“Vice” Is Historical, Drama, Comedy, & Haunting

vice2018

“Vice,” the movie, starring an adroit Christian Bale, as Dick Chaney, is categorized as a “History/Drama/Comedy.”  I found the movie also haunting.  The most powerful nation in the world, that,  should attract the nation’s most brilliant people, steeped in experience and scholarship, at the nation’s helm, instead, is so easily co-opted and run by the greedy, narrow, personal interests, an administration of PR magicians and political “personalities.”

“Vice” illustrates that our democracy is so in need of an upgrade that its revolving doors of unchecked criminal-minded and  or soft presidents and or politicians, combined with arrogant power-grabbers, enabled a former drunk to become vice president of the United States, and take over the weak leadership of another former drunk and  then President George W. Bush; not to say former drunks can’t be useful.

Chaney used the 9-11 attack of the World Trade Center to publicly advocate invading Iraq, but, while covertly, being motivated to enrich his former employer, Halliburton.  In doing so, Chaney would lead Bush (an incompetent, laid president, played by Sam Rockwell, who let Chaney decide almost everything), including taking the nation to an unnecessary and reckless war, based on fake information, which would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths and maiming, destabilizing the region, inspiring ISIS as legacy; and, consequently, killing then Secretary Of State Colin Powell’s future political prospects by having him go before the United Nations to sell our allies and the world on invading Iraq, against his own advice.  Powell, protested, but then went along with Bush, instead of resigning in protest.

“Vice” is well played and scripted saga that haunted because the Bush/Chaney presidency was a warning of a fracture in the United States governance and the electoral process.  Ignored, the nation is doing it, again, already, with Trumpism.

If you like Chaney before the movie, you will like his character; Bale embodies Chaney.  If you didn’t like Chaney before “Vice,” you’ll likely hate him after you see the movie.

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Celebrating Victory, In Search of Our Dream

Nov. 7, 2012

About two years ago, Jasmine, my fiancé, was hit with a diagnosis of a non-curable digestive illness that made it painful to swallow and bore her constant abdomen pain.  Eleven months prior, her troubles were compounded by a diagnosis of stomach cancer.  In spite of the painful symptoms, the chemotherapy, the dire prognosis, we discovered Costa Rica as a source of hope.  Every time we mentioned Costa Rica to friends and acquaintances, the familiar reframe was Costa Rica, was an ecological world wonder and leader, that it is tropically beautiful, the cost of living is comparatively low; they have no military and the best health care in Central America.  Even Americans go there for qualitative and inexpensive health care and they welcome Americans and expatriates.  I reasoned should America ever become unbearable economically, socially, or politically, we’d have someplace to go. 

I purchased “Moon Costa Rica,” a travel book dedicated to Costa Rica, and we read and fashioned an image and a dream:  that we would buy a small cottage, in the mountains, surrounded by rich foliage, filled with exotic frogs, monkeys, and birds that, a home that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.  And, we would make daily treks to the nearby native, organic produce market, shop for our meal for the day, eat, sat out on the deck or porch and watch the animals frolic, or the waves rumble the ocean and let the wind waffle and caress us to sleep.   We could double her income and my pension, I theorized; hire a housekeeper and lawnsman, and live happily ever after.  Good bye America; hello Costa Rica.

However, the cancer that afflicted Jasmine, challenged everything she and I knew.  The vomiting, the pain, medications, constipation, lack of appetite, sacked energy, depression, mood swings, anxiety attacks, the desire for sweets (which feeds cancer), other comfort food, random bleeding and the stomach ulcers, and the countless emergency trips to the hospital.    I would be the wind beneath her sail, constantly reminding her that ‘when the going gets rough, we get tough; it’s mind over matter!  flip the script; you just got to believe; doctors have been wrong, before; live life like you are going to live forever; keep believing and trying and you will win;  if you don’t want something to come true, don’t say it, even if you think it; don’t breathe life into negative.’ To her, it may have all seemed like hopeless nothings to say to people when it’s hopeless.  I know the mind plays tricks on you.  But, those weren’t riddles, at all; they reflected the spirit of how I lived my life, what I had been preaching to her all along, and what I would want her to say to me if this was vice versa.

The twin forces of cancer and chemo, as you might tell, wouldn’t allow us to travel anywhere far from a bed and bathroom.   But, after fighting the fight for 10 months, defying the second prognosis, enduring one hospital emergency visit after another, four weeks in Duke University Oncology Clinical (Chemotherapy) Trials, the John Hopkins University Hospital, which after treating Jasmine with chemo and a radiation implant for six months, diagnosed her as cancer free!  The doctor said he didn’t want to see her again for six months!  No more chemo, no more radiation, no more vomiting, stomach ulcers — what music from the heavens! 

Under these life-threatening circumstances, you fight everyone, your help mate no less.  But you don’t suppose to fight each other, the ones who are really fighting the cancer.  In the meanwhile, our relationship had taken it knocks, with Ms. Quit & ‘Take My Balls Home,’ and Mr. You Don’t Quit both reeling.    

Jasmine resolved to test how well she had conquered cancer, consequently help salvage our relationship by suggesting we explore our dream trip that dared to fade.  We went to Costa Rica, a week later, on Halloween no less, additionally, to explore that once vivid dream we shared of identifying where we might want to live should America become either politically, economically, or socially unbearable.  We had a great deal of expectations.

The timing was excellent:  we had both tired of the U.S. political electioneering whose ugliness and vitriol would peak with ad infinitum negative ads, robot phone calls, and 24-hour “news” pundits’ spewing a toxic mix, like CO2 in the air we breathe, during the last week of the campaigns.  By the time we would come back it would all be over and we could watch the election results with sweet visions dancing around in our heads, like the Costa Rican indigenous iridescent blue morpho butterfly fluttering around, royal blue body and wings on the outside   and oak brown on the underside, pollinating happiness.

Our resolve was tested at our arrival.  Orbitz Travel offered Jasmine a rental car for a week for only $50.  It was an offer that was too good to reject and likely too good to be true.  In San Jose, the rental company told us that unless our auto insurance extended to international coverage, they would need a $950 deposit, plus charge us about $60 daily for insurance on the car.  It amounted to a bate and switch.  We passed on the rental car offer and we would be glad we did; but that wasn’t the end of our welcoming mat to Costa Rica.

Upon our arrival, we learned by appearance, the Deluxe Royale Hotel and Casino is a dump.  Jasmine declared she couldn’t stay there for more than 20 minutes after booking & visiting the room.  She whipped out her laptop, went online and made reservations at the El Presidente, where a tennis buddy told me he stayed when he came to Costa Rica.  It was located on main street, Central Avenue and 7th,   in downtown, San Jose. 

As the El Presidente hotel staff asked for Jasmine’s passport, she suddenly, flustered, and realized she didn’t have her passport, the most important piece of credential you can have in foreign country.  We called the dump where she last showed it.  I had a bilingual staff at the hotel call and ask about the passport.  After not getting much in the way of answers, the staffer gave the phone to me.   The dump procrastinated and pretended not to understand, then asked me to call back in 10 minutes.  10 minutes?  Either they had it or they didn’t — why should we have to wait 10 minutes?  Jasmine cried we should go back there; and, that’s exactly what we did!  Upon arrival, I told Jasmine to go check the room and see if it fell out her purse or bags there, while I dealt with the counter person.  As Jasmine waited for an elevator, I eyeballed the bouncers at the casino door, the counter woman who was now on the phone, when I noticed a passport.  I grabbed it off the counter and called Jasmine, “here it is!” and we left saving an unplanned trip to the U.S. Embassy on the first day of visit.  Jasmine rewarded me a big hug and kiss.  I reminded Jasmine both that it is her responsibility to retrieve her credit cards, driver license and passport when she hands it to anyone, and I repeated a familiar reframe:  some fool may get by one of us, but I’ll be damned if they can get by both of us.  That was great teamwork of ideas and execution.  With those incidents behind us, we could then enjoy our visit: We went to plan B: we would do day tours and taxi anywhere else in between. 

We asked the cabbie who waited, where could we find a nice place to eat authentic Costa Rican food.  He recommended Delicious Peru, only a couple blocks from the hotel and that’s where we had him drop us off and where we first tried Pescado, (a garden salad, rice & beans, plantains, and fish, chicken or pork).  

As to our dream, Costa Rica was filled with as many dire contradictions as it was beautiful.  The weather was a balmy 75 or degrees, clipped with breezes and an occasional afternoon shower.  San Jose had the look and feel of a developing nation, the modest infrastructure; parks were sparse, small and comparatively underwhelming.  The sidewalks and grounds regularly swept free of the littered waste of a people who seem to never rest.  The streets were paved, though mostly single lanes with no street parking, congested with traffic of mostly small compacts (many of them exclusive red cabs) and SUVs (almost no entry-level luxury cars around) that honked incessantly and played a serious game of chicken or dare-double dare, with both each other’s car and pedestrian traffic.  They ignored stop signs (ALTO) and traffic lights.  

However, there was no angst, no flipping the bird, no arrogance!!!  People accepted the chicken and dare-double dare as natural occurrence in downtown.

The country has 4.5 million people, and it seemed they were all in the capitol, San Jose, at the same time.  I have never seen a downtown population whose density compared so with New York until now.   But, homes were stacked on hills and valleys, not high but one and two story ramblers, side by side, like dominos, with barely any space in between.   The sidewalks were often full of people walking energetically, ala the March of Penguins, kids walking to school, adults walking to and from work, or shopping, or walking to catch the bus.  There was rarely street parking downtown, including a scarcity of public parking.  However, those who had off street parking, usually had a space tucked into the abdomen of their home, half the space of an American-sized garage, and enclosed by a sliding gate, with barbed wire trimming at the top.

A tour guide told us during a tour of the city, that while crime was increasing, there is very low crime.  Someone may snatch your gold chains or pocket book, but there is no violent crime.  He said crime is so low because since the country banded its military, in 1948, they have more police.  And, besides he added, a thief could be caught within 48 hours because they use public cameras to record almost everybody.   However, another tour guide, chaffed at that when I asked why almost every house and business seemed ready for a riot, with sliding metal doors, wrought iron door and window bars, all topped with barbwire? 

He said police were mostly downtown, but not off town where most of the people live.  He said, so the first line of defense is to defend your selves.  That’s where the prison-like encasement comes from.  If you raise the bar of defense, for the petty burglar or crook, so much that they couldn’t violate you, then they wouldn’t; hence, the low crime; but, oh, what an unsightly price to pay.

We went to a store that sold jewelry and art, which seemed to service the public by appointment, only.  Similarly encased with wrought iron gates, bars and barbed wire.  We were let in only after the front door and the wrought iron gate were unlocked.   Once inside, the art was awe inspiring.  The building had a courtyard where the staff served visitors the spirits of distilled sugar cane and the nation’s pride, it’s coffee.  However, the feeling of being in a fortress, the expectation of doom associated with wrought iron and barbed wire never escaped me.

The tour guide also revealed a native prejudice against the Nicaraguans.  I was surprised by the prejudice towards a fellow Central American state.    He said that Costa Rica doesn’t have a welfare system.  Yet, the country has been invaded by more than one million Nicaraguans, who sap resources but don’t contribute to the national economy, largely because they have a low, cash-paying jobs, they don’t pay taxes nor contribute into the Social Security, which also includes revenues for free national health care. In response to discussing two seasons of the weather, the tour guide said ‘Costa Rica actually have three seasons:  ‘Dry, the Wet, and Nicaraguan problems forever.’   So, the Nicaraguans are the Hispanics of Costa Rica; Hispanic on Hispanic crime.  Brother hating brother.  Usually, I surmised, if you hate on one group, you usually hate on African Americans, as well.  It reminded me also of his initial comment when he began to tour.  He said, directing a comment to Jasmine and me, that Costa Ricans like Hip Hop music; and us, I guess, by extension. 

He also drove through what appeared to be a shanty town of poor people; he said was populated mostly by Nicaraguans, called “Mexico City,” and inhabited by drug dealers. 

Central Avenue is San Jose’s main street.  It spans 6 or more blocks, lined with local clothing and gadget stores and on either side, including a few American fast food stops and local restaurants, parks and seating areas, a museum and national theater, blocked off from unofficial vehicular traffic.  It witnesses wave after wave of pedestrians, mostly 16 and up, ala the March of the Penguins; or the Serengeti River of Africa where the wider beasts must past with as much force as possible while risking becoming dinner to the alligators that wade and wait in the water.  The people marched with an energy that belied that they have walked ever since they could remember; and that it was their primary mode of transportation and exercise.  The congested street people peddled souvenir cigars, whistles, or bootlegged movies, socks, and all assortments of inexpensive usefulness. There was a sample of homeless, beggars and others down on their luck.

The women are among the most beautiful I have ever seen, except of course for Jasmine.  And like Jasmine, not only are they pretty and shapely, but they appear to be most comfortable with their natural attractiveness – no weaves, no wigs, no heavy makeup, and no blondes!  They are touchy-feely; often, women walked embracing one another.  It was not uncommon to see people embrace one another and kiss and hug and look into each other’s’ eyes with genuine joy.    Other than the pace of their walking, people didn’t seem rushed, angered or angry, or driven by fear or anger.  They were pleasingly humble, pleasant and helpful, if you spoke Spanish, when approached.  There, again is the beauty of Costa Rica; its peoples’ common demeanor – no problems, no worries, “Pura Vida!”

The city tour was no big challenge for Jasmine.  She had passed the first test. We visited the National Theatre, the Gold Museum, the Doka Coffee Museum, the National Park and Monument (featuring a figurine of women representing other countries of Central America), and the home of Dr. Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia, a former doctor who’s life would catapult him into the country’s presidency as Costa Rica’s 19th and one its most beloved presidents, who was a friend of U.S.A. President Roosevelt, and who introduced Costa Rica Social Security (CCSS), minimum wage and the University of Costa Rica.   His former home has been expanded to include a cultural museum and a hospital in a compound of buildings.  

After the tour, Jasmine, still showing wonder and energy, and I settled for dinner, with the national dish of Pescado.

The Pescado was scrumptious as was all the food we ate while in Costs Rica; natural, devoid embellishment of salt, season or oil. 

Back at the hotel, we planned the next day “3-n-1 combo,” including a relaxing boat ride on the Sarapiqui River through a  bird, crocodile, fish, and monkey sanctuary;  a trek through the forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most important rainforest preserves to observe tropical plants, stunningly beautiful and venomous frogs, walk across a hanging bridge, and lunch (Pescado) at the private preserve and research park, riding a tram through the rain forest while an eco-research guide explained.  The tour lasted 11 hours and had us walking and wandering, and discovering the beauty of nature like two little kids, with a guide who like an excited professor adeptly explained almost every plant, tree, and creature.   Jasmine and I were just like old times, having a ball learning and yearning.

It was the going to and from these tours that we discovered the cloud high mountains that drape and surround Costa Rica’s landscape, dotted by coffee plantations and homes.  Perhaps there is where we might see the community we had dreamed about.  But, it was not to be.  Most of the homes appeared to be owned by the plantation owners.  Otherwise, like in the city, homes were stacked on hills, side by side, with wrought iron, barbed wire, and corrugated roof.   The latter to protect the homes from the rumbling effects of more than 3,000 earth quake shivers annually. 

Back at the hotel, we would go straight bed, after dinner (Pescado), but from another local restaurant or room service, recuperating and looking forward to the next day and final tour:  A journey to visit Doka Estate coffee mill, and Three Generations coffee plantation, an active Parque Nacional Volcán Poás (covering 16,000 acres and a summit of 8,900 feet, in the Central Volcanic Conservation Area located in the Alajuela Province near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica),  a butterfly/bird/and wild cats preserve and a set of three breath-taking natural waterfalls at the Lapaz Waterfall Gardens, a hotel, nature park and wildlife refuge.  Yes, beauty abounds in Costa Rica, right alongside its many contradictions. 

While Costa Rica was immensely beautiful, it was appearing not to be our dream.  The excursions led us to crisscross the whole country it seemed.  We never saw the community or cottage for which we would trade our American experience.  The natural market was either a lone stand on the road or a corner-stand in congested downtown streets of San Jose. 

The coffee harvest, which takes four years, depends on three critical ingredients: elevation, precipitation, and temperature.  Titos (native Costa Ricans) farm coffee high in the mountains near volcanos.  The volcanic ash enriches the soil like no other fertilizer.  Farmers plant around the coffee plants other fruit plants that divert insects from the blooming coffee beam.  Eighty percent of the coffee and produce that this mostly agriculture-based economy produces is organic.  Costa Rica is leading the world in natural, most earth-friendly agriculture. 

Coffee is king, as you might imagine in Costa Rica.  They also export bananas, pineapple, strawberry and exotic flowers. The coffee bean led to Costa Rica’s first independence from foreign colonists, according to the tour guide who claimed to be a historian:  colonists couldn’t work all the land they took so they parceled it out to the peasants in equal shares.  It led to the country’s first wealthy class, who went away to universities and returned with better ideas. The bean is memorialized by a museum, a coffee bean monument, as well as an ox monument which helped to toll the coffee land; and a portrait in the ceiling of the National Museum is dedicated to coffee harvesting and export.

Local grown Britt coffee, tastes as rich and full of flavor as to remind me of pure chocolate.  The waiter rushes in a galloping serving of crème, assuming Americans or “Costa Gringos,” need to halve the beverage to match assumed American taste: the less crème, for my taste, more of the flavor, the better. 

Costa Rica doesn’t sell decaffeinated coffee, only pure.  Costa Rica ships coffee pure to Germany where it is both decaffeinated (chemically or by steam), and shipped throughout the world.  This is for a good reason — the Costa Rican coffee, while full of bouquet and rich in flavor, does not leave you geeky, wired, or tired; it’s the best tasting coffee I have ever had. 

Costa Rica children are taught to revere the environment, nature and trees.  A tour guide says that there are 177 trees per person in Costa Rica.  That’s the world’s highest ratio of trees to people in a country.  Children are taught in grade school that for every tree that is taken down, 10 must be planted.  Students are taught to plant a tree and cultivate it until they graduate from grade school.  Sixty percent of the forests in Costa Rica are protected preserves, guaranteeing the wealth and beauty of Costa Rica for generations to come. 

Health Care is comparatively cheap.  However, the Farmacia (pharmacy) or medical offices we saw were what we Americans would compare to store front operations and the children’s hospital looked drab and depressing from the outside.   

Costa Rica has a 98 percent literacy rate.  Higher Education is free and 90 percent of the population takes advantage of it.  They have a whopping three percent unemployment rate.  Another tour guide said, ‘you have to work to eat.  The only people, who don’t work, the beggars, are mostly Nicaraguans.’ 

However, aside from the real estate, the cost of living is the same as in the states, which is astronomically high for Costa Ricans, given that their per capita income is only around $8,000.  Costa Rica has a mostly service economy.  So, you might imagine something doesn’t jibe about this stated demography.  It suggests that rather than march into other countries and earn 2-5 times as much, sending much of their earnings back home to support whole villages, as Africans immigrants do, instead college-educated Costa Rican professionals simply stay there as educated farmers, waiters, housekeepers, bell hops,  lawns men, taxi driver,  and tour guides, etc.?  I find hard to comprehend. 

If the crime is so low, why do Costa Ricans need public cameras, wrought iron bars, and barbed wire?  While exploring the city Sunday on our own, two drivers slowed down as they passed us, to warn me against displaying my camera.  One, a taxi driver made a finger gesture as a gun, pulled just ahead of us to park  and when Jasmine and I caught up to him, he explained with urgency, and through a Spanish dialect that walking around with a camera, would attract robbers, who might take my camera at gun point.  Upon thanking the driver, we took the very populous and policed Central Avenue way back to the hotel and I stashed the camera before resuming our city trek.   

On another occasion, a gentleman in a store we visited walked over to me talking in Spanish as he reached for my small gold necklace (that bears a cartouche and tennis racquet medallion) to tuck it into my shirt; I took this to be a warning that thieves would snatch it and run.  He proceeded to tell me through his accent, that he once lived in New York.  He asked where we were from, to which I replied, “Maryland.”  Then, he described New York as ‘shit!’  Everything is relative; I couldn’t argue with him.  And, I was born in Manhattan.  I thought it kind of the gentleman to warn me and I kept the necklace tucked in after that exchange. 

By the third day of touring, Jasmine’s energy had begun to wan as had mine; even though I work out and play tennis regularly.  Ours was an adventurous, fun-filled, working vacation, the best kind.  We saw and learned a great deal about the beauty and ecological wealth of the country, including its people, food, drink, and pass time.  We asked a lot of questions, ventured about the city on our own a great deal, also.  But, Jasmine had proven, by her display of energy, diet, enthusiasm and wonder, that she had beaten cancer, for sure, and there was only one way to celebrate it, while revamping our love affair and pursue our dream:   a trip to Costa Rica.  The country was beautiful, although filled with contradictions that we are not willing to  trade  for America’s.

We returned to Maryland on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, around 7:30 p.m., ordered some Chinese food, settled in after a long, 6-hour, TSA-centered flight back home, (that began 12 hours early)   to watch the end of U.S. electioneering, and the beginning of waking up to Barrack Hussein Obama being president of the United States for four more years.

The next day, I drove Jasmine to work, where she served as executive director, “the best job she has ever had in her life,” a job she won when she arose from her sickbed 5 months ago and applied, not knowing whether she could handle it or whether she wanted it, on top of all the rest.  She was being pushed by my words, “You have to be about more than just your pain and suffering.  Remember who you were before you became ill?  That’s who you have to continue to be.  Be true to who you are, always no matter what you are going through.  Be more than your pain and suffering.”

I asked Jasmine during one of her most down periods to tell me the highlights of career.  While explaining, she experienced an epiphany.  Suddenly, she felt reminded of who she was and what she should be about. 

Like a trooper she tried, and after three interviews, she was selected.  Also, like a trooper, she also walked all over Costa Rica and celebrated her triumph over cancer.  And, while we discovered that Costa Rica wasn’t the dream, we had imagined it to be, in part to get her through cancer, the dream led us to have the best times of our lives together.  We realized the moment we agreed to take the trip together, how much we loved each other in spite of everything.  But, as I drove her to work, we both suddenly realized that we just needed a vacation to realize how much we love America, too, our home.

Jasmine and I are still searching for that dream happily-ever-after, should the United States become unbearable; I mean, it’s a poor rat that has only one hole. 

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Cinematic therapy I wanted to last all day

Amid all the racial bullying and hatred spewing out of American bowels today, The “Black Panther” is cinematic therapy I wanted to last all day.

The “Black Panther is a whole “other” level of Black cinema. It is the greatest movie that depicts African and African Americans’ life and culture that Hollywood has yet to produce.

The “Black Panther,” a Marvel comic strip hero, raises, in a subtle way, like the movie, “Get Out,” many white racist stereotypes that have sabotaged African and African American history and culture, and it destroys these stereotypes, with a Negritude beauty and pride, laced with humor and satire, momentarily erasing the specter of hundreds of years of oppression.

The “Black Panther,” without grinding through the horror of the last 600 years of our past, without expressing hot venom to the oppressors, the movie showcases who we were “before the white man came” and what we could be today, despite his oppression of us, still.

Paul Coates, well known scholar, and publisher of the former Black Classics Press, claimed in his compelling review that the movie could spark a revolution.  I opined, ‘no movie has ever changed racist Hollywood and no movie will ever change us. But, if a movie could, this is the one to do it.

The “Black Panther” spurs conversation and learning, with so many historical and cultural truths spit casually in the dialogue, that it could be taught in college. The movie will become the new standard for which all other movies depicting Black history and culture will be compared. The “Black Panther” could inspire the likes of Oprah, Tyler Perry and other directors, producers and writers to follow its example. Coates was right, as usual. Yes, it can spark a revolution in Black consciousness and Black cinema.  Given it’s success at the box office – the theater was sold out at 10 a.m. on a work and school day — I know there will be a sequel and I can’t wait.

Credit to producers Kevin Feige, David J. Grant, Director/Writer, Ryan Coogler, the other writers and the splendid cast of actors, costume designers, Kendrick Lamar’s sound score,for their daring to be great, and Disney, for green-lighting a movie that by most standards fit the bill of “Too Black, Too Strong.” Wakanda lives! Ase!

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See These Two Movies As A Pair

 

The movies “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” should be seen as a pair.  They reflect two sides of the same coin.  “Fences” is like taking medicine — it may taste bad, but it’s good for you — or, the movie is like drinking a glass of bourbon or whiskey; “Hidden Figures” is like a chaser.  Both reveal how real Black people authentically responded  in the 1960s  to American aparthied.

In “Fences,” Troy, the main character, played by Denzel Washington, who also directs the movie, is building a fence round his back yard, but with “soft wood,” according to his friend, Jim Bono, played by Stephen Henderson.  It’s a fence meant to keep things out, but he appears to be building it of “soft” wood to fence in his hurt from years of racial oppression.

As talented as he was, in his 30’s as a baseball player,  Troy was overlooked by the majors which chose lesser players, according to him,  due to white racism. He ended up a proud, hurt garbage man. The anger imploded him. Troy was too busy prepping his son for the bitter world that awaited him, that he personified leading his son, Cory, a breakout character played by Jovan Adepo, to feel that his father didn’t like him.  Rose, played by Viola Davis, is Troy’s wife who sacrificed her life for his dreams, only to be injured by him  again and again.  And he defends the injury, as if he was entitled, a victim of life; perhaps, he is a victim:  I have always maintained that we are not responsible for “the hands we are dealt by life.   But, we are deftly responsible for how we respond.” 

Troy’s relationship with his wife and love ones mirrored his hurt, rather than his or their dreams. American oppression does that to many, it poisons them with a hurt that defers their dreams.

“Hidden Figures,”  on the other hand, is a about Katherine G. Johnson, the mathematician, physicist, and space scientist who calculated fight trajectories for John Glenn’s first orbital fight in 1962 and a  group of 30 or so beautiful, sister mathematicians, who NASA hired, ‘because it deemed women more suited than men for the tedious grind of daily and constant mathematical calculations.’  The ladies were responsible for providing calculations that were critical to the success of NASA and helping America compete against the former U.S.S.R.’s domination of space.  

The women were officially called “computers” until IBM introduced electronic computers later and replaced their skill set; the women became programmers.

These ladies had to endure the same oppression as Black men and even more, due to discrimination against women.  However, in “Hidden Figures,” they respond with such dignity, grace, charm and determination that they disarmed racial and gender discriminators, then they rose above insult and inconvenience, their hurt and pain, to prove their value, by dreaming big, demanding much, and applying themselves to become among the greatest group of mathematicians to serve America’s space program in the 1960s.

Johnson worked in NASA’s Flight Research Division and was responsible for providing  trajectory calculations for the Lunar Orbiter Programs, which determiNed with pinpoint accuracy where the  spacecraft would return,  which was critical to astronauts safe and speedy recovery.  Her calculations proved to be vital to the safe return of astronauts in the Apollo 13 mission.  She worked on the Space Shuttle program.  

When the computers began conducting the mathematical calculations much faster than humans could,  Glenn demanded that Johnson validate the IBM’s calculations before his historic first American orbit around earth; her calculations matched the computer’s results.

After the IBM’s machines replaced the “computers,” the ladies were reassigned and their story all but forgotten until in 2015 when Johnson  was awarded the presidential medal of freedom by President Obama and NASA renamed one of it’s buildings in her honor.  The group’s story is one that everyone should know, especially those who have been led to believe in some female genetic predisposition which opposes math.

Great acting in both “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.” Mykelti Williamson, who played Gabriel and Adepo as “Cory” were breakout characters for authenticity; the three leading ladies in “Hidden Figures” were Taraji P. Henson who played Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and breakout actress Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson.  “Fences” and “HIdden Figures” are ‘two sides of the same coin.’ See these movies as a pair.

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Straight N the Mainstream

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 05:  (L-R) Ice Cube and O'Shea Jackson Jr. attend the "Straight Outta  Compton" New York Screening at Florence Gould Hall Theater on August 5, 2015, in New York City.  (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 05: (L-R) Ice Cube and O’Shea Jackson Jr. attend the “Straight Outta
Compton” New York Screening at Florence Gould Hall Theater on August 5, 2015, in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)

“Straight Outta Compton,” the biopic about the swift rise, fall and the evolution of N.W.A., hip-hop’s “gansta” rappers from the west coast, is a major hit, hands down.  N.W.A. came straight from nothing and burst into the mainstream to influence it forever.

I usually wait until Hollyweird productions come on cable TV, about three months after release.  I wait because it is Hollyweird that’s producing this stuff; I don’t expect the “Great White Way” studio executives to,  once and for all,  tell the story of their victims without Whites being heroes, which totally distorts the reality of a Black biopic.

But, my daughter, Kwanza, 39, knowing what kind of cinema I like,  recommended I see “Straight Outta Compton.”  Actually,  she offered to take me to see it.  So, we made it a date, her, my grandson, Myles, 21, and me; three different generations.

We sat in the reclining, leather chairs, at the end of the movie, riveted, and wanting to see more of N.W.A.’s story.  Although 2 and one-half hours long, “Straight Outta Compton” zipped through the story with great tension, urgency, blazing music, and never staying on any aspect of the film too long.

Cheddars Restaurant was nearby.  So, we went there to dine and unpack  “Straight Outta Compton;” I loved it. 

N.W.A. defied police terrorism and oppression, and rather than result to violence, as they were conditioned, these enraged Black youth turned their anger into hip hop music, and made something with  nothing.  They used their own devices to create a bridge from Compton to the mainstream, from which they were able to evolve.

In 1986,  Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella and MC Ren formed N.W.A., amid oppressive police brutality, Crips and Bloods gang violence, and a crack cocaine epidemic.  Beat down, oppressed, exposed everyday to wartime conditions of hate, poverty and violence, the youths believed they had a something to say about life, and what they had to say became a national, if not global hip hop music phenomena.  Poor kids with nothing but social dysfunction believed when oppression was sitting on them, surrounding their every move in their own community like an occupation force, that they had something to say about it. “Straight Outta Compton” fondly reminds one of the redeeming qualities of “Boyz N the Hood.”

During a media interview, after a couple of hits caught the nation’s attention, namely,  “Fuck tha Police,” drew the ire of the FBI, FOP, the Police, etc., Ice Cube, operating solo, soon after his split from N.W.A., dismissed an interviewer, who feigned that he wanted Ice Cube’s views about the Rodney King LAPD beating of 1991; instead he wanted to malign N.W.A. and Ice Cube’s music. As Ice Cube brought the interview to a close, he told the interviewer, we are like journalists, ‘we are telling the world what’s going on in our community.’  How could their massive anger have come out any other way but angrily, without bang, bang, bang?

Kwanza asked what did I like about the movie, as we dined on fried shrimp, chicken tenders, fries, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and broccoli, and sipped water and lemonade.

Whew, I sighed.  I liked so much about the movie, the acting, the urgency, the heart thumping music, and wow factor of their story racing through a tumultuous time, and I liked the cinematography, it was impressive, too.

But, beyond the esthetics, I continued, the fact that a group of young ‘nobodies,’ came together, parlayed their anger into a music that influenced a new genre, i.e., telling-it-like-it-is in your face, music, which white corporate music execs called “gansta,” was incredible; they believed in themselves, when life around them suggested otherwise.

People, who have grown comfortable in their oppression forget just how depraved some people are.  And how conditions effect linguistics and choice of words.   They take issue with the way young people express themselves, instead of understanding the ingredients that make them express themselves that way.  Hip Hop dares not to be polite.  Polite means do not disturb.  Polite means wait.  Polite doesn’t help the young and desperate; they are hurting; they are screaming, shouting, crying and demanding attention.

“Straight Outta Compton” gained more credence highlighting the Rodney King LAPD beating in which none of the police officers were found guilty of misconduct, not to mention assault with intent to kill.

The LAPD had an unspoken stop and frisk rule against the community, where they constantly harassed citizens and would-be crooks alike.  Once too many times, N.W.A. was stopped, made to lay on the ground and frisked for illegal substances.  Probable cause:  they looked like thugs.  N.W.A., namely Ice Cube, went in the studio and meted out justice of his own in the form of the hit, “Fuck tha Police,” which became a rallying cry highlighting the occupation role police play in the L.A. and Black communities across the the United States.   The record shot to the top of the charts.  Resonating from 20 years ago, and before,  to the current situation of police assaults and killings of unarmed Black men, women and children. N.W.A. next went on tour.

Before a concert performance, in Detroit,  the police approached N.W.A. and threatened to arrest them if they performed the song.  Ice Cube, N.W.A.’s unofficial spokesperson, declared their first amendment rights. During the concert, N.W.A. stopped the music.  Ice Cube alerted the audience that the police threatened to arrest them if they performed “Fuck tha Police,” as the Police stood by on the ready.  Then, they asked a sold out audience to put their finger in the air, the music blasted and N.W.A. performed “Fuck tha Police” and it was no doubt group’s climax.  The police arrested them, among a shower of debris that fans threw at the police.

Additionally, “Straight Outta Compton” showcased that Ice Cube has passed his cinema skills on to his son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., who played him and was a standout actor.  His role speaks to their evolution and mainstreaming of the initial outsiders.

Ice Cube dared to challenge N.W.A.’s manager, Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti, in a business that strives on taking advantage of gullible young entertainers too eager to blindly sign contracts they don’t understand for a chance to “be somebody.”  Heller favored Easy-E (Jason Mitchell) over Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Easy-E brought N.W.A. to the record business.  It was his brainchild and when the record label was formed it was Easy-E’s (not N.W.A.’s) company, Ruthless Records, which launched their first album, “Straight Outta Compton.”

Heller was ripping off all of them.  After not paying their royalties from their hit records, Heller flashed Ice Cube a check for $75K to compel him to sign a contract, and he refused, arguing that the payment was his money he had already earned but wasn’t being paid.  Ice Cube rejected the $75,000 check, refused to sign, announced his early N.W.A. split, as their hits rolled up the charts and the money evaded them.  Even though they had nothing and came from nothing, they had principals, and they illustrated a great example of determining one’s self-worth and not depending on others to determine it.  Ice Cube’s career would evolve as actor, director, and film producer.

Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) would soon come to the same conclusion about Heller and bolted N.W.A.  Both  landed with a new manager, and continued their assent, with Dr. Dre co-founding Death Row Records with Suge Knight, his new manager.  Both new managers gave them promises, but little else in the form of pay, essentially ripping them off.  Ice Cube would take a bat and bust up his manger’s office demanding his money.  Additionally, Dr. Dre found Suge Knght’s habits of violence and mayhem despicable and bolted the label leaving his money, his masters, his rights, everything.  Dr. Dre would evolve as a great producer and co-owner of Beats, a headphone brand, which sold for over $3 billion.

Kwanza’s favorite part in “Straight Outta Compton” was when Easy-E died, surprisingly, just as the trio was planning a comeback.  All of the unprotected sex, she said, showcased in the scantily dressed and nude pool party and hotel room scenes, sex that flows like the wind, endlessly, with fame, fortune or both, but it is not without consequence, she said.  In the case of Easy-E, the penalty was death by what was then the little understood HIV virus.

Myles, an aspiring rap singer, who has been stopped and harassed by the police already, said he has been further inspired by the “Straight Outta Compton,” but his favorite, favorite part was the concert, when N.W.A. sang the song that still resonates 20 years later.

“Straight Outta Compton” had to be a good biopic by Hollyweird standards, given that it was co-produced by the subject experts, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Easy-E’s wife,Tomeka Woods-Wright.

Additionally, it was directed by F. Gary Gray, a brother with a resume that includes some notable hits, and another brother was one of two principal script writers.  “Straight Outta Compton” did not have a white hero.  Instead, they were were sharks, the police, the FBI, oppressors.

Kwanza was right about this movie, and I am glad she wanted me to see it.  I am happy to have registered three votes to Hollywierd for more of this kind of Black stories produced and directed and written by Black subject experts.

According to ET Report, “Straight Outta Compton” remained #1 at the box office for three weeks after its release,earning $268 million to date and after opening to a whopping $60.2 million, becoming the biggest musical biopic ever.

An album inspired by the film was released by Dr. Dre on August 7, 2015, and debuted at No. 2 on the “US Billboard 200.”

The N.W.A. story continues; I guess there will be a sequel.

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Fight the Power or Witch Hunt?

IRTCMA

Ishmael Reed’s ‘tome,’ “The Complete Muhammad Ali,” is remarkably refreshing picture capturing the culture of 1950s-1960s struggle through Muhammad Ali’s life, both off and on camera, and by extension the story of how resilient Black Americans’ struggle against all odds — and how a people without power, trapped in the belly of the beast —  survives to use what they have to fight the fight with all their might.

Muhammad Ali is at the center of this book, but it is a tapestry about the times, about America, then and now, loaded with facts, rumors and innuendos about a cultural icon and hero.

But, my it hard hard to see why Reed publishes, along with those facts, miscellaneous innuendo without relevance, validation, or investigation; just because someone says that ish. How relevant is it to Ali’s character what every inconsequential person, regardless of motive, thinks of Ali or his every egotistical whim which often accommodates greatness?  This part of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” reads like some TMZ ish, not Ishmael Reed.

In “The Complete Muhammad Ali,” Reed is the mortar, the narrator, between a host of interviewees, including of Bobbie Seale, Sam Hamod, Askia Muhammad, Veronica, one Ali’s Ali’s former wives, and many others, but no interview with Ali’s current wife.

Reed appears to spend the balance of the book running down rumors like a witch hunt, and never turns anything new or concrete.

For example, a David Kindred, former Ali “scribe” says he got in bed with Ali to go to sleep and was impressed with Ali’s dick; or that a lot of hotel wives miss Sonny Liston’s dick, or that Ali’s current wife is a control freak.  Reed includes that ish, turned over, and without validation.

Reed interviews Stanley Crouch who calls Elijah, Malcolm and Ali all frauds.  He says Master Fard, who inspired Elijah’s movement, was a Hawaian and a pimp. Crouch further says that Master Fard is the “Ron L. Hubbard of Islam.”   And, Minister Farrakhan is dismissed as ‘only in it for the money.’  

I fail to see the relevance or value of disparaging opinions without validation.  You don’t report ish just because people say it, unless you are intent on being a vehehicle for ish rather than for truth.

Further Reed apparently counts against Ali’s greatness that he displayed anti-Black behavior when he taunted Frazier, who refused to recognize Ali by his name, with gorilla mockery. 

When a Black man calls another a gorilla it doesn’t mean the same as when a white person says it.   The white person is likely implying all Blacks look like a gorilla. But, one cannot argue that was not Ali’s intent.

And, further, Reed reports that Ali commented after a visit to Africa that the ladies need to mix with white blood to become more attractive. Ali can hardly be accused of having anti-black feelings. I fail to see how any of this aids our understanding of the man or the people and had Reed left such out of the book, and it would have still been a complete biography.

I  enjoyed reading about Ali and the times. And, Reed is all over the place; he starts at one place, then as a matter of reflection, takes the reader through a contextual and/or historical journey, then he brings them all back to the matter at hand. 

Reed writes, for example, about attending a dinner fundraiser commemorating the Ali Center,   “Finally, it was President Clinton, under whose administration more Blacks were incarcerated than any time before in history and the iniquitous Welfare Reform bill was signed, which has families eating out of garbage cans.  Clinton’s role in the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that limited commercial bank securities activities allowed them to speculate.  Such speculation led to Hispanics and blacks losing hundreds of billions in equity.  Taking the stage with Ali and Lonnie was among the symbolic gestures that Clinton employed to disguise the fact that Clinton was one of the worst presidents for blacks.”   Just as expected, Reed gives you a lot of information,  but “complete”didn’t have to include so much invalidated  inuendo.

Posted in Biography, Racism, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

States Rights and Police Terrorism: Beyond Federal Reach?

SandraBland

Sandra Bland allegedly hung herself in police custody.

http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

Pounk police across the country are sending the president a message with Black deaths:  A Black is president of the United States, but police are “protected” by  States Rights, and neither the president or the Federal government can do much about police terrorism.

States rights is what white supremacists across the United States would invoke when they deprived Black citizens of their rights.

In effect, they were declaring the Federal government had no jurisdiction over certain state matters without giving states first dibs on due process.  The  state could do what it wanted, with few exceptions, as long as it mimicked due process.

States rights is a cover for police terrorism.  Police are regulated by state and local government. From the police department, the commissioner’s office, the state or district attorney office, the grand jury, to the trial jury are usually mostly white, and prejudiced, if not mostly white supremacists, who have been in state and local government multiple generations and their sympathy for police over a Black suspect or victim is historical, legendary and entrenched.

So, the victim of police terrorism got to have the tape, witnesses, circumstancial evidence, etc.,  just to have a murder considered, although none of  it guarantees  justice.

The family of the Black victim has to convince an entrenched, protective police department to take appropriate disciplinary action against the accused, one of their own, get a skeptical public to remain open-minded, the D A. to charge the accused and convince the Grand Jury to indict the suspect cop or vigilante,  then convince the jury that a cop or a vigilante was not threatened, was not in fear of a lost when, they killed unnecessarily and without apparent justification.

This is why when a victim can have a tape,  like Rodney King, have witnesses and circumstancial evidence, and it still don’t guarantee  justice.  If finally disciplined, it doesn’t mean the cop or vigilante will be charged, or convicted, or sentenced a murderer’s sentence, again because of the multi-generational prejudice local people have for the police or a white vigilante over a Black suspect or victim.

The grieving family of the victim has to muster the energy and resources to overcome the multi-generational sentiment at  each criminal justice hurdle or burden of proof.

Baltimore charging 6 police officers in Freddie Gray’s murder is an exception because the mayor of the city is Black and the D.A. is Black and the people are demanding justice. But, ultimately, the jury will likely be reflect multiple generations of sympathy for police or a white vigilante over a Black suspect or victim.

Police across the country are aware of the multi-generational and systematic sympathy cops and vigilantes enjoy when the suspect or victim is Black.  Additionally,  they have all manner or KKK, militia, PSTD military veterans, and other white supremacists whose mentality is welcomed in law enforcement and in criminal justice careers and institutions where they can do their racist or mental illness under the law, and be protected by historical sentiment and prejudice while being out of the reach of federal intervention.  States Rights is code for White Supremacy; they’re declaring it with police terrorism and Blacks in body bags.

My country, tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I cringe.

Posted in Cop Killing, Police Brutality, Police Killing, Racism, Social Political, States Rights, White Supremacy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Domestic Terrorism & Intimidation

KKK

Trying to make sense out the barrage of attacks against Black people?  There are too many police and vigilante killings and assaults of Black people for this to be a coincidence; the powerful are signaling it’s okay.  It’s  the new “states rights” and “law & order” paradigm; and the feds can’t do a damn thing about it; neither can the Black president.

It’s the new way of calling Blacks, including the president — niggas; reminding them to stay in “their place.”

What other ethnic group can be targeted like Blacks, and there be no defense, not federal or local; only non violent protest?

Meanwhile, the signal is loud and clear: when the suspect, real or imagined, is black,  kill; cops/vigilantes/accessories are likely to not be charged or the homicide will be ruled justified; they only have to say they “felt threatened.”

A non- response from local and national governments only encourage more violence against Black Americans.  Only justice discourages and deters both violence and vugilanteism.  

Now, likely white supremacists have been further encouraged, and are burning down Black churches.

Municipalities across the country are unfairly targeting their Black communities with fines and levies for next to nothing, charging high bonds, all of which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, economic disenfranchisement, and fueling Black mass incarceration, while busting up families  and communities.

The Congress, indeed, policed and checked the president — he can’t  say white supremacy or Black, much less go out on a limb and do something life changing for Black people, as he has for just about  every other constituent group.

The targeting of the Black community is being done on the first Black president’s watch with barely a rebuttal from him,  much less taking drastically needed measures  to stop it or bring police terrorism and civilian vugilantees to justice.  In addition, a hate machine has sprouted, and millions of tax dollars continue to be wasted trying to undo the president’s signature, legislative successes.

Whereas, during the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement  shamed hypocritical white supremacy notions under ground,  since Obama’s election, there has been an all out cultural and political war against the president and Black people, sanctioned by  their very own governments, infiltrated by a white supremacist majority.

Today, white supremacists aren’t apologizing anymore; hell, they are denying Black history and imposing their white supremacist perspective as history in text books and in politics; they are daring to try and roll back what Black people have earned.

Consider the assault on social programs, unions, a living wage, while the masses subsidize the rich with perks that evade billions in taxes that could grow the nation’s infrastructure, create a jobs program, and make education more accessible for all citizens.  If left up to white supremacists, by 2040, those who have are gonna have more, and those minorities who don’t have, are gonna find it will get harder for them to get anything, particularly, government assistance, unless  they are rich.

The white suppremacist supporting cast has been the GOP, lame do-nothing Democrats, the Tea Party, the conservative radio and TV programs, 2nd Amendment gun activists, survivalists, malitia, having “Good Friday” runs on guns and ammo, NRA sanctioned fear that the “Black” president would try to ban their guns, which they consider, by extension, an assault  on white supremacy(that’s how they ‘won the West’ and maintain fear in the world), republican right-wing lunatics spewing a pathology of hatred and fear of a Black president, triggering the fear of a Black takeovers, etc. This is inspite of the fact that the Black community don’t have even the appearance of having overcome,  and they actually control nothing their survival depends on.

All of these White Supremacists’ assaults on the Black community  in this nation are signaling, enough is enough.  Whites are getting older, threatened by negative fertility rates,  they feel encroached, as they foresee 2040 when they will become a minority, whose population may be superceded by Hispanics.  So,  they are not going to pass on the mothership,  they will drive this bitch in ground before giving it up; check history! Until then, white power structure will suck the U.S. dry, remove the safety net, and run this bitch the way they see fit, without apology, political or otherwise, and their plan is to maintain the current status quo for eternity; and also maintain white supremacy.

Black people  are never gonna be free in the land of white supremacy, because that’s been the plan, strategy, and practice since the Emancipation Proclamation and others control almost everything Black people depend on. Notwithstanding, (white supremacists) domestic terrorists will kill Blacks  before allowing them to change that status quo, except for the worse. But, Blacks must change the status quo, if they are to survive eternally.

So, intimidation has become the new buzz word.  Inspite of whites’ fears about their threatened change  of status, they are intent on having Blacks and Hispanics respect and fear them like many did before the Civil  Rights Movement — when Blacks were threatened to not look whites in the eyes; when Blacks needed a white person to validate him, or his word was powerless in court against any white person; afraid to walk on the same sidewalk as they, and afraid to talk back them.

They are intent on Black people, and other minorities, when in the presence of whites, especially, police, assume the posture of guilt or gratitude; show respect and deference to whites, even when its not deserved.  But, change is acoming, and white supremacists can’t  stop that change or its consequences; they’re inevitable; and, Blacks are not going back to the old days.

Posted in Police Brutality, Racism, Social Political, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White Supremacy vs. Misnomers

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White supremacy is systemic, pathological acts against another of God’s creations which defies the concept of God, while declaring to be like and worshiping God. When you hate a people because of their God given characteristics, you are hating God.

Ever notice that the white supremacist media never mentions white supremacy or white supremacy doctrine unless referring to overt white supremacist organizations?    Are these groups the only U.S. bastions of white supremacy doctrine? 

Isn’t there  known white supremacy doctrine practiced in American homes, schools, churches, institutions, industries, housing, health, law, politics, etc.?  White supremacy permeates everything American, including “apple pie.”

So, why don’t the white supremacist media talk about it – they talk about every thing else?

The consequence of not identifying this pathology accurately is that almost no media or public figures talk about it.  It’s like a white-out; a mafia-type conspiracy where they have agreed not to say the words that could draw attention to their pathology. They all understand it should never be said, even when the white supremacist media are actively engaging white supremacy doctrine.  It’s like if America’s news organs don’t say it, then, with few exceptions,  it doesn’t exist.

If people, by habit or exposure to the white supremacy media, continue calling white supremacy racism, discrimination, bigotry, bias, or any other misnomer, it only distracts from identifying one of the most aggressive, pathological,  and regressive cancers that ails humanity. 

Humanity consists of only one race: the human race.  What we call racism is a misnomer because racism, bigotry, discrimination, bias, etc., can have benign connotations.  There is no ambiguity about White supremacy; it’s a pathological threat to humanity.

Racism can be construed by some as humanism (survival) which can be construed as normal behavior.  This and other aforementioned misnomers can be construed as preference or prejudice.  All of which are potent symptoms of white supremacy doctrine.  But they are not the root or the cause that threatens humanity.   

White supremacists perpetrate and camouflage white supremacy doctrine so you don’t see its root.  And, you know if you don’t see it you can’t fix or effectively deal with it.  By responding to the symptoms, racism, bigotry, discrimination, etc., you miss the core foundation of white supremacy doctrine, this cancer on humanity.

Racism, etc., has also has a benign connotation of one ethnicity bullying another. White supremacist manufacture and maintain that it’s the victims’ fault, and set about creating hostile conditions for the targeted group, which robs their vision of hope, and justifies and compells others to disrespect that targeted ethnic group similarly.

You can have prejudice and bias, without white supremacy doctrine, and as it is in families and among friends, it will be considered a normal, periodic inconvenience and unsettling, but not lead one to kill, maim or oppress.  It is the pathological belief system of  supremacy doctrine that make normal human relations toxic.

White supremacy doctrine is self explanatory, the belief that white people are Gods on earth and that non-white people, are polar opposites, akin to the devils, at varying degrees that white supremacists determine,  to manage, overlord, suppress or oppress non-white people, to maintain the perception of white supremacy, as is their will. 

So, calling the pathology of ethnic hatred white supremacy naturally pitts white supremacists against the rest of  the world.  But, because white supremacist media don’t mention it, instead they call it racism, a tool and symptom, it pitts almost all ethnic groups against one, by creating such a hostile environment that others join in stepping on the targeted group.  But, if we called these acts what they are: white supremacy, the entire majority of humanity might see it as threats against them, as well. 

White supremacy doctrine would be subject to defacto ridicule and it would compell every ethnic group to challenge its effects, and look for ways to defeat white supremacy.  “Racism” does not compell as many to outrage, ‘it’s their problem not mine.’ Instead, “Whew,” others say, “I’m glad the disenfranchisement is directed at that group and not mine.” They may even sympathize with the targeted group, but may not  see the injustice as a threat against themselves, the non-targeted ethnic group.  They see it directed mostly at another  group.

So, we can do something about this conspiracy of connivance:  start identifying this anti-God belief system as what it really is: white supremacy doctrine abd practice — a threat to humanity — and watch how people respond.

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Black Male Schools, Segregation or Empowerment

 What does it say that the prerogative of a Black Male School is still controversial, rather than hopeful?

In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Public School System launched one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in public education last month in the form of a pilot African American Immersion School. Reflecting a growing dissatisfaction with the conventional Eurocentric educational curriculum’s ability to reach and properly educate Black children, particularly males, the pilot school has caused a tremor across the nation which has reverberated since it was announced more than a year ago.

 When the announcemnt was made, in September 1990, two AAIS were planned.  Since then, Fulton Middle’s School’s planned participation has been postponed until the September 1992 school year.

 The AAIS, housed at Berger Elementary School, opened its doors, on Sept. 3, with an Afrocentric educational curriculum and open enrollment, but the school’s mission is decidedly Black and male centered; and for good reason.

 While the status of Black students in education nationally is better now compared to 30 years ago, according the U.S. Department of Education, it’s still appalling, for the group that can afford failure the least: African American males; a fact that is evident throughout the nation’s cities.

 In Milwaukee, last year, 80 percent of the Black male students earned a grade of “C” or lower.  Although 28 percent of the public school student body, Black males represented 50 percent of the suspensions (ranking third in the nation for suspensions of Black students, according to Gannett News Service), and  94.4 percent of the expulsions.  

 According to the New Republic, in April, “A task force appointed last year found that in [Milwaukee’s] 15 high schools, white students averaged a score of about 60 on a reading test administered in the 10th grade, and Blacks about 25.  A gulf of equal size existed in math and reading tests, in the second, fifth, and seventh grades.  

 “The task force [of parents and educators] took the findings as an indictment of the schools and recommended to the school board an ambitious all-Black school experiment.”

 Mr. Kenneth Holt, principle of Bell Middle School, and architect of the immersion school plan, said on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour in May, “America’s schools are set up to educate the majority of students, right now, the Anglo-Americans.  The school systems in the central cities have done a very poor job of educating the African-Americans or what we call culturally relevant teaching,” adding, “The present system is not working so we have to move foreword.

 “It’s not working for African American students.  It’s just not working, not only in Milwaukee, [but in] Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, it’s not working.”

 In Prince George’s County, Md., for example, Black students make up 65 percent of the system’s 106,000 students, yet account for 81 percent of the its suspensions; scores 18 percent below the white peers on standardized tests; comprise 75 percent of the school system’s dropouts, and are punished more severely for aggressive behavior.

 According to the Chicago Tribune, “More than half of Black males enrolled in Chicago high schools never graduate; 29 percent of the Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 spent time in the Cook County jail last year.”

 The AAIS is taking on the challenge to save as many at-risk, young Black students, as possible, by educating and equipping them with the ability to see themselves becoming successful, inspite of their living under racially oppressive economic and social conditions that rival almost any poor, developing nation.

 The idea is that if the school can get Black boys, in particular, away from the constant barrage of homicide, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment and more and bring them into a nurturing educational environment of upwardly mobile, Black men, who are centered around building in the youth a proper value system, that when returned to their normal setting, there would be a measurable increase in their academic achievement.  

 Perceived as the first publicly financed school in recent memory geared towards a specific race and gender, the planned pilot school  spurred both hopefulness and a loathing fear.

 Opponents of the pilot school, which also include parents, members of the Milwaukee Board of Education, the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, nationally known psychologist Kenneth Clark, whose work was cited in the Landmark Brown vs. Board of Education which outlawed segregation in public education,  argue that by virtue of setting up a special school for Black males or emphasizing special attention to them, even though their social, economic and academic conditions warrant it, is segregation.

  They argue further that preferring Black over non-Black and male over female in selecting the faculty and the student body, would violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibit, respectively race and sex discrimination in any programs or activities that receive financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.

 “…Unconstitutional racism and sexism blatantly taint the plan,” writes William Bradford Reynolds, former President Reagan’s assistant secretary for Civil Rights, along with Bruce Fein, in a stinging commentary, published in American Lawyer Newspaper Group.

 “The immersion schools will be set aside for instruction that uniquely benefits Black males; the educational needs of Black females and whites will not receive comparable attention… That Black females and whites are permitted to enroll at the schools does not cure these constitutional vices.”  

 Proponents counter, that the AAIS cannot segregate a system that already is segregated.  

 Milwaukee, whose student population is 60 percent Black has been under court desegregation order since 1976; 19 of its 150 schools are still considered segregated, according to the Christian Science Monitor.  An University of Chicago study identified Milwaukee as one of five ‘hypersegregated’ cities in the United States.  

 “I don’t see that what we are doing is a challenge to the civil right act or the Education Amendment,” says Jocklyn Smith, liaison between the MPS and the AAIS.   She says that Berger Elementary School was already all Black. It is still open to both boys and girls.

 “We’re looking at a number of different instructional strategies for teaching children,” she said.  “In fact, there are a number of projects and programs throughout the school system geared to reach at-risk students. We’ll be concentrating them at the African American Immersion School.”

 “For those who say the African American Immersion School segregates, they need to visit any city and urban school in America,” says Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, author of several books on educating Black boys, including Countering The Conspiracy To Destroy Black Boys, Vols. I and II.  The director of African American Images, a Chicago-based publishing and educational consulting firm, says, “if you look for the boys, you’ll find them in special ed[ucation] classes, remedial reading classes or in the principle’s office waiting to be suspended.

 Educators and parents argue that the Eurocentric educational curriculum, helps reinforce the segregation that results from social and economic discrimination.  They argue that the Eurocentric educational curriculum suggests, convincingly, that Africans and other non-whites made no contributions of consequence to civilization, and that white males made almost all of the contributions worthy of documentation.  It fosters the notions of white supremacy and Black inferiority; many whites leave the public school system thinking they’re superior, while Blacks leave school as drop outs, suspended or expelled, with the notion of inferiority having delivered an early, telling blow.

 “The standard European American model bores our children,” said Mrs. Imani Humphrey, founder of Aisha Shule, an Afrocentric school in Detroit. “They don’t see the relevance to their lives.  From Christopher Columbus to Ronald Reagan, there is an exclusion of the their people in their lessons.”

 Parents and educators, increasingly are concluding that educating their children through an exclusively European value system and culture, in too many cases, renders the education or the poor, Black students, particularly males, as irrelevant.

 In response, there has been a rash of public and community-based programs which have sprung up over the last several years which are aimed to address the needs of Black students by supplementing the curriculum and or faculty.  They range from mentor and tutoring programs to having the public school system adopt a multicultural or an Afrocentric educational curriculum, in an attempt to balance the Eurocentric curriculum by infusing the contributions of non-white people and women in all of the arts, sciences and humanities.

 For example, the Minneapolis public schools, last January, began the Afrocentric Educational Academy, a two-year pilot that involves 32 Black boys and girls, grades six through eight, who spend a half a day in regular classes and the other half in Afrocentric classes.  

 In Baltimore, Md., three pilot public schools have achieved critical acclaim for the results of its Project 2000, an effort to provide Black, male teacher assistants, who participate, in intervals, in the daily school life of inner-city, primary-aged African American boys.

 According to the Baltimore Sun, Robert Coleman Elementary School, one of Baltimore’s pilot schools,  with Project 2000, which began in September 1990,  reports that all but one of it’s 20-student, male class of first graders are reading on a second grade level, after coming into the program just barely reading.

 “Discipline problems have almost disappeared. Attendance has improved. And during the year, the class even defeated a group of first-grade girls in a math competition.”

 Dr. Holland Spencer founded Project 2000 in 1988 in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of Concerned Black Men, a community service organization. He is now director of The Center for Educating African American Males, of Morgan University, which sponsors Project 2000 in Baltimore.  

 “Having positive role models is central to the development of a young boy,” Dr. Spencer says, adding: “[its] especially crucial for Black boys from single-parent families.”

  CEAAM, is dedicated to fostering educational programs aimed at increasing academic achievement throughout elementary school grades, through teacher recruitment and training, curriculum revision, parental participation, community involvement, and research and intervention in overcoming peer pressure against academic achievement.

 There is also the Chicago-based 100 Black Men, an educational group active in schools in nearly two dozen cities and the Rites of Passage program, where black men use tradtional African rituals and principles to mark stages of growth and development.

 Another aspect of the Milwaukee AAIS pilot which has sparked controversy is that proponents have argued  that Blacks have different learning styles that Eurocentric educators and curriculum reject.  

  Holt said, “research indicates that children of color are “sensory-perceptual learners,”  “broad-field-dependent,” and that they have more “advanced linguistic development than other cultures.”   

 According to the Seattle Times, research revealed in the 1960s that there are three learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

 “Those who absorb information by doing tasks — the kinesthetic learners — are usually left behind, bored and lost.”

 Dr. Janice Hale-Benson, an associate professor of education at Cleveland State University in Ohio, did a study which documented learning styles that were ethnic sensitive.  Her study underscored the belief that predominantly white faculty and learning curriculum rejects non-white learning styles and information.  

 She says, for example, “Take Michael Jackson, Michael Jordon, Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.  They have made distinct contributions to American culture, but they would be a kindergarten teacher’s worst nightmare.  

 The founder of Visions, an Afrocentric independent grade school, in Warensville Heights, Cleveland, Dr. Hale-Benson said, “[The teacher] would wind up telling Michael Jackson to sit still, Michael Jordon to sit down and Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy to shut up.”

 Leon Moore, director, of independent, 500-student, Chad School, of Newark, N.J., describes the theory of cultural learning traits, as “hogwash.”  More importantly, he says, the education must be relevant to the child’s life experiences.  

 The AAIS will stress values and a sense of community; feature a mentoring program, a “rites of passage,” longer school days, and Saturday tutoring.  Teachers will stay with the same students for a two to three years as they proceed in grade school.

 This personal attention and nurturement is not unlike that which occurs at the more than 350 independent, private, Black schools across the nation, “that we have identified,” says Dr. Joan Davis Ratteray, director of the Institute for Independent Education, “and that [number] may be the tip of the iceberg.”

 She says that the largest African American independent school is Ivy Leaf, of Philadelphia. It has around 2,200 students (including day care and pre-kindergarten).  St. Francis Charles Hall of Baltimore, Md., is the oldest African American independent school, which was founded in 1828. These schools average grades run kindergarten through 12th grade, have about 150 students, and average cost may be about $2,400 tuition per year, as compared to $5,000 tax payers pay for each public school student.

 “…Independent Black schools around the nation have gained a level of academic achievement and cultural emphasis that far exceeds public-school norms,” according to The New York Times.  

 Dr. Ratteray says that “it doesn’t make sense” to go to the same government who caused the problem and ask them to fund the solution.  She says that proponents of Black, male schools “overlook institutions in our own community.”  

 Many of those independent schools are multicultural, wholly Afrocentric and are self supporting through tuition and parental support.

 Afrocentric, independent schools, often teach standard coursework, but also supplement Eurocentric textbooks with those that include the contributions of Africans and African Americans.  Students may be required to recite an African American pledge of allegiance to a the red, black and green African American flag; openly discuss the notions of white supremacy and oppression; learn Swahili as a second language; and learn a great deal about ancient and contemporary Africa, its descendants throughout the diaspora and their many contributions to humankind.  

 In Afrocentric independent schools, students may be required to adopt African names.  They wear African styled clothes, greet one another in Swahili, celebrate African and African American heroes on standard holidays, decorate the schools with images of African and African American prints, photographs, etc. and the students practice certain African rituals and customs. Parents have a dominant presence at these schools in that many of them are required to participate in guiding the school.

 While the Afrocentric curriculum is lambasted by opponents as a loose attempt to put a Black face on history to inflate the Black child’s self esteem, it has been adopted or is under consideration in several cities, including Portland, Oregon, New York, Detroit, Washington, Seattle, Baltimore, Wisconsin, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland, Atlanta, and Iowa.  

 About the AAIS, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, psychiatrist, Harvard University, who also appeared on the MLNH, said, “I think [its] worth a try on a lot of theoretical grounds.  I think first of all the Black male is frequently rejected even as a young child in a school system by teachers.  I think a lot of the school systems are female-oriented, both in staffing, but also in many of their styles.  They don’t really address Black male children in the inner city.

 “I think that the more real the teaching methods that focus on their environment and background and styles that the more effective the teaching.”

 About the Afrocentric curriculum, Dr. Spencer says, it “has to be tried because American education has failed this population of children and they have no other answer.”

 Ujamaa Institute, another proposed Black, male academy for New York City public schools, was returned to the drafting table after raising the ire of traditionalists and the New York American Civil Liberties Union threatened litigation.

 In Seattle, Washington, the African American Academy, another, pilot elementary school with an Afrocentric curriculum, also was launched in September. It met with the same charges of segregation, although Seattle is the home to the American Indian Heritage School, the Gypsy School, Proyecto Saber and Escuela Latona Schools (both for Spanish-speaking students).

  “Still, in the minds of its proponents and in the symbolism of its name, the academy is different,” according to The Seattle Times.   “Issues of racial separatism and historic segregation are raised by an elementary school that wants to call itself ‘Afrocentric.'”

 This is clearly a battle over whether the Afrocentrists will “correct” the nation’s educational curriculum or whether Eurocentrists will continue to decide what is “correct” education for all Americans, women and non-whites.  While the integrity of the educational system may be at stake, the very survival of highly energetic, yet vulnerable, young Black males, also is at stake.

 The AAIS is no panacea.  It is only an experiment.  However, to some it is percieved as having the potential to become the academic proverbial David vs. Goliath to the conventional Eurocentric curriculum in Milwaukee.

 Essentially the school has decided to become educator and surrogate parent to children at risk.  Whether it can, successfully, remains to be seen.  However, it should try to save its students, particularly the most vulnerable, by any means necessary; and the community at large, due to the urgency of their plight, should be squarely behind them.  

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