29 December 2009

Don Belton, 1956 - 2009

UPDATE:
New Year's Day vigil planned to honor English professor

The Indiana University and Bloomington community is invited to attend a community vigil in honor of Assistant Professor of English Don Belton. The vigil will be held on Friday, Jan. 1 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. at the southeast corner of the courthouse square (the intersection of Walnut Street and Kirkwood Avenue).

And a website has been set up Justice for Don Belton.com

In honor of the late writer, editor and professor, my entry on him in that appears (in slightly different form) in Emmanuel S. Nelson's Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States.

Belton, Don
b. 1956

The major themes of the work of African American writer and editor Don Belton include the gulf between real and represented masculinity, the impossibility of living without love, and home and the quest for sanctuary. His friendships with black gay writers James Baldwin, Melvin Dixon, Randall Kenan, Essex Hemphill and the filmmaker Marlon Riggs influenced the exploration of the potential of a range of caring relationships between men in his writing.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Belton’s family valued stories, songs, and the art of conversation and encouraged him to express himself from an early age, supplying him with books, paper, art supplies, music and his own desk and chair. He graduated from Bennington College in1981, and received a MA from Hollins College in 1982. He met and was befriended by James Baldwin in New York while an undergraduate at Bennington, a further encouragement for him to write.

Belton published the novel Almost Midnight in 1986. Set in the Hill section of Newark, New Jersey, the novel details the conflicting attempts to determine the truth about a legendary light-skinned African American preacher, ‘Daddy’ Sam Poole by the various women in his life. Founder of the successful “Metaphysical Church of the Divine Investigation,” the mystery of Daddy Poole remains unanswered by the novels’ end, and the women cannot separate themselves from their memories of him.

Belton’s peripatetic teaching career has lead to extensive travel in the United States and abroad, including Ireland, France, Brazil, England, Italy and the Ivory Coast. The friendships he developed during this period with African American novelists Melvin Dixon and Randall Kenan, the filmmaker Marlon Riggs, and poet Essex Hemphill encouraged him to focus his work on black male relationships, leading to the anthology Speak My Name (1997).

A reaction to a number of issues concerning African Americans in the 1990’s from the ‘cultural wars’ and the Million Man March of October 1996, to the violence and despair in US cities and the “New Male” movement led by Robert Bly and Sam Keen that held little interest in African-American male representation, Speak My Name feature a range of short fiction and essays which counter distorted images of African American men. Including work by established and emerging writers and scholars Amiri Baraka, Henry Louis Gates, Robin D. G. Kelley, Walter Mosley, John Edgar Wideman, August Wilson and others, the anthology explores unconventional, nonmainstream expressions of black masculinity. An interview/conversation between Belton, gay British filmmaker Isaac Julien, poet Essex Hemphill also critiques heterosexism and debates whether traditional visions of ‘black unity’ can include gay men.

A former reporter at Newsweek, Don Belton has also written articles for Black Film Review, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Advocate and Utne Reader. His short stories have appeared in the Indiana Review, Black Literature Forum, Breaking Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Short Fiction, and Calling the Wind: An Anthology of the Twentieth Century African-American Short Story. He has been a Fellow at the McDowell Colony and Yaddo. His awards include a Lila Wallace International Travel and Research Grant, a Bellagio/Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and a Dance Advance/Pew Charitable Trust Grant for Dramaturgy. Belton has taught literature and fiction writing at Macalester College, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Bennington, Temple University and lectured widely abroad including in the Ivory Coast (sponsored by Arts America/United States Information Agency), at the Sorbonne, and at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Currently at work on his second novel, Belton lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Indiana University.

Sources:

Anderson, Elijah. "Manhood Under Pressure." (Book Review of Speak My Name). New York Times Book Review, March 03, 1996. pg. 22

Baker-Fletcher, G. Kasimu. "Macho Deconstructed." Cross Currents Volume 46, Number 4 (Winter 1996/97) pg. 565

Belton, Don. Almost Midnight. New York: William Morrow/Beech Tree Books (1986)

Belton, Don. "How to Make Love to a White Man." Transition: An International Review. Volume 7.1 [Number 73] (1998), p.164-75

Belton, Don. “Introduction.” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, editor. Gary in Your Pocket: Stories and Notebooks of Gary Fisher. Durham NC: Duke University Press (1996)

Belton, Don. “Voodoo for Charles.” Charles Johnson and John McCluskey, Jr., editors. Black Men Speaking. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press (1997)

Belton, Don, editor. Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream. Boston: Beacon Press (1997)

Harris, Reginald. "Greetings and Questions" (Personal Interview via e-mail to Don Belton). August 7 – September 9, 2008.

Hogue, W. Lawrence. “Chapter Ten: Voodoo, A Different American Experience, and Don Belton’s Almost Midnight.” The African American Male, Writing and Difference: A Polycentric Approach to African American Literature, Criticism, and History.
New York: SUNY Press (2003) (p 225 -251)

Seaman, Donna. "Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream." (Book Review) Booklist. Volume 92 Number 9-10 (January 1, 1996) p756.

Tate, Claudia. “All the Preacher's Women” (Review of Almost Midnight). New York Times, August 17, 1986.

Rest in Peace Don

13 November 2009

Black Action Heroes

Attended a conversation between artist/photographer Hank Willis Thomas (my super-fuzzy photo of him signing copies of Pitch Blackness, at left. Check the Johns Hopkins link below for a much better look at him!) and at the Baltimore Museum of Art last night -- and also attempted my first Live Tweet from the event as well! Visual artists fascinate me, how they turn ideas into images, how they 'speak' in colors and textures. Thomas has been in residence at Johns Hopkins this semester, and the discussion was very good. Some quotes from the evening I found/find particularly fecund, like his use of 'appropriated' images from advertising and considers himself a "visual culture archivist" when doing so because "certain things can only be said by re-presenting them...how do I make this (ready-made) image my own?"

"I didn't realize I really wanted to BE an artist until after going through ten years of art school. Up to then I was just figuring stuff out."

And my favorite line of the evening: If he were stranded on a desert island "I would make art out of sand. Sand is infinite..."

As a poet of course I was particularly fascinated by his explication of the "I Am A Man" series, based on the famous placards from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike -- and how it should be read. I mentioned after the talk that I had read the texts first image upper left, next image lower left, back up to the second image on the first line...up and down all the way across. He presented them from to right across the first line as a history of the way blacks have been looked at (3/5 of a man, are we men?, Ain't I a Woman coming into the picture with the rise of the Woman's movemnt, etc) with the second row of texts, some of the popular riffs on that text, like 'I Am The Man' or 'What A Man') "reading like a poem." The final image "I Am. AMEN." ends the work with a statement of how we all want to be seen.

One of Thomas' projects, on display in Baltimore until the end of November is "Winter in America" a short film he did in collaboration with Kambui Olujimi uses GI Joes to dramatize the murder of his cousin Songha Thomas Willis in 2000 (can be seen by clicking 'The Film' under the 'Winter in America' link on his website). It is disturbing, sad, powerful, and very moving, and does indeed make you think about the role violent 'play' might have in real violence.

Henry Willis Thomas will be doing one more event before he leaves Baltimore, a Community Salon where he'll discuss his participation in the Artist-in-Residence Program at the Johns Hopkins on Saturday, November 14, 2009 (3:00 – 5:00 pm) at Galerie Myrtis (2224 N. Charles St). Those in the area should try not to miss it.

Interestingly enough, and speaking of violent play....Just in time for the Holidays (thanks to the Bronze Buckaroo), I've learned of other Black 'action figures' recently, like the figure of Brazilian superstar Anderson "The Spider" Silva here, one of a series of Mixed Martial Arts Figures now on sale. I am old enough to remember there being NO black or brown action figures (aka "Dolls for Boys") when I was growing up, so items like this still amaze and fascinate me.

Even more amazing is this set of
History In Action Toys, featuring past achievers Bessie Coleman, Matthew Henson, and the recently blogged-about Benjamin Banneker, complete with almanac and compass!

And finally, plugs for other kinds of action figures, and members of the "Harris Family Extended": Thomas Allen Harris, who I was fortunate enough to meet recently in Austin Texas, and whose film Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela can be seen on PBS stations around the country, (he talks about the film here); and vibraphonist Stephon Harris, whose 1999 album gives this post its title. Click on the album cover to enjoy.


08 November 2009

Poem: Benjamin Banneker Sends His “Almanac” to Thomas Jefferson by Jay Wright


At Left: Holding Benjamin Banneker's 1796 Almanac, Pratt Library Special Collections Dept, Saturday November 7, 2009








Benjamin Banneker Sends His “Almanac” to Thomas Jefferson
by Jay Wright

Old now,
your eyes nearly blank
from plotting the light's
movement over the years,
you clean your Almanac
and place it next
to the heart of this letter.
I have you in mind,
giving a final brush and twist
to the difficult pages,
staring down the shape of the numbers
as though you would find a flaw
in their forms.
Solid, these calculations
verify your body on God's earth.
At night,
the stars submit themselves
to the remembered way you turn them;
the moon gloats under your attention.
I, who know so little of stars,
whose only acquaintance with the moon
is to read a myth, or to listen
to the surge
of songs the women know,
sit in your marvelous reading
of all movement,
of all relations.


So you look into what we see
yet cannot see,
and shape and take a language
to give form to one or the other,
believing no form will escape,
no movement appear, nor stop,
without explanation,
believing no reason is only reason,
nor without reason.
I read all of this into your task,
all of this into the uneasy
reproof of your letter.


Surely, there must be a flaw.
These perfect calculations fall apart.
There are silences
that no perfect number can retrieve,
omissions no perfect line could catch.
How could a man but challenge God's
impartial distributions?
How could a man sit among
the free and ordered movements
of stars, and waters, beasts and birds,
each movement seen or accounted for,
and not know God jealous,
and not know that he himself must be?


So you go over the pages again,
looking for the one thing
that will not reveal itself,
judging what you have received,
what you have shaped,
believing it cannot be strange
to the man you address.
But you are strange to him
—your skin, your tongue,
the movement of your body,
even your mysterious ways with stars.
You argue here with the man and God,
and know that no man can be right,
and know that no God will argue right.
Your letter turns on what the man knows,
on what God, you think, would have us know.
All stars will forever move under your gaze,
truthfully, leading you from line to line,
from number to number, from truth to truth,
while the man will read your soul's desire,
searcher, searching yourself,
losing the relations.

From Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

29 October 2009

Roy de Carava 1919-2009


“It doesn’t have to be pretty to be true. But if it’s true it’s beautiful. Truth is beautiful. And so my whole work is about what amounts to a reverence for life itself.”






Ketchup Bottles, Table and Coat
(After a photograph by Roy DeCarava)

Just a moment after: The darkness
has one story left to tell -- of what is left behind
the genesis of night and all its

grandeur: the action is
elsewhere, some other room, not this
inked way station of the heart

abandoned by its essence. Good-byes already
said, footfalls barely heard. And
what is waiting there.

Just seconds before: A universe expecting
to be born, open hand hovering beyond
the frame poised to sweep the plain plane

clean of things not spoken, heard within,
the spaces between sound, barely seen. The
slightest veil of presence

out the door. A story yet to tell. And what is
waiting there. What left behind: Spare scene.
Perfumed remnants of romance.

Obsidian III 4.2 (Fall-Winter 2002)

23 October 2009

TSE @ UB

In honor of Thomas Sayers Ellis and his reading and thrilling Q & A at the University of Baltimore as part of their MFA Reading Series, one of last night's poems (Hear him read it here, in imitation of the famous Caedmon Recordings)



All Their Stanzas Look Alike

by Thomas Sayers Ellis

All their fences
All their prisons
All their exercises
All their agendas
All their stanzas look alike
All their metaphors
All their bookstores
All their plantations
All their assassinations
All their stanzas look alike
All their rejection letters
All their letters to the editor
All their arts and letters
All their letters of recommendation
All their stanzas look alike
All their sexy coverage
All their literary journals
All their car commercials
All their bribe-spiked blurbs
All their stanzas look alike
All their favorite writers
All their writing programs
All their visiting writers
All their writers-in-residence
All their stanzas look alike
All their third worlds
All their world series
All their serial killers
All their killing fields
All their stanzas look alike
All their state grants
All their tenure tracks
All their artist colonies
All their core faculties
All their stanzas look alike
All their Selected Collecteds
All their Oxford Nortons
All their Academy Societies
All their Oprah Vendlers
All their stanzas look alike
All their haloed holocausts
All their coy hertero couplets
All their hollow haloed causes
All their tone-deaf tercets
All their stanzas look alike
All their table of contents
All their Poet Laureates
All their Ku Klux classics
All their Supreme Court justices
Except one, except one
Exceptional one. Exceptional or not,
One is not enough.
All their stanzas look alike,
Even this, after publication,
Might look alike. Disproves
My stereo types.

From The Maverick Room by Thomas Sayers Ellis (Graywolf Press)

15 October 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

I'm very happy to join bloggers around the world today to use this medium to talk about global warming and climate change

Rather than talking about Global Warming, perhaps we should call what's going on now "Crazy Weather". It may make more sense to the average person, for whom the notion that shorter seasons, increasingly worse storms, crazy-making heat in the Summer (and Spring, and Fall) cannot possibly be due to 'Global Warming.'

Global Warming Facts & Figures

The Top 100 Effects of Global Warming (no more French Fries or Wine but More Mosquitoes!)

The planet is changing around us, and because of us. One might almost think that it has had enough of this virus called 'human beings' and is trying to get rid of us.

My own personal facination (since I've actually been there, amazingly enough) changes in the ice sheet in Antartica

Fortunately, there are things we can do, both small and large, regardless of age, to pull us back from the brink. For example (and considering my energy bill), I've become a BIG fan of increased insulation!

10 Solutions for Climate Change

One thing I would suggest is to lobby your elected officials to do more to help your jurisdiction reduce its carbon footprint (various carbon footprint calculators can be found here). And vote out those pols, most in the pockets of energy companies, who continue to insist that there's no such thing as Global Warming. For example can our friends in Oklahoma start with Senator James Inhofe, who will be attending the upcoming Global Warming Summit in order to deny that there is such a thing as Global Warming ? I mean, really? Come on....Sometimes doing our part to solve the problem of climate change can be as simple as entering a polling booth.

26 September 2009

Mid-Lits


Last weekend in September = too much of a good thing in this area (why is it always Feast or Famine when it comes to things to do?). The Baltimore Book Festival started yesterday (Friday 9/25) and runs through tomorrow (Sunday 9/27). Down the road a piece in Washington, the National Book Festival is today (Saturday 9/26). As I had to remind someone, the Library of Congress poached on OUR date....that darn encroaching Big Gubmint strikes again!

While DC has more Big Names, Baltimore's event gives people more of a chance to talk to authors and to check out what's going on here in the local scene. Like most things Baltimore it's smaller scale, relaxed, slightly scruffy, with (more than?)just a dash of eccentricity. After a few years of not doing any events at the Baltimore Festival, I'm paying for my past slackness by being part of a couple of programs, both on Sunday. First I'll be playing host to fellow Cave Canem Fellows Derrick Weston Brown, Kyle Dargan, Jadi Omowale, Venus Thrash, Jacqueline Jones LaMon, Tara Betts, and Kamau Rucker in the Creative Cafe (Kamau on guitar 12 Noon, reading 12:30 pm). Then at the CityLit tent at 5 pm I'll be moderating a dissussion with poets John Pursley III, Sue Ellen Thompson, Charlie Jensen and Rachel Eisler.

Cave Canem actually makes its first weekend appearance at the festival today (Saturday) at 4 pm with a panel asking "To Form or Not To Form" when writing poetry with Derrick Brown, Kyle Dargan and Tara Betts, moderated by Jadi Omowale -- and with me standing in the back cheering them on.

Ya'll Come!

24 August 2009

Summer Reading

Whatever you may think about President Obama, everyone can agree that he's ambitious. For example, here's his 'vacation reading list' during his week in Martha's Vineyard

-- Thomas Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded"

-- David McCullough's "John Adams"

-- Richard Price's "Lush Life"

-- Kent Haruf's "Plainsong"

-- George Pelecanos's "The Way Home"

I can understand the desire for self-improvement over the summer. Every year I think about tackling some literary behemouth (this year is was going to be Anthony Trollope's Victorian triple decker The Way We Live Now)...but what can I say? It was hot. And humid. And unlike the Prez I don't have all those briefing books to go through every day. Or two children to deal with. Or the allure of the beach to draw me away from the pages. I wish him a lot of luck!

I have read a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry since June, and will probably finish at least one or two more books before Labour Day (guess I'm one of those people on whom our annual Summer Reading Program actually 'took'). But yeah, those 100 chapters of 19th Century financial scandal still becon...Well, there's always the Holidays!

Also in a reading mood: Tayari Jones asks for Poolside reading suggetions

28 July 2009

Lynn

E Lynn Harris relates the folllowing incident with a favorite family member in his memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: It is October 1991, and Harris is just about to self-publish his first book, Invisible Life. In talking to his 'Aunt Gee' he,

...mentioned that I was becoming comfortable with spending my life alone since I was gay. As I have said before, my aunt has always been supportive of me, no matter what. But during this talk, she said something that hurt me deeply.

'Baby, if I had raised you, I don't think you would have been gay.'

A chill went though my body, and after a few moments of silence I said, 'No Aunt Gee, you're wrong. I might ahve learned to love myself sooner, but I would still have been gay.'

...

The next day I delivered a copy of my novel to my aunt. A couple of days later, just before midnight, I got a call from her. This was very strange, because for as long as I could remember my aunt was always in bed by ten, unless you count the holidays when she was up late preparing meals.

When I made sure everything was all right with Uncle Charles and my cousins, I asked why she was calling me so late, and she said something that warmed my heart.

'Baby, I just finished your novel, and it's beautiful. Will you please forgive me for what I said the other day? Now I finally understand what you were trying to tell me,' Aunt Gee said. Through my tears I told her that of course I could forgive he and thanked her for calling. That night when I went to bed, I knew nothing was going to stop me from publishing my book.


Call it the "E Lynn Harris Effect." For many readers, gay and straight, E Lynn Harris' novels were windows into the lives of black people they'd never seen written about before. For many non-black and heterosexual readers, Lynn's books provided their first encounter with black, Same Gender Loving men. For both younger LGBTQ people as well as his contemporaries, the first time they encountered stories from their world, by and about themselves were in the pages of E Lynn Harris' novels. Over ten years ago I remember seeing a young man furtively but intently reading one of our well-worn copies of Invisible Life at the Pennsylvania Avenue Branch of the library here, concerned, no doubt about others seeing him reading it, but intensely involved in the book nonetheless.

Lynn Harris also had an impact on the larger world of publishing as well. Starting out as a self-published author placing books in beauty parlors and selling them from the trunk of his car, the amazing success of Invisible Life caught the attention of mainstream publishers, which republished it and its sequels. Lynn was one of the first black authors to 'cross over' going from self-publishing to the top of the New York Times bestseller's list. (This was the point when I stopped jokingly referring to him as "Cousin Lynn": I figured enough REAL relatives would start showing up now that he was a success that he didn't need a fake one running around) Together, he and Terry McMillan helped to brake the stereotype that 'black people don't read.' He was a 'pop fiction' author, with no pretenses to 'literary' stardom: he simply wanted to continually improve at being a good storyteller and have as many people as possible read his books.

Some people have turned their noses up at Lynn's work saying they were little more than "Romances" (like Romance is a bad thing....), and they may not be everyones cup of literary tea. However, we should remember that before McMillan and Harris, the number of 'popular' or mid-list black authors was miniscule. Judith Krantz, Danelle Steele, and the Collins sisters (Jackie and Joan) were the authors many African American women read voraciously. There were few representations of black people in 'popular fiction' or on the paperback shelves. Lynn and Terry's success helped to change that, leading to the rise of the "Girlfriend" book, and now -- for better or worse -- "Street Lit" (although I do look forward to the next black gay or lesbian author to approach his level of sales)

(Photo: E Lynn Harris with Lamar Wilson) Lynn was also a great supporter of other writers, particularly other black -- sometimes gay, sometimes not -- authors just starting out. At his own events, Lynn always gave his fans a list of books by other authors they might enjoy while waiting for his next novel. He was co-editor with Marita Golden of the anthology Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing, helping to raise funds for the Hurston/Wright Foundation and guest editor of the Best African American Fiction 2009, and sometimes held 'launch parties' at his home in Chicago for other authors. Lynn was a major friend and supporter of the nation's public libraries -- I'm not sure he ever said 'no' when a library asked him to give a reading.

One of the most inspiring things about E Lynn Harris was how little he seemed let fame change him. He was the same friendly, courteous person he was when I first met him while buying one of his self-published copies of Invisible Life back in 1992, as he did the last time I saw him, almost 10 years later at a reading at the library. Every time I saw him he was genuinely grateful and appreciative of his adoring fans and everyone who read or purchased a copy of one of his books. As someone recently said to me, he was a True Southern Gentleman. He loved his fans and readers -- and we loved him right back.

14 July 2009

Blog Action Day: 10 Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media‏

I'm very proud and happy to participate in this blogosphere-wide event. This post, being simultaneously published across more than 100 blogs, is a collaboration between Mashable's Summer of Social Good charitable fundraiser and Max Gladwell's "10 Ways" series.

summerofsocialgoodnew

Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues. That's one of the reasons charities can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.

Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you. If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you'd like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

1. Write a Blog Post


Blogging is one of the easiest ways you can help a charity or cause you feel passionate about. Almost everyone has an outlet for blogging these days -- whether that means a site running WordPress, an account at LiveJournal, or a blog on MySpace or Facebook. By writing about issues you're passionate about, you're helping to spread awareness among your social circle. Because your friends or readers already trust you, what you say is influential.

Recently, a group of green bloggers banded together to raise individual $1 donations from their readers. The beneficiaries included Sustainable Harvest, Kiva, Healthy Child, Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, and Water for People. The blog-driven campaign included voting to determine how the funds would be distributed between the charities. You can read about the results here.

You should also consider taking part in Blog Action Day, a once a year event in which thousands of blogs pledge to write at least one post about a specific social cause (last year it was fighting poverty). Blog Action Day will be on October 15 this year.

2. Share Stories with Friends


twitter-links

Another way to spread awareness among your social graph is to share links to blog posts and news articles via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, and even through email. Your network of friends is likely interested in what you have to say, so you have influence wherever you've gathered a social network.

You'll be doing charities you support a great service when you share links to their campaigns, or to articles about causes you care about.

3. Follow Charities on Social Networks


In addition to sharing links to articles about issues you come across, you should also follow charities you support on the social networks where they are active. By increasing the size of their social graph, you're increasing the size of their reach. When your charities tweet or post information about a campaign or a cause, statistics or a link to a good article, consider retweeting that post on Twitter, liking it on Facebook, or blogging about it.

Following charities on social media sites is a great way to keep in the loop and get updates, and it's a great way to help the charity increase its reach by spreading information to your friends and followers.

You can follow the Summer of Social Good Charities:
Oxfam America
(Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube)

The Humane Society
(Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr)

LIVESTRONG
(Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/livestrongarmy" target="_blank">Flickr)

WWF
(Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr)

4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs


change-wwf

Another way you can show your support for the charities you care about is to rally around them on awareness hubs like Change.org (NOTE: Your humble blogger hangs his hat here at Change.org) , Care2, or the Facebook Causes application. These are social networks or applications specifically built with non-profits in mind. They offer special tools and opportunities for charities to spread awareness of issues, take action, and raise money.

It's important to follow and support organizations on these sites because they're another point of access for you to gather information about a charity or cause, and because by supporting your charity you'll be increasing their overall reach. The more people they have following them and receiving their updates, the greater the chance that information they put out will spread virally.

5. Find Volunteer Opportunities


Using social media online can help connect you with volunteer opportunities offline, and according to web analytics firm Compete, traffic to volunteering sites is actually up sharply in 2009. Two of the biggest sites for locating volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, which has almost 60,000 opportunities listed, and Idealist.org, which also lists paying jobs in the non-profit sector, in addition to maintaining databases of both volunteer jobs and willing volunteers (NOTE: Your humble blogger can be found here on Idealist) .

For those who are interested in helping out when volunteers are urgently needed in crisis situations, check out HelpInDisaster.org, a site which helps register and educate those who want to help during disasters so that local resources are not tied up directing the calls of eager volunteers. Teenagers, meanwhile, should check out DoSomething.org, a site targeted at young adults seeking volunteer opportunities in their communities.

6. Embed a Widget on Your Site


Many charities offer embeddable widgets or badges that you can use on your social networking profiles or blogs to show your support. These badges generally serve one of two purposes (or both). They raise awareness of an issue and offer up a link or links to additional information. And very often they are used to raise money.

Mashable's Summer of Social Good campaign, for example, has a widget that does both. The embeddable widget, which was custom built using Sprout (the creators of ChipIn), can both collect funds and offer information about the four charities the campaign supports.


7. Organize a Tweetup


You can use online social media tools to organize offline events, which are a great way to gather together like-minded people to raise awareness, raise money, or just discuss an issue that's important to you. Getting people together offline to learn about an important issue can really kick start the conversation and make supporting the cause seem more real.

Be sure to check out Mashable's guide to organizing a tweetup to make sure yours goes off without a hitch, or check to see if there are any tweetups in your area to attend that are already organized.

8. Express Yourself Using Video


As mentioned, blog posts are great, but a picture really says a thousand words. The web has become a lot more visual in recent years and there are now a large number of social tools to help you express yourself using video. When you record a video plea or call to action about your issue or charity, you can make your message sound more authentic and real. You can use sites like 12seconds.tv, Vimeo, and YouTube to easily record and spread your video message.

Last week, the Summer of Social Good campaign encouraged people to use video to show support for charity. The #12forGood campaign challenged people to submit a 12 second video of themselves doing something for the Summer of Social Good. That could be anything, from singing a song to reciting a poem to just dancing around like a maniac -- the idea was to use the power of video to spread awareness about the campaign and the charities it supports.

If you're more into watching videos than recording them, Givzy.com enables you to raise funds for charities like Unicef and St. Jude's Children's Hospital by sharing viral videos by e-mail.

9. Sign or Start a Petition


twitition

There aren't many more powerful ways to support a cause than to sign your name to a petition. Petitions spread awareness and, when successfully carried out, can demonstrate massive support for an issue. By making petitions viral, the social web has arguably made them even more powerful tools for social change. There are a large number of petition creation and hosting web sites out there. One of the biggest is The Petition Site, which is operated by the social awareness network Care2, or PetitionOnline.com, which has collected more than 79 million signatures over the years.

Petitions are extremely powerful, because they can strike a chord, spread virally, and serve as a visual demonstration of the support that an issue has gathered. Social media fans will want to check out a fairly new option for creating and spreading petitions: Twitition, an application that allows people to create, spread, and sign petitions via Twitter.

10. Organize an Online Event


Social media is a great way to organize offline, but you can also use online tools to organize effective online events. That can mean free form fund raising drives, like the Twitter-and-blog-powered campaign to raise money for a crisis center in Illinois last month that took in over $130,000 in just two weeks. Or it could mean an organized "tweet-a-thon" like the ones run by the 12for12k group, which aims to raise $12,000 each month for a different charity.

In March, 12for12k ran a 12-hour tweet-a-thon, in which any donation of at least $12 over a 12 hour period gained the person donating an entry into a drawing for prizes like an iPod Touch or a Nintendo Wii Fit. Last month, 12for12k took a different approach to an online event by holding a more ambitious 24-hour live video-a-thon, which included video interviews, music and sketch comedy performances, call-ins, and drawings for a large number of prizes given out to anyone who donated $12 or more.

Bonus: Think Outside the Box


blamedrewscancer
Social media provides almost limitless opportunity for being creative. You can think outside the box to come up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money or awareness for a charity or cause. When Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, for example, he created Blame Drew's Cancer, a campaign that encourages people to blow off steam by blaming his cancer for bad things in their lives using the Twitter hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. Over 16,000 things have been blamed on Drew's cancer, and he intends to find sponsors to turn those tweets into donations to LIVESTRONG once he beats the disease.

Or check out Nathan Winters, who is biking across the United States and documenting the entire trip using social media tools, in order to raise money and awareness for The Nature Conservancy.

The number of innovative things you can do using social media to support a charity or spread information about an issue is nearly endless. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments.

Special thanks to VPS.net


vpsnet logoA special thanks to VPS.net, who are donating $100 to the Summer of Social Good for every signup they receive this week.

Sign up at VPS.net and use the coupon code "SOSG"to receive 3 Months of FREE hosting on top of your purchased term. VPS.net honors a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee so there's no risk.

About the "10 Ways" Series


The "10 Ways" Series was originated by Max Gladwell. This is the second simultaneous blog post in the series. The first ran on more than 80 blogs, including Mashable. Among other things, it is a social media experiment and the exploration of a new content distribution model. You can follow Max Gladwell on Twitter.

This content was originally written by Mashable's Josh Catone.

04 July 2009

History Lesson

Happy 4th of July!

As shameful as it may be for me to say this, but...I sometimes watch 'Reality' television shows.

I try to 'clean this up' a bit by watching the more 'classy' shows, like Bravo's Top Chef and Project Runway, etc. But yes, well... there was that season of "America's Best Dance Crew" (which I may talk about at some point), and -- reruns only mind you! -- "America's Next Top Model."

While waiting for the new season Project Runway, I've been watching Bravo's fashion knock off show, "The Fashion Show" with Isaac Mizrahi and Kelly Rowland.

A recent show started an interesting discussion at our house. Contestants were first quizzed on various fashion icons from the past, then asked to create a complete look inspired by a signature piece based on these icons.

Others here in our version of the Big Brother house objected to this. "They're there to be designer, to create something new! Who cares if they know these people from the past!" While I agreed that the challenge was biased toward those who had gone to design school where one formally learns about such things, and also thought that it was wrong to give some contestants in the first challenge multiple choice but not do the same for others -- and, I confess, I'd JUST finished reading Nina Garcia's Little Black Book of Style (...umm....don't ask!:) or else I wouldn't have known some of the answers either -- I understand exactly this challenge was coming from.

As a writer, I think it is very important for artists and creative people to know where their particular genre came from, who the major figures from its past are, and how have they influenced what we see, read, and hear now. It always saddens me to talk to younger writers and ask "Who are your favorite poets" and hear "Oh, I don't read other writers - I don't want to get influenced by them." And I don't think I'm the only one who has run into this response.

ALL of us are influenced by the past. While we think we're being "New" and inventing something never seen before, more often than not we are simply recreating a pale imitation of something or someone who has gone before us. All of us can learn a great deal from past masters, about how they solved problems and achieved their goals, and often looking at the past can be a guide or road map for how to proceed in your own work and career.

Finally, it's always good to know that your field doesn't begin (or end) with you. We are part of a continuum, joining in a procession of creative people who went before us, giving insight and support to those who will follow us.

In the end, The Fashion Show judges had to choose between two people to eliminate: someone who knew the work of the past designer they had been assigned, but got it wrong by using incorrect materials and going her own way; or someone who DIDN'T know the history, and created a garment that, because of that, looked very little like something their designer from the past would have done. They (rightly to my mind) decided to let the person who 'knew' go, keeping the one who 'didn't know.' It is never too late to look back, educate yourself and improve.

29 June 2009

Real reason for the Military Gay Ban Revealed:

The sky does NOT fall if you become friends with someone different from you!

In a surprising twist, (Professor Jammie Price) found that the straight men with the most evolved sense of masculinity — the ones who forged the tightest friendships with their gay friends — were from military families or had some military training.

These men were used to being “thrown into different environments where it doesn’t matter whether you’re white or black or Hispanic,” Professor Price said. “You’re going to live in this house and you’re all going to be treated the same and you have to get along.”

28 June 2009

It was 40 years ago today...

Around the house somewhere is a photo of me (taken by the Other Half) taken outside the Stonewall Inn during the Stonewall 25 celebrations in New York. That was a great up-all-night-in-the-streets party, and I'm sure this year is no different. One of my strongest memories of that weekend, however is of a moment of unexpected beauty the next day: being outside the bar as a group of young people danced up and down the street carrying an enormous rainbow flag, and looking down to see the sun shining through the fabric and casting a multicolored shadow on the ground.

That beauty and their joy: that's what 'liberation' is all about.

While the Stonewall Riots were not the first pro-gay disturbance, nor really the beginning of the Gay Rights movement (kudos, for example, to the founders of The Mattachine Society and its annual march in Philadelphia on July 4th, Frank Kameny and other in DC, and others in the 1950s, as well as to James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry for their writings in that decade, and to Richard Bruce Nugent for his short story Smoke Lillies and Jade in the 1920s) the Greenwich Village uprising, coming as it did in concert with the civil rights and Black Power movement and the women's movement, truly galvanized 'queers' all over the country. Too often we tend to forget that Gay Rights was part of an entire cultural uprising at the end of the 1960s. And too often, sadly, many in the movement have forgotten that that connection to other liberation movements.
(Thanks to John for an excellent post and the great image above from the New York Public Library's exhibit 1969: The Year of Gay Liberation)

Sadly, however, as much as things have changed, in some places in the country things appear to be still the same. For far too many young people "That's So Gay" is a slur. For all the positive images of gays and lesbians in the media, it still disturbs me how often we remain the 'comic relief' sidekick (but then I have problems with the depictions of African Americans and 'others' coming out of Hollywood also). Astonishingly, black publications covered LGBTQ events in the 1940's but seem to want to avoid them now. And sadly, our political leaders -- the President included -- seem more behind the times than the majority of the people when it comes to the issue of gay rights. A lot of hard work remains to be done.

The first time gay leaders were invited to the White House 32 years ago, they met a mid-level Presidential aide -- on a Saturday. Tomorrow, there will be a Stonewall 40 commemoration with the President -- quite a change, but we need and deserve more. Who knows how far along we will be in 4, or 40 more years.

26 June 2009

Rabindranath Tagore: My Song

That person (Michael Jackson), whom I considered (at the risk of ridicule) very pure, still survived -- he was reading the poems of Rabindranath Tagore when we talked the last time, two weeks ago. -- Deepak Chopra


My Song
by Rabindranath Tagore

This song of mine will wind its music around you,
my child, like the fond arms of love.

The song of mine will touch your forehead
like a kiss of blessing.

When you are alone it will sit by your side and
whisper in your ear, when you are in the crowd
it will fence you about with aloofness.

My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams,
it will transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.

It will be like the faithful star overhead
when dark night is over your road.

My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,
and will carry your sight into the heart of things.

And when my voice is silenced in death,
my song will speak in your living heart.

25 June 2009

Endings

What a day!

As was true for a lot of people, one of my roommates had THE Farah Fawcett poster up on the wall. Of course I watched Charlie's Angels like everybody else, and had a favorite who was NOT Farah, but you couldn't get away from how wonderful and instantly iconic that poster was. Perhaps more impressive about Fawcett was how she made attempts to prove that she was more than just a pin-up, with The Burning Bed and Extremities, moves echoed by Charlize Theron and other actresses, who know in the mad jungle of Hollywood that they have to 'prove' that they have talent.

I also want to say that how wonderful it was that she and Ryan O'Neal were together in a 'non-traditional' relationship for many, many years, and only got married earlier this week.

And then, this evening, the loss of Michael Jackson.

I'm still processing this, but I do want to say that I believe that Michael's music will survive beyond the crazyness of his later years. Watching his videos now (MTV is showing his videos -- an amazing development in and of itself) I'm struck again by his talents as a dancer and showman, by how many references to classic entertainers of the past he incorporated in his work througout his career (Fred Astaire, Bob Fosse, Al Green, Sammy Davis Jr....), and how his work was the Ur-Text for music videos.
Many of us watched Michael grow up before our eyes, then grow strange. He lived so much of his life in the camera's eye: that fact alone had to have had a warping effect on him. I'm also one of those people who thinks that some of the 'blame' for his later apparent discomfort with his body and looks can be placed directly at the feet of his father, Joe.

But more important than all that, we will always have his music, and the images of him performing on stage, perhaps the only place where he ever felt entirely comfortable.

Huffington Post Top Video choices

Roger Ebert on MJ, The Boy Who Never Grew Up

Time Magazine's (Sort of) Celebrating Michael's 50th Birthday by Josh Tyrangiel

Andrew Sullivan, who's penultimate line sums up what a lot of us feel: "I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life."

18 June 2009

What Talks & What Walks


Wednesday night, President Obama issued a memorandum extending some rights to Federal workers who are part of a same sex couple

The memorandum allows same-sex partners to be added to the long-term-care insurance program for federal employees. Employees also can use their sick leave to take care of their partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. Partners of Foreign Service employees will be permitted to use medical facilities at posts abroad, allowed medical evacuation from foreign locations, and counted when determining family size for housing allocations.

Like many, I wished the President had gone further, done more -- like adding health benefits -- but, its a start. And considering the pleased reaction of some federal workers to the memo, including the couple pictured above, Candy Holmes (left), a 33-year federal employee and her partner Rev. Darlene Garner, who am I to be a curmudgeon?

In spite of the apparent series of talks and negotiations that lead to yesterday's signing, the event had the feel of a rush job. While Obama's silence on same-sex marriage, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and other issues, and his 'fair' answer to the question of whether they/we have "A Friend in the White House" in him, caused initial grumbling amonst "The Gays", the tone of Justice Department's brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act lead to what can only be called open revolt, and causing some activists to call for a March on Washington this October.

In the interests of full disclosure, I won't be going to the March in large part because I will be in Austin Texas, with (what I hope will be) 200-300 of my close personal friends and fellow readers and writers at the Fire & Ink Writers Festival for LGBTQ People of African Descent. But I'm not entirely sure I would have gone even if I were still close to DC.

Personally I think the way to go now is with more locally focused demonstrations and marches, as well as phone calls and visits to state and local politicians. If there were to be a march on Washington right into marcher's congressional representative's offices demanding action -- now THAT I could get behind. The glory of the 1963 March on Washington makes us forget how many small local actions and very difficult years of sacrifice by average people it took to get there.

I do, however, think think that there have been some telling lessons from this week's events. For example, as part of the furor over the DOJ's support for DOMA, a number of gay money men decided they would not attend an upcoming Democratic Party fundraiser. While considering the idea to be 'a mistake', Rep. Barney Frank, who had previously said that he was not going to push for it this term, flipped and now plans to introduce a revised version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Lesson: When the money starts walking, the Politicians start talking. Bravo/a to those closing their wallets for the time being.

Finally -- at the risk of being called a "Kool-aid drinker," a sell out, or worse (see the comments sections of the Salon.com articles linked below) -- I want to say that some of the comments I've seen on the web have approached same tone as the kinds of ugliness I decried after the Holocaust Museum shooting. Phrases like "He's spit in our faces" and those calling the President homophobe and a fraud, truly bother me. Where was all this bile during the eight years of George W Bush?

And, uh, excuse me but: don't we still have troops in Iraq -- and Afghanistan? Isn't the economy still trying to climb out of the root cellar? Is there or is there not a Health Care Plan making it's way through the Congress. And speaking of that, does anyone remember how Bill Clinton's attempt to repeal the ban on Gays in the Military nearly wrecked his young administration and in part his plans for health care, leaving us with the 'compromise' of DADT?

Barack Obama has been president HOW MANY months (not years but MONTHS) now?

I am very much NOT saying we shouldn't make the President live up to his campaign promises. Obama is far from perfect. For example, I think he should stop or suspend sexual-orientation based dismissals from the military until DADT is sorted out, and I am DEEPLY disturbed by his reverses on transparency and lack of interest in following the torture trail wherever it leads. But then I didn't expect him to be (Uh, well...okay.... maybe I did:)

The man is a politician, surrounded by other politicians, many of whom have a vested interest in keeping the gears of power rolling in exactly the same way they have been for the past 40 years, or longer. President Obama, however, appears to be more 'push-able' or 'pull-able' than the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The move made for federal employees this week? *WE* did that. Those of us who expressed our disappointment and then our anger at the DOJ brief caused things to change. It was hard work on the ground in Iowa and other states brought about same-sex marriage, not some mandate from above. The President has power, but not a magic wand. He can and should do more, but he can't go it alone. We, the people, have to point him in the right direction, tell him where to go (respectfully:), and sometimes (often?) go ahead of him and lead him there.

"No permanent alliances, only permanent interests:" Support for those who support you when they're right, principled criticism and attempts to get them to see 'the error of their ways' when they're wrong.

The Debate on Salon.com John Aravosis vs Chris Geidner.

10 June 2009

The Darkness around us

I've been thinking about writing something about the assassination of Doctor George Tiller, and how terrorism seems to work (Dr Tiller's clinic is closing, getting an abortion is becoming more difficult, other doctors are nervous, and some medical schools are not even teaching the procedure anymore).

Then today, a racist, anti-Semitic white supremacist, walked into the National Holocaust Museum and started shooting.

I refuse to give him any more publicity by writing his name here.

I will, however, name and pay homage to the guard that was killed, Stephen Tyrone Johns (photo at right), who had worked at the museum for six years. My thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to his family. (I'd also urge everyone to actually NOTICE museum security people and other 'invisibles' who surround us everyday, keeping us safe, cleaning up after us, stocking the shelves around us, etc)

I've mentioned before to friends how disturbed I am about a vibe I feel permeating the air in the United States right now (and I'm not the only one apparently). The often unrelated-to-any-fact attacks on President Obama. The wild bleating by the right wing against Judge Sotomayor. The constant whipping up of "the base" (perfect word there, 'base'). The increasing echo chamber of cable 'news' where the daily meme gets repeated from one show to another, with the same old faces recycling the same tired phrases, yelling and snipeing at each other. It's becoming very frightening.

The Rough Beast of Yeats' Second Coming comes to mind:

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


I knew that things would be 'interesting' during the term of our First Black President. But now, with this country's long history of violence, and (mainly right wing) terror -- and the lack of focus on it for the past eight years (as well as how much certain people screamed when the FBI issued its report on it, as if it were some chimera, and not a real concern) -- I have the uneasy feeling that Pandora has cracked that box open once again.

I hope and pray that I'm wrong. But sadly I feel that we are at the beginning of a period of genuine sadness for this country. We must call both these acts 'terrorism', and focus our justice system on it with increased intensity. Such horrors will happen again and again until we collectively decide to chain the monster up again.


Colette Garrido is a guard with Wackenhut Services Inc., which provides security at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington Post photo by Marcus Yam

29 May 2009

smartish pace Launch Party @ Cyclops

With many thanks to Andy at Cyclops for throwing a terrific party, and to Stephen Reichert et.al associated with the fantastic journal smartish pace, here's a rare clip of me, reading last month (May 15, 2009). Poems include my homage to Mike Tyson, and a shout out to Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, Dream of My Cousin's Wedding.

Full video of other readers and bands at their Issue 16 launch party is on the media section of their website

27 May 2009

What's My Name

An interesting juxtaposition at the newstand today: The Baltimore Sun's lead article talked about President' Obama's Hispanic choice for the Supreme Court, while the Washington Post spoke of the Latina Judge who had been picked.

Looks like us Negro/Colored/Black/African-American people are not the only ones that those outside our community don't know how to name.

Since Judge Sonia Sotomayor's family comes from Puerto Rico, IMHO that makes her....American!:)

Sorry, couldn't resist.

I plan to call her Latina, although she's in fact puertorriqueña (or boricua if your being political). "Hispanic" was a term created by Richard Nixon's administation in 1973 when we all got divided up into either Native American/Eskimo, Asian/Pacific Islander, White, Black, or Hispanic. Most of the Hispanics/Latinos I see (mainly immigrants from Mexico, Central South America or the Caribbean in our part of the world) are EXTREMELY proud of where they come from. You do NOT confuse a Nicaraguan with a Salvadoran, or a Dominican with a Cuban. (Check this for even more confusion). It sort of reminds me of how many Inner City blacks call all Asians 'Korean' or a joke I heard a Mexican comic tell about his dating a Japanese girl who his mother insisted on calling "La China."

To be honest, since she grew up in the projects, I wonder if we can call her Madame Justice from 'round the way? The Boogie Down Bronx in da Court!!

The coming confirmation hearings will be very interesting. Or rather the hearings will be anticlimatic compared with all the posturing and flame throwing going on prior to the hearings, which has already started. A veritable sweepstakes of racism and sexism -- even going so far as to ridicule the pronunciation of her name! I refuse to link to the now-infamous piece of attempted character assination put out by the formerly reputable New Republic about Judge Sotomayor, but will lead you here, to Glenn Greenwald and encourage you to follow his continuing coverage of the smears.

I also find the newest 'meme' on the judge interesting: reading her rulings one can find 'no vision'. She "lacks depth" (this one pains me as I in the main like and tend to agree with Jonathan Turley).

I certainly don't want to limit debate on the merits of Judge Sotomayor, or stop people from looking at her rulings and statements. But the current, low, level of discourse in these opening hours are enough to make me wonder: what does Person of Color (whatever you call them) and/or a Woman have to do to be considered 'qualified' around here?

20 May 2009

You are what you....

I had the good fortune to be part of an overstuffed house at the Pratt Library last week for a visit by writer Michael Pollan (+1 hour podcast of the program here). We somehow managed to put over 800 people into our Central Hall, and 'overflow' space Wheeler Auditorium, and *still* had people begging to get in (although, in all fairness to us, honestly: if you show up for a 7 pm program at 7:45 pm, do you really have a right to complain?)

The program was in support of Pollan's book, In Defense of Food, and co-sponsored by Baltimore Green Works. It came at the end of a period when, somewhat coincidentally, I'd just finished two other books about food, health, and its relationship to the envionment, global warming, and sustainablity: Mark Bittman's Pollan-influenced Food Matters, and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry. All have me looking at food labels more closely -- most particularly ingredients lists, as Pollan suggests staying away from "so-called food" with unpronounceable ingredients. Eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoiding packaged products as much as possible, particularly those that contain more than five ingredients, or the notorious High Fuctose Corn Syrup are also some basic but important Pollan/Bittman/Lappe-Terry points.

But two things continue to nag at me about the crowd that came to the Pollan program last week: it was 99% white, and overwhelmingly middle class.

Food, nutrition, food safety, and health are serious issues in this country, and around the world, and poor nutrition disproportionately affects racial minorities and the poor. It is more than just the case that the poor and working class may not be able to afford higher priced 'organic' foods, or shop at stores like Whole Foods aka "Whole Paycheck".
(As an aside, as this article from the Washington Post points out, it's not just food, but just about everything is more expensive in poor areas) It can also be extremely difficult to eat healthily in poor and working class neighborhoods, where choices are limited and the only fresh vegetables around are green beans from KFC or a McDonald's salad.

To my mind, one of the limitations of the current 'locavores' and 'slow food movement', as well as the commentaries by others concerned about these issues is that few of those who are a part of this conversation seem to have made any effort to connect with people below their own socio-economic level. Just like the economy, the health of the nation has to change at all levels, and from the bottom up seems to work better and more effectively than 'trickle down'. The fact that many also praise 'ethnic' foods from second and third world countries as being better and healthier for you, makes this lack of connection even more disturbing on two levels; a) If these traditional foods are healthier, then there's less need to connect with The Other on issues of nutrition 'cause they must already be eating well, right? and b)it sends the message, "You can cook for us, but we don't want to have to deal with you as a fellow human being."

PS: Those interested in eating Local Food should be aware that "local" is fast becoming a corporate buzz word . Another Pollan point: Be wary of the claims on packaging...

There's also -- and I know I'm being unfair -- an air of self-rightousness (a danger for all converts) that wafts off many of the people involved in this issue: WE're eating 'right' -- what's wrong with YOU that you're not? (Thi was noticeable to much of the library staff working on the night of Pollan's talk from numerous people they encountered in the crowd, and Mark Bittman particularly warns against it in his book). Health and nutrition are far too serious issues to for them to be left to only the 'birkenstock and granola' crowd. One hopes more leaders would see how nutrition and access to healthy food and clean water are 'civil rights issues.' Michael Pollan had very high praise for Michelle Obama and her organic garden at the White House (which was attacked by agribusiness), and hopes others across the country follow her lead in growing food at home.

I also hope others follow the example of MacArthur 'Genius award' winner Will Allen and his Growing Power organization , and help to reconnect those in inner cities with nature and the joy of growing your own.

The best way to save the poor and working class is to help them save themselves.

It will be an irony, certainly, but a sweet one, if millions of African-Americans whose grandparents left the farms of the South for the factories of the North, only to see those factories close, should now find fulfillment in learning once again to live close to the soil and to the food it gives to all of us. -- from Allen's Good Food Manifesto for America.

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