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?"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Black History Month And People's History

  • Launched Negro History Week in 1926, chosen in the second week of February between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, which evolved into Black History Month in 1976
  • Known for writing the contributions of black Americans into the national spotlight, received a Ph.D at Harvard University
  • Founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915, founded the Journal of Negro History in 1916
  • Author of the book, "The Miseducation of the Negro", published in 1933

"As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching."
-- Carter G. Woodson
"The accounts of the successful strivings of Negroes for enlightenment under most adverse circumstances reads like beautiful romances of a people in an heroic age."
-- Carter G. Woodson

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling Black History Month, which is drawing to a close. Specifically, he's thinking that highlighting contributions of African Americans to American history and world civilization should continue.

Historically, we've been conditioned to feel that we made few contributions to society and where we have it was due not to African Americans and folks, female and male, who supported them but some fat white guy from above, usually a president (e.g. Abraham Lincoln or Lyndon Johnson). Little is said about how African Americans such as Frederick Douglass pushed Lincoln or how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pushed Johnson by holding marches that embarrassed his administration and America in the eyes of the world-- how it showed America as a nation that professed equality and liberty for all while beating down African Americans with the nerve to demand the right to vote and be treated like any other American human being.

But there is a broader point to be made here: Americans in general don't know their history, especially from people's, or working people's, point of view: history from the ground up by women and men of all races or ethnicities. Unfortunately, in America, history was written largely by upper class males in their image and values with the predictable outcome that it was a history of, by and for white males, usually hypocritical land and slave owners-- people who wrote lofty words about equality and justice as their slaves out back in the fields worked from "sun up to sun down," from "kin to kan't" every day but Sunday. By highlighting black contributions, hopefully it will spur other Americans to take a new look at their own history both as a "race" and as Americans.

Much has been made of the accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln's emancipation proclamation and his efforts to move America toward a equality of opportunity in real life. America's new president, Barack Obama, hails Lincoln as the model he emulates in the oval office. But rarely do we note the horrendous efforts of Andrew Jackson to tear down the gains made by black Americans during the period of reconstruction, efforts that allowed supposedly defeated white southern plantation owners to develop a new southern government and erect Jim Crow laws that essentially placed blacks back into slavery. Nor is there much said of other U.S. presidents who treated African Americans as little more than property or, for that matter, working Americans in general, as little more than day laborers, a status just above indentured servitued with little more than minimum wage and even less rights. And let's not even get started about the genocide perpetrated against Native Americans here on their own land. And how can we forget the treatment of women, who were not allowed to vote until the early 20th centry. The point here is that, if we don't know our history from a people's perspective (as opposed to a class, male-centered perspective), we become vulnerable to others' current interpretation of society and act in ways that is not in our interest. Instead of fighting those who oppress and exploit us all, we end up fighting each other.

Hopefully, the study of black history will spur others to study their history to see where their history also intersects with the history of others: to fathom how all of us have contributed to this country as well as how, at certain points, how we have worked with each other to affect change in our (people's) as well as against each other to forestall such change in this grand experiment we call the United States of America.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gwendolyn Brooks Made Words Dance and Sing For You

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 - 2000)
Gwendolyn Brooks
"...good writing and literature, have exposed evil in the world, have contributed mightily of personal revenues to the young, to the would-be-writers, to students and to the institutions of common good is without a doubt. However, the only poet who has made it her mission to incorporate all of this and more into a wonderful and dedicated lifestyle is Gwendolyn Brooks."
--poet Haki Madhubuti
"I who have gone the gamut from an almost angry rejection of my dark skin by some of my brainwashed brothers and sisters to a surprised queenhood in the new Black sun am qualified to enter at least the kindergarten of new consciousness now... I have hopes for myself."
--Gwendolyn Brooks

Listen up. Black History Month is drawing to a close. The daddy has written about political leaders, musicians, novelists and playwrights. But he has yet to acknowledge or praise a poet. And how could the daddy close Black History Month without giving props to Gwendolyn Brooks, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century?

They say the Creator acts in mysterious ways. But there was nothing mysterious about the Creator giving Brooks to us.
The Creator gave us a transplant from Topeka, Kansas, a graduate from Wilson Junior College in 1936, and a gifted writer who made the southside of Chicago her home and who settled in our hearts to stay.

And she was gifted alright. Her first book, “A Street in Bronzeville,” a small set of poems about folks in your neighborhood, got a lot of ink and a lot of dap; and her second book, “Annie Allen,” got more props still. In fact, she won the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1950.

After getting that Pulitzer, she wrote books for people of all ages: Maude Martha (1953), The Bean Eaters (1960), In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969) and Jump Bad (1971), that anthology. And for such quality writing, she became the poet laureate of Illinois in 1968, and even received the Society for Literature Award from the University of Thessalonica in Athens, Greece, the first American to achieve this distinction.

But her greatest and lasting contribution may to the development of American literature itself. You see, America was not just another England but a nation of many people, all coming here for different reasons and with their own experiences, their own stories. In fact, America was a new nation full of different people with new experiences. These new experiences and new stories demanded a new kind of literature to capture them.

Walt Whitman talked about this need for a distinctly new literature. In the preface to “Leaves of Grass,” he wrote: “The American poets are to enclose old and new for America is the race of races. Of them, a bard is to be commensurate with a people. To him other continents arrive as contributions. He gives them reception for their sake and for his own sake.”

Speaking of African Americans, the great poet William Carlos Williams wrote: “The one thing that never seems to occur to anybody is that the Negroes have a quality which they have brought to America…Poised against the Mayflower is the slave ship-manned by the Yankees and Englishmen-bringing another race to try upon the New World…There is a solidity, a racial irreducible minimum, which gives them poise in a world where they have no authority.”

Brooks used that poise, that discipline, in her writing. She used the craft of poetry to shine a light on a distinct people, a “nation within nations,” to get us to get see African Americans, and extension, America more clearly. For example, in “Children of the Poor,” she put a cup on the side of a wall and hear a mother ask:

What shall I give my children? who are poor,
Who are adjudged the leastwise of the land,
Who are my sweetest lepers, who demand
No velvet and no Velvety velour;
But who have begged me for a brisk contour…
But I lack access to my proper stone
And plentitude or plan shall not suffice
And not grief nor love shall be enough alone
To ratify my little halves who bear
Across an autumn freezing every where.

In “The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel,” she led us into a neighborhood pool hall to peep the hand of hip black youth, to concisely divine their fate:

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

In “Malcolm X,” she showed us fierce, straight-up manhood and down-to-earth, mother-wit intelligence:

Hence ragged-round,
Hence rich-robust.

He had the hawk-man’s eye.
We gasped. We saw the maleness.
The maleness raking and making guttural the air
And pushing us to walls.

And in a soft and fundamental hour
A sorcery devout and vertical
Beguiled the world.

He opened us-
Who was a key.

Who was a man.

So let's raise a glass and make a toast:

Dear Creator:

Thank you for bringing Sistah Gwendolyn into this world.
Thank you for placing her in our nation, our community, our

Thank you for ushering this gentle genius, this truthseeker, to create, to
solidify a distinctly American literature, to adapt traditional forms of poetry to a sun people's struggle for liberation and freedom in a cold and distant land.

Thank you for sending us a writer who made causal rhymes sing like Aretha Franklin at a black church in Detroit on Sunday, who gave us a star each time she put pen to paper.

Thank you for bringing us Gwendolyn Brooks, a poet who made words open their eyes, dance and sing.


Barack Obama's State Of The Union Address

The dome of the U.S. Capitol building is lit in the evening hours of February 24, 2009 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama will address a joint session of the Congress at 9:01pm tonight where he plans to address the topics of the struggling U.S. economy, the budget deficit, and health care.

"Now is the time to act boldly and wisely-- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity."--President Obama

"If we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered."--President Obama

Listen up. The daddy is going to depart from the Black History Month series for a moment to respond briefly to the e-mails asking him about his thoughts about President Obama's first State of the Union speech?

Overall analysis of the speech?

First, it was not a State of the Union Address so much as a State of Psyhche speech. If the state of the psyche is bad, no recitation of state affairs in detail is worth noting. A pep talk may be overdue.

It was a populist speech, acknowledging America's anger at banks for taking our tax dollars and taking it to fancy hotels to party all night long and get massages and pedicures the next day and promising to do something about it.

It was a good speech but not one of his better one. For example, it did not come close to the eloquence of his speech in accepting the democratic selection as President nominee for President of the United States. Nor did it contain a lot of details.

This speech was good, because it accomplished three things: It promoted the stimulus plan, highlighted where his administration wants to go in the next four years, and it introduced a new tone in dealing with a troubled economy. President Obama said he wants to end the Iraq war. He wants to bring our soldiers. He said he wants to focus on energy, education and healthcare reform. And he said with conviction that he believed the economy will turn around.

The most important thing about the speech?

Two things:

1. It was a left-of-center speech by America's standard (out of Iraq, education and healthcare reform) talking about meeting goals that are true to campaign promises. The speech showed a sense of consistency in the Obama administration even as it seeks to deal with a bad economy.
2. It represented a change in tone that American and the economic market need at this time. The speech was more upbeat and ended with stirring and convincing words by the President Obama that the U.S. economy will recover.

Purpose of the speech

This gets to the heart of why the speech was good. It was good not because of its level of details, eloquence, or necessarily believability that its ambitious goals can be achieved, or achieved anytime soon. Its real purpose was to communicate to the American people and the market: to educating them about the economy, to provide them an outline of where his administration is going, and to express confidence that the economy will turn around.

Regardless of what obstructionist Republicans think or doubting democrats believe, this speech gave America what it needs: A sense that all is not lost, that American can indeed recover.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Irene Refused To Stand So You Could Sit Wherever You Want

The original 'Freedom Rider,' Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, dies at 90

"When I refused to give up my seat, then they said, 'We'll have you arrested.' Well, I said, `That's perfectly all right'; but when he put his hands on me, well, then that's when I kicked him."--Irene Morgan

"If something happens to you which is wrong, the best thing to do is have it corrected in the best way you can. The best thing for me to do was to go to the Supreme Court."--Irene Morgan, 1984

Listen up. When he looks at his thin wallet he may not think it, the daddy is a fortunate man. He's blessed. Why? Because, thanks to some real courageous black folk back in the day, he doesn't have to put up with anyone calling him the "N" word. He doesn't have to look for the water fountain that is labeled "colored." And he doesn't have to ride "Jim Crow," a bus or train where blacks ride in the back.
Thanks to folks like Ms. Irene Morgan.

Now, when you think of the person who refused to give up a seat to someone, you think of Rosa Parks, a woman who was small in stature but who stands tall in human history, because she ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. But if truth be told, history records another woman who refused to stand up 11 years before. Not only that, history records that she had to be dragged off the bus kicking and screaming. Indeed, when the arresting officer came and put his hand on her, she kicked him in the groins and said she would have bitten him, but he looked "too dirty."

Continuing the fight, she took her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court... AND WON! On June 3, 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated busing during interstate travel to be unconstitutional and set a strong precedent for future dispensation of discriminatory cases with respect to travel. The NAACP lawyer who argued her case before that august body? A young Thurgood Marshall, the same Thurgood Marshall who would later be appointed to that court.

But it was Ms. Morgan's courage to take her case to court, to keep the faith and to continue the battle that was the catalyst in bringing about a new law that spurred the "Freedom Rides," an organized effort to test the new law. One of the leaders of the freedom Rides was Bayard Rustin, who was an organizer for a group called The Journey of Reconciliation at the time but would later become an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the chief organizer of the march on Washington.

Speaking of Morgan's efforts that started it all, Raymond Arsenault, author of "Freedom Riders," wrote:

“She was young, attractive, articulate and, judging by her poised performance in Saluda, strong enough to withstand the pressures of a high-profile legal battle."

As for her later life, in her fifties, she ran a child-care center with her second husband, Stanley Kirkaldy. And she went back to school. At age 68, she received a bachelor's degree from St. John's University. Five years later, she received a master's in Urban Studies from Queens College. In 2000, Glouchester County, where she got on the Greyhound bus and began her remarkable ride with history, honored her on its 350th anniversary. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest honor that could be bestowed on an American citizen. The citation read:

“When Irene Morgan boarded a bus for Baltimore in the summer of 1944, she took the first step on a journey that would change America forever.”

Know Black History. Know Irene Morgan, the original freedom rider. She refused to stand so you can sit wherever you want.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Know Claude Brown, A Manchild In The Promised Land

"[This autobiography] is written with brutal and unvarnished honesty in the plain talk of the people, in language that is fierce, uproarious, obscene and tender, but always sensible and direct. And to its enormous credit, this youthful autobiography gives us its devastating portrait of life without one cry of self-pity, outrage or malice, with no caustic sermons or searing rhetoric. Claude Brown speaks for himself--and the Harlem people to whom his life is bound--with open dignity, and the effect is both shattering and deeply satisfying...[This work] is a mature autobiography of the coming of age of one hidden human being, whose experience and generation are absolutely crucial to any future history of the American people."-- New York Times Book Review

"For where does one run to when he's already in the promised land?"--Claude Brown

Listen up. February 23rd, is the birthday of Claude Brown, one of America's most gifted writers. No, he didn't come from the Iowa writer's workshop or from some fancy school like Princeton in the East. In fact, often he was absent from school. Sometimes he had neither a school or a home to go to and spent many nights riding trains to stay warm.

Claude was born in poverty, in Harlem, New York, in 1937. He was a writer and child advocate. He was also a black male kid who had been a criminal since the age of 8. His success showed that a black kid who was well-known at juvenile detention schools could rescue himself (with the help of a few friends like the great writer Toni Morrison) out of crime and poverty and demonstrate that, like Malcolm X, almost any of us could be redeemed-- could be lifted from the cold concrete of urban, inner-city black America and be somebody: be transformed thug to a worthwhile American citizen, to even a man of letters, if given a little hope and half a chance.

Here's what the African American Registry (Please give them support) said of Brown today:

Claude Brown

From Harlem, Brown's early days frequented breaking the law. His crime run began at the tender age of 8. His father, a dockworker, would frequently beat him and his siblings when they got into trouble, and his mother struggled with the juvenile court to get him into the best state delinquency programs. But nothing seemed to prevent Brown from breaking the law. In spite of his unstable, alcoholic father, and the poverty of his youth, his siblings all grew up to lead normal lives. Brown spent years in and out of juvenile detention centers and juvenile homes as a result of stealing, and selling drugs.

His life of crime took a turn when a local drug addict shot him in the abdomen. This incident and the encouragement of a friend helped Brown leave his life of crime behind him. In 1959, he entered Howard University in Washington, and shortly afterward he began writing. Toni Morrison, one of his teachers, often critiqued Claude's work. Claude wrote about what he knew best his own life experiences. Browns Manchild in the Promised Land, is a best selling autobiography on his youth in Harlem, New York. In 1976, he published The Children of Ham, a story about struggling young blacks in Harlem.

Almost 35 years, and 4 million copies later, Manchild in the Promised Land has become the second best selling book MacMillan Books ever published (the first was Gone with the Wind), and has been published in 14 languages. It launched his career as a writer, giving him a platform to publish in Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look and The New York Times Magazine. Brown, was a freelance writer and frequent lecturer, and started a family. He had two children by two marriages, and a grandson. Though living in Newark, New Jersey, he was still involved in Harlem and helping kids out of the street life.

He works to maintain a program that mentors kids from Harlem, and helps them go to college. Brown also supports a Newark-based program that diverts kids caught up in the court system into an intensive eight-week residential treatment program that tries to turn young people's lives around. Writer Claude Brown died of a lung condition on February 6, 2002; he was age 64.

Know Black history. Know Claude Brown, another manchild in the promised land.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

August Wilson Ain't Come and Gone

August Wilson’s series of 10 plays that explore African-American life in each decade of the 20th century has placed him in elite company alongside America’s greatest playwrights.

Listen up. During this black history month, the daddy has written about black political leaders (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells), great writers (James Baldwin, Zora Neal Hurston), great athletes (Althea Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Jackie Kersee-Joyner, Larry Doby), courageous pilots (Tuskegee Airmen), musicians (Big Joe Turner, Lula Reed) even a great black historian(John Henrik Clarke). Today, the daddy is feeling another great in literature, playwright August Wilson. Now you will not hear it said like this, because some racist whites still don't want a brother onto the literary stage of history as one of the greats. But the daddy is gonna make it plain: August Wilson is on of the great American playwrights of the 20 century. He did what all great writers do: wrote about what he knew; wrote about the place from which he came; wrote about the problems, the frustrations, and the aspirations of the people he knew best. And he drew stark individual black characters, making them come alive through detailed portraits, fantastic stories in a language that sang the blues with a heavy backbeat and at a depth that bled conviction and truth all over his plays.

As a child, he sat in classrooms with white kids who called him "nigger." But he also observed closely the lives of his people: their struggles, frustrations, and dreams in the Hill districts of Pittsburgh, a Black ghetto. He drew with astuteness the characters of those people in his plays: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), Jitney (1982), Fences (1987, Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988), The Piano Lesson (1990), Two Trains Running (1992), and Seven Guitars (1995). He won a Pulitzer for Fences in 1987 and Piano Lesson in 1990. When he died, the daddy, who used to run into Wilson on his many trips to Minneapolis, wrote this eulogy:

August Wilson Ain't Come and Gone
by Mac Walton, aka, The Daddy

“As soon as White folks say a play is good, the theater is jammed with Blacks and Whites. We {Black folks} have to get to the point where our critical observations and reviews are just as much validation as anybody’s.”
-- August Wilson in a February, 2001, interview

Hey, August! When people say something that sounds good, something I trust, I say, “Uh huh” real even and soft-like. But when they say something I don’t like or trust, I say, “Uh huh” real quick and hard-like.

August, they say you died of cancer a week ago last Sunday, October 2,at 69, at that Swedish Hospital in Seattle. I say "Uh huh" kind of hard and quick-like because to me, August, you ain't gone.

You ain’t gone when I can still go to Penumbra and see stage lights shine on me, telling my story from my point of view: the view of hard-working, down-on-their-luck but still striving black folk: the dishwashers, the cabdrivers, the garbage men, the sidemen, the petty thieves, the small business owners.

You ain’t gone, August, when you shine that light and I see me, a hardworking and low-wage earner. Then again, I see something else: I see my hopes and dreams. And some dignity too. I see a blues singer struggling to maintain her dignity as she fights a White-controlled music industry; I see gypsy cabdrivers at the end of the day forced to share $15 between them; A guy hoping to get his fair share when the City tries to buy him out for urban renewal; A man hoping to cash in on a fancy heirloom so he can buy a farm in the South. Like us today, they’re all struggling to realize their dreams while trying to make a living and hold their heads up high.

You ain’t gone, August, when you shine that light on me and I see white folk telling me I’m good for nothing, except maybe to wash their dishes, mop their floors, get rid of their garbage, or serve them in some other way.

You ain’t gone when your life tells me that I, too, can succeed if I do like you: follow my own mind and do it my way, the way that I know. After your father ran out on you, after you took all them low-wage jobs, after you moved to the suburbs and the White kids gathered around your school desk and chanted, “Nigger, go home!" you continued to believe in you, the beauty in your people and your vision of showing other folk that beauty too. And you showed me and everybody else how to do it: believe in yourself, your people, and work like hell.

Yeah, they say that, like Joe Turner, old August done come and gone. I say “Uh huh” kind of quick and hard-like. Cause every time I hear Bessie Smith sing or B.B. play, read one of your plays or, lawd knows, see a play at Penumbra, I be nodding my head and saying “Uh huh” kind of easy and soft-like.

Hey, August! You ain't gone, man. Cause I’m feeling you. Still feeling you. Uh huh.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thinking about Malcolm X on his birthday

Malcolm X Photo

Listen up. February 21st is the birthday of Tadd Dameron, a great jazz pianist. It's the birthday of the great Nina Simone, whose powerful voice and sensual piano playing transcended any one musical genre (thanks, Christopher). But first and foremost, February 21st is the date that Minister Malcolm X, eulogized by actor Ossie Davis as "Our Shining Black Prince," was murdered. The daddy is re-posting an article he wrote about him for a local newspaper. If you did not read it before, check it out.
Thinking About Malcolm
by Mac Walton, aka, The Daddy

Listen up. The daddy's got a confession to make. Okay, two confessions, both related. First, the daddy is feeling lazy. He doesn't want to do anything in particular. Second, he only wants to sit on his living-room couch and think about Malcolm X, the man who was called Minister Malcolm by some back in the day, the man I still call Minister Malcolm now.

No, the daddy never met him. Never got to see him, But, as a kid, the daddy belonged to the religious sect that he made into a powerful national force in the United States, The Nation of Islam. It was an institution with which to be reckoned n the 1960's.

No, the daddy was no leader in the group. In fact, the daddy was kicked out of the group for reading Minister Malcolm's book, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." You see, the daddy was a kid and didn't know about this war going on inside the Nation of Islam between the brothers and sisters who were loyal to late Honorable Elijah Muhammad and those who were loyal to Minister Malcolm, even though Minister Malcolm was dead by that time. But after finishing the book, after speaking to present and former members from both sides, the daddy lost faith in the leadership of The Nation of Islam, never asked to be reinstated, and left the organization for good.

Why? Because brothers and sister told him something that he could not ignore or wish away: that Minister Malcolm was too honest, too committed to black people, and too disappointed in the immoral behavior of the late Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his mentor and substitute father, to keep his mouth shut about the corruption and immorality going on at the top levels of the Nation of Islam at that time-- that Minister Malcolm had to die, because he was too dedicated and knew too much. I left, because I believed them.

And that's why the daddy is being lazy today, sitting here thinking about Minister Malcolm: about the courage it takes to go against your own people, your own organization, your own disciples (whom you groomed to be leaders, whom you knew would order that you be killed) and, worst of all, your own mentor who, in effect, was your father. But, ultimately, the daddy is thinking about something even more important than political betrayal; he's thinking about the potency of legacy.

He's thinking that to kill a great leader can be an oppressor's worst mistake. Why? Because the great leader becomes a martyr and is elevated to even greater heights. The leader's spirit floats into the air and hovers above the heads of the oppressed and, when the time is right, shimmers down like golden sun rays on a clear, summer's day. That's martyrs become more valuable in death than in life. That's when, ironically, martyrs take on new lives and live within the hearts of people for generations.

That's why he's sitting here thinking about some things that Minister Malcolm said in the 1960's that still resonates with him today:

* That "
education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it;"

* That
"The political philosophy of black nationalism means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community;"

* That "The economic philosophy of black nationalism only means that our people need to re-educated into the importance of controlling the economy of the community in which they live;"

* That
"Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods or tactics or strategy. We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free human in this society;" and

* That
"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression."

The daddy is feeling nice and warm sitting on his couch by the fireplace. But he thinks he'll take a walk outside in the cold. Maybe he'll look up in the sky and think about Malcolm.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Tuskegee Airmen Flew High For You

“Our mission of escort was really the prime mission to carry out successfully and this we did. The 332nd became known as the best escort operator in the 15th Air Force. We never lost a bomber to enemy action of airplanes.”
— Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Commanding Officer, 332nd Fighter Group

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling the Tuskegee Airmen, who, as a group, joined the armed forces. The daddy was over at The African American Registry (check em out and give them some dough). They had an informative story on the Airmen. Check it out:

On this date in 1942, the Tuskegee Airmen were initiated into the armed forces. The Tuskegee Airmen were Black servicemen of the U.S. Army Forces who trained at Tuskegee Amy Air Field in Alabama during WWII. They constituted the first African-American flying unit in U.S. military history.

In response to pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Black press, and others, the War Department in January 1941, formed the all-Black 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps (later the U.S. Army Air Forces), to be trained using sing-engine planes at the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field at Tuskegee, Alabama.

The base opened on July 19, and the first class graduated the following March. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. became the squadron's commander. The Airmen received further training in French Morocco, before their first mission, which was on June 2, 1943, a strafing attack on Pantelleria island, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Later that year the Army activated three more squadron that was joined by the 99th, constituting the 332nd Fighter Group. It fought in the European theatre and noted as the Army Air Forces' only escort group that did not lose a bomber to enemy planes.

The Tuskegee airfield program expanded to train pilots and crew to operate two-engine
B-25 medium bombers. These men became part of the second Black flying group, the 477th Bombardment Group. Shortage of crew-members, technicians, and equipment troubled the 477th, and before it could deployed overseas, World War II ended.

Altogether, 992 pilots graduated from the Tuskegee airfield courses; they flew 1,578 missions and 15533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, and won over 850 medals. The American army's 100th pursuit squadron, a group of Black aviators, fought valiantly over Britain and other European countries.

Tuskegee Institutes' Daniel "Chappie" James Memorial Hall houses the Black aviation exhibit, which focuses on the Tuskegee Airmen, who trained near Tuskegee during World War II.
Know Black History. Know the Tuskegee Airmen. They flew high for you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Know John Henrik Clarke: He Took A Long & Mighty Walk

Dr. John Henrik Clarke
Dr. John Henrik Clarke

“History is a clock that people use to tell there political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are and what they are. Most important, history tells a people where they still must go, what they still must be. The relationship of history to the people is the same as the relationship of a mother to her child. " --Dr. John Henrik Clarke

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling John Henrik Clarke. Though we would not have such a day without historian Carter G. Woodson, we may not have succeeded in the civil rights movement as soon as we did without a strong, militancy movement to push Dr. King and civil rights movement at the same time. This Black power movement was so strong and so serious that it gave even more urgency to the White House and American government to change rather than prepare for violence throughout the central cities of America.

It also gave the leaders of the peace movement like Dr. King some cover. They could say "We're for peace, but it's becoming harder to keep these younger leaders in the ghetto under control. That's why we need to give Negroes all of their rights now. That's why we need to get out of Vietnam and wars abroad right now and work to get rid of poverty and provide jobs and better education for all Americans right now."

Many leaders of the Black power movement came to Clarke: Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and many others. Foremost of those he influenced was Malcolm X. Clarke became Malcolm X's chief consultant and best friend. His work with Malcolm resulted in one of Malcolm's greatest speeches, indeed, one of the greatest 100 speeches made in America, "The ballot or the bullet." And he was helping Malcolm to start a new organization (Organization of African American Unity) during the time that Malcolm was murdered.

Now, to the daddy's knowledge, Clarke did not write an autobiography. But he did tell about the impact his teacher made on him. Clarke was born in Union Springs, Alabama on New Years Day, in 1915. His was a family of poor sharecroppers. But they soon moved to Columbus, Georgia when he was about four years old. There, he met a school teacher named Eveline Taylor. Clarke said Ms. Taylor told John that she saw something special in him. She saw a thinker. And she said to him:

"It's no disgrace to be alone. It's no disgrace to be right when everyone else thinks you are wrong. There's nothing wrong with being a thinker. Your playing days are over."

Here's a eulogy of him written by The Los Angeles Times:

John Henrik Clarke: Activist, Professor July 18,198

John Henrik Clarke never got around to writing his life story, which encompassed some of the more turbulent periods in American history.

But time will not forget the former history professor who died at the age of 83 Thursday at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York City after a heart attack. A pioneer in urging African and African American studies at Hunter College, where he taught from 1968 to 1985, he developed most of the department’s curriculum. He taught at a number of other schools, including Cornell University.

Clarke is remembered as someone who put the forgotten history of Africa back into the textbooks, and gave an analysis of history that wasn’t mainstream, said John Branch, director of the Afrikan Poetry Theater in New York City and Clarke’s friend of 20 years.

Descended from a family of sharecroppers, Clarke was born in 1915 in Union Springs, Ga. He left Georgia in 1933 and went to Harlem.

His political and community activism began quickly, when Clarke opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s. Later, he became a close friend of black activist Malcolm X.

Clarke was instrumental in drawing up the charter of the Organization of Afro-American Unity in the 1960s, said Andre Elizee, an archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research Into Black Culture in Harlem. And Clarke helped to forge a link between Africans and African Americans.

Clarke studied history and literature from 1948 to 1952 at New York University and later at Columbia University.

During his career, Clarke edited or wrote 27 books. His editing work included the classic “American Negro Short Stories” in 1966. He was the subject of a documentary film, “John Henrik Clarke: A Great, Mighty Walk,” narrated by Wesley Snipes."

Know your Black History. Know John Henrik Clarke. He took a long & mighty walk. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notable achievements:

--authored or edited more than 27 books;

--wrote more than 200 short stories;

--influenced generations of African American leaders, especially black leaders during the civil rights and black power movement era;

--pioneered the development of African heritage and black studies programs nationwide;

--was instrumental in helping launch the publishing careers of authors like Audre Lorde and Julian Mayfield, and in publishing the works of Cheik Anta Diop in English; --In the 1960s, served as director of the African Heritage Program of the Harlem anti-poverty agency known as HARYOU-ACT;

--was special consultant and coordinator for the Columbia University-WCBS-TV series Black Heritage (1968);

--was the first president of the African Heritage Studies Association; and

--was a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and the African American Scholars' Council.

12 Books by John Henrik Clarke

1. (1966) Black American Short Stories
2. (1968) William Styron's Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond
3. (1968) Harlem: City Within a City.
4. (1974) Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa
5. (1991)Malcolm X: The Man and His Times
6. (1992) Africans at the Crossroads: African World Revolution
7. (1995) The Middle Passage: White Ships Black Cargo
8. (1996) World's Great Men of Color
9. (1999) My Life in Search of Africa
10. (2001) Introduction to African Civilization
11. (2002) Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust
12. (2004) Who Betrayed the African World Revolution

Note: Don't forget to check out a video of him called "John Henrik Clarke: A Long & Mighty Walk."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jackie Robinson Was Not The Only One, Doby Suffered Too

Listen up. The daddy know it's Black History Month. He know that, consistent with this celebration, the daddy should point out those who are already celebrated: Dr. King in politics; Muhammad Ali in sports; James Baldwin or Zora Neal Hurston in literature; and on and on. But today, the daddy is feeling Larry Doby. He was the second black player to come into major league baseball. The major league and many Americans have forgotten him. But he made a difference. Here's an article about him from the website Talking Proud ( about him:

Larry Doby, part of history, “courage, dignity, caring and family”

There is a great deal written on Larry Doby, one of the Cleveland Indians' all time greats, and many testimonials now being reported following his death which we cannot hope to replicate. We are always interested in what makes a great professional, though, so we have spent quite a bit of time researching what people and the statistics say about this man. We have learned there are several requirements to be a real professional: performance, attitude, and sacrifice, sometimes even hardship, even great hardship. Larry Doby was a consummate professional.

June 20, 2003

Larry Doby died on June 18, 2003 after a long battle with cancer. He won the battle and is now in a better place. He was believed to be 79.

Ben Walker, reporting for AP, said Bill Veeck, the owner of the Cleveland Indians American League20baseball team during Doby's days, told Doby this when he signed his first Major League Baseball contract with the Indians in 1947:
“Lawrence, you are going to be part of history.”
And part of history he was. There is a great deal written about Larry Doby, and many testimonials now being reported which we cannot hope to replicate.
Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame outfielder Larry Doby, left, talks with Kenny Lofton on April 2, 2001, in Cleveland. Photo by Mark Duncan, AP

We are always interested in what makes a great professional, though, so we have spent quite a bit of time researching what people and the statistics say about this man. We have learned there several requirements to be a professional: performance, attitude, and sacrifice, sometimes even hardship, even great hardship. Larry Doby was a consummate professional.

Here's a brief summary of his performance on the ballfield:
  • Played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues. Playing second base, he teamed with Monte Irvin to form one of the most talented double-play combinations in Negro League history. One writer said, "When Doby was in your infield, the only thing that got through was the wind." He batted .341 in 1946, his final season, and led the Eagles to the league championship. That made him the first player to go directly from the Negro Leagues straight to the majors, which he did in 1947.
  • First black player in the American League, coming on board 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson became the first black player to enter Major League Baseball, in the National League. Sadly, much of the world gave Doby an undeserved back-seat to the more flamboyant and more widely accepted Jackie Robinson.
  • Lifetime batting average was .283 with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in over 13 years.
  • Hit at least 20 home runs in eight consecutive seasons. Led the American League in home runs in 1952 and 1954, hitting 32 each season. Doby was the first black to win a home run title in the Majors. In 1954, he also led the league with 126 runs batted in (RBI). That made him the first black to win the RBI title in the American League.
  • On October 9, 1948, his 410 foot home run proved the decisive run in World Series game number four agai nst the Boston Braves. The Indians won that one 2-1, which put the Indians in a 3-1 series lead. Doby was the first black player to hit a home run in a World Series.
  • Played in six consecutive All-Star games from 1949-1954. In 1949, he, Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe became baseball's first black All-Stars.
  • During the period 1947 – 1955, his team won two league pennants and a World Series, finishing second behind the famous New York Yankees four times.
  • The Indians retired his number 14 in 1994, to the day 47 years after he signed his first contract with them.
  • Elected to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • Voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • Interrupted his career to serve two years in the Navy.
  • Became the second black man, behind Frank Robinson, to manage a major league team, the Chicago White Sox.
  • After retiring, Doby coached and was in the front office while with the Indians, White Sox and Montreal. He later worked in the commissioner's office. Doby was director of community relations for the NBA's New Jersey20Nets in the late 1970s.
  • There is a Larry Doby Rookie of the Year Award presented each year by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings won it for the 2002 season.
  • Received an honorary doctorate from Montclair State College in Montclair, New Jersey.
Now let's take a look at his attitude and sacrifice, in his case, hardships.

In his early days with the Indians, Doby had to eat in separate restaurants and sleep in separate hotels from his team mates, and some team mates refused to shake his hand when first introduced to the team.
Larry Doby, with Indian Manager Lou Boudreau, left, and Hank Greenberg in 1948. AP, Los Angeles Times

Don't let this picture above fool you. His manager, Lou Boudreau, a manager-player, shown on the left, was unenthusiastic about Bill Veeck signing Doby. He once told Doby to play first base knowing he didn’t have a glove. The starting first baseman refused to loan him his glove. It took a secretary to find a first-base glove in the dugout and run it out to him for him to play the position. Boudreau a few weeks later sent him into pi nch hit for a batter who had no balls and two strikes against him. Doby was also barred from the front entrances to stadiums in St. Louis and Washington, booed and cursed, and hit by thrown beer bottles and by spit, and most of his team and management did not stand up for him or protect him.

Jerry Izenberg, writing for The Star Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, quoted Doby once telling him:
"Now, I couldn't believe how this (cold treatment from the Indians team during his first year) was. I put on my uniform and I went out on the field to warm up, but nobody wanted to warm up with me. I had never been so alone in my life. I stood there alone in front of the dugout for five minutes. Then Joe Gordon, the second baseman who would become my friend, came up to me and asked, 'Hey, rookie, you gonna just stand there or do you want to throw a little?' I will never forget that man."
Hired as a second baseman, he had to switch to center field. Tris Speaker, a former Indians Hall of Fame center fielder, shown here during his playing days, trained Doby to make the switch. Speaker was briefly a former Klu Klux Klan member, as were many Americans, but willingly chose to train Doby, and clearly did it well.

When Doby hit that game winning World Series homer in 1948, only his second season of play, the Indians were up against the tough Boston Braves ace Johnny Sain. The Indians came out of the chute and scored a run in the first inning. Then in the third Doby lashed a 410 foot homer to make it 2-0. It was not until the seventh inning that Boston's Marv Rickert also hit a homer off Cleveland's Steve Gromek, but it was not enough. Doby's third inning homer won the game and to this day it remains one of Cleveland’s most famous home runs. That home run was decisive and put the Indians in a 3-1 series lead. They ultimately won the series 4-2, their first World Series win since 1920.

Steve Gromek, shown here when he was with the Detroit Tigers, was the winning pitcher for the Indians in that game. He openly and publicly embraced Doby. A picture of Gromek leaping into Doby’s arms made all the front pages. Jerry Izenberg quoted Doby commenting about that event the day before being inducted into the Hall of Fame:
“It was the first picture of a black and white man embracing at home plate. America needed that picture and I will always be proud that I could help give it to them.”
If we might, we need to20take a moment to talk about Steve Gromek. Many in our world, when they see discrimination, tend to conclude immediately it is racially motivated and get immersed in broad, unproductive generalities. It should have come as no surprise to anyone that Steve Gromek would publicly embrace Larry Doby for the world to see. Those who knew him saw him as a kind and loving man, smart and talented, someone who never asked more of others than he expected of himself, a man who knew no limit when it came to helping family or friends. Younger players would ultimately call him "Pappy," a name that stuck with him until he died in March 2002 at the age of 82. So we need to watch out when we get into generalities about racial attitudes.

Getting back to Larry Doby, he was born in Camden, South Carolina, the son of a semi-pro baseball player who died when he was only eight. He then moved to Paterson, New Jersey. Doby was an all-state athlete in football, basketball and baseball at Paterson Eastside High School in New Jersey.
Though born in South Carolina, Paterson, New Jersey felt that Doby claimed his roots in their city, and indeed he stayed in New Jersey until his death. The city recognized him in 1998 by renovating a dilapidated field in Eastside Park, shown above, along the Passsaic River, and dedicated it to Doby. A statue of him was added in 2002.

Not to be outdone, in November 2002, Camden honored him with four signs along highway U.S. 521 about 300 yards south of I-20. The first sign declares, "Birthplace of Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby."

So what can we conclude about Doby?

Paul Hoynes, writing for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, quoted Detroit’s owner Larry Dolan, who grew up in Cleveland, saying this:
“His loss will be felt throughout baseball. He was the Jackie Robinson of the American League. Where Jackie broke the color barrier with all sorts of controversy in the National League, Larry did it silently and with dignity. I only met him a couple of times, but even in his mid-70s, he had a graciousness about him."
In a speech after his playing days to a college audience, Doby said this:
“We can see that baseball helped make this a bet ter country. We hope baseball has given (children) some idea of what it is to live together and how you can get along, whether you be black or white..."
Kids were a favorite for Doby.
Larry Doby watches kids play in the Larry Doby All-Star Playground at Cleveland's King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club. Photo: AP

Back in 1997, he opened the sixth Larry Doby All-Star Playground, this one in Cleveland's King-Kennedy neighborhood, part of a community rebirth campaign. This was an important event. Bud Selig, the acting commissioner of Major League Baseball, American League President Gene Budig, and Cleveland Mayor White were all there. Cleveland's All-Star catcher, Sandy Alomar, took the first pitch from Doby to get the ceremonies going. Also there was a youngster named Darnell Crutchfield, from the neighborhood, who sang out the national anthem. Doby made sure to get over to the lad to shake his hand.

At these ceremonies, Larry Doby once again demonstrated what a professional he was. He told the audience:
"I hope that this city and cities across the country will continue to work together to make this a better place for all of us. I think the most important thing, besides being involved i n your games, is teaching. Teach your friends, teach your fellow man what it is to love one another."
Larry Doby waves to the crowd at Jacobs Field in Cleveland on April 2, 2001. Photo credit: Mark Duncan, AP

Know your Black history. Know Larry Doby.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Big Joe Turner and The Proverbial Woodshed

Years Active: 1953-1985

Listen up. This post is not about white males. But it is about a particular white male and the few self-centered and arrogant white guys left like him. Beyond him, it's about a subject that we really don't want to discuss--about black music and the people who straight-up stole it from innovators who were nothing less than geniuses, about cultural expropriators who,were, essentially, nothing more than thieves. Shall we?

We were sitting in an Expresso Royale coffee shop. It was about 10 African Americans (two musicians), 1 Somali, 2 white guys (professional local musicians) and 2 Latino guys (1 a professional loyal musician and 1 a student in music at the University of Minnesota). We were talking about Big Joe Turner. It was his birthday, and the daddy and the two local musicians were talking about Joe Turner and the music that came out of Kansas City that influenced music throughout the world.

The white guy came over, sat down and immediately tried to change the subject. “Hey, have you guys heard of Bill Haley? Man, he was great..." We all looked around at each other, asking each other with our eyes:

"Who the f**k is this guy doing coming here without pulling up a chair and trying to preach to us?" "What makes this guy think that, as soon as he sits down, everything has to revolve around him? This asshole didn't even say what's up or hello!"

So what bothered the daddy about this guy? A white guy came to the table? No, there were already two there. That he sat down and tried to change the subject? Partially. He sat down and tried to change the subject from Big Joe Turner to Bill Haley, the guy who stole Big Joe Turner's music ON JOE TURNER'S BIRTHDAY! Folks, this is like changing the subject from courageous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to that obese druggie Rush Limbaugh. What bothered the daddy is that Bill Haley is about as good an example of any of folks who stole black music, and not an example of a great musician.


This particular guy has done this before. And the daddy has noticed a pattern-- that he only "chats" to us predominantly black folks about sports or music. Secondly, he only talks sports or music that happened long time ago, thinking that we will not know about it, that he will then have the opportunity to wax poetic. Apparently, this guy thinks that, if a sports activity occurred before Michael Jordan, we wouldn't know about it. And, if music was played before James Brown, we wouldn't know about that either. So, as far as this guy was concerned, music for the daddy and his homies begins with “I feel good” and ends with Fitty at the candy shop.

And what a perfect opportunity to school the maddening, unwashed, black guys and two white but wanna-be-black guys and other non-white hanger-ons at the yuppie coffee shop.


Well, school was in session, alright, because the daddy comes from a musical family (gospel, blues, and jazz); because the daddy, in no uncertain terms, took this arrogant white expert and homie-wanna-be to the inner-city proverbial woodshed.

Arrogant white expert:

“Have you guys heard of Bill Haley? Man, he was great…”

The daddy:

"Excuse me. We were talking about Big Joe Turner. You’re talking about Bill Haley and the Comets. He was born in Highland Park, Michigan in 1925, the year my dad was born, I think. He tried to playing country and western and swing around Michigan. But them folks said, “Man, get that shit out of here.

Before hooking up with three other dudes to make the Comets, he was in a group called the Four Aces. That's when Haley met a producer for the Decca label, who told him to stop playing swing and play what he called jungle beats. He told him to find some black music.

That’s how he came to make “Man Crazy,” which was the first so-called rock and roll record to make the billboard charts. But it was straight-up black music. But after his success with Man Crazy, he went whole hog, so to speak, and did nothing but black music: “Shake, rattle, and roll,” “See you later, alligator,"Flip, Flop and Fly," “Rock around the clock.”

He faded from the scene around 1957, when younger, more exciting guys came along like Elvis, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, and when racist, white American media finally let white girls go to shows where black men were performing like Little Richard, Chuck Berry. and Chubby Checker.

Bill Haley stole Big Joe Turner's music. Turner was the first to sing all those songs. We were talking about him because today is his birthday. Do you have anything to add about Big Joe Turner?


The white expert said he had to get going. Everyone at the table said, “Have a good one,” smiling and trying hard not to laugh out loud as he walked toward the door. The daddy was thinking, "I'm going to feel bad about this tomorrow...honest!"

Know your musical black history. Know Big Joe Turner.


Note: The five professional musicians in the group said they were more disgusted with this guy than me. They said he was talking about something they make a living playing all the time; and they didn't need him to tell them about music. If the daddy hadn't said something to him, they would have.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Know Ida B. Wells, You're Standing On Her Shoulders

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, 1930.[Credits : Chicago Historical Society,]

"Our country's national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob." -- Ida B. Wells

"If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service."-- Ida B. Wells

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling Ida B. Wells. He knows you've heard some but not enough of her. He knows you've heard that she was an activist in the latter part of the 19 century and after. He knows you've heard that she helped found the NAACP and that a lot of schools and streets, even housing projects, were named after her. That's all nice, isn't it?

But the daddy has a sneaky impression that some of you don't want to know more. Why? Because some of you have heard that, first and foremost, she became famous not for starting the NAACP but for fighting against one of America's most despicable practices, a practice that ensured that black citizens remained shackled and beaten down and continuously terrorized after reconstruction -- lynching.

No, you don't want to go there. You don't want to deal with this time in history: the period after the 1870's when the Hayes/Tilden agreement dropped, when the North not only failed to provide blacks "40 acres and a mule" but delivered them wholesale back into the cruel hands of southern plantation owners and white vigilantes if they dared resist their new form of re-enslavement, the sharecropping system. Some historians called this period "the black Nair," perhaps the worst period in African American history.


Born on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Missouri. Risking her own life, Ida B. Wells-Barnett spent much of her time fighting against injustice. And she was ready. She attended Rust College after emancipation and taught about injustice. Indeed, she was fired for writing about injustice, including segregated schools in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1892, she was criticized for having the nerve to criticize the unique but prevalent torture technique of lynching against Blacks. For writing and publishing these articles, she was threatened so often that she had to leave Memphis. She moved to the Northeast and became well-known for taking up the cause against lynching.

Even after marriage (1895), after serving as secretary of the National Afro-American Council (1902), after helping found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1910), she continued to speak out against lynching and for justice. Like W.E.Dubois would do later with the NAACP, she left these organizations because she felt they were too conservative. Indeed, Dubois was criticized by the NAACP for writing an editorial against lynching as well.

She also campaigned for women's suffrage. An interesting facet of her life is that she often went to a conference and make a fiery speech to black men about their sexism and then go to another conference and make a fiery speech to white women about their racism.


Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who was best known as a warrior against lynching but who was fighter against all forms of sexism and racism as well, died on March 25, 1931. After Frederick Douglass said "If there is no struggle, there is no progress" and long before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said he was "a drum major for justice," Ida B. Wells-Barnett marched and struggled for justice.

Know your political Black history. Know Ida B. Wells. After all, you're standing on her shoulders.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Stimulus Package: What They Are Not Telling Us

President Obama is expected to win his House vote
President Barack Obama, accompanied by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs,
waves. The $819 billion stimulus bill passed the House 244 to 188, but not a single Republican voted for it.

"If there is somebody who is disgruntled, so be it...Republicans are talking about process. I think when you lose the argument on substance, on policy, what do you do? You talk about process and you talk about personality." --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Listen up. Because some of you have been e-mailing about the stimulus package, the daddy is going to step away from celebrating Black History Month and outline his view.

So where has Obama failed and where has he succeeded?

1. President Obama failed in two ways. First, he failed by promoting the notion of bi-partisanship over the economy. So, when not a single Republican voted for the passage of the stimulus package, some pundits saw it as a failure, when, in fact, it was a success. They got the votes they needed. Now, when he gets the stimulus plan passed in the senate soon, maybe this week, pundits are going to say, "Yeah, but he only got 3 or 4 Republicans to go along with him. It wasn't bi-partisan". But bi-partisanship is not a goal so much as a dynamic, never-ending process. The goal is to pass the stimulus plan.
2. President Obama failed by first negotiating with himself. He began by putting too much tax cuts: about $300 billion, I believe. This only caused Republicans to sharpen their knives and try to get more. he should have started at $200 billion, placing that other $100 billion in infrastructure.
3. President Obama developed good strategies to get the stimulus packaged passed, but he has not thought more broadly about how to make it work. For example, rather than give money to banks that were part of the problem in the first place, banks with the same CEOs running it, why not start up the government's own public bank? Why not appoint people to run this bank whom we can trust, people were not associated with banks that failed?

Why not use this new public bank to deal with foreclosures and to ensure that money is loaned to small businesses and for start-up businesses on main street? So President Obama, former community organizer, remember this: Over fifty years ago, Jackie Robinson started a bank in Harlem with very little money, crumbs compared to what you have. If he could do it about fifty years ago, why can't you do it now?

So where did President Obama succeed?

1. President Obama has succeeded in fulfilling many of the promises he talked about in his campaign, such as doing more to correct the inequity in pay to women. His signing of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was not just a bow to labor, which supported his candidacy. It was the right thing to do; and it should have been a long time ago. His signing a bill to help third world countries get funding for family planning was another good example. His hiring of women, women of color, people of color in general, at all levels of government, is noteworthy.
2. Though his staff did not vet closely some folks with tax problems, and though neither Gov. Dean nor Senator Kerry was appointed to cabinet-level positions, overall, President Obama has hired good people for the cabinet.
3. President Obama has been true to his desire to change the tone in the beltway by putting practicality and bi-partisanship over ideology and party loyalty. Frankly, this is a significant reason he is the best president for our times. Ultimately, he will not change the climate in Washington, but he may change it enough to get some important legislation passed during his presidency.

What about Republicans?

More than President Obama, it is Republicans in Washington who are practicing party politics and failing this country at a time when bi-partisanship and a spirit of cooperation is needed the most. For example, after Democrats and Republicans complained that enough was in the stimulus package for infrastructure, the Obama tried to put $20 additional billions in the budget, and Republicans rejected it because the budget was just too huge. Of course they need said this President Bush was getting us into debt. And, as the daddy recalls, this was on the same day that a report came out saying about 600,000 Americans had lost their jobs in January.

The daddy sees four things happening here:

1. Republicans have failed because they have no plans. Their idea of cutting taxes was a failure under Bush and, for that matter, under Reagan, which is why he raised taxes in his second term.
2. Republicans have failed because they have no plans to help middle and low-income people. Telling people to get private accounts when they don't have jobs is silly. Telling people to rely on tax cuts when they don't have a job or health insurance is idiotic. What these ideas demonstrate is that Republicans have no sympathy or empathy for middle and low-income Americans-- that they can't get past super individualistic ideology to a job plan and a safety net for those less fortunate than they.

And though they want say it publicly, what they resent more than anything are the sums in the stimulus that goes out for the poor: the $300 per person for those on social security; the extended unemployment insurance; the additional amounts for those on welfare, even the tax cuts for small businesses (as opposed to large corporations, their true friends for whom they make work after leaving congress). Kanye West said last year that President George Bush hated black people. No, Kanye. President Bush and the Republican party hate poor people.
3. Because they have no real plans, because they don't care about poor people anyway, the Republican party is failing this nation by engaging in obstructionist politics to the bone. What else do they have? They've lost ideologically: the Reagan revolution is over it. President Bush lost it. Now, they only have a strategy of obstruction until they can find something new or repackage. So they fight on against ideas by Obama (good or bad), hoping to stall him long enough until the 2012 presidential elections.
4. Beneath party politics and a failed Reagan ideology of government as enemy, the Republican party has failed the American people by continuing the discussion of race. The real deal is that it is not just filthy-mouth right-wing radio talk show host Limbaugh who wants Obama to fail. Most Republicans and many white Americans who listen to them want him to fail as well. They say "How dare this upstart, this skinny black guy with the big ears run for president of our country? How dare he and other democrats promote these socialist causes equality for women, and those tree huggers? How dare they work with that Nancy Pelosi and those San Francisco liberals {gays} and communists (anyone with a trace of progressive in them, like that economist Paul Krugman of the New York Times).

But no pundits, right or left, will say that publically. Nonetheless, this dirty secret is what helps pompous, right wing idiots and drug addicts like Limbaugh and Savage on radio and right-wing-milk-the-kool aid-drinker preachers continue to hold sway over a still-powerful Republican base. They are the ones holding together what’s left of a Republican party. That’s why you couldn’t get more than one or two Republican senators or legislators to criticize Limbaugh for saying he wants Obama and administration to fail, a truly un-American thing
to say.

President Obama has made some mistakes. But it's the Republican party which continues to fail the American people the most. For President Obama to succeed in his first term, he will need liberal, progressive or regular down-home folk to support him beat back the forces who only want change on terms that benefit themselves, other Republicans and their rich friends the most.
Note: Don't forget to check out the photos on my sidebar of black leaders who made a
difference in moving this country closer to a just land.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Know your Black Musical History, Know Lula Reed

She was versatile, singing urban blues most of the time but switching to gospel for a 1954 session. Reed's strident 1954 waxing "Rock Love" was later revived by labelmate Little Willie John. She briefly moved to the Chess subsidiary Argo in 1958-1959 but returned to the fold in 1961 (as always, under Thompson's direction) on King's Federal imprint. While at Federal, she waxed a series of sassy duets with guitarist Freddy King in March of 1962. Another move -- to Ray Charles's Tangerine logo in 1962-1963 -- soon followed. After that, her whereabouts are unknown.
--Bill Dahl, All Music Guide

Listen up. In conjunction with Black History month, the daddy is posting on historical events and people who made a difference in the lives of African Americans and America itself: people who, as they say in gospel, "...brought us from a mighty long way." He is posting on musical, literary and political figures and events, focusing as much as possible on lesser-known figures who made a difference. Some posts will revisit historical figures about whom the daddy has already written. Other posts will be new altogether.

One of those lesser-known but great persons in African American's musical history is Lula Reed. Have you heard of her? It's alright if you have not. A lot of people never heard of her; and many of those who knew her distinctive, flexible voice-- a voice that was equally effective with blues-tinged ballads, hand-clapping gospel or uptempo R&B -- soon forgot her. Indeed, her signature song "Drown in my own tears" was recorded in 1951 and went to the top 5 on the billboard charts. But Ray Charles recorded it three years later; and now, when people here it, they think of Charles, and not Reed. But like Big Maybelle, Hadda Brooks and a number of other fine black women blues singers, Lula laid down a number of songs of high-quality singing. The reason history is not kind to Reed is that she was a victim of the insatiable itch of American music lovers for something new and, during the fifties and sixties: mostly new males like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and new groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones-- all playing charged-up blues for lonely, lovestruck teenagers.

Yes, teenagers had a craving that just had to be satisfied. They had it bad-- and that ain't always good-- for Rock & Roll, a bouncy derivative of the blues with a snappy bea
t and an intoxicating, out-of-this-world, crazy feeling to it, a feeling evoking wild dancing, cheap alcohol, crazy hairdos, and a lowering of inhibitions.

For teeny boppers, rock & roll meant a high level of energy, craziness, fun, a music all their own and moments of independence that drove mom and dad nuts-- moments that illustrated with certainty that they would have their own driver's license, their own car, their own adulthood-- when they would one day let freedom ring by driving down gravel roads, listening to their own music as loud and as late into the night as they want.

Lula Reed, a great singer in the fifties and early sixties, was silenced by The Creator on June 21, 2008. But, truth be told, in another sense, she was silenced by an opportunistic music business that so
ught short-term profits off bored, harmone-crazed teenagers over long-term, artful substance, frenzied musical beats over musicality. Thus Lula's propensity for sweet ballads with a soulful voice that reminds you of smooth and sultry voice of Dinah Washington went the way of classic blues, folk and spirituals.

After moving from different labels and back again to the same ones, Lula, frustrated, went back to a place where it all started from, where her great voice would be better appreciated, where a good heart would never be out of style: the black church. And the record business never heard from her again.But on the road to quality music, Lula Reed left footsteps for music lovers to follow; and, fortunately, some of her music is coming back. "Boy, Girl, Boy," a sexy duet recorded with the up-and-coming guitarist Freddie King at the Federal Label in 1962, is being reissued. But the first reissue with be Lula Reed 1951-1954 on Classics. "Drown in My Own Tears" will be reissued; and it will feature 24 of her cuts from the Ace label. And of course there are the songs she recorded with collaborator and later husband Sonny Thompson that are a part of the Sonny Thompson collections.

For more on the life of Lula Reed, check out the wonderful piece that was written by Jeff Under on Big Road Blues. Also, see the piece about her obituary on the blog Juke Joint Soul. And purchase Lula Reed's CD with Freddie King or one of the other reissues. Play a tune or two and hear a voice that helped set the standard for quality singing in the fifties and early sixties.

Know your Black musical history. Know Lula Reed.