Yesterday, in the Commonwealth Salon of the Boston Public Library, the Secretary of The Navy led a beautiful and moving ceremony naming two ships in honor of Sojourner Truth and Lucy Stone.

Each ship has a sponsor. The Lucy Stone is sponsored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was not present but was given a fine round of applause.

The Sojourner Truth is sponsored by Marian Wright Edelman who was there and spoke eloquently. Stirring music by a Navy band.



Black Deaths As Spectacle


Never thought I could bear to post a picture such as this; I’m turning some kind of corner. Let me be clear, I remain vociferous about the need for body cams and cop car video. They must become required standard issue equipment for all officers on duty.

Further, the citizen videos that have shown the world the truth of police brutality against black people have already changed the course of history. They are crucially important and most often beyond heroic.

But I also wonder at the way the steady stream of both sorts of videos plays into and expands the racist mentality that has a history of using such images as vindication and normalization. It’s black death as spectacle, snuff film. Notice how often the bodies are left to lie in the road. Or how the dying black person is handcuffed rather than given emergency care.

And yes, children, black and white, are seeing the videos and are forever shaped by the talk, the responses, the pronouncements they hear about them in their respective worlds.

There is no denying the smug gratification the old (often made into postcards at the time) and new images generate.

[I write this after sitting stunned in my seat listening to a call-in right-wing radio program. The hosts and the callers all but vied in outdoing each other spinning likely scenarios to vindicate the Oklahoma murderer. A whole lot of “well, we can’t really see what he is doing when he lowers his right hand. They might have though he was reaching for a gun.” It was like listening to a bunch of script writers in a writers room, each trying to top the others with “plausible” reasons to shoot the man dead in the street.

And it occurred to me that it is the latest installment in a sort of multi-act interactive performance. A game of Justify The Black Person’s Death.]


We Mourn And Remember

Sculptor Meredith Bergmann’s 9/11 memorial at The Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City.


Pardon My Protest

For many white people there is simply no such thing as an “acceptable” black protest.

– March in the streets and we are threatened with being brought up on charges for disrupting traffic.

– Speak up about racism and discrimination and we are just making trouble, whining and complaining. We should understand that if we stopped being so sensitive about race and stopped talking about it so much we’d be “better off.” The problem would go away if we didn’t keep harping on it

– Bring suit in court against police abuse, or even against police killing of our kith and kin and we are just trying to make a fast buck on the backs of hardworking taxpayers.

– A brave and thoughtful young black man in a position to command a national spotlight uses that access to call attention to an urgent problem and he is denounced as self-serving and simply grandstanding.

– Organize a politically activist organization around the proposition that at a time when police violence against black men, women and children is repeatedly captured in excruciating detail on video the lives of black people should be held in as much regard as the lives of others and we are met with a chorus of ALL LIVES MATTER!

So, a question: just what would be an acceptable form of African-American protest against police brutality and murder? Letters to the editor, perhaps.



18 African American Competitors at 1936 Olympics

Jesse Owens is rightly celebrated and enshrined in history. But how many people know there were other black athletes competing in Berlin? Mack Robinson, shown here, was Jackie Robinson’s brother, btw.


At the 1936 Olympics, 18 black athletes went to Berlin as part of the U.S. team. Pictured here are (left to right rear) Dave Albritton, and Cornelius Johnson, high jumpers; Tidye Pickett, a hurdler; Ralph Metcalfe, a sprinter; Jim Clark, a boxer, and Mack Robinson, a sprinter. In front are John Terry, (left) a weight lifter and John Brooks, a long jumper. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Night Thoughts Prompted By The Monster Trump


I’m wondering if we are being played, not by either candidate, but by the real money and power that always operates behind the scenes. Nothing would be new there, but what if, as it seems to me, those power brokers have simply turned their influence and attention away from our national election cycle and are moving and shaking in an entirely different arena?


There are always disaffected extremists on the right, Tea Party, militias, etc., these days, John Birchers back when, but the Republican Party as a modern political entity has always had a solid, conservative, business-oriented, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, pillars-of-the-community core nationwide, and an endless supply of banking, Wall Street, powerful in-group, Bohemian Grove, heaviest of heavy hitters, etc., money, power, and influence.


 The fact that the grown-ups did not weigh in and take control of a party spinning out of control, and prevent Trump getting his sorry ass nominated leads me to wonder if indeed the game is no longer national politics, but in fact globalism/globalization. If that’s the case, and the forces of the right that once kept things in an admittedly bland counterpoise with a center-right Democratic establishment are not even particularly interested in, let alone involved in, the mechanisms of this American election, we are really screwed.


What, then, do these folks gain from overseeing, as seems to be the case, the rush to the right of so many western countries, most notably the UK and France? Why are they willing to be spectators to the Walpurgisnacht that is threatening Washington? Are they simply gambling that Trump will self-destruct, lose interest, lose his constituency, and Hillary will prevail? Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the outcome is already in hand, ala JFK.


Up Off Your Knees, Madam!

No one should do this in this day and age. And no one should expect or accept it. Ladies, shake hands and get on with it.


Slowly Shifting Historical Moment?

For all my rage and sorrow, I want to go on record as saying I, for one, sense the slightest of shifts in the tectonic plates of response to the latest executions by cop of black Americans. Perhaps it was watching the life ebb from a young man who was, by the accounts of scores of those who knew him, not only a fine person, but darn near saintly. And hearing his heroic girlfriend bear witness through her shock and horror. With a young child in the car. With. A. Young. Child. In. The. Car.

Perhaps it was watching the gratuitous viciousness of the Baton Rouge officer killing a black man already brought to ground, and sensing the rushing sound of spirits of the never really “old” South rising from the dirt to dance and frolic at the scent of the earth soaking up, again, innocent black blood.

Perhaps it’s the cumulative, dawning, uneasiness of many decent if generally indifferent white people recognizing the extent of the expanding library of eye-witness videos of the brutalization and on-camera deaths of black citizens. Uneasiness at the endless loops showing men, women, and children, killed by uniformed officers of the supposed law with hardly ever any consequence or accountability. Snuff films, free and at their fingertips. And each body with a name and a story.

I am certainly not suggesting some sea change shifting of tides. I do think I sense a slight wind rippling the waters. Hope I’m right.

[That’s Whitman below.]