Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Longfellow House Memory

lomhfThis is another “scrapbook” entry. A notice of an event some years back that turned up online. This was, and surely will remain among the most distinguished company in which I have ever read. Peter Gomes was on the program, as well, although not listed here. I was on the board of the Friends of the Longfellow House, and editor of The Longfellow House Bulletin. At this celebration of the Library of America volume of L’s collected works, the Park Service staff asked me to read The Children’s Hour. I was honored and quite moved to be asked.

The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) (Sun, 17 Sep 2000) TODAY: J. D. McClatchy, poet and editor of “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings,” published by the Library of America, hosts an afternoon poetry reading and reception featuring Robert Pinsky, former poet laureate; Robert Reich, former US secretary of labor; novelist Sue Miller; biographer Justin Kaplan; David Ferry, poet and translator; independent curator Marilyn Richardson; and others. The event takes place from 3 to 5 p.m., on the East Lawn, Longfellow National Historic Site, 105 Brattle St., Cambridge.

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DuBois and The March On Washington

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W.E.B. DuBois (1868, Great Barrington, MA – 1963, Accra, Ghana)

From the wonderful Prof. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes:

“Fifty years ago today, the great sociologist and activist, W.E.B. Du Bois passed away in Accra, Ghana.  As Roy Wilkins announced Du Bois’s passing to the marchers, fifty years ago tomorrow, Wilkins reminded the marchers and it bears remembering today, that the process that led to the March on Washington was a result of the work and struggle of Du Bois.  Wilkins then admonished those gathered and those listening by radio and television to read Du Bois’s THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK.”

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How Micro-Aggression Works

THIS is exactly what happens. This is how it works. This is how her young daughter’s spirit is affected. This is the sort of constant “micro-aggression” that is so hard to explain because each instance is close to petty. Mention it to many/most decent, reasonable white people and they think, “get a life; ignore the stupid clerk.”

I could tick off 50 similar experiences — usually followed by store personnel; shown to the one table in a restaurant without a candle or flowers (and next to the restrooms); asked for ID as in this case; always having to ask for another hotel room because the first one is next to the elevator and across from the housekeeping closet — nonstop noise. On and on. That’s just the make it through the day stuff.

I love that this is a crystal clear account of how this shit happens below white radar. Such daily encounters are a reason why the vaunted “conversation on race” is all but impossible to hold. Yes, these things happen to everyone from time to time. I’d say the difference is that black people recognize the pattern, know the drill, and keep taking the hit, sometimes protesting, sometimes, not.

Baldwin, Mankewietz . . . and then everybody else on the panel

That's How The Light Gets In

King

‘Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.’
– Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail

‘That day, for a moment, it almost seemed that we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance: perhaps we could make the kingdom real, perhaps the beloved community would not forever remain that dream we dreamed in agony.’
– James Baldwin

I’ve been reading Guardian writer Gary Younge’s new book The Speech: The Story behind Martin Luther King’s Dream, published to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of 28 August 1963. It was a book I had to read, because the summer of 1963 radicalised me and defined my politics for the rest of my life.

In that regard, I was brought up short by Younge’s observation early on in his book that in its immediate aftermath, it was…

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Late Summer Rant

angryWe just do not have the margin to lose so much capability to bigotry. If you have a debilitating ailment, you want all capable hands on deck working to figure it out, to stop it in its devastating tracks.  If you have engineering problems to solve, you want all the interested trained minds drawn to excellent solutions. We need the arts to connect us to our selves and our world, ink for every writer, paints for every painter, an instrument for every musician, teachers to get them launched in the directions they are feeling for in the first light.

What is it in us that acts so persistently against our own best interests? All those centuries when women were labeled intellectually inferior to men — and that’s all it was, a pernicious label. All the fathers, all the brothers of the world knew their mothers, sisters and wives to be as intelligent, as capable, as creative, imaginative, visionary, rigorous, curious, dedicated, as they themselves were at any task to which they set their hands. But women were systematically barred from realms of opportunity. Medical school, law school, the doors were closed. Teaching, perhaps, but only until marriage. Consider the cruelty of that choice.

And consider the bizarre rationales that carried the day. The female brain was smaller than the male. The female physical constitution was was too fragile, the world was a series of hierarchical categories, and functioned best when everyone knew and occupied their ordained places therein. One half of all human brain-power was denied access to the tools and forums turned to the alleviation of human suffering.

Over the centuries, women, worldwide, have made their way forward against opposition even unto death. There are women in politics, far too few, women in science, far too few, women in the arts, far too few, and on and on. And because  millions of young girls, worldwide, are not actively encouraged, educated, incorporated into the great enterprise of improving the human condition, how far behind are we in all of the areas in which their brainpower would have made a difference? The idea of male superiority has inevitably slowed human progress.

In the United States, and elsewhere, the brutally imposed fantasy of white superiority truncates the physical, mental, and spiritual lives of us all. The massive potential in black and brown babies born every day is denied at their birth, their intellect pronounced nonexistent. How did we develop societies that work so hard, so deliberately, to smother human capacity? What is the perverse gratification beyond the exercise of brute force, capricious discrimination, and the establishment of misinformation, that chooses dehumanization over survival?

We have chosen fear over cooperation and progress. And yes, it is a choice. A choice  imposed by political, religious, and other forms of manipulation, pitting groups against each other; for profit, out of ill-informed belief, for control. And it is always the case that the more fearful those who feel themselves marginally holding the upper hand become, the more brutal and suppressive they become. Fear, indeed terror, active and passive, is an enemy of  reason. Fight or flight translates into stop and frisk, lock them up, stand your ground, and keep “them” penned in over there. While “we” are penned in over here; in much nicer pens, of course.

Because it is obvious, although not spoken, among the powerful, that superiority based upon force, and upon fantasies of inferiority is illegitimate and cannot last, those in power live for the moment, for their lifetime, not for the future, not even, these days, for the future of their own children and grandchildren. Perhaps this is a recurring historic pattern, possible because of the annihilation of genuine education at almost all levels. Perhaps we are moving toward a neo-feudalism in the West and even beyond.

Perhaps, even here, violent revolution, in a form we cannot yet perceive, is inevitable, leading to a great correction, a new formulation of democracy. The absence of primary and secondary education except for the privileged few, the vast expense of higher education, the systematic dismantling of human and civic rights, the rise of mindless and deadly “solutions” such as a heavily armed citizenry, all lead to enraged, armed camps. Camps impervious to rational thought, and dependent upon narrower and narrower definitions of humanity.

When powerful white men  reject basic scientific method and allow their own physical environment to deteriorate, when worldwide, religious fundamentalists share the belief that this  life can, and even should, be sacrificed for a greater one to come, when our supremacists in power not only incarcerate millions of harmless people of color, and work to disenfranchise as many others as they can, but also work to compromise the reproductive health of their own mothers, wives and daughters, what is this but the shadow cast by the threshold of a new Dark Age?

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El Benny

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More Louisiana Republicans Blame President Obama For Hurricane Katrina Response Than Bush

A surprising number of Republicans blame then-Senator Obama for the botched handling of Hurricane Katrina.

via More Louisiana Republicans Blame President Obama For Hurricane Katrina Response Than Bush.

50 Years Later: We March on Washington to End Racism, Materialism, and Militarism | Common Dreams

50 Years Later: We March on Washington to End Racism, Materialism, and Militarism | Common Dreams.