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?"

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Chickee And The Empty Suits: A Story About Development

Once upon a time there was a place called Chickee On The Beach. People came from near far to linger there. But that was a long time ago. The Chickee is no more.
The Chickee was a down-to-earth eatery couched amid fancy condos to the North, the ocean to the South and surrounded by trees with big leaves, which made the Chickee a cool, shady cove on white sand. It was located in financially well-heeled Naples, Florida. But the people who lived around the Chickee were friendly retirees and welcomed one and all for chitchats around the bar or the next table over.

Once upon a time coming to The Chickee was a tradition. Floridians would bring family here. Children would build castles with the help of mommy and daddy and go rest in the shade at The Chickee and have their favorite soda. And often these families would bring family visitors from out of town to The Chickee; so that you could easily see a family eating lunch that covered two or more generations.

Retired and transplanted Floridians would walk the white sands to get in their exercise then take a break and have a couple of cold ones under shady trees there.

Some tourists from countries far away made it a tradition to come to The Chickee each year: They came from colder countries like Germany and Switzerland and eastern block countries. They would come in January, staying for a week or so next door at The Vanderbilt Hotel. They would eat breakfast there and, in the early afternoon, walk just a few feet to The Chickee to dine and drink and make merry by the ocean, talking loudly and singing patriotic songs and familiar songs in the language of their country, waving glasses of beer in unison as they did so.
Like the others, the daddy would take long walks by the ocean and rest at The Chickee, chomping down a grouper sandwich and gulping down a cold one. Now, the daddy has a crazy habit of writing in small cafes and on counter stools in bars. So the daddy met many of the tourists from the cold countries, the ones who sang songs at the bar in their native tongue. And here's what would happen:

After the group finished their songs with the glass-waving ritual, they would order another round for everyone at the bar, and the daddy would thank them. Then, before he knew it, they would be singing again and the daddy would be back at his writing. Before it was over, the daddy would have 3 0r 4 beers by his notepad. Sometimes, when he would get up to leave, these happy strangers would hug him for seemingly no reason and, according to the bartender, collect the 3 or 4 beers that were in my area after he was gone.

A good time was had by all. But that was before the empty suits came.

The empty suits came and saw that The
Chickee was doing a brisk business and was respected in Naples. But it saw something else: that The Chickee was sitting in a prime location for a building of-- guess what? condos.

The empty suits reasoned that, by tearing down The Chickee and The Vanderbilt Hotel, they could erect a huge building with large units of condos. They thought, "Who wouldn't want to buy a condo on the ocean in rich Naples, Florida?" So the empty suits bought the property, and they tore down The Vanderbilt and The Chickee. The daddy was there when The Chickee closed and sent the story to a local newspaper (The Naples Daily News). And the daddy wrote a poem about the closing.

The daddy came back to the site of The Chickee a few days ago. He saw a huge, shiny building with condos that went up at least eight floors. He saw workers busying themselves at the front entrance, leveling the ground to get it ready to lay grass over it. But, as poetic justice would have it, the economy turned sour and Floridians were no longer buying condos at 3 to 4 millions a unit, even if it was by the ocean.

The empty suits asked, "Who wouldn't buy a condo on the beach in rich Naples, Florida?"

The answer? "Anyone negatively affected by a big downturn in the economy, which was just about everyone."

So the daddy saw condos in a prime location sitting empty, like the displeased empty suits that erected them.

The daddy stood on the site of what was The Chickee, a prosperous business that facilitated positive, engaging experiences and loving memories for so many for so long, a place whose memories evoke white sand, cool beers, warm conversation among family and friends, new and old.

He stood silent for a few minutes...Then he heard a distant wind come closer. It seemed to circle the condos before hovering in the sky just above the place where the Chickee's bench tables and bar used to be.

He closed his eyes; and, for a few seconds, he could hear the families talking at bench tables, groups of women laughing loudly and singing gregariously at the bar in their native tongue. He could smell that unique mixture of people, grouper sandwiches and Miller Lite Beer. Then the sounds ceased, the smell went away with the wind hovering just above the bench tables and the bar. The wind left as quickly as it came.

Once upon a time there was a place called Chickee On The Beach. People came from near and far to linger there. But that was a long time ago. The Chickee is no more.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, change the daddy can believe in

"I never knew about the pay difference between me and the men until I was near the end of my career at Goodyear {Tire Company}"
--Lily Ledbetter

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling Prez Obama and the fact that he has just signed his first bill into law: the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act effectively ends a 2007 Supreme Court decision that said workers had only 180 days to file a pay-discrimination lawsuit.

You may remember that Obama and fellow Democrats campaigned hard against the Supreme Court's decision and promised they would pass legislation that would give workers more time to sue their employers for past discrimination, when they took the White House. Well, a brotha and the democrats kept their promise.

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is the first bill the Prez has signed into law.

The Prez signed the bill into law in the East Room of the White House. Present were Lily Ledbetter, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other top women in government:
During the ceremony, President Obama said:

"And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us... because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined."

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act-- that's change the daddy can believe in!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black writers told us of black courage and strength long ago

Listen up. Today, the daddy is reflecting on President Obama's inaugural, the courageous Tuskeege Airmen who were there, the many older black women and men there to witness this great historical event. To many of them, it must surely mean the outcome of centuries of trials and tribulations and the daily humiliations to be treated with some semblance of respect and be able to start the race of life on an equal playing field in the United States of America.

The daddy is thinking about history: how history is revealing the courage of these older generations of blacks who fought so bravely for our country and endured so much as civilians to survive, even thrive, in a world where they were not only denied equality but despised and humiliated under apartheid in the South and hypocritical discrimination and derision in the North-- "Up South," as Brother Malcolm (Malcolm X) used to call it.

But if truth be told, black historians and writers told us this story this story over and over again. But, as was consistent with the behavior of a racist-based society, many refused to hear of such great accomplishments under duress.
Nonetheless, the stories abound; and nowhere is this story told with more honesty, passion and power than in the poetry of Black America. Due to page constraints, the daddy will only give you two examples. But they are good ones.

In 1960's, poet Mari Evans spoke of the strength and resilience of black women when she wrote:

I am a Black Woman

I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat's swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew....I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior's beard

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
on me and be

In 1931, poet Sterling Brown spoke of the internal strength needed to survive by black men when he wrote:

The strong men keep coming on.

They dragged you from homeland,
They chained you in coffles,2
They huddled you spoon-fashion in filthy hatches,
They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease.
They broke you in like oxen,
They scourged you,
They branded you,
They made your women breeders,
They swelled your numbers with bastards. . . .
They taught you the religion they disgraced.

You sang:
Keep a-inchin’ along
Lak a po’ inch worm. . . .

You sang:

Bye and bye
I’m gonna lay down dis heaby load. . . .

You sang:
Walk togedder, chillen,
Dontcha git weary. . . .
The strong men keep a-comin’ on
The strong men git stronger.
They point with pride to the roads you built for them,
They ride in comfort over the rails you laid for them.
They put hammers in your hand and said-
Drive so much before sundown.

You sang:
Ain’t no hammah
In dis lan’,
Strikes lak mine, bebby,
Strikes lak mine.
They cooped you in their kitchens,
They penned you in their factories,
They gave you the jobs that they were too good for,
They tried to guarantee happiness to themselves
By shunting dirt and misery to you.
You sang:
Me an’ muh baby gonna shine, shine
Me an’ muh baby gonna shine.
The strong men keep a-comin’ on
The strong men git stronger. . . .
They bought off some of your leaders
You stumbled, as blind men will . . .
They coaxed you, unwontedly soft-voiced. . . .
You followed a way.
Then laughed as usual.
They heard the laugh and wondered;
Unadmitting a deeper terror. . . .
The strong men keep a-comin’ on
Gittin’ stronger. . . .
What, from the slums
Where they have hemmed you,
What, from the tiny huts
They could not keep from you ⎯
What reaches them
Making them ill at ease, fearful?
Today they shout prohibition at you
“Thou shalt not this”
“Thou shalt not that”
“Reserved for whites only”
You laugh.

One thing they cannot prohibit-

The strong men . . . coming on
The strong men gittin’ stronger.
Strong men. . . .
Stronger. . . .

Brown and Evans are only two of many African Americans who heralded and celebrated black people, black leaders and black culture in a country that viewed them as inferior and almost totally lacking in intelligence. But here's the daddy's point: To fully appreciate Obama's inaugural and what it means, perhaps we should step back and take a look at what we've gone through as a nation, what some of our people persevered to carve out a a life to grow and sustain themselves under harsh, oppressive condition. If we do, we'll read what black writers have been saying all along: that we are a great nation because we have strong, resilient people-- and none more than African Americans.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Black soldiers fought bravely, paid a heavy price

"In recent years writers such as Toni Morrison, Rita Dove and Philip Roth have all included African American World War I veterans in their work; even the 2005 remake of King Kong added in a black former Great War sergeant. The Great War experiences of African American soldiers in 1917 and 1918 did have a thorough and long-lasting effect on African American culture; they made it more alive to cosmopolitan exchanges, provided models of manhood for the next generation, and raised important questions about the relation of black Americans to national history and memorial. Du Bois’s soldiers of democracy’ may not have won the fight against racial injustice in the USA, but they left a powerful legacy to an African American culture which played such a crucial role in that fight in the years to come."
--Dr. Mark Whalin

Listen up. The daddy is still thinking about our soldiers fighting in Iraq, risking their lives in a country that doesn't even want them there. The daddy is thinking about the Tuskeege Airmen, African American soldiers who flew high and fought bravely on behalf of our country, for a people who thought of them as little more than cotton picking monkeys, a people belonging to an inferior race and a people of whom they didn't want to look in the eye. And the daddy is thinking of black soldiers in World War I and II who fought in segregated units, because their fellow white American soldiers didn't want blacks to fight alongside them.

In American Smooth, Rita Dove, Professor English at the University of Virginia, speaks of African Americans surviving, dancing around ballrooms and through minefields of racial bigotry with style and grace: The freedom and exhilaration one feels twirling around the dance floor; the stir a black woman causes when she enters a room (that grand entrance!); Hattie McDaniel's arrival at the Coconut Grove; the determined dignity of the Billie Holidays. But what her poems speak to with the greatest passion and clarity to is about those black soldiers who fought so bravely and endured so much in the section of the book titled “Not Welcome Here.”

These are poems about black soldiers from World War I and World War II and their treatment by an “impertinent nation” once they returned home. Dove lets the black soldier speak:

You didn't want us when we left
but we went.
You didn't want us coming back
but here we are.

In "Alfonzo Prepares To Go Over The Top," Dove puts us on the front lines, showing
us war in all of its horror ("moves ass and balls, over tearing twigs and crushed
faces") and a soldier's life ("hear the le
aves? I am already memory") as pawn
a bigger game and temporary at best:

Alfonzo Prepares To Go Over The Top

A soldier waits until he's called- then
moves ass and balls, over
tearing twigs and crushed faces,
swinging his bayonet like a pitchfork
and thinking anything's better
than a trench, ratshit
and the tender hairs of chickweed.
A soldier is smoke
waiting for wind: he's a long corridor
clanging to the back of a house
where a child sings
in its ruined nursery...
and beauty is the
gleam of my eye on this gunstock and my spit
drying on the blade of this knife
before it warms itself in the gut of a kraut.
Mother, forgive me. Hear the leaves? I am
already memory.
In Bill Moyer's The Language of Life, Dove said of poetry:

"By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us the opportunity to think about ourselves
on this planet and what we mean to each other...Equally important is the connection poetry
emphasizes of human being to human being: What are we doing to make everyone's lives
better, and not materially, but spiritually as well? I think that why poetry has often been
considered dangerous."

Thanks, Rita Dove, for reminding me to "stop for a moment...and think about...what we
mean to each other, to think about all of our soldiers, and to say a special prayer for
who fought so bravely, who paid so big a price for us to be free.

Rita Dove, thanks for reminding us.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ending the global gag rule--change the daddy can believe in!

"Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men." --Joseph Conrad
"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."
--Timothy Leary

Obama Reverses Global Gag Rule

by Suzanne Malveaux

WASHINGTON - President Obama signed an executive order Friday striking down a rule prohibiting U.S. money from funding international family planning groups that promote abortion or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion services.

The order comes the day after the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.

[Planned Parenthood supporters rally in 2005. US President Barack Obama on Thursday said he backed a woman's "right to choose" on the 36th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision that women have a constitutional right to abortion. (AFP/Getty Images/File/David McNew)]
It reverses the "Mexico City policy," initiated by President Reagan in 1984, canceled by President Clinton and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.

The policy, referred to by critics as "the global gag rule," was initially announced at a population conference in Mexico City.

Reversing the previous administrations' stance on the policy was one of Clinton's first acts as president in January 1993 and the very first executive order issued by Bush on January 22, 2001, the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Critics, including Planned Parenthood, called Bush's move a "legislative ambush."

He defended his action, saying, "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortion or actively promote abortion."

The group Population Action International praised Obama's move, saying in a statement that it will "save women's lives around the world."

"Family planning should not be a political issue; it's about basic health care and well-being for women and children," it said. "Women's health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. President Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning."

This is change the daddy can believe in!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tuskegee Airmen, President Obama's Special Guests

Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group pilots, March 1942

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions—who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.” —President Barack Obama, “2009 Inaugural Speech”

President Obama's Special Guests by Kyle Dagan Janurary 22, 2009 from The Root (

At 6:00 a.m., blinking automatic doors flooded the lobby of the old Officer’s Club at Bolling Air Force Base with a crisp wind and sense of history. Later that morning, a group of Tuskegee airmen did something once unimaginable, by witnessing the presidential inauguration as special guests of Barack Obama.

“This is the crown jewel of the political process,” said Samuel C. Hunter Jr., an “80-something” former bomber pilot.

As an impromptu volunteer, I spent part of Inauguration Day with a group of roughly 200 heroes, many once treated as civically unequal in wars abroad and at home. To witness such a moment among these men who, to paraphrase James Baldwin, were candidates for death in America’s defense but were considered less human by their comrades and officers, was a humbling experience. I was struck by the absence of bitterness over the past in these surviving airmen.

“I’m looking for great things to come out of this moment of unity,” said airman Mal Whitfield, 85, who attended a staging breakfast for the inauguration ceremony with his daughter, CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield. “I’m looking forward to supporting the president, our president.”

Mr. Whitfield added he is not trying to claim an exclusive racial connection to President Obama. But for a man who served America to finally have an African-American president could only make him more a part of the country that he has already served.

There was some expectable entropy as organizers worked to usher the airmen down to the Capitol. Some family members realized at the last minute that they might not receive credentials to participate with their family airmen. But the mere opportunity to make it work—untangle the snags and get rolling—was priority and privilege for all volunteers.

“I’ve been watching CNN for the last three days,” said Norman Artis, a late-generation Tuskegee Airman (stationed in Turkey during the Cuban Missile Crisis) who came to assist in getting these airmen down to the Capitol for the inauguration proceedings. Artis served in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the swearing in of Lyndon Johnson. He doesn’t fear a similar fate for President Obama. “Man, there are too many people rooting for him.”

In other words, Barack Obama has clearly been embraced in a way many of these airmen never were during their service.

Artis has his own ideas on why he and the other Tuskegee Airmen were invited to the inauguration. Their presence at the ceremony matters “because we have to keep the legacy going,” he said.

Like Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday celebration, the Tuskegee Airmen story is another reminder that as much as Barack Obama’s ascendance feels like a beginning, it is far from the case; President Obama’s inauguration represents a continuation of African Americans’ service to a country that could not always look them in the eye and call them sister or brother.

As our motorcade blared down First Street in Northeast Washington, D.C., eventually speeding between the Capitol and the Supreme Court, soldiers stood at attention saluting the busloads of Tuskegee Airmen en route to an event few of them thought they’d see in their lifetimes. Several ordinary citizens, upon seeing the signs on our buses and realizing precious cargo we carried, would stop and salute them, too.

Kyle G. Dargan is a poet, essayist and assistant professor of literature and creative writing at American University. He’s also the founder and editor of POST NO ILLS magazine. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note: Two good books on the Tuskeegee Airmen:

1. "Tuskeegee Airmen: Men Who Changed a Nation" by Charles E. Francis, 4th edition. Francis says that these well-trained pilots proved their bravery-- they "stood tall" and America is the greater for it.

2. "The Divided Skies" by Robert Jakeman. Jakeman goes in depth into Tuskegee Institute and its formation, and into the superb flight training the airmen received, training that helped them to make a major impact in the war.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's inaugural speech: A new day, a new tone

Daily Press Briefing 043 (2).JPG

"I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war. Bush's policy of pre-emptive war is immoral - such a policy would legitimize Pearl Harbor. It's as if they learned none of the lessons from Vietnam." --Helen Thomas on the Bush Administration's rush to war in Iraq.

Listen up: Two of the daddy's favorite people discuss President Barack Obama's inauguration and what Obama's words and new tone mean to America for at least the next four years. Feisty, veteran UPI reporter and journalist Helen Thomas, the daddy's favorite White House reporter, analyzes Obama's speech. One of the few reporters who didn't go along with the Bush administration's rush to war in Iraq, this 82 feisty reporter is a columnist for Hearst newspapers. You can read her column in several newspapers, including the Boston Globe and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and is the co-founder of the American Freedom Campaign.
44 Takes Office with Blunt Rejection of 43
by Helen Thomas

Looking westward into the sun and speaking to more than 1 million people on the Mall in front of him and to millions more around the world, President Barack Obama delivered a tough inaugural speech that must have made members of the outgoing Bush administration squirm in their chairs.

After thanking President George W. Bush for his service to the nation and for helping during the presidential transition, Obama veered sharply, offering no attempt at sugar-coating, no deeper genuflection toward the Bushes, who left the Capitol by helicopter soon after Obama's blunt speech and headed for Texas.

Instead, Obama hit his theme early and often in his 18-minute address: The presidential inaugural oath is sometimes taken "amidst gathering clouds and raging storms." Now is one of those times, he said.

Obama declared "we are in the midst of crisis" and recounted wars, a badly weakened economy that he blamed on greed on the part of some and "also on our collective failure to make hard choices."

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, business shuttered, he recounted. Health care is too costly, schools fail too many students and we waste our energy.

There was no affable reference to Bush's eight years in office or mention of the wonders of the Bush legacy, nothing warm and fuzzy. It was a putdown, a repudiation of the Bush years.

Obama was just warming up.

Aside from these "indicators of crisis," the nation is on an emotional downer. Our national confidence has been sapped, Obama said, and there is a nagging fear "that America's decline is inevitable and that the next generation must lower its sights."

OK, having painted the gathering gloom, the new president told what was needed to get out of it. Citing past sacrifices by Americans, Obama declared: "This is the journey we continue today."

While the challenges facing us are serious and many and will not be met easily or quickly, Obama defiantly proclaimed: "But know this, America -- they will be met."

The new president continued his indirect criticism of the old regime.

We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord, Obama said. The time has come to proclaim an end to petty grievances and false promises, recriminations and worn-out dogmas that have long strangled our politics.

The time has come, he continued, to "set aside childish things." No particulars were mentioned and there was no hint of emotion from Bush family members in attendance, including both President Bushes and their wives.

But it was difficult to recall an inaugural speech that so harshly described the nation's condition that now became the responsibility of the incoming president. It was reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural when he denounced "fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Incumbent President Herbert Hoover sat quietly nearby.

So much for the old. And now the new.

The U.S. remains the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth, with productive workers and inventive minds. "But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed," Obama said. "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America."

The state of the economy calls for bold action, to create new jobs and build for growth.

To those who question the scale of our ambitions, Obama challenged, they should recall "what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage."

Cynics fail to understand that the ground has shifted beneath them -- "that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply," he declared.

Obama offered to renew U.S. leadership to all nations that seek peace. Earlier generations understood that "our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please."

Instead, "our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."

The U.S. will leave Iraq to its people, forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan, lessen the nuclear threat and fight global warming.

"For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broke; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

One watching Obama could only conclude that the page has been turned, dramatically and completely.


Obama Inauguration: A New Tone.
No More Fake Optimism for The People
by Naomi Wolf

I know that Barack Obama is incredibly smart, and it's not that I'm surprised that he gave a fantastic speech. But I've been following American politics for a long time, and sometimes you see something that works on so many levels that you kind of have to gasp at its sophistication.

This speech marked a sharp line in the sand, breaking overtly with the past administration. That message was clear and intentional. It is a much more confrontational approach than ­inauguration speeches have typically been in America. I am overjoyed.

I thought Obama did three things impressively. Firstly, he sounded a note of our dire circumstances that was in line with a reality that many have been in denial about. That is technically ­brilliant, because he's inheriting a mess, and he's telling people, "We're not going to dig ourselves out of this easily." But also, "Don't blame me for it all."

The second was that he reasserted the primacy of the constitution and the rule of law. With Bush sitting behind him, that was like showtime at the OK Corral. I have written in the past that it is going to take a grassroots movement to support him in reasserting the rule of law, because there are so many vested interests that stand opposed to it. But that was a shot across the bows.

Thirdly, most amazingly, I feel that he dialled down the threat level of the US with just a few sentences. He reached out a hand to the Muslim world. For Obama to say, "I'm not going to demonize you" - that is extraordinarily stabilizing.

On top of all that, he gave plenty of red meat to the right, honorring the ­military and their sacrifices. The choice of the conservative, anti gay-marriage pastor Rick Warren to pray sent a message to the conservative base of the opposition that this is going to be a values-based presidency, that he's not going to dismiss the substantial proportion who opposed Democrats not because they disagreed with their economic policies, but because they disagreed with how amoral our policies have often been presented as being. It is not how I would wish for things in an ideal world. But Obama is playing poker brilliantly, because he has handed over something that is not very valuable. And he did all of this without a single partisan sentence. He spoke about Republican policies, but not Republicans. He isn't missing a trick. I thought it was a home run.

The great leaders in the US weren't the cheerleaders who promised ­morning in America. They were the ones that forced us to look in the mirror. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we're the best, the city on the hill.

In fact the great American task is self-scrutiny. Abraham Lincoln gave speeches about the civil war in which he said, in essence, "We've brought this on ourselves by enslaving Americans." Obama's speech was a diagnosis: "We have to take steps to rebuild our nation." I'm not saying, "Hooray, he offered a tough, dark recognition of our reality." I'm saying "Hooray" because he has recognized that the only way to save America is to confront it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama and a change is gonna come

Crowds gather in the National Mall, Washington DC

"Looking at the past must be only a means of understanding more clearly what they must do in the future." --Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Listen up:

The daddy'g got a confession to make: The inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama as the 44th president proved to be overwhelming. Now don't get it twisted. The daddy didn't go all boo hooing over this thing while holding a kleenex box in his hand. After all, as a reporter for three newspapers city newspapers, the daddy saw things like kids lying face-down in a pool of blood after being gunned down and writing about them with a cool head, finishing up just before deadline. But this inauguration left a brotha speechless and he is still having a hard time writing about it.

Now, the daddy could describe the event: Rick Warren's rambling invocation, Aretha's stirring song, Obama's great speech, and Rev. Lowry's last words (which made him want to laugh and cry at the same time). But here's what he can't do:

* Capture the looks on the black children's faces as they listened to a person who looked like them speak as a respected leader of their country;

* Capture the pride on the faces of older black men and women (some in wheelchairs) showing what they were witnesses to something that they thought would never happen; and

* Capture the unbelievable pride and happiness of some of the old lions of the civil rights movement, the ones who gotten beaten at Selma, outside restaurants and near bridges, now realizing this day, a day when one of their own has become president, one of their own-- Rev. Lowery-- would give the last word.

Now, since the daddy couldn't capture these feelings, he thought he would do what he always does when he can't write a speech or article to do a story justice: play some music. So he put on Sam's Cooke's "A change is gonna come," a song he wrote after he was not allowed to stay at a hotel because of the color of his skin. The music captures the sad feeling, but the words captures the spirit of resistance that no water hose, vicious dog, billy club or shotgun at midnight can ever take away.

The overwhelming thing about today is that people saw change come to America today. Sam Cooke said it would.

Someday, I'll be able to capture it.

President Obama and the challenge to be great

"A good leaders inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves." --author unknown

Today, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office from Chief Justice Roberts.. He will put his hand on an old Abraham Lincoln bible, hold up another hand and swear to uphold the office as our 44th president.

He will be coming into office at a most trying time for our country. But history shows that challenging times produce great presidents. The civil war produced a great president in Lincoln, the depression a great one in Roosevelt.

Today, we are engaged in two wars, we are billions in debt, we have millions unemployed, we have thousands losing their home each week, we have almost 50 million uninsured, and we have many who have lost just about all financial resources and even more dignity and hope.

President Barack Obama, your time has come. If you get our soldiers out of Iraq, turn the economy around, get more Americans back to work, enact universal healthcare, then you will have stepped onto the stage of history and earned the right to sit beside Lincoln as one of the greatest American presidents of all time.


A prayer for the nation and our next president, Barack Obama by Rev. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire*

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president. O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


* Note: This wonderful invocation was supposed to be aired by HBO yesterday but never
was. Rev. Robinson is an openly gay Bishop.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The MLK holiday, the gift of Dr. King

"We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans." --Coretta Scott King on the MLK holiday

The gift of Dr. King
by Mac Walton, aka, MacDaddy

On this holiday, we won’t fly home, sit at mom’s kitchen table and eat grits, scrambled eggs and sausage-- hot sauce and butter on the grits. On this holiday, we won’t run downstairs to pull gifts out from under a tree and discover, once again, a toy too noisy, a sweater too small, a tie too bright. Hey, on this day, we won’t even get a fruitcake to feed to the birds outside our back door. No, this is a special day; and on this day we will travel to a different place, a place closer physically but perhaps far more distant spiritually than we like to admit. We will go inside ourselves to access a gift we have long ago received-- the legacy of political struggle and personal courage as exemplified in the inspirational action and prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A gift of compassion

Once inside, once we begin to reflect, we’ll be struck immediately by Dr. King’s keen understanding of and deep compassion for those who came from a different race or class than he. This is no small feat for a Black middle-class minister from a region of the United States – the South— where intolerance toward Jews and Catholics and the use of the bible to rationalize the disenfranchisement of Blacks was an every-day affair at breakfast in small-town cafes and on dark roads at night.

Dr. King spoke of love and justice for all people, regardless of race, class or religious denomination, referring to them as “Brothers and Sisters.” He referred to his role in this work with humility, saying he was just a “drum major for justice” trying to “do God’s will.” When reporters mentioned that it was many of these same “brothers and sisters” who were trying deny justice to his people, who hurled bottles and bricks at them as they marched, he just smiled and said that America’s changing economy was leaving some "our white brothers and sisters behind." Further, he noted, this was the first generation of poor whites to realize that they would not be as well off as their parents.

A gift of faith

Dr. King left us a legacy of unwavering faith in the American republic and us, Americans. Even after being arrested over 30 times, harassed by the IRS, spied upon by the FBI, tracked for assassination by white racists, and increasingly criticized by some whites for opposing the war in Vietnam, he still clung to a basic faith in the United States of America and all of us. His basic prescription for justice was always a small dose of nonviolence and a large dose of hope.

The truth behind the faith

Those who knew Dr. King felt that this hope and faith was not just a personal prayer but a political necessity. Dr.King himself said as much. In “Where Do We Go From Here?” he wrote:

“…Revolution, though born of despair, cannot long be sustained by despair.The Negroes’ disappointment is real and is part of the daily menu of our lives. One of the agonizing problems of human experience is how to deal with disappointment.In our individual lives we all too often distill our frustration into an essence of bitterness, or drown ourselves in the deep waters of self-pity, or adopt a fatalistic philosophy that whatever happens must happen and all events are determined by necessity.

He continued:

“These reactions poison the soul and scar the personality, always harming the person harboring them more than anyone else. The only healthy answer lies in one’s honest recognition of disappointment even as one clings to hope, one’s acceptance of finite disappointment even while clinging to infinite hope.”

A gift of vision

In 2009, despite the first African American president, America is beset with an economy that, though struggling, still rewards the rich and punishes the poor; a nation with 47 million uninsured, countless hungry, homeless and hopeless; and two wars abroad whose guns, planes and tanks steer much-needed resources to abroad and drain off resources to deal with our problems at home.Despite oppression at home, Dr. King was one of the first American leaders to point out this connection.

We know of his vision of Black children joining hands with White children to sing in that ole gospel hymn, “Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, we’re free at last.” But he left us with an even more endearing vision that speaks to his belief in this country to one day be free and in those of us left behind to make it so:

One Day

Children from India will ask:
"What is hunger?"
Children from Alabama will ask:
"What is racial segregation?"
Children from Hiroshima will ask:
"What is the atomic bomb?"
Children at school will ask:
'What is war?"

You will tell them:

"Those words are not used any more.
Like stagecoaches, galleys or slavery.
They are words no longer meaningful.
That is why they have been
Removed from the dictionaries.”

Happy traveling.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This holiday, Dr. King may ask, "Are there any drum majors here?"

"I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Listen up. January 15th is Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday. This is the birthday of a man who was more than a preacher. He was an activist/intellectual leader who fought for justice. The daddy wrote this article about him.

Are there any drum majors here?
by Mac Walton, aka, MacDaddy

Well, another Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King holiday is coming. Once again, the media will provide snippets of his speech in 1963 saying, "I have a dream," as if this was the only speech he ever made in his life, or as if he no longer gave speeches after 1963.

Once again, people will hold marches all across the country. Some will look like parades or carnivals. Once again, speeches of praise will be made by presidents, governors, mayors and local politicians, all smiling like used-car dealers. By the way, some of these folks called Dr. King a "radical," a "leftist," "communist," or just a "black leader" not that long ago. And some of them, like Sen. McCain, voted against a King holiday several times.

Look for your local newspaper to tell you where to go to see them and give a few seconds to them on the news.
And look for CNN to interview a few African Americans who were organizers and prime time players of the movement back in the day: people like Andrew Young who now does commercials for Wal-Mart and Jessie Jackson, who said he would like to operate on a certain part of Obama's anatomy (at the Fox News studio of all places!). They'll talk about how empowering and righteous it was to fight the good fight for that "beloved community" of which Dr. King hoped to create. But what the old guard civil rights leaders won't be allowed much time to talk about, what CNN and the mainstream media will not discuss meaningfully, is Dr. King's focus in the last two years of his life: U.S. violence abroad and poverty at home. In his final days, Dr. King spoke out and marched against the US propensity to go war; and he nailed it when he made the connection between war abroad and poverty at home.

Dr. King the intellectual

When we read Dr. King's major speeches with an eye toward his intellectual development, we see the intellectual unfolding of an outside-the-box- critical thinker moving from civil rights to human rights; from the right to drink at a water fountain to the right to a living wage; from the violence of police beating protesters and marchers practicing civil disobedience to the rights of third world countries fighting for independence from colonizers. Mainstream media won't discuss this intellectual evolution and for good reasons: It's too dangerous. Reporters could lose their jobs. News directors too. But this evolution led Dr. King to three conclusions:

1. The US is a violent nation-state which engages in war for profit and control of third world resources.

2. Poverty is rampant in the US. Let's be clear: he meant poverty was rampant among all races or ethic groups in the United States, and not just African Americans. That's why his poor people's campaign, which his organization (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) was spearheading to go to Washington to highlight poverty in the US, included Whites from the Appalachia, Native Americans from the reservations, Hispanics and others.
3. Only a mass movement by grassroots organizations will move the country to tackle poverty in earnest.
He concluded that US politicians had neither moral fortitude or the political will to end a disgraceful plight of millions of impoverished and homeless in the richest country in the world.
Will the mainstream media tell us that? Is that what we want to hear?

Dr. King's relevance today.

This self-described "drum major for justice," who only wanted "to do God's will," criticized the US government for its propensity to start wars; and that criticism is just as relevant today as it was in the sixties. Let us not forget: Dr. King was one of the first prominent US citizens to speak against our involvement in the war in Vietnam. He said it was immoral of us to be there; he said it was immoral to deny poor people jobs at home but send them thousands of miles away to kill and be killed; and he made the connection between war and poverty, offering that the war in Vietnam siphoned off much-needed funds to tackle problems like poverty and education at home. Sounds like the same situation today, doesn't it? Will the mainstream media help us to make the connection between the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq? Will CNN, for instance, bring on economists and political scientists to discuss the relationship between war and poverty? Will those guests mention that President Johnson's efforts to fight poverty (after much urging from Dr. King and other civil rights leaders and protests in urban streets) was cut short by the Vietnam war? Will they say our efforts to deal with poverty, healthcare, education, drugs and drug-related violence, immigration and a host of other issues is stymied because the more than a billion a day is going to fight a bloody, costly war in Iraq?

Will they help us to recognize, for instance, that true greatness of Dr. King was that he saw the relationship between wars abroad and the violence of poverty at home and tried to do something radical to bring the problem to our attention, especially in the last two years of his life? Of course not. Neither CNN nor any of the other mainstream outlets nor many US citizens, for that matter, wish to hear the horrific reality of US violence abroad or the shameful reality of the violence of poverty in the richest country in the world, especially on a holiday.

Dr. King's Challenge

Here's another reason we won't hear much about Dr. King's effort to deal with violence and poverty: he set a standard that not many of us are willing to even try to match. Let's face it; the man read voraciously and thought critically about issues international, national and local. He could quote from a Shakespearan play as easily as he could the bible. He wrote articles, he wrote books, and he acted. He was jailed more than 30 times, hounded by the IRS, threatened by the CIA (who tried to get him to commit suicide), stabbed and received death threats almost everyday. Yet, he continued to be "a drum major for justice" and "do God's will."

Of course this high bar gives us no excuse for becoming drum majors in our own right, that is, doing what we can, wherever we are, whatever our station, to fight for justice. And this bar doesn't mean that we have to reach it. It only gives us a goal and a reason to try.
Still, for some of us, almost any struggle to help others is too much. The home, though highly mortgaged, is too comfortable, the boat at the cabin by the lake too relaxing, the over-priced, gas-guzzling SUV (the only "freedom ride" some of us well ever know) too exhilarating. Yet, like a tree by the water, King's bar remains.

Will the mainstream media repeat the words of Dr. King and say, "Look America: Not only are you allowing your government to send poor people abroad to kill in your name, you're also leaving their families and many other families to languish in poverty in the richest country in the world?" That's a rhetorical question, isn't it?

Meantime, have fun this holiday. Have family and friends over. Barbecue. Play cards. Have a few cold ones. But don't be surprised if the spirit of Dr. King walks through a cloud of barbecue smoke, lingers on your lawn and asks... "Are there any drum majors here?"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Robert Johnson, why not a museum for him?

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling a piece written by the Blues Historian on the great blues guitarist and stylist Robert Johnson. It's about Dallas getting ready to tear down the building where Johnson made those wonderful recordings. This is just one more indication that, even in 2009, many leaders, especially leaders in southern government, don't give a damn about black people and their gifts to this country and the world, even when they can
make tourist money from it for years. Here's the story:

Site Of Robert Johnson's Dallas Recordings To Be Demolished

Got a tip from the Dallas Observer that the famous site of Robert Johnson's recording sessions in Dallas is slated to be demolished.

For the article from the Dallas Observer HERE.

As an historian it is sad to see historic places go under the wrecking ball. It seems especially sad when it is blues related. Many of the great musical sites of the past have fell victim to urban renewal. No doubt the city of Dallas wants to rejuvenate the area, but at the same time why not a museum dedicated to African American music?? I really hope that they don't get it too late like they did in Kansas City. Barely anything was left of the Vine area before Kansas City realized its tourist potential. Of course most of you may also think of what happened with Maxwell Street in Chicago. The University of Illinois in Chicago tore out the street a few years ago. Many unsung areas like Des Moines Center Street, met the wrecking ball decades ago.

There are people trying to save these great spots from disappearing but they need your help. there really isn't a contact person to write too that I know of, but there is a website put up by the city of Dallas for the Harwood Street Historic District HERE. Or you can contact the mayor of Dallas HERE. It might be too late, but still contact these people and let them know about the importance of the blues and the tourism possibilities that the building has. Yes, the homeless may live there now, but even if you tear it down, you will need to find a place for them anyway. That should never be a reason to rip down a building. Also if you have a blues blog, please spread the story around and be sure to link to the Dallas Observer. they have another post from October HERE.

Help keep the blues alive in Dallas!
To keep in touch, check out the bluesman at
Thanks, bluesman.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Are we gettin' negro comfortable up in here?


"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Are we gettin' negro comfortable up in here?"

Listen up. Here in Minneapolis, a lot of black folks were hungry over the holidays. The food shelves were low in food. A few gave out. Some folks phoned and asked me to help. The daddy got a small caravan of his buddies-- three other guys-- and we got a couple of agencies to open up their door on Christmas Eve and Christmas day to give us food and the one thing the adults said they wanted the most, coffee. Evidently, food shelters don't give coffee out to people.

Now, after helping out, the daddy was still feeling bad about the plight of these families but happy that he and his buddies got the opportunity to help. On January 1st, some brothas came over to help him celebrate the end of Kwanzaa. And in the midst of the celebration, several brought up the idea that the daddy "don't hang with the brothas much anymore." And they cited Christmas Eve party that I missed. Now, after the daddy apologized and told them he was gathering and delivering food on Christmas Eve, one said, "Mac, you know that's always our time together." The daddy asked him, "Did you hear what I said? I was delivering food to families!"

Some other brothas used the notion of hunger to talk about the Palestinians. But, after they left, it stayed on the daddy's mind. Why did some brothas in my group nod their heads when
he said, "Mac, you know this always our time together--" after the daddy told them he was delivering food to poor people? Eventually, the daddy had to admit something he had seen but refused to believe: that, as much as he loves these brothas, he has a different sensibility from them. Check it:

*They have new SUVS; and it's a status thing to keep getting new gas guzzlers just about every year. I have an SUV, which comes in handy in winters in Minnesota. It's 2001.

*They buy expensive clothes, cologne, ties and shoes. I just get something that coordinates and cologne without alcohol in it and doesn't smell like Aqua Velva.

*They gamble at casinos around Minnesota and Vegas, where they getVIP cards, which gives them free suites, food and parking. They bet on horses in Shakopee, Minnesota. The daddy doesn't gamble.

*Though some grew up poor, they don't care about the poor now, including the black poor, including poor relatives. They care about their jobs, their immediate family and an occasional nephew or niece that's gone astray. That's it. The daddy was raised poor, worked in poor neighborhoods, and still volunteers now and then.

The daddy doesn't know for sure, but he suspects that there are other African Americans who no longer care about the poor, even their poor relatives; who would rather be at a banging bar with dance music, with people out on the floor letting loose and having a good time, with big steaks, spicy appetizers and with people holding drinks and a warm smile than toting boxes in the cold. The daddy understands. He would like to be there too. But something pulls at him, at some of us, to do something, something more, something bigger than us as individuals. Truthfully, the daddy didn't want to feed anybody, not even himself. He was recovering from the flu. But something--this sensibility thing-- pulled him out of bed, put on his clothes, pushed him out of the house, picked up his phone so he could guilt-trip friends to help provide food for 9 families.

But what's bothering the daddy is that on January 1, 2009, he sat with about 10 guys celebrating the end of Kwanzaa (which is all about family and community) and realized that they had absolutely no interest in the poor-- no sympathy, empathy or concern that could pull them, that could move them to think of anyone, or do something for anyone, but themselves.

And what almost jolted the daddy out of his seat was the sudden and stark realization that, on this sacred night, the only thoughts my buddies had was of another imported beer or another shot of Absolute Vodka; and the only thing that got them to speak with passion was the thought of the next woman they hoped to--as Bob Dylan put it-- "lay across my big brass bed." Obviously, the only "freedom" ride these guys ever had was cruising down highway 94 in their new SUVs with navigation, trying to stay as far away from the hood as possible.

Listen, the daddy knows that perhaps he has used his friends unfairly here. He knows that a lot of black people who care about the poor, including my three buddies that helped me deliver food to some families. But after observing the behavior of my other male friends and others, he is convinced that some of us just don't give a damn about poor people anymore, if we ever did. And the daddy is reminded of that quote from Dr. King:

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

And he is feeling a basic question from poet and wise blogger Rawdawg ( In a down-home urban language but sure-fire logic, he asks a question that has drifted into the daddy's heart and threatens to stay there until the end of his days:

"Are we gettin' negro comfortable up in here?"

Well, are we?