Intellectual Responsibility, & Struggle
Phone Call Stop Increasing Inequalities?
Conversation with Floyd, Joyce,
Wilson, Miriam, Dennis, Mackie, Chuck, Austin
Floyd: There appears to be no national
or larger struggle for Black liberation or human rights today.
Even so, I concluded long ago that I would make my fight
wherever I was situated, because the “struggle
always is local.” Part of the struggle must be the
continued courage to speak truth to power, and to act with
audacity. We cannot give up this struggle. So much of it
now takes place in institutional arrangements. . . . We also can
wage serious battle by inspiring Black youngsters.
Miriam: I have been thinking about
responsibility and, serendipitously, received a Hopkins
publication with an article, "College-Level Coping,"
that deals with the anxieties, fears, pressures, and depression
that many college students experience. This week, a student
interviewed me about my years as a graduate student at Hopkins
in the 1960s, so I found myself reflecting on my experiences as
the only Black at a New England prep school, one of three Black
freshmen at a women's college, and one of few women at a male
university. I was married when I received my B. A., had
two babies with the M. A., and four small children with the
Ph.D., so I know something about responsibility, as well as pressure
and depression. I was not surprised that the suicide rate
at Hopkins was so high when I was there.
Still, I had nothing like the pressure that
Black students are experiencing now at predominantly-White
institutions, where high tuition, low retention, work
obligations, enormous debts, and a lack of institutional support
lead to a high drop-out rate, particularly of young Black males.
Your first responsibility, then, is to graduate, because we need
long distance runners, young men and women who are educated,
trained, and equipped to solve some of our tremendous problems.
That education, as you indicate, includes not
just what you learn in the classroom but the total exposure to
ideas and concepts that come from reading, writing, talking with
others, and thinking about issues. You must love yourself
enough, as a young warrior, to lead a balanced and disciplined
life that will enable you to run the distance.
Your second responsibility is to help your
family: your parents, who have taught you the value of
hard work, discipline, education and sacrifice, and your
ten-year old sisters who look up to you as their role model.
I believe that if you save the world and neglect your loved
ones, it's all been for naught. So many activists in the 1960s
made that mistake; they turned their backs on those who depended
I saw a piece this morning on Carlos Santana,
who said that he took a year and a half off, dropped everything
at the height of his career, because it was his wife's turn to
develop her potential and their children needed him. I
can't tell you how much I respect Santana for the way that he is
living his life, with love and responsibility to others.
Finally, there is the deep responsibility
that each of us has to make this a better world through service
. . . and only you can determine what kind of service you can
provide. Yes, as a very privileged young man, you have a
responsibility, because "to whom much is given, much is
expected," as your parents have taught you so well.
Those who are gifted with intelligence, talent, creativity, and
resources have a greater obligation to share those gifts with
others. It may be as a teacher, writer, musician, social
worker, computer analyst, or businessman.
There is nothing wrong with making money;
it's what you do with it that counts. In our history,
there have been resourceful African Americans who have founded
colleges, newspapers, insurance companies, and funeral
parlors—institutions that employed thousands of people who, as
a result, moved out of the ranks of the poor.
In answer to your question, Rodney, "No,
you are not alone." I think that there are many other
young people who are asking questions and searching for answers,
but they are disconnected and separated from each other because
there is no program or organization or platform to unite them.
Although I had some reservations about the
"leadership" of the MMM, I understand that many young
people attended and were inspired to act. That is very
encouraging. Hopefully, you and your generation will unite
around issues and take responsibility for solving some of our
Though you have provided good advice, I’m uncertain that it
will change the trajectory of the present status quo. One’s
own life cannot be a model entirely for another, when government
has been in the process of dismantling social programs at the
expense of the poor. My assumption it was this right wing agenda
that Rodney's dire concern and how do we meet this challenge,
this social poison.
ideologues that have done this deed would probably have no
argument against your tenets for individual initiative and
familial responsibility. Young black men at white universities
do not suffer these qualities. Those thoughtful are concerned
what to do for those that are less fortunate than they. In this
regard, the black middle-class has fallen short. So the utility
of such middle-class advice in solving the larger black problems
is questionable. The emphases on these class concerns have
essentially failed the poor. The
question is what is to be done to change the chemistry of the
If government is
not the solution to the poor, then what is? Honest white
corporations who only seek profit? Middle-class professionals?
Today, idiocies and opportunism parade as intellectual rigor and
scholarship. I'm done with politics. I shall crawl off into the
sunset with few regrets like August Wilson. Enough is enough,
there is too much equivocation and reductionism.
Miriam: No you don't, Rudolph Lewis,
crawl off into the sunset like August Wilson! Life is
about struggle and survival . . . against all the odds. I
believe that racism, classism, sexism, colorism, and homophobia
are all a part of human nature, that there will always be
oppression of the Other, the one who is different from us.
But that doesn't mean that we should stop living—just turn
over and die or jump off a cliff. What the hell does that
prove? Who will even care?
Certainly, those corporate executives or
transportation magnates will not. Hell no! We have
to be like Ida B. Wells and say, "You're going to have to
pull me off the goddamn train cause I don't intend to
move." That's what I did in Montgomery when I was
eight years old and Rosa Parks hadn't yet done her thing.
It just didn't make sense to me even as a little girl that I had
to move to the back of the bus when there were all those good
seats up front. I just ain't never been a "back of
the bus, up in the balcony" kinda person.
It's what my momma did in 1955 and 56, when
she got up at 5 a.m. to make the rounds of the Montgomery street
corners to pick up folk to take to work. My momma set me a
good example of how to LIVE in spite of all the obstacles.
Miriam, you're my kind of woman and you have my highest
Miriam: And you have mine for all that
you're doing. Keep it up. . . . I have read both of those
pieces and I agree with you that it's like choosing between the
Devil (Republicans) and the Imp (Democrats), but we can't just
lie down and die.
We have to deal realistically and
pragmatically with the situation at hand; we have to work
to defeat that bill (I sent everyone the name of it) that will
decrease funds to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition
Creating a separate Black political party
will simply nullify our power, the power of the people.
The racists in both parties would be delighted with the
ghettoization of Black voters. We have to deal with the
two-party system that exists in this country and not hide our
heads, ostrich-like, in the sand.
Third parties like those proposed by Ross
Perot and Ralph Nader have been a total failure in this country.
A Black political party might be the ideal in the Best of All
Possible Worlds, but not in this corrupt system in which we
live. Minorities in this country hold the balance of power
in any election, and we have to use that power judiciously to
benefit the have-nots.
Rudy: I'm moved by your enthusiasm.
But short-term enthusiasms are no solution to organizing the
poor, only a party can do that. The power you imagine blacks
have is purely imaginary. Your "ghettoization" already
exists. I know, I live in a ghetto. If we did or do
have the power you suggest, there would have been no New
Orleans. And I don't see anything that has changed in
the last two months. I’m suggesting that if we wish to change
the political equation, unity of the black classes is necessary
and an inclusive black political party is necessary to achieve
Otherwise, we decide the status quo is
sufficient. The same old two-party system approach indeed is
like hiding “our heads, ostrich-like, in the sand.” I do not
see a telephone call changing those political hacks down in DC. If
these politicians don't already know that balancing the budget
on the backs of the poor is wrong, a telephone call will not
make a difference. Something
stronger than a telephone call is necessary to change our status
or situation as a people. Otherwise, the same black political
corruption and cronyism will continue to exist. Let the
Republicrats do what they got to do. And we do what we need to
do, namely, organized independently in our own interests.
Spinning wheels gets us nowhere.
I will ask no elected
politician—Democrat or Republican—for anything. And for
certain I will not beg. In that we don't have a party that
represents the poor, we cannot demand anything.
I am not against anyone making your call. It
is not anything that I can place my faith in or my energy. It's
like playing the numbers. And I just don't play that game.
Miriam: I agree with you completely
about the failings of the Democrats and Republicans, but we have
to keep fighting because the power is still in the hands of
the people—if it is no more than the power to remove them from
office. I just sent everyone a message urging them to
contact their representatives. If enough of us protest, we
can stop a bill that will have dire consequences for the poor.
Rudy: Come on, Miriam, this is just as
much wishful thinking as Dr. Joyce King's "historical
process." Action for action sake is no answer. If the white
religious right wants the bill, then it will happen. These
Republicans and Democrats will do whatever they can get
away with. And that's a lot. These short-term tactics have
little effect on sellouts. We need a bigger stick than that to
make them heel.
So . . . you disagree with me?
I didn't know you had classified my response as
"so much wishful thinking." What is the basis for your
conclusion? I'm looking at history. What, then is your view of
how change can happen?
Rudy: I am not sure that
"historical process" guarantees anything, or such a
thing exists except in the imagination of historians or
sociologists. History did not guarantee that the slaves would be
freed, nor that the Supreme Court would make its various
decisions for or against the Negro, nor that Kennedy would be
murdered and that LBJ would be the man that he was and pass the
civil rights and voting rights bills.
All of that had nothing to do with
"historical process." One could ascribe them just as
easily to accidents of nature or a few exceptional individuals
with exceptional vision. Or to chance or to God or other
cosmic influences. Or any other force that gives solace.
As I understand it, the freed slaves
claimed no "historical process" but rather ascribed
their blessings to God. Now if you equate God with
"historical process," maybe you have something there, based
on a tradition to which I can ascribe. Otherwise, it indeed
sounds to me like "wishful thinking."
Joyce: Thanks, Rudy, for The New
Republic review. It is not a publication I normally read. I
will definitely read this review of Reynold's book on John
Brown—which, as you know, I appreciated very much—in spite
of a number of flaws.
A review of the most recent book this
guy Wilentz has written offers this observation about
his earlier work:
criticized Wilentz's first book for ignoring both the
presence of blacks among New York city's working class
and the racism of white workers' political parties and
trade unions. The Rise of American Democracy, in
contrast, foregrounds the role of the abolitionist
movement and makes African-Americans major actors in the
rise of democracy. . ." Eric Foner's The
Nation (Oct 31)
Now, it's quite dicey to read these
historians as they criticize (review) another historian as
if they don't have their own intellectual
agenda/commitments/ideology. Historical writing is changing
as more of them decide they need to INCLUDE us in their
historical analyses. However, we can even be at the center—but
of a flawed analysis.
In this case Wilentz (according to fellow
historian Foner) is advancing (the cause of) "political
history" as compared to (Reynolds's) "social
history". (Then they debate among themselves about
what is REAL history and decide what can count as history
and who can be considered a historian: Marcus Christian? John
Henrik Clarke? According to whose criteria and definitions?)
I'm not a "historian" but I
know that academics draw all kinds of boundaries to
dismiss other scholarly interpretations. I
believe, I'll stick with Du Bois on the matter of John Brown.
It's also interesting to note that Du Bois's biography
of John Brown was side-lined when it came out by intellectual
power-politics that we are still dealing with today.
Wilentz is also invested in selling his OWN
book and interpretation on the subject. . .He's hardly a
Rudy: Joyce, to tell you the truth,
John Brown has never been one of my favorite people, not even in
the Top 100. My view was that he was a murderer of the worst
type and an idiot at best. I find it strange that so many blacks
and liberals find him adoring, and usually at the expense of
someone who was both highly moral and noble like Nathaniel
Turner. To praise Brown is to diminish Turner. And that’s what
has indeed happened.
Wilson: I was not aware of the Foner
Review. These Ivy League guys really do scratch
one-another's backs, don't they?
I too have problems with John Brown, because I am opposed to
terrorism in any cause. War is terrorism, and, although it
may sometimes be justifiable, [it’s] always wrong. It does not
and cannot bring out any good in anybody. I am no
goody-goody. Who am I to judge Nat Turner or John Brown or
Hiroshima Harry Truman, or Lyndon Napalm Johnson?
Verily, verily I say unto ye, any Christian that inventeth
any excuse to wage what men call a "just war," he
shall be cast into a lake of fire.
Rudy: LBJ could have been another
Lincoln if he had not had so much confidence in the US military
and so little confidence in the nationalism of the Vietcong. I
was quite sadden when he refused to run a second term. I thought
him a traitor. It is regrettable that the Vietnam War has
overshadowed the service he did for the Negro, the poor, and
the country generally. It is even regrettable that MLK has
overshadowed LBJ. One could not have achieved greatness without
the other. Where’s the “historical process,” here?
Joyce: Well, it's fine with me if we
disagree but I guess we're not communicating. You asked (if I
recall correctly) if people can come to understand their own
interests. My response was "Yes, it's a matter of
historical process"—or something like that. Perhaps I
wasn't clear in my response.
I do not imply some divine hand or
"guaranteed" inevitability. By historical process I am
referring to affirmative historical examples of how people have
learned to understand their own circumstances, their own
interests and that through struggle change can happen. I'm
not wishing for or imagining (making up) something that has
not happened but recalling historical processes / experiences
that have been documented. Or perhaps I don't understand what
you meant by your question in the first place.
Rudy: People struggle because they
must. History is a retrospective look at the past. It is
possible to find (impose) patterns. But that is a subjective
matter. There is nothing in history that can forecast with
certainty that which will happen in the future. I have little
faith in people learning what is good for them. White males in
America are the best evidence to this fact. Most people are
dupes or stupid and only respond when there is little or no
The documents of which you speak depend
greatly on the subjectivity of those who composed them, and on
the subjectivity of those who interpret them. The best we can do
is wish or hope for the best, or pray for the intervention of
God. That is what our slave ancestors did. They say that God
answered their prayers. I cannot argue with that belief and that
faith. Again, I have no understanding of what are
"historical processes" or "experiences that have
been documented" saying anything that is consoling about
the future. If they do not guarantee anything, what utility then
do they have?
Joyce: OK, Rudy, I understand your
position much better, though I profoundly disagree with your
"little faith statement." Why bother to do
anything at all? Of what value is what you do? White men are not
my standard for human possibility.
Of course, people struggle because we must.
What is wrong with that? I don't understand why forecasting the
future is the standard for knowing whether people can learn
"what is good for them." Our ancestors have prayed,
organized, mobilized and battled for our survival. We have the
same capacity and certainly the responsibility.
Rudy: I am not sure that what I do
fits into any "historical process." I do what I do
because I have no option to do anything other than what I do. I
find that very troubling. I can't name the number of times that
I have wished I could do otherwise. If people struggled as a
matter of choice then maybe we could speak of processes. But at
best we can only possibly speak of historical facts or
I do not doubt that people can learn. What is
consistent is that they don't and when they do it is very
little, and that little usually does not go beyond their own
door. Usually, it is easier to do nothing and that is what
people tend to do.
For me New Orleans was a sign that black
people should organize in their own political interest, by a
logical necessity. But still they persist in having an
extraordinary faith in the white Democratic Party and
electing white (or honorary white) Democratic candidates.
It is very rare and exceptional that black people have
"organized and mobilized and battled." They have
prayed and that probably was the best thing indeed. The chances
of accomplishing anything of social value are about the same.
Most black people have stood on the sidelines
while a very few "organized and mobilized and
battled." And when white people gave way, when they felt
they had no option, it was only a handful that reaped the
benefits of those who "organized and mobilized and
battled." And those who reaped were usually those who
did not organize and mobilize and battle. Now, is this a
historical process? My view is that it is a historical fact, and
that the so-called processes people observe are illusory.
People seldom do what is possible, whatever
their color. They do what is easy or most convenient, or some
motive that has little to do with choice.
Joyce: Ok. Historical fact. But I
refer to "process" to address what I understand to be
the learning that occurs over time (as historical process) as
folks look back in time and build on the past. In a previous
message you cited "foretelling the future" as an
important issue. Now, you are stating that an important element
is most people vs a smaller group. I'm trying to keep up with
your point of view to understand and make sure we are discussing
the same thing. I don't disagree that "most people"
And I agree that as humans we don't achieve
what is possible most of the time. I would even say it takes us
a long time to learn hard lessons. Take the environment, global
warming, pollution as examples. My point was only what you
have just said: (some) people do learn and understand what
is in their best interests. That is not, however, to say what
moves some of most people (if ever) to act on their own
interests. We have to look at those "historical facts"
(which, however, are also subject to subjective interpretation)
I don't know how much "choice" any
of us really have. And prayer helps with that, too. I choose to
embrace my identity as an African person in the world with other African
people that I know in many different countries who share my values
(and subjective understanding). I also believe the
adage: To whom much is given, much is expected."
That's my choice.
I think you have some amazing gifts that you
express and share in various ways that touch a lot of people.
Your happiness or satisfaction with what you do and why, is of
course, your business. I just wouldn't want to nullify the
possibilities that might emerge from what anyone offers the
world by denying the possible effects of any of our contributions
to the ongoing historical struggle.
Independent Black organization? YES. By
all means. Study the past to learn lessons? Yes. Continue to
organize, mobilize and battle? Yes.
Rudy: yeah, you right, our positions
have moved closer and we have gained some ground—there's
a greater understanding. But I am not sure what it is that we
learn, if anything, from history. We might learn something
about human behavior and maybe something about humanity. There's
so much repetition of evil. That which stands out most for me is
how vicious and murderous man can be over the smallest of
things, like money (silver, gold, oil, etc.) or whim, and
how he is willing to interpret "history" in what he
conceives as his identity. Such a "historical process"
provides me no solace or confidence whatsoever. There is little
that is useful in such a belief that speaks to what is now.
Take for example, our characterization of
Rosa Parks as the "mother of the civil rights
movement" and Condi saying that she wouldn't have been
where she is if it had not been for Rosa Parks. What
nonsense, what convenient propaganda. I am not into the attitude
exhibited in the film Barber Shop, the comment that Parks
"just" sat down. That’s idiotic and stupid. I think
that Ms. Parks is deserving of respect for her courage, in that
instance, her willingness to face death in the face of
injustice. But we have gone over the top in our interpretation
of "history." What we have done is to create a
And, seemingly, we have learned nothing
whatsoever from the historical fact of Parks' personal
rebellion against the bus laws of Montgomery. Where’s such
courage today against the evils of war and poverty? Where’s
the willingness of a people to make the sacrifices of 1955.
In that Parks left the town for Detroit soon after
the boycott, fearing for her safety, is it not more
reasonable to say that the black women of Montgomery
continued the Montgomery struggle long after Parks' departure.
That all of these black women "mothered" the civil
rights struggle. And even saying that we exaggerate
What happened in Montgomery was unique; what
happened in Greensboro with the four A & T students was
unique. Present-day interpretations impose a connection
between the two incidents. There’s no evidence that one
determined the other.
Rather than counsel people to "organize,
mobilize and battle," it might indeed be better to advise
our youth, in the words of Jesus (emphasized by Nathaniel
Turner), "seek ye the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew
6:33), that leaves the matter of struggle far more open.
Wilson pointed me to an essay by the
Australian Hugh Capel. My sentiments seem to run along the same
lines of his article: Why
Facts and Dates Are Not So Important in History. Capel has
three propositions: 1) Facts
are not important in History; 2)
We never learn from History; 3)
It’s what people think happened that is important in
History, not what actually happened
Joyce: Thanks for the citation. I'll
take a look. The reality is more complex than the factors we
have discussed so far. The role of the media,
"schooling" is immense in shaping what we know,
believe, can think about and "choose." This gets us
back to the matter of power: Who has the power to define /make
I totally agree that the mothers/women whom
Rosa left behind made the movement. We have a tendency in
history and social life to look to "Great men" and
"great women" as historical actors in bringing about
change. Of course, it's always what other people do in addition
to the actions of an individual. (Wilentz's book advocates
great men/actors more so than "cultural" factors.) The
society (schools, media) promotes that kind of myth-making.
Enter a meaningful role for true education—in spite of
historians and "his-story".
Just now—50 years later—more people are
talking about the fact that Rosa Parks' rebellion was not just a
"personal act." She had been trained at Highland Folk
Center and was asked: "What are you going to do when you go
back?" I heard Myles Horton, founder of Highlander who led
the workshop—historical fact.
Black Political Party as Windmill?
Miriam: Floyd, I I think that we
have to focus on what is concrete and feasible rather than waste
our time and energy fighting windmills.
This is exactly the point that Kalamu made in
a speech in Wisconsin. He said, "Pick something
you're passionate about, and be it. Even if it's
crocheting . . . " How prescient. I
thought about our friend Jeannette, who sits and sews--purple
ribbons to commemorate the scattered tribes of the Gulf Coast.
The act of sewing seems like an insignificant thing, but it has
great symbolic meaning in the color and the form, and as a kind
of memento mori.
Each of us must act in consonance with our ability, talent,
resources, and passions, and each act should be valued. Your
letter of resignation is an eloquent statement of what ails
academia, and your letter to the student is an expression of
your concern for the moral and ideological shaping of our youth.
Keep up the good work. – both of which took time, reflection
Rudy: Miriam, individual acts or
efforts are fine. No one objects to them. But there has to be
much more, or we fall into the mistaken view that it is
individual acts like that of Parks that determine history. Some
probably thought that the Montgomery movement was a
"windmill." Or that the Greensboro sit-ins were
windmills. I'm sure some did. It was only the dangerously active
and outrageous courage of those kids that made the difference,
There has to be larger coordinated acts than
those that occur on the local, personal level. If people held on
to such views there would have been no SNCC, probably no BAM,
and probably no Panthers, or Black Consciousness Movement.
The most crucial decision concerns our
colonial relationship with the Democratic Party. We must face up
or all the small acts of which you speak is for nought. All do
respect to Kalamu, but his small acts did not speak to the needs
of the black poor in New Orleans, nor come to the aid of those
stranded at the superdome and the convention center. These
realities we must face or we will see more urban disasters and
we will still be rudderless, wandering in the wastelands of
white power, begging and blaming our white masters.
If the black middle-class is not willing to
join forces with the black poor in coordinated struggle, such as
boycotting a national election, I cannot take your small acts
seriously, as nothing other than small acts, and politics as
Ultimately, what is needed is an inclusive
national black electoral party. The ante has to be raised.
If we got to have a dog, we don't need another poodle. But I do
not expect the middle-class to have the courage of a Rosa Parks,
a woman from the working class. In essence, the middle-classes
are political cowards and flunkies of the status quo and will do
nothing to jeopardize comfort or that pension. Like the New Orleans
black middle-class, there's a heavy penalty to pay for such
I think that you are correct with respect to
individual acts of resistance, mine included. That's why I
referred to them as limited. In view of these times,
I have no other alternative, it seems. I very much
appreciate Miriam's supportive comments; yet, I know that more,
much more, needs to be done in order to articulate, assert, and
defend Black interests.
You seem to place a good bit of confidence in
a Black political party. This suggests to me that you put
some amount of "faith" in professional Black
politicians, even if you define political party in the larger
sense of the independence-movement African parties in the
late 1950's that were both social movement and electoral organs.
In my view, however, American leadership is corrupt and its
social institutions are bankrupt; this includes Black
leadership, especially professional politicians.
Please check out Robert Smith's old book, We
Have No Leaders. He soundly criticizes Black elected
officials at all levels of government. Yet, he, too, calls
for a Black political party, which I think is rather
contradictory, given his excellent assessment of Black political
life in America.
In these decadent times, a growing segment of
wealthy and young Blacks are turning to the Republican Party.
What does this say about the future challenges to Black
solidarity across class lines? Presently, I am reading a
new book by a Black philosopher at Harvard, Tommie Shelby.
It is entitled We Who Are
Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity
(Harvard UP). Apparently, he makes just this argument
in a discussion of what he calls "pragmatic" Black nationalism.
Perhaps I cannot see things clearly at all,
but I detect no signs, hints, signals, or even hope of any kind
of Black unity or solidarity (on a large scale) in this
historical moment. Hence, I engage in a lonely and limited
struggle; it is the best I can do, or perhaps any of us can do,
today. I long for Black collective and organized struggle,
but at present I see no signs of it on the political horizon in
Rudy: No, I have little faith in
"professional Black politicians," as we now find them
in the democratic and republican parties. Kalamu says he does
not believe in God, he believes in black people. I am not sure
that I have faith either in politicians of whatever stripe or in
the people themselves. Maybe, it is more accurate to say I have
faith in my own understanding of things, in my reading of the
circumstances we find ourselves as a people. In that respect, I
do not expect that corruption and opportunism can be fully
These circumstances, as I see it, call for
independent black political action because there has been little
or no progress in sustaining us as a people; matter of fact,
whatever progress we have made has worked against us as a
people. I heard on radio news this morning a group attending the
Rotunda honoring Rosa Parks singing "we have
overcome." They come up to her standard, by half. For them
the system works for them, though there still exists systemic
poverty for a third or more of us. Yes, we indeed have race
traitors. But all of the well-off people among us are not race
traitors or professional politicians.
Unlike some, I have not lost faith altogether
in non-poor blacks to do good or do what is right for black
people as a whole. Polls of blacks in reaction to Republican
anti-poor policies indicate that clearly. I heard that even the
hip hop mogul Russell Simmons at the MMM called for a black
political party. So there is money and there are persons out
there who hunger for an alternative to the status quo.
Those of us who understand the nature of
things must cast aside our fears and our allegiance to the
status quo parties of democrats and republicans and be
intellectually responsible and call for that which is logical
and reasonable, namely, an inclusive black political movement
and party to bring about a less corrupt system that will serve
all the people, especially the poor and the powerless, those now
alienated from the present political operations. We should be at
least willing to explore intellectually its possibility and
construction, despite its seeming character of a
academic Manning Marable says, "The
impossible becomes probable through struggle. And the probable
Presently, blacks as a people do not have any
leverage in the Democratic Party, which now courts, like the
Republicans, the white middle-class of the south,
mid-western, and southwestern states. They think that
blacks have no alternative and no courage to align themselves in
no other fashion. If we think that Dr. King's tactics or
those of Rosa Parks alone brought about the present benefits,
our brains have been addled by revisionist history. The riots in
northern and western cities, black nationalist arguments and
acts of self-defense had an equal impact in forcing
government leaders to pass the civil rights and voting rights
bills and other reforms of the Johnson Administration.
More conscientious independent black
political action can have the same effect. We must teach our
children that the status quo and comfort and such are not all
that is left to us or for us to do. That we as a people still
have a higher calling and that there are sacrifices still to be
made, that our task as a people is yet incomplete. Without
independent black political action, "black education"
nor black cultural institutions or acts will be meaningless.
We must not be afraid to speak of
"windmills," publicly; we must not be afraid that
corrupt politicians will not lead us to do the right thing. They
have no where to go if the people turn against them. At this
stage of just talk, they have nothing to fear. And we know these
cowards are not fearless. We must as you say "speak truth
to power." whether that power is black or white; rich or
poor; educated or uneducated. I for one will not court these
politicians black or white; I will not vote for them; I will not
call them; I will not plead with them to do what they know is
Those who wish to play that silly game,
let them. Let the shirkers continue to shirk. Their day will
come when they will have to get of the stool. I will stand with
the poor and boycott the polls, while the black political party
remains in its nascent state. If it comes not today, by
necessity it will come tomorrow.
Austin: Brother Rudy, I agree with
Floyd. I do not see any hope for any political party in this
country or in the world that will meet the needs of the poor and
oppressed people of the world. This is a global economy with so
much "cancer" in the heart of those who
"leads" and are only benefiting themselves, their own
interest, and the power of white men who run this world. The
poor and oppressed have too much a "big fate" and so
"little faith." They hope their dreams will come true,
but the reality is when joy comes in the morning—they
are still hungry, naked, and sick.
I learned in my economic class about
"free ride" and that there is no equilibrium. The
"experts" says that inflation causes
"expansion" and that those people who are willing and
able. The class says are "things being equal"—but
rich, the middle class. Same 'o same 'o—vote
for me and I will set you free"—"free"
A society where those who lead only want to look good for their
own interest. A society where the "blind leads the
blind." A society that builds on violence dies.
Miriam: Floyd, as usual, you have hit
the nail on the head: How can African Americans unify
behind a Black political party when there is no leadership,
program or platform, when there is corruption among the present
leaders, and when some Blacks support the Republican Party and
its more conservative program. Your analysis supports my
view that a Black political party is not a viable alternative
where there is such a strong, long-standing two-party system.
All I can say is "Amen."
Rudy: Miriam, how can you say
something is viable when it does not yet exist? Surely, it is
not impossible to create a black political party. One was
created in Washington, DC, not too long ago. It would be more
useful if you provide a criticism of its creation and
demise. That might be a good place to start a criticism, rather
than just denouncing the idea.
To cite corruption, the shortcomings of the
present leadership and their programs and platforms is merely an
indictment of the status quo. Your sentiments seem to be
contradictory. On one hand you make an indictment of the
democratic and republican parties but you stand ready to
continue support of that corruption, lack of appropriate
platform, program, and leadership.
How can what you recommend be a viable action
when you already know that that kind of activity has not worked
for the last three decades. Your argument is exceedingly
confusing. Don't you think you need to revise your position
of "viability" so that it makes more sense to us
who agree with half of your argument but who do not
understand the rationale of the second half, namely, voting for
leaders that are corrupt and leaders who have bought into
the status quo.
Moreover, it seems extremely viable to
boycott the polls, that is, not voting for democratic and
republican candidates, since the poor has been doing that in
great numbers for the last three decades. Look recently at what
happened in Detroit—20
percent of registered voters voted back in a black mayor who
pretends only that he can meet the needs of the 80 percent of
blacks in Detroit. In that particular instance would not a black
political party at least sustained the gut feelings of those who
boycotted the polls. In addition, you have not
spoken to the issue of leverage, of providing a viable threat to
those who are corrupt other than voting for another corrupt
Denouncing an idea would have more impact if
you have a truly viable alternative.
Struggles of the 60s & the Aftermath
Miriam: Rudy, some of the things you
say seem so contradictory (or illogical) to me, or maybe it's
the way you juxtapose statements. For example, you said
that it saddens you that Johnson did not run for a second term,
but in the next sentence you said that he was a traitor.
Do you mean that he betrayed the trust that Americans put in him
by not running for a second term? Then, in your
conversation with Joyce, you negate the significance of history,
but then you suggest that there are valuable lessons in the
rebellion of Nathaniel Turner, who was a historical figure.
Sometimes it's difficult for me to follow your train of thought.
With respect to Rosa Parks, she was indeed a
courageous woman, but all of this public adulation seems a bit
obscene, especially when you have Frist and Alito posing in
front of Clinton's portrait in the Capitol Rotunda, where
Parks's casket stands. They reduce the ceremony to just
another hypocritical photo op. On the other hand, it seems
important for people to mythologize certain historical figures
like Che, Lincoln, Malcolm, and Turner. I think that the
death of Parks gave people, especially Blacks, an opportunity to
vent a lot of emotions: nostalgia for the good ole days of
the Movement, anger over continuing racism, longing for a
leader, etc. So many people need a leader, need a raison
d'etre, need an ideology, need the church, etc.
If we must name a "mother" of the
Movement (and I hate that kind of domestic mythification), it
should more rightly be Fannie Lou Hamer or Ella Baker, both of
whom struggled tirelessly for years. From my reading and
observation (and I was in Montgomery at the time), there were
many women, including my mother, who fed the flames of the Bus
Boycott, and it didn't start with Parks. It had begun
months, if not years before, with the activism of several
Montgomery women, but Parks was the spark that ignited the
Another observation: Parks was the kind
of woman whom Whites feel comfortable with as "our
leader." (It was no accident that Frist promoted her
lying in state at the Rotunda and that Bush led the honor
brigade.) Did you notice how many times she was
characterized as humble, quiet, and unassuming? Now Hamer,
on the other hand, was a hands-on-the-hips, loud-mouthed, angry
woman, who took no prisoners. But has anyone mentioned her
as "our leader" or the "Mother of the
I say this not to diminish the significance
of Mrs. Parks, but to point out the inconsistencies in race and
racism in this country.
Rudy: Miriam, I think your description
of the Rosa Parks dilemma generated by the Republicans is
on the money. I could not agree with you more, nor could I have
expressed it as well.
As far as the LBJ question, that is not as complicated as it
seems. It is the position taken by MLK and I think would be
sustained today by MLK. As far as a new New
was wonderful and is deserving of far more credit than he has
received. As far as the Vietnam War, he was a traitor to the
social programs he created and was unwilling to change his views
on the War and thus he quit. I call that a betrayal. What we
have after that has been a continuing plot to dismantle all the
Johnson socialist-inspired programs.
I do not negate the "significance of
history." I negate "historical processes,"
partially because I have no idea what it means and Joyce was not
able to explain what she meant by it adequately. I suspect it
comes from Marx via Hegel via the Calvinist idea of Divine
Providence, that is, a teleological notion of a
"dialectical process." I do not understand it in
Hegel; I do not understand it in Marx.
It's true that I don't think we learn
anything from history, other than facts and events. And often
that learning is not done very well and then by only a few
because of the poverty of American education. Some at the
Rotunda concluded "we have overcome," because Parks
was the first black woman to be so honored.
The interpretation of the facts and events is
problematic, as you so well explained in the Rosa Parks dilemma,
namely, that it is extremely subjective, and the interpretation
is usually to support "agendas," as Joyce
allowed in the case of John Brown. As far as Turner, I have not
suggested that there are "lessons" to be learned.
My interest is in the unacceptable
methodology that is used to interpret the facts of his life and
the events surrounding the Rebellion he led. The error of the
academic historian and theologian here is to tell the story from
Turner's point of view. He is not the first to suffer from this
kind of history writing and he probably would not be last,
especially those historians who are too cowardly to be
associated with such outrageous historical figures.
Rather than promoting "Turner
lessons," my intent has been to provide a more reasonable
and coherent approach to his life and the events of his
life that sustains his integrity and dignity.
Where is the contradiction, then?
Thanks for the clarifications: Johnson's betrayal
and historical significance vs. historical processes. I
intuit that you make leaps in your thoughts and expect your
readers to be able to fill in the gaps, but I am an ABCDE kind
of thinker, so can't jump from A to D. Now I understand.
Mackie: Here's my take on all of this;
my experience, really, which rendered me cynical quite a number
of years ago.
I returned home to New Orleans in 1980.
It took me about three years to adjust because over the sixteen
years I had been away, so much had changed, geographically and
demographically. Sometime after those three years, I began
to look up fellows whom I'd gone to grammar school, high school,
and the university with: all three local private (Catholic)
schools. What disappointed me then, and continues to do to
this day, is that their cafe and coffeehouse private discourse
regarding local politics was framed around the exclamation of
"Sheeet, it's our turn now, 'Bro!"
These fellows were into local politics big
time, as rainmakers, bankers, lawyers, or politicians.
Though I apparently was supposed to automatically get their
drift, when I pried from them clarification of what they meant
by "our turn," I soon realized, several times over –
and this is, of course my interpretation – is that this
revealing phrase of "our turn now" meant to do exactly
what The Man had been doing all our lives, and the lives of our
parents and grandparents.
In other words, these Colored/Black/African
American men of excellent schooling were ready and willing to
behave in public affairs exactly the way they had perceived
white folks behaving and accomplishing affairs – dishonestly,
unethically, and immorally, though most of the time, not
For me this is reprehensible. It's the
same nonsense we get from the majority of contemporary African
leaders, who rule like colonialists and imperialists in
post-imperial and post—colonial
times. It's no different from what we can witness
happening in most of Central and Latin America, where so-called
leaders rule the way colonizing Spaniards did. If we can't be
better than our enemies, our adversaries, who are we then?
Must we always live as if we have internalized the notion of My
Enemy, My Twin?!
Chuck: I know some of those folk that
Mackie spoke of, not as individuals but as types and they exist
wherever us is. The case speaks for internalized racial
oppression which is another type of reaction to abuse, in this
case, societal. The abused become abusers.
The circle is vicious and it's going to take
the emplacement of a new model to overcome the impact of
European conceptions being beaten into the heads of our folk.
I always did like the conception of the Borg from the Star Trek
series and the refusal of the crew and other earth men to be
"assimilated". We done be'd 'similated. Goodness!
Rudy: In some ways, it seems, this
class of blacks of which you speak might end up being the
greatest losers from the tragedy of New Orleans. There are thus
penalties for such behavior as you have so well-described. This
situation indeed should be a lesson to our upper and middle
classes that we have not yet overcome and that they are subject,
especially in crises, to finding themselves being treated
with the same disdain as those of us who clearly
suffer America's racial oppression.
According to news reports, this class of
people involved in New Orleans school system were just as
treacherous in the neglect of the 60,000 public school students
as those who ran the system pre-1965. They too now are dispersed
across the country and have lost home, job, and whatever other
securities and benefits they believed that they had secured.
Being no worse than our enemies is definitely no solution in the
dictatorship may indeed be more socially productive and
satisfying to the greatest number and to society at large than
democratic appeals to the broadly stupid. As in all systems of
governance, dependence on the good will of the leader is not
altogether satisfying, or even safe. Today's democracy,
however, is neither satisfying or safe.
Although I haven't read Hunting
for Harlem, which I believe won the Hurston-Wright
fiction award last year, I am very familiar with Cotillion and
agree completely with Norris that it is a novel that elucidates
the ideology of the Black Arts Movement. As Norris
explains, both are works that have to be understood within the
time frame of their creation, just as Johnson's Autobiography
of an Ex-Colored Man is very much reflective of ideas about
race that were current in 1912.
His final two paragraphs underscore the
problematic (for me) of Hunting—the
lack of ideology, the absence of hope, and the nihilistic void
that is so evident today. That is something that I have
been thinking about a great deal as I have engaged in dialogues
with my contemporaries.
Thanks for the reading of the Killens essay, especially
in that it was very long. I am not usually inclined to post such
long articles and I am not very familiar with Killens research.
Moreover, I have only read two of his novels and that was thirty
Gender Perspectives & the Political
Miriam: I have been struck by the
tremendous difference in attitude between Joyce, Jeannette, my
friend Sandra, a political scientist with whom I talk daily, and
myself, on the one hand, and you, Floyd, Acklyn, and Rick,
another friend of mine, on the other. I have been
wondering if it's a gender thing. We are all
intellectuals, but the women are active (metaphorically, sitting
& sewing), optimistic, and determined to survive;
while the men are pessimistic, despondent, and nihilistic. Is it
because women create life, figuratively with our bodies, that we
look to the future with hope and sometimes joy?—although
my feminist self shudders at such biological determinism.
Is it, perhaps, the result of the different socialization of men
So much pressure has been put on Black men of
my generation to be Real Men—breadwinners,
high achievers, men of the house—that
they feel inadequate no matter how much they accomplish.
It was true of my brother, who disappeared into the sunset.
It was true of my father, who was so lonely and alone in his
final years. We had such hope in John Killens's day;
we laughed and made love, we lost and picked up the pieces.
Are the nihilism, depression, and
hopelessness the result of disillusionment because things didn't
turn out as we had expected, because we're still struggling with
racism and poverty? Is this an existential problem?
Is it personal angst or systemic failure?
Rudy: I am sure you are right that
there are differences between men and women in how they approach
and perceive life, especially in matters of comfort and
security. I have been reading Mencken's In Defense of Women
and he states as much. I do not know that these differences have
anything at all do with our intellectual arguments on this or
that topic. Maybe so. But you would have to be more specific.
I am uncertain about Mencken's conclusions
since so much has changed morally, historically, and
sociologically, with respect to the freedom of women and their
economic independence. I was just reading a piece in Women
News today. They concluded that men today are not repulsed
by successful women and that successful women tend to be
married. I am not certain generalizations can be made about
"black men" or "black women." There are a
lot of women pre-occupied by this subject and they are
producing a lot of anecdotal literature, which I suspect is
Whether my attitudes or perspectives are
typical or atypical is a toss up. The other factors of age,
emotional maturity, education, financial stability, and
geographical origin, I am certain, must be considered as
influential in these kinds of determinations. Although I have my
moods, whether I am particularly subject to "nihilism,
depression, and hopelessness" as a black male because I'm a
black male, I don't know.
I had a brief discussion with a street walker
today while I ate my chicken wings and western fries. I gave her
one of the wings and half of the fries, and a cigarette. I was
not interested, however, in the services she had to offer.
She was young and I could see that if she was not so
impoverished she would be an exceedingly attractive dark-skinned
woman. She was indeed active, and to some degree she was
optimistic and determined to survive. Whether those
characteristics were individual or gender-inspired I am not able
to discern in that our meeting was brief.
I live alone, except for my cat Bobo. That is
to say, I am rather free of feminine controls, though I do
appreciate feminine company and intimacies. Am I lonely, that
is, do I long for feminine controls? I'd say no. Would I like to
have the company of that special woman? I'd probably
say, yes. But I'm uncertain that such a creature exist.
I'm sure that I suffer those ills that the
poor suffer. But I pray continually and the Lord
continues to bless me, so I tend to keep my head above water and
do a few things that I believe are helpful to others. So
altogether I would say that I'm not particularly nihilistic,
though I am extremely skeptical when it comes to bunkum.
To Blog or to Make a Circle
Rudy, I am less interested in blogging than in communicating
with sensitive and intelligent people. Some friend
have suggested that I set up something comparable to ChickenBones,
but I am not interested. I leave that to persons like you.
Your efforts are much admired and much appreciated, but not my
cup of tea. I like to exchange ideas one-on-one, and
you are one of the few "kindred spirits" I have
discovered. I appreciate your friendship.
Miriam: Rudy, I'm sure you're
right, that factors such as maturity, education, financial
stability, place of origin, etc. have a great impact on
our worldviews. I've been thinking about that a lot,
especially as I begin to piece together the biographies,
beliefs, and perspectives of those who've entered the Katrina
Circle: you, Jeannette, Floyd, Rodney, Joyce, Arthur,
Herbert, Jerry, Kalamu, and others. I am interested in
makes them tick, why they are like they are, and why they think
like they do--and don't like to generalize about groups:
The Poor, the Black Middle Class, the NAACP, students, and young
people, though for the sake of discussion we do sometimes have
I read lots of
biographies, autobiographies, and especially memoirs.
because I want to get to the heart and soul of a person.
Now you can call that individualistic, middle class, or
whatever, but that's just me, the way I am.
I first entered
this discussion with a different perspective on Huey Newton, for
example. I admire him, on the one hand, but I very much
dislike his self-destructiveness and, most especially, his
sadistic, drug-induced treatment of other people. When I
asked the question, "Did he love enough?" I meant did
he have compassion for others . . . and for himself, because
without self love (with all that that implies: respect,
integrity, honesty) you cannot love other people. Although
you tend to minimize personal, individual, concrete acts, to my
mind, it is acts of kindness toward others that makes us truly
human. I have no regard for a person who saves the world
but neglects his/her child or father or friend.
You performed an
act of loving kindness when you gave some of your lunch to a
street walker, but, even more important than the sharing, was
the recognition of her as a human being who was struggling to
survive. If each one of us, every day, performed
simple acts of kindness, this would be a much better world.
Today, I helped a cancer survivor, who has undergone four
surgeries and numerous chemo treatments, but what I admire about
her is her spirit: her hope, her smile, her zest for life,
and her appreciation of others. I think, too, of my mother
who, although she is blind and suffers from dementia, is always
concerned about others and has such a beautiful spirit.
I have an
inquisitive mind and I'm always looking for answers or
explanations. It doesn't really matter to me if I
contradict myself because that is simply a recognition that I'm
human and have a right to change my mind from one minute to the
next as circumstances change. I think that I'm open to
other points of view (at least I try to be), but I know what I
believe and I'm very comfortable in my skin, with all the
beliefs; values; political opinions; and views on race, gender,
and sexual orientation that have grown out of my experiences.
We in the Katrina
Circle are all different; we have been shaped by our lived
experiences and our educational training, but, hopefully, we can
respect those differences and recognize the human value in each
of us. I consider you and Rodney and Jeannette and
others my friends. I might cuss you out, but that's what
friends are for.
Circle." That's a good name. I like very much what we have
done and I have found you very inspiring, though we respond
differently to the dire situations and events of our times. I do
not find that offensive or take it any personal way. My
primary interest is in how we think about things, and how we
express that thinking. What we have been doing for the last
several months is what Wilson J. Moses (the historian) and
I have been doing for the last three years—that
is, exploring each others thoughts and thinking on a number of
topics of interest.
is different recently is that I have figured out a way of
sharing that kind of exploration with others on ChickenBones.
difference is that most of the women involved with ChickenBones
have not been willing to discuss issues. They have been poets or
they have been interested in print publication, or they have
been on the make. None has been like you. I have found that
refreshing. Like Wilson you have challenge my thinking, that
which I believe or don't. You are sure-footed and have not
wilted in argument. I admire that.
does not matter to me personally that you have taken positions
contrary to my own, e.g., the black political party. Wilson and
I too don't agree on everything. We both however have a healthy
skepticism and an appreciation of writing. What is important is
that we have been continually willing to engage each other,
without fear, and with some pleasure
am not against the personal. My problem is the imbalance of the
personal and the social. I value friendship more than ideology.
One of the difference between you and Wilson is that I have met
you in the flesh and I have still to meet Wilson under the sun.
Kalamu, I have met him a number of times. I was quite amazed
last summer he invited me to his house to view his film work.
we are not personal friends and we are rather distant. Yet I
admire him, a lot. But we have our differences. Still I respect
him. I think he respects me, though he's probably a little
uneasy with me. Maybe he has heard I don't take a lot of shit
from people. As you know I have a ton of his work on the site.
He's somewhat shocked I have done that. But he has been a great
learning experience for me. So it has been one hand washing
you see, we awright
what a lovely, affirming message. I, too, value friendship
much more than ideology, and I treasure the friends like you
whom I've met through our dialogue. It's interesting what
you say about women's reluctance to join in the debate, and you
are so right. I wonder why. My friend Sandra, for
example, is a very bright political scientist, professor &
administrator, with whom I debate almost every night. I
asked her why she didn't enter into the discussion, but her
answer didn't really satisfy me.
My outspokenness has often turned men off,
especially men of my generation like the Movement Machos, but I
just figured it was because they were insecure about themselves.
I was so blessed to have a father who stimulated me
intellectually, encouraged my academic growth, and challenged my
ideas across the dinner table. I didn't recognize that
gift from him until several years ago when I began exploring his
life. See, there you go again . . . you raise some
question and before I know it my mind starts spinning off in
That's what happened the other night with the
Rosa Parks piece; I was aware that something made me
uneasy about the whole "display," and then, as I was
writing, I began to unravel in my mind the reasons why.
That's the joy of dialogue, of intellectual give and take.
Rudy: Miriam: I received both of your
messages and was very pleased with all you have said. I feared
for a moment you might take offense at some of my remarks.
People can be finicky and you never know how they might remark,
especially at one's humor. But I suppose I should fill in
some of the gaps. The forum of our Katrina Circle has indeed
been an interesting phenomena, like Jeannette's ribbon project.
Such projects do require a lot of energy and time. Of course,
inspired, one initially do not take note of all that.
Only institutions can sustain such efforts
over extended periods of time. It is indeed an odd dilemma.
Institutions corrupt the spirit; yet they remain a
necessity. Individual efforts will always be limited and it is
always difficult to measure their impact and importance, as in
the Rosa Parks or the MLK or the LBJ examples. You know, they
Wilson placed it in some perspective, this
morning. He spoke of "kindred spirits." Maybe it is a
kind of love in the platonic sense of two halves that seek each
other out. Of course, it may also be cultural, that is, an appreciation
of "talk." Often, at home, it was carried on in the
kitchen. But also in the sitting room. The times have changed, I
suspect. People talk now more about what they have acquired and
where they have vacationed. You know, small talk, that has few
Of course, too, we have leisure or we
appreciate the value of leisure. For many of us leisure is
exceedingly expensive and few of us are willing to make
sacrifices for it.
ChickenBones is very professional with excellent
articles, good photos, and constant changes of front-page items.
And the technical details seem to be mind boggling. It's
just too bad that you don't have any help with the project.
Herbert told me a couple of years ago that you're operating it
at a real sacrifice, and it must take a great deal of time.
It is, indeed, a great example of service and sacrifice.
That's what I've been trying to explain—that
each person is endowed with certain gifts or expertise or
resources (which seem insignificant to others), but those gifts,
from the heart, are very important.
For that reason, I
keep citing Jeannette's purple ribbons, which might be
meaningless to others but which give her so much joy and a
reason to be. It has been so heart-warming to me, through
all of the Katrina crisis, to see the ways in which people have
responded. These examples renew my faith in human beings,
because I believe that people are basically good and will rise
to challenges if given an opportunity. I don't have too
much faith in institutions, so I don't spend my valuable time
and intellectual energy dealing with "grand designs,"
such as Black political parties, sociopolitical ideologies, and
theories of development.
Deal and Johnson's War on Poverty were great experiments in
social engineering, and those programs provided employment and
educational opportunities for so many people who were able to
move out of poverty; in spite of those programs, the gap
between the haves and the have-nots is wider than ever, and for
a lot of complicated reasons that are almost incapable of
solution: the technological divide, decrease in
entitlement programs; higher cost of health care, housing, and
higher education; virtual elimination of affirmative
action programs; disappearance of blue-collar jobs, etc.
Too many of us
ordinary people are so overwhelmed by those complex problems
that we end up doing nothing. That's why I keeping
stressing the importance of feasible, concrete, and tangible
acts of assistance. ChickenBones is indeed
fantastic, and it is just such a concrete and feasible act in
the effort to raise consciousness.
Dennis: Rudy try your best to keep ChickenBones'
integrity. It is brilliant the way it is and the only one of its
kind. You have influenced me, supported, enlightened, intrigued
me - in ways too complex to get into right now. Don't
Rudy: I suppose I am worried more
about others institutionalizing me. You too are (or will be)
subject to such institutionalization. Mark my words. . . . It
is good that you are busy. It seems you have turned the corner.
. . . I suppose I need to work on my comedic talents.
Rudy, I didn't get a chance to answer this message yesterday and
really just had time to read it carefully. You've covered
a number of topics, so I'll just touch on some.
I've been thinking
a lot about the development and demise of institutions,
particularly cultural institutions, during the Black Arts
Movement, because it seems to me that we can gain some lessons
from that experience. I agree with you that organizations
or institutions are more significant than the efforts of
individuals, but there are so many more variables in place right
now. After I get my thoughts together, I'll lay them out.
Yes, our dialogue
is a new and different medium of expression, but it certainly
has it's roots in the discussions around the kitchen table that
we've had over the years with family and friends. This is
a new form of connection, thanks to technology, between people
who may never meet face to face but who have much in common.
This is an important way of breaking through barriers and
reaching across boundaries. For example, I'm now able to
communicate directly with Cuban friends; before, I/they
had to send letters in plain brown wrappers that took weeks and
sometimes months to reach their destination, so to heck with
Bush and his blockade.
I hope that you,
Kalamu, and others were able to hang out last night, because
there is nothing like a reunion of "kindred spirits."
Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes a tragic event to bring
people together in the knowledge that life is so precious but so
very tenuous. I did not know that Kalamu has a daughter in
the area; all that I know of his family is what I read in
his collection of personal essays and the little that he's
mentioned in in frequent calls or notes.
When Acklyn was
chair of the Af Am Dept. at UMBC, he brought Kalamu there a
couple of times to read his poetry, and those were very
memorable events--but nothing like the performance last night.
Parenthood is a real learning experience, very humbling but
definitely worth all the joy, pain, sacrifice,
misunderstandings, challenges, and successes.
read your review of Mona Lisa's Red
clicked on the highlighted poems. Your review is
excellent— and that girl can write her tail off. I plan
to get her book.
posted 16 November 2005
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Mockingbirds at Jerusalem
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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered
the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It
By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign. The Economy
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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