Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blues in the Night, he Musical

So where was the daddy last night? On the hook when the earth shook; on the concrete where the people meet, soul-dropping, finger popping on the outer edges of time, hearts and minds, talking trash, lifting cash and speaking third person 24/7.

Yes, the daddy was out on the town. The daddy lives in Minneapolis but crossed city lines to St. Paul to brave the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and check out "Blues in the Night," a musical with an all-black-cast.

The daddy says the musical wasn't all that. It only included one of the tightest band this side of the Muddy Waters Chicago blues band of the late 1960's. I'm just saying: these guys played the blues like they just came up highway 61 from the Mississippi delta and can't EVEN afford a hamburger at White Castle (And you know how small and cheap they are).

It only featured some of the best performers in Minnesota (Jamecia Bennett, Julius C. Collins III, Debbie Duncan, and Regina Marie Williams). Julius dapped, strutted, shouted and flirted; the sistahs swayed and sashayed, shook and dipped them wild and crazy hips; and they straight-up sang their assesses off.

But the highlight for the daddy was Debbie Duncan's rendition of "Lover Man." Lawd, have mercy: The sistah's croon was so powerful yet so sweet, so sad yet so strong for so long that it almost brought a tear to the daddy's eyes. He had to make a fist, hit himself in the chest, and remember that he was a football player back in the day...whew!... the daddy had to check himself.

Not to be outdone, the other sistahs joined in with Debbie to close out Act I with "Take it right back," an uptempo, perfectly harmonized, feminist dissing of a womanizing brotha who stayed out late, came home drunk, and smelled like something other than alcohol (brothas: women got a strong sense of smell, you know what i'm saying?).

All in all, the daddy found out two things tonight:

1. He should spend less time TALKING about supporting black folks and spend more time actually SUPPORTING black folks. He does a few things but not enough (Don't laugh. Some of you could do more too. Of the some 250 or more people in the audience, I only counted six black folks); and

2. When the daddy speaks in third person, he's feeling good!

Hey, if you're going to be in the twin cities, call the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (651-224-4222) and say you want tickets to see "The Blues in the Night." It'll be here until May 18th.

Note: To get a better flavor for the musical, click on the photo
up top on the right and hear the stars of the show sing and talk
about the program.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm Feeling What Tami Said

A friend of mine phoned. "Hey, bro, what you up to, watching Keith Olberman? I know you like that brotha that comes on his show. What's his name?...Yeah. Eugene Robinson."
"Nope. No Keith Olberman tonight."

"Oh, I got it: You getting ready to watch some basketball-- watch the New Orleans Hornets beat them Dallas Mavericks, huh? You watch: Chris Paul gon kick Nobiski's ass and send him back to Europe before you can say Guinness. You watch: Chris Paul gon be the MVP." "It's Nowitzki. And, no, I wasn't planning on watching basketball."

"You sound funny. What's up? You sick or something?" "No, i'm fine. I'm just thinking about Tami, What Tami Said.

"What she say?" "Well, she said that white feminists don't care too much for black women. She said a few of them are alright, but on the whole, they ain't down with the Sistahs, or women of color, for that matter"

"Hey, I could have told Tami that. Oh, I get it: she's one of them Sistahs I saw you with at The Times, huh? Which one was Tami?" "No, Tami is a blogger who just wrote this post about how white feminists and women of color are not on the same page, about how the feminists have a hard time understanding the experiences black women go through to keep it together. But the Sistahs you saw me with are saying the same thing: the white feminists don't get it. Those Sistahs ought to know. They go to meetings with them. But you got to read it yourself. I'm just feeling What Tami Said."

"Uh huh...but are you gonna watch the second half of the basketball game? I could bring some beer." "Sure. Come on over. You can read What Tami Said during half time."

"Okay, so when I come over, you gon tell me which one of the Sistahs was Tami?"
"Don't forget the beer."

Can You Say "I ain't gon study violence no mo?"

In keeping with some of my
reader's wishes, who say they're suffering from "war fatigue," I'm not writing about the sorry state of war of the American economy. But I'm writing about American society, especially about the unnecessary and painful violence in our communities. So the daddy is thinking...

I'm just thinking... just thinking... about Malcolm x, who said that on this day, from this day forward, on this earth, we declare that we have a right to fight for our freedom "by any means necessary."

Minister Malcolm died from a hail of bullets from members of the Nation of Islam, the organization he helped create, leaving behind a wife and two children and the hopes of millions of African Americans.

I'm just thinking...just thinking...about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who died from a violent gunshot as he stood out on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King said we must meet the power of violence as an organized people of love, as a nonviolent people, as a non-violent nation. He said we must have "the strength to love." And though the corporate media won't acknowledge it, he spent the last year of his life not talking about little white girls and little black boys holding hands and singing we shall overcome but focusing on war and poverty, reminding us that our government's preoccupation with war not only killed people abroad; it diverted much-needed resources to end poverty at home.

Dr. King, an activist/intellectual, perhaps the most eloquent orator of any generation, a minister who could quote Shakespeare as easily as a passage from the bible, made it plain when he paraphrased an old religious hymn and said, "I don't know about you, but I ain't gon study war no mo."

I'm just thinking...just thinking... about the millions of lesser-known Americans
in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis and Atlanta who die every day from a hail of gunfire from gangbangers who are famous for missing their targets and killing innocent citizens, including children.

Okay, African Americans, I want to ask you something: As a people who were enslaved and brutalized for centuries by others, shouldn't you be peaceful toward each other? Whether inside the home or out on the street, shouldn't another brother or sister be the last person you raise a hand or squeeze a trigger finger to harm? And if you must raise a hand or pull a trigger, shouldn't the only possible justification for doing so be to defen yourself as an individual or to defend your country against attacks?

Okay, Americans of all ethnic, political or religious persuasions, I want to ask you something: As members of a nation that took this country by committing genocide against nations of Indians (the first Americans), as members of a nation that enslaved an entire group of people (Africans), as members of nation that spends much of its budget on either fighting wars or preparing for wars, as members of a nation with 47 million people without healthcare, with infrastructure so bad that you're afraid to drive across some bridges, shouldn't you be so angry, so... obsessed with forcing your elected officials to turn away from bloody wars and turn to the righteous quest of supporting you that you're willing to organize other Americans to march on Washington D.C. this summer and camp out there until your elected officials-- yes, Barack Obama-- pass laws to bail out working people, to insure them, to employ them, to rebuild America?

I'm just thinking...just thinking...about rising each morning with the sun, sipping a cup of java, paraphrasing an old spiritual and saying like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., " I ain't gon study war no mo."

Can you say "I ain't gon study VIOLENCE no mo." Can you live it?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Memo to Barack Obama

Memo to Barack Obama:

To end the primary sooner and to facilitate a smoother path to your nomination as the democrats nominee for President of the Unites States, do the following:

1. Decline future invitations to appear on Fox network. People who watch this propaganda network for the Republican Party won't vote for you. Besides, including today, you have already appeared on Fox twice.
2. Absolutely decline another debate with Sen. Hillary Tanya Harding Clinton. You've done 21 already; and let's face it: They're boring, alright?
3. Go back on college campuses and talk to thousands of students. Go to some factories and, wearing a hard hat, a white one too, say six times at a minimum that "NAFTA, which was begun by Bill Clinton and promoted by Sen. Clinton, takes precious jobs from Americans."
4. Call a press conference and, wearing a US flag pin (I know it's made in China, but we're talking photo op here), flanked by US flags, talk about the damage the Iraq war is doing to America: How it's killing our brave soldiers and taking away funds needed at the federal and local level to retrain workers, provide greater funding for education, affordable housing, improve infrastructure and to deal with the crisis in housing foreclosures. And say what you will do about it.
5. As you're kissing babies in shopping malls somewhere in suburban Indiana, have Michelle speak at a NOW (National Organization for Women) convention or special meeting about a woman's right to choose, a woman's right to privacy. And finally,
6. Hire another African American consultant. BTW...ah...i'm cheaper than Mark Penn...brotha.

The Swiftboating of Barack Obama

Once in a while, I take a day off from watching the US corporate media. Instead of watching violent sports or over-paid, self-centered political pundits, I take a walk, hang out at the coffee shop with friends, check out some live jazz or blues and catch up on my readings. My read for day? The Swiftboating of Barack Obama. Let me know what you think:

The Swiftboating of Barack Obama

by David Michael Green

If there’s anything I’ve learned about American politics over the past decade, it’s this: First, regressives will do anything – and I mean anything – to obtain power (the real purpose of which is to loot the public fisc of all items not securely nailed to the floor). And, second, just about everything they try works when employed against an American public possessed of stunning political immaturity.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, that two things happened over the last couple of weeks. One, that Barack Obama was swiftboated by means of a bogus inference in order to make him look like an angry black radical. And two, that a lot of dumb voters went for it.

It was pretty inevitable, really. I mean, the guy was getting rather, um, uppity, if you know what I mean. Winning elections and all. Mobilizing millions of voters. And so on. Plus he’s talking like he might actually, really, seriously, shut off the government teat of Iraq war no-bid contracts, NAFTA/WTO-based cheap labor, and massive tax transfers for the hyper-wealthy. This shit had to end.

True, John McCain is not quite as reliable a special interests whore as, say, Mitt Ownme, but he knows where his bread is buttered, and sometimes it seems like he even genuinely believes all the crap they feed him. Anyhow, he’s far more controllable than some Democrat, especially one who seems increasingly able to get voters (with a massive assist from the complete failure of Bush and the regressive agenda) to cease responding to the cues for which they’ve been so well trained these last decades. Hear that bell? Salivate now. We say “Jump”? Ask “How high?” See that grainy image of a black criminal? Vote Republican. Oh, and please be sure to hand over your wallet before exiting the building.

No doubt about it, people. The American plutocracy paid good money to create such a well disciplined voting class, and they’re not about to let that investment go down the drain without a fight.

The damn thing about it, though, is that Obama hardly gives them anything to work with. I mean, the guy is mild-mannered to a fault. He’s inspirational when he speaks, never angry and alienating. He was supposed to be vulnerable for opposing the stupidest foreign policy decision ever made, but instead all except the most low-wattage voters see Iraq as, well, the stupidest foreign policy decision ever made. I mean, the guy doesn’t even really seem black.

That only leaves one option remaining, then: Swiftboat the SOB. Find some tangential pseudo-vulnerability that goes after Obama’s biggest potential asset and turn it into a negative. Is he coming off to a mesmerized public as some kind of post-ideological, post-racial-divide healer who could unite the country and return us to our sanity? Then he must be turned into Eldrige Cleaver. All that’s needed to complete the picture is a big ‘fro, a beret and an AK-47 with a menacing tilt to it.

Preposterous? Think it can’t be done? So did I, until I saw a guy with three Purple Hearts and a Silver Cross turned into a weak, wimpy, lying coward, in order to make sure that a weak, wimpy, lying coward who went to Margaritaville instead of the Mekong Delta during the Sixties could be portrayed as some sort of macho tough guy, and thus steal another four years in the White House.

Fortunately, Obama is no John Kerry. The latter waited three weeks to respond to the attacks against him. He might as well have waited three years. Obama didn’t make the same mistake. And when he did speak, what a tour de force it was.

The most stunning feature of his speech was the least overt. This was a speech about his pastor, but that was not its central motif. This was a discussion of race, of course, but that was not its deepest theme.

What really mattered most about this speech was the way in which Obama addressed us. American politicians have treated the voting public with barely concealed contempt for so long now, we’ve largely forgotten what respectful discourse looks like. On March 18th, Obama reminded us.

Forget about charisma, a very much overrated if not dangerous characteristic in politicians anyhow. What matters instead is this: It’s been decades since someone spoke to the public with this much honesty and sophistication about our society and its choices. It was breathtaking just to witness that level of esteem pointed in our direction.

All the more so because of the epoch we’ve just survived. George Bush is far from the only contemptuous politician in recent history, but he is surely the worst of the lot, and his politics are instructive because of that.

In Bush’s world, everyone is two-dimensional, at best. They’re either good or evil. Folks is either with us or with the enemy. In Bush’s comic book reality, no issue is ever nuanced. There’s only right – which, remarkably, always happens to be his way – and there’s wrong. Once asked if he could name any mistakes he’d made as president, a flustered Bush was unable to identify even a single one. (I wish I could have been there to assist him. We probably could have made a dent in it after a week or two.) He cannot conceive that anyone he’s labeled evil could have legitimate grievances. He cannot imagine that America could ever have committed any crimes, such as using violence to achieve political ends.

Or so he acts when he speaks to us. I doubt he truly believes his own sorry shtick, which of course only makes it far worse.

Nor has the so-called opposition been much better. While their positions on issues might be slightly more thoughtful (and how could they be less so?), one has little sense from a John Kerry or a Hillary Clinton that they can say something just because it is truthful, as opposed to because they’ve calculated that it’s popular. Theirs is different from Republican pandering in scale and destructiveness, but not in kind. It is still pandering for purposes of personal benefit.

And American politics have been deeply impoverished for decades now because of our politicians’ contemptuousness. Worse, the effect has been cyclically corrosive. The more of it we get, the more of it we breed.

We live today in a polity characterized by the most unsophisticated public discourse, one where twenty-second scare ads win elections every time. And one where attempts at thinking through basic questions – such as whether our enemy resides in Afghanistan or Iraq – are ridiculed as effete intellectual elitism.

Look what it’s produced for us. Whether it is the federal debt, falling economic standards, environmental crisis, or our diminished world standing that we’re discussing – or, more likely, not discussing – Americans have dug themselves into failed policy holes of epic proportions. In very large part, this is because it’s been mutually convenient for both politicians and voters alike to indulge in a Potemkin politics of fantasy.

But the stunning sub-text of Obama’s speech is that we can think of these issues and the people involved in them as more than mere caricatures. In adopting this posture, he telegraphed to Americans more respect, and less contempt, than they’ve seen from any politician in three decades, ever since Reagan seduced them into assisting in their own looting.

When Obama reminded us that his former pastor had not only bad but also good ideas – like most anyone, black or white, emerging from the cauldron of American race relations might – he treated his listeners with a dignity and an intellectual esteem largely absent for a generation.

When he rejected the expedient route of completely disassociating himself from Reverend Wright, he demanded sophistication in our thinking. He asked us to use our minds rather than our emotional reflexes, and to invest more energy into determining our own fate than that which is required for passively imbibing deceitful television ads, cold beer in hand.

When he implored us to reject the divisions of race, religion and nationality that right-wing politicians have been exploiting for decades to divert attention from “the real culprits of the middle class squeeze,” he showed a political courage that is as exemplary as it is rare.

And when he did all of these things – but especially when he showed us an intellectual respect that we frankly haven’t often deserved – Obama demonstrated that he perhaps really might belong in that pantheon of American political giants that includes Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR and King, but precious few others.

He also made clear why those who peddle the politics of contempt have lately shown such desperation to somehow silence his revolution, a revolution not so much of policy – Obama is no V.I. Lenin; he’s not even a Paul Wellstone – as it is of esteem. Think, for a moment, of the sheer absurdity of what they are asking you to accept on the face of their argument.

Has this man committed treason, like Scooter Libby, for example? No. Did he lie to the world at a cost of a million lives, like Bush and everyone else in his reprobate camp? Uh, no. Has he bankrupted the future of our children through his environmental, fiscal and foreign policies, like the entire Republican Party? No, he did not. Heck, is he even guilty of the heinous crime of screwing an expensive prostitute, like silly Eliot Spitzer? Nein.

Barack Obama’s great crime, as the regressive noise machine (as well as a certain senator from New York) would have you believe it, is failing to quit a church where the pastor has controversial ideas. Let’s say this again, because the absurdity of it is so astonishing (as with all regressive politics, once you look closely). This man is being excoriated for the crime of failing to quit a church whose pastor has ideas with which he doesn’t entirely agree. That is why, it is being argued, Obama should be rejected as a contender to lead America as president.

This, by the way, while John McCain has been actively wooing televangelist (a modern euphemism for crook) John Hagee for his endorsement, despite that the good reverend has called Catholicism “a godless theology”, blamed the Holocaust on Jewish “disobedience and rebellion”, argued that Katrina was “the judgment of God against New Orleans”, and claimed that the Koran gives Muslims “a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews”. Notwithstanding any of those slightly controversial remarks, McCain sought this clown’s support, got what he wanted, and thus stated at a campaign event that “I was pleased to have the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee yesterday”.

If it seems like a helluva logical conundrum that Obama gets trashed for comments his pastor makes, over which he has no control, while McCain goes scot-free after seeking the endorsement of a king-size bigot, well then welcome to Swiftboat Land. Park your brain over there, to the right. By the same ‘logic’, John Kerry, who went to Nam, became our national security wimp, while Wee Caligula, who couldn’t even stay sober enough to show up for the faux service Poppy arranged to keep him out of the jungle, became our tough commander-in-chief.

Of course, logic has nothing to do with swiftboating, apart from the crucial requirement that it must be murdered in more ways than Rasputin was, and buried deep on some distant continent, lest anyone in America should actually awaken from their regressive-induced stupor long enough to ask why that emperor dude is running around in his underwear.

In truth, what Reverend Wright said is of as much actual concern to regressives as was John McCain’s supposed black love-child or Willie Horton’s crimes. Which is to say none at all. The point is to swiftboat Obama by injecting race into the campaign and frightening away closet racist voters. The point of doing that is to win power. And the point of that is to steal your money and your country.

That’s why Obama’s ‘revolution’ represents that most threatening commodity of all for those who employ contemptuous deceit to mask “economic policies that favor the few over the many,” as he accurately labeled it.

It’s a revolution, ultimately, of respect – and that’s really dangerous. For the first time in a very long time, a presidential candidate is speaking to Americans as if they were grown-ups.

We’re about to find out if anyone is listening.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Has the Blues about the Murder of Sean Bell

Some time ago, about 30 years ago, I was in Theresa's, a neighborhood bar on the South side of Chicago. I was sitting at a big table with a blues harmonica player named Junior Wells, a couple of musicians that backed him up and several musicians who just dropped by. I was there to sell a few songs I'd written, but I received something much more valuable than money-- the wisdom and mother-wit that expressed in words what was really in my heart.

These black musicians were talking among themselves about the blues; and here's the gist of it. Anyone can get the blues, but when you grow up down South, work all day long in hot cotton fields and get beaten down by humiliating discrimination (be "treated like a slave," I believe is the way one of them put it), or grow up in a ghetto poor and hungry, then you don't get the blues, you HAVE the blues. Although they didn't put it in these exact words, it sound as if they were saying that to be born black and poor in the US is to HAVE the blues. I remember one of them saying in stunning yet remarkably effective ebonics, " I has the blues and its a constant botheration. "

Okay, I know this is not the best way to start a new blog, but I'm going to say it straight-up: I'm very aware of my blues today, but it's not just a general blues feeling. I have the blues for Sean Bell, a 23 year old black man who was shot 50 times by New York police officers on the night before his wedding; and he didn't have a gun. I have the blues for Nicole, his girlfriend and wife-to-be, who had to suffer through a judge's verdict of no guilty, and who must raise two kids without Sean.

Listen, Nicole: I don't know you personally. I don't even live anywhere near you. But if I did know you, if I did live near you, I'd drive over and slip this poem into your mailbox. It's a poem about us, about African American people, about a blues people. Ultimately, it's about survival:


We are like flowers on the banks of Mount St. Helens
Always near the crest of outburst, the jutting fire
The smoldering flame

Scalded with heat, covered with ash, abandoned
To wither with the frying dead again
And again

we rise, recollect and return to green next spring
We rise, even bloom here and there
Moist petals with deep roots

We rise. A sun people fresh grown
To breathe clear air. We rise

We will always rise