows what happens when police are not properly trained to deal with people with mental illness. And shows that there is a totally doable and cost effective solution - Crisis Intervention Training - that the majority of police departments still don’t use!

This is crazy.

Mental health needs to be treated, not criminalized.
And post this video to all 2016 presidential candidates’ Facebook pages, so together we can call on them to come out for humane police trainings, not more tasers and abuse for mentally ill people!

Robert Greenwald, President

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Hurston/Wright Foundation celebrates the birthday of Richard Wright and the 70th anniversary of his classic memoir 
Black Boy.
Writers Natalie Hopkinson, Hayes Davis, Teri Cross Davis, Rion Scott,  Marita Golden and Beverly Yaman will  read excerpts and discuss the impact of this Great American Story.

September 3rd 
6:30 Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library 
1630 7th Street N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20001

Free and open to the public.
  Visit us at

My mother asks for my hand
before we cross the street.
It is a green light of closeness
and tenderness.

The night before she entered
my room and pulled the blanket
up to my neck and for a moment
I thought I was a bad cowboy
caught and ready for the rope.

My mother's hands are warm
when she’s cooking in the kitchen.
But there are burns along
her arms from hot grease
leaping and escaping from pots
and pans.

My father is a volcano asleep
in front of the television.

In our house there were
earthquakes – the fault lines
hidden beneath each room.
There is a way a door
opens like another day of depression.

What collapses is family and the
realization there is no fleeing from
earth or blood.

The ground opens like a hand.

   - E. Ethelbert Miller

Sunday, August 23, 2015


"In solidarity with #BlackAugustResistance TRAIN THE MOVEMENT: A Trainers of Color Collaborative is hosting a "READ & FEED"  at the United Black Front on August 29th in Anacostia in the spirit of The Black Panther Party's Breakfast Program & Hands Up United's Books and Breakfast. We want to provide DC natives with FREE books and breakfast.

We are reaching out to poets and authors of color to share their work at this event! We will have 3 readings every half hour from 12-3. The agenda is flexible if more authors would like to participate!

Presenters can read an excerpt of past or current projects, recite poems, or promote upcoming projects! 
Train the Movement will create a radical space where knowledge is free and where economic or physical barriers do not prevent people from learning and growing together! 

While we can not offer monetary compensation for this event, food and transportation stipends will be provided.

Please email Khadijah ( or Kaajal ( ASAP if you are interested in participating!" 


Joshua Serrano
Research Intern 


What's in the cards?  September is almost here. The best baseball race might just be between the Cards, Pirates and Cubs. The St.Louis lead reminds me of the leaves falling in my backyard right now. Oh, and my Nats? You know the season is over when fans begin to cheer for individual players more than team wins. The Nats have to stay within striking distance of the Mets. If they are not careful they might be fighting  the Braves for third place. The key is to play better than .500 ball.
If the Nats can reach 10-12 games over .500 - well - hit me in the head with the truth and call it a concussion. The Nats have to look (play) at the Cards the last day of August. It's sad that we might be able to read them now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On my next television show THE SCHOLARS (UDC-TV) my guest will be Dr. Joyce Ladner.
Recording date is September 30th.

Dr. Ladner is a well known civil rights activist, sociologist, and author. In 1994 she was the interim president of Howard University.

Paul Dunbar wants to know

how the Lone Ranger got his mask.

Claude McKay once said if we must

die let it be for love or a French kiss

outside Paris. Langston knew the

heart was a big sea and the blues

nothing but a renaissance of sadness.

        E. Ethelbert Miller

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Last week, news broke of 22-year-old David Hyde, who took an unpaid internship at the United Nations and lived out of a tent in order to make ends meet. Unwilling to relinquish the opportunity, Hyde saw it as his only tenable option and chose to speak out soon after he began the job. “The hypocrisy was so clear to me — here are organizations like the United Nations, dedicated to human rights and fighting against inequality. Yet, the U.N.’s internship policy seemed to clearly contradict the values it claimed to stand for,” he said.
At IPS, we’ve done everything in our power to fairly compensate our summer interns, in addition to providing essential professional development opportunities. Not surprisingly, we were met with astounding, inspiring results. Our interns have landed pieces in notable publications (see a selection of them below), contributed to groundbreaking reports, and have acquired jobs in the field of progressive activism.
A focus of our mission at IPS has always centered on the rights of workers, and we believe that fight extends to ending the cycle of inequality perpetuated by unpaid internships. Two thirds of our summer interns wouldn’t have been able to work with us without adequate compensation, many of whom were people of color.
We want to replicate this meaningful internship experience and continue to build up leaders from underrepresented communities for years to come, but we can’t do this without your help. Will you donate to the Next Leaders Program today to help us continue to foster the development of a richly diverse generation of young, progressive leaders?
In Solidarity,
Emily Norton
Next Leaders Program Manager
P.S. You can hear directly from the interns about what their summer with IPS meant to them. Watch a video produced by our 2015 Next Leaders cohort below.

Next Leaders Program 2015

Next Leaders Program 2015
A video of this summer's Next Leaders cohort produced by our 2015 Next Leaders.

Featured Articles

Here are just a few of the articles written by our summer interns:
Bernie Sanders Rally
Bernie’s Missed Opportunity
Alissa Weinman
To move his campaign forward, Bernie Sanders must consider the intersection of climate change and structural racism.
Originally in, quoted in the National Journal
Photo: ISM Palestine / Flickr
Think California’s Drought Is Bad? Try Palestine’s.
Laith Shakir
While Israelis water their lawns and swim in Olympic-sized pools, Palestinians a few kilometers away are literally dying of thirst.
Originally in Foreign Policy in Focus, shared over 4,000 times from Common Dreams
Flagging Hate Speech
Flagging Hate Speech
Olivia Alperstein
It shouldn’t have taken 150 years and the deaths of nine innocent churchgoers for Southern states to renounce the Confederate flag.
Originally in Otherwords, featured on social media by Southern Poverty Law Center
Three Necessary Reforms to Reduce Gun Violence in America
Three Necessary Reforms to Reduce Gun Violence in America
Christine Dickason
Refusing to take action to strengthen our gun laws is costing thousands of American lives every year.
Received recognition from actress/comedian Amy Schumer on social media
What the Mainstream Media Got Wrong About Gaza
What the Mainstream Media Got Wrong About Gaza
Quossay Alsattari
You may have heard that “both sides” committed abuses in last Gaza war. But there's no comparison when it comes to the scale of the violations — or the body count.
Originally in Foreign Policy in Focus
Valenzuela family portrait
The Housing Lottery’s Hand in Fate
Daniel Valenzuela
Growing up in a diverse and wealthy neighborhood put me on the road to reach my potential.
Originally in Otherwords

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I picked up a copy of Words Without Music by Philip Glass yesterday while in DuPont Circle.
While in the area I noticed that the Books A Million store is gone. So many things keep disappearing each day that I'm afraid to turn around and look for my shadow.

This is my last free weekend before I turn much of my attention to teaching. I still need to develop a working routine. The first thing I need to do is spend more time in my home office. A better system of order is in order.

A purchased a new wireless printer - so now I just need to upgrade my computer.

This summer I became too involved in projects that didn't go anywhere. Better agenda setting and use of time and resources are needed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

People Around The World Come Together 
To Remember Julian Bond

We are saddened with the passing of Julian Bond, who inspired Aviva Kempner to make the film when he talked about Julius Rosenwald at a lecture at the Hebrew Center 12 years ago on the Vineyard. The family is spreading his ashes in Florida  on Saturday and asks that people go by a body of water and throw flowers into the water at  3:00pm EST. Please post photos of your ceremony to social media with the hashtag #HonorJulianBond. Aviva will be in Philadelphia  on Saturday opening Rosenwald and will do it there.

For those who live in DC, below is what is organized by DC VOTE to honor Julian Bond. Bond was a student of MLK and Kempner had filmed Julian Bond for a promo for voting rights for DC residents. He was always a fighter for justice.  And Julian Bond is just wonderful in Rosenwald.
Those wishing to honor Bond's memory in the DC area are asked to gather at the Tidal Basin by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the 22nd.
  • Who: Those in the DC area who have been inspired by Julian Bond, including DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ralph Neas
  • Where: 1964 Independence Ave SW at the Tidal Basin
  • When: 3:00 PM on Saturday August 22nd

Thursday, August 20, 2015


There are many lessons one learns when one becomes old. The first is that there were never good old days. The good old days were often hidden somewhere in the future. It's why one tries to practice mindfulness as much as possible. When good things happen cherish the moment. It will soon be gone and your life will follow. If there is one thing that has declined it has been the  rules, guidelines and blueprints for parenting. Find a switch to discipline a child and you might no longer be running in the NFL.Curse at your child and he or she will soon curse back at you. There was one word I often associated with my mother and father. That word was No. It shaped the boundaries and borders of my childhood. No was the land I never reached because it was No. My father was like the Supreme Court.
Many cases never reached him. I never talked back to my mother or father. I was the baby of the family and once witnessed what happened when my sister stepped over the line. It was Hiroshima in the house. It was the dropping of a bomb of anger and rage I never knew my father was capable of. From that moment I grew up in what was a Cold War - the distance between father and sons. The fallout of silence and stillness bringing with it the comfort of security. During my father's last years there was a tenderness like ballads played by Coltrane. It was as if  Alice came into his life after Niama. My father kept his Bible open on his bedroom dresser to the Psalms. Each day began with a prayer of thanks to an invisible God. One day I followed my father out the front door into a world of faith. When he was outside the house my father introduced me to the word - Yes. The quiet way of helping others and living one day of grace, one day of love, one day at a time.

Quote of the Day

I don't believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.

   - Hillary Clinton
OK. Let's have a show of hands if you wish to see another Korean War.  Geez...sometimes the present seems as old as history. I'm afraid the future is nothing but an expiring parking meter.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


I will be Marymount University's Fall Visiting Author and their Spring Visiting Poet.

The kickoff celebration for my Collected Poems edited by Kirsten Porter will take place on the Marymount campus in early April 2016.

A number of area events have already been confirmed. I will be doing readings and signings at Upshur Bookstore, Hill Center, King Library, Politics & Prose, George Washington University and a number of other sites. It will mark the beginning of a year long National Tour.


    -for Julian

We follow the souls of the dead to the river.
We plant our farewells near the banks of our hearts
There is nothing to return home to except memories.
What we carry is the past - heavy with days.
Tomorrow the future will also depart.
We pray its journey will be a safe one.
We believe in love and the final destination of freedom.

 -  E. Ethelbert Miller


OK. So let's say we are soon going to witness a little baseball history. The Nats are going to suddenly turn it all around and become the best team in baseball going into September and October.Right?? When might it begin?  Circle September 7th. This is when the Nats next play the Mets again. How many games behind the Mets will the Nats be when they play? Can they take three games from the Mets and perhaps jump back into the race? What if the Nats won 25 games in a row?  Baseball history or just a miracle? That would mean big wins in September and October. Things could also become bright for the Nats if they could sweep the Cardinals (August 31-September 2). There has to be some emotional wins ahead for the Nats if they want to avoid being this year's baseball bust.

But it's going to take some aggressive managing. Oh, cover my eyes, maybe this is where the failure has been all year long. When was the last time the Nats played hit and run?  How come they don't attempt to steal more bases?  Who decides on the batting order?  Whew...there was some tinkering yesterday. It was like following the conversation between the iceberg and the Titanic. I'm not sold on Taylor batting first. Speed means nothing if you can't get on base. This guy just isn't a contact hitter. Hey- but I love him. What was Escobar doing in the clean-up position yesterday?  At times the Nats seem like the guy who can't find a dance partner at the prom.

Anyway, it's going to all come down to numbers. 10 guys hitting below .240 just won't get it done.

The pitching has to get better. I would start pulling pitchers after they give up 3 runs. After the 1st walk I go to the mound and tell Gio to stop talking to himself. It's a baseball game not a spoken word competition. Does anyone know the pitching rotation for the bullpen? What's wrong with Storen? I think this guy needs some mental love. Things always seem to fall apart after two outs. Where is the horseshoe?  Or maybe we need a bunny and a hat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Below is a link to my Aldon Nielsen Project 2015.

It's a year long interview project with the noted literary scholar Aldon Nielsen.

The project is similar to the E-Channel I created back in 2013 with novelist Charles Johnson.
The E-Channel was published back in January 2015 as The Words and Wisdom of Charles Johnson.

Link to the Aldon Nielsen Project 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015


It's 12:08 and Frank O'Hara
is late for lunch. He often gets
lost outside New York. I'm  in Starbucks
near DuPont Circle sitting with Billy Strayhorn.
Our conversation turns to Pittsburgh and for
a moment I want to be August Wilson
or Roberto Clemente. Billy asks to see
my Washington Post. He wants to know
what the police are doing these days.
Frank arrives and he looks like
Mona Lisa with a smile. Maybe it's
the danger that comes with museum work.
Eric Dolphy is eating next door, he whispers.
At times Frank can be as difficult as Ashbery.
Have they ever met?  Imagine all
the New York poets moving to New Jersey
and never taking the Amtrak to DC.
Billy hands the newspaper back. It's 12:30
and everyone is in a sentimental mood.
We rise and go next door. Dolphy
looks up from his plate and says the
food sucks but it's better than the music
people are playing these days. He laughs
and tells Frank to keep his day job.
Billy tries to be as gracious as Duke.
He nods at Dolphy and the two of them
walk outside for a smoke. I think of
Dolphy's Out to Lunch album. The
clock tells me this man is never coming

  -  E. Ethelbert Miller
At IPS, we’re telling a story — of the nature of corporate greed, of the plight of our planet against those poisoning it, and of the corrupt motives behind war. We tell these stories because we know that the fight for justice is about people fighting for our communities, our country, and our world.
Whether we cast our glance toward the past or fix our eye on the future, we can see how we’ve progressed in these fights. It’s in the faces of the children of the Dharni village in India, whose community receives its power from a solar mini-grid made possible by the Green Climate Fund. It’s in the profiles of the black women changing the face of the labor movement. It’s in the sketch of our co-founder, Marc Raskin, detailed by his 1968 indictment in the New York Times for “conspiring to advise draft violations.” And it’s in the optimism of a new wave of leadership and scholarship fostered through our Next Leaders andStudent Debt Summer programs.
In bringing these stories to life on our new Instagram channel, we continue our long history of demonstrating what our ideas look like as they take form as action. Follow us as we allow our past to inform and illustrate a future we can all believe in.

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