29 December 2006

Man & Woman of the Year

Man of the Year, 2006: Keith Ellison (D, MN)

Not only because he was part of the Democratic broom which swept the Republicans from the leadership of both houses of Congress this fall. Not only because I enjoy the (in some quarters) incongruous image of an African American Catholic-turned-Muslim representing the Great White North of Minnesota. But because, after being attacked by the ignorance of CNN's Glenn Beck ("And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'" 14 November 2006), and having to defend himself against the racist, anti-immigrant rantings of both congressman Virgil Goode (R, VA) ("The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran"), radio show host Dennis Prager ("He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization." 28 November 2006), and countless other Right-Wing-nuts, for wanting to hold a Koran during his congressional swearing-in ceremony, Ellison has responded with calm, equanimity, and class (On Goode for example, he's said, "I don't know the fellow and I'd rather just say he has a lot to learn about Islam."

To my mind, he's a great example for us all (particularly those of us who would be wanting to kick some so-called Christian butt right about now for making such comments -- guess now you know why I never went into politics!). I also think, sadly, this is only the beginning of such crazyness surrounding Mr Ellison. I wish him well.

"Many people see their religion as an identity thing, much in the same way Crips or Bloods might say, 'I'm this, this is the set I'm rolling with,' " Ellison said, referring to the infamous street gangs. "They've never actually tried to explore how religion should connect us, they're into how religion divides us. ... They haven't really explored ... how my faith connects me to you."

Woman of the Year, 2007: Nancy Pelosi (D, CA)

First Female Speaker of the House. Daughter of one mayor of Baltimore (Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr.) and sister of another (Thomas D'Alesandro, III). Right wing target (and take note of how many unflattering photos will be shown of her in 2007: they always play then 'she looks bad' card against women). Next year, politics in Washington will be All About Nancy: What will Nancy do? What won't she do? And how many investigations will she launch against the Bush Administration? Stay tuned....

Man for All Seasons: The Godfather of Soul

Thanks for the Funk. Thanks for "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" (I Am. We Are) Thanks for Getting Up on the Good Foot, and the dancing. Thanks for being you.

Maceo! Maceo!!

11 December 2006

Ninguno aquí llora por el General

If there is such a thing as divine retribution, then tonight, General Augusto Pinochet is at the beginning of an eternal sentence of roasting on a spit in Hell.

Planner of the coup d'état that brought him to power on September 11, 1973. The cost of his term as El Supremo de Chile? 3,000 dead. 30,000 tortured. Domestic and international spying and persecution of dissenters through Operation Condor. The car bomb murder of ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington DC in 1976. All with the support of the United States government, including the late Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman ("Miracle of Chile" indeed!) and the late UN Ambassador Jeane "Right wing dictators are better than Left wing dictators" Kirkpatrick. Dispite beging the target of hundreds of prosecutions on corruption and human rights violation charges, The Generalissimo mananged to escape any form of prosecution.

If you wonder why some in South America distrust the United States, you need look no further than to our relationship with the reign of General Pinochet in Chile.

I was in Chile as 1983 turned into 1984, and although Pinochet's power was slipping, those I traveled with and I were still followed and watched "for our own protection" by non-uniformed members of the (secret?) police in Punta Arenas -- and most likely in the General's home town of Valpariso as well, where a young lady talked to me, a stranger from another country, briefly, furtively, about her fears. While a number of people in Chile showed us a heartwarming level of hospitality, it is also the case that, as Raymond Chandler wrote, "the Streets were dark with something more than night."

So no tears here, Jefe, for turning a beautiful country into a center of fear and paranoia. Too bad you didn't spend some time behind bars in this world -- but I'm sure you're getting your just deserts in the next.

03 December 2006

"Gathering Ground" in Baltimore

What a joy it was to see so many Cave Canem fellows and poetry fans at the Pratt Library for the 10th Anniversary 'Gathering Ground' reading!

After negotiating the madness of the last ($2 a bag/box) day of our annual book sale, readers and fans gathered in the library's Wheeler Auditorium for the program....

(Carlo Paul with fellow poets in the front row)

...to hear selections from the work of Brandon D Johnson, Carleasa Coates, Carlo Paul, Carolyn Joyner, Derrick Brown and Deidre Gantt (doing the Poetic tag-team thing), Hayes Davis, Jadi Omowale, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Teri Cross, and Venus Thrash.

Special Guest Kyle Dargan invoked our forebearers by reading Etheridge Knight's "Belly Song" before reading a selection from his Cave Canem Prize Winning collection, The Listening.

"Aren't these children wonderful?" the beloved featured reader Lucille Clifton asked, before reading a much-too-short selection of poems, a series transporting the Virgin Mary to the Caribbean, and closing with a special variation on her poem "won't you celebrate with me...", changing the last lines in honor of the occasion

(Miss Clifton with Young Fans)

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill US, CAVE CANEM
and has failed.

Readers and audience then gathered for a reception in the Library's Edgar Allen Poe Room

Tony Medina and DivineCipher's Fred Joiner

Carlo Paul and Kamilah Moon

My sister Marva and Brandon Johnson

Carleasa and Lucille

A small group of DC-area poets went to dine and talk (with a fantastic jazz soundrack in the background) at the nearby Milton's Grill

(Fred Joiner, Derrick Brown, Alan King, and Venus Thrash)

A special thanks/shout out to the Pratt staff for the great flyer (see top of post), name tags, poster, and book and window displays promoting the event, and their support during the reading and reception.

Thanks everyone for a great evening of love and verse!

01 December 2006

Literary Weekend

December 1st: World AIDS Day

Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

As usual, it's feast or famine here in B-town. This weekend it's Feast. An ideal itinerary would go something like this:

Pratt Library's Annual booksale. As always, it was a madhouse in here today as folks rushed to get first dibs on the 50c hardcovers and 25c paperbacks we've put out. Little do they know we restock all weekend (and Sunday is $1 a bag/box day)...Come on down!

Start the day at Belvedere Square's Daedalus Books & Music for their Holiday Signing and Breakfast with a host of local authors including Gilbert Sandler, Elizabeth Spires, Madison Smartt Bell, Kim Jensen and Lia Purpura and Jonathon Scott Fuqua, 10 am - 12 Noon

Head back to the main library for more books, and check in with the Poetry Discussion Group as they look at the work of the extraordinary Paul Celan (12-2 pm).

If you missed her at Daedalus, you can catch up with Lia Pupura at the Pratt, where she'll be reading/signing copies of "On Looking"

Head around the corner to 317 N Charles and Clayton & Co bookstore for Reb Livingston and a No Tell Motel reading, part of the amazing i.e. reading series (...and I havent' stopped kicking myself for missing the Mei-mei Berssenbrugge & Cole Swenson double bill, or Charles Bernstein last month either!)


I'll be playing host to local poets Brandon D Johnson, Carleasa Coates, Carlo Paul, Carolyn Joyner, Deidre Gantt, Derrick Brown, Hayes Davis, Jadi Omowale, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Kendra Hamilton, Teri Cross, and Venus Thrash, Cave Canem Prize Winner Kyle Dargan, and the luminous Lucille Clifton at (where else?) the Pratt Library, to celebrate Cave Canem's 10th Anniversary and the Gathering Ground anthology (a perfect stocking stuffer if there ever was one -- poetry is the gift that keeps on giving, you know....). 2 pm

And just when you think it's safe to return to the office, Roger Bonair-Agard brings the tarnish and masquerade tour to town, performing at Slamicide, XandO Charles Village, 8 pm.

Now just watch: Next weekend? No haps....

19 November 2006

Blog toward A Poem about Love

Nicole Pekarske reads Intermissa, Venus at Minas

One of the poems I read at Sunday's very wonderful reading at Minas. This will soon appear in the new anthology from New York's Other Countries collective (thanks Glenroy)

Notes Toward A Poem About Love

The long trip back from the Carolinas –
how he looked, smooth in silhouette dozing

you drove 80 miles an hour from Durham to DC
through a rain-slicked, receding South
deep in a groove, desperate for return for shared, familiar bed

or earlier the night before the downtown Charlotte club –

How, even dressed in 'b-boy hoodlum mode'
he was glorious, shone a beacon in the smoky dark.
New Man in Town, undressed by the eyes of Sunday regulars

confused by this bastard busting their games
the half-seen other he leaves with;

or later, even: Picture the future, next week, tomorrow–

he strides in from work tired
complaining of new madness
then winks changes for his late-night rituals

On the phone, he laughs at a joke and his gaze turns,
ablaze with anticipated retelling.

Then forget:
Think of Lack             The absence of that Presence.
A world without memory       the otherwise dull moments
      Stop             Think (for once)
           Meditate       Slowly begin to write

16 November 2006

At the Podium again

I'm reading this Sunday (November 19th) with Nicole Pekarske at Minas and Peggy's wonderful Minas Gallery in Hampden. Rumor has it, I'm reading "new work," never before heard within the confines of Baltimore City. I hope I'm feeling better and less conjested than I do now otherwise it'll be short ... and none too sweet!
(and thanks in advance, Aaron, for the mention on WYPR's The Signal this Friday)

The Pratt Society Dinner

Sometimes its really quite amazing to work here.

Last week our central hall was transformed into an elegant supper club for the Pratt Society Dinner. This annual function recognizes individuals and organizations who have donated $1000 or more to the Library and its programs. The centerpiece of the evening is the awarding of the Lifetime Literary Achievement Award to a distinguished author. Past awardees have been Alice Walker, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Barbara Kingsolver. This year the award went to one of my favorite authors, E. L. Doctorow.

(Doctorow signing his new collection Creationists)

As manager then supervisor over the work of the Pratt Center for Technology Training, I've attended about half of these events (the Walker, Morrison, Wolfe, Mailer, Kingsolver -- who was, somewhat unexpectedly to me, fantastic -- and now Doctorow evenings), getting a chance to ask Mailer about boxing ('not too interesting' since Ali's retirement), for example, and sheepishly asking La Morrison to sign my arm load of her works ("I'm sorry to impose...." I started to say. "No you're not," she replied, motioning to me to set the books down, "Come on." We then tried to figure out if she knew any of my Other Half's family back in their native Ohio)

And it's always amazing to see this soon-to-be 75 year old building looking like a million bucks.

Pratt Library Director (and former American Library Association President) Dr. Carla Hayden with two members of the Facilites staff (Derek Fauntleroy and Terrence 'The Terrific' Thomas) , under a luminous Toni Morrison.

Melissa Carter and Daryl Jeffries of the Development Office kick up their heels in a post-dinner dance.

10 November 2006

Thank You and Good Night

"My formula for success has three elements: the talent you're given, the hard work you do to get better at whatever it is that you do, and a certain amount of luck. And I always found that the harder I worked, the better my luck was, because I was prepared for that. I will not go into a story unprepared. I will do my homework, and that's something I learned at an early age."

We lost one of the most polished and professional men in the world today, Ed Bradley of CBS News. I'm feeling bereft.

Thank you Mr Bradley for the years of reports and interviews -- and for showing us how to age with grace, beauty, and style. Just about every Black man I know wanted to be (or at least look like) Ed Bradley when we grew up (and we're still working on it!)

LA Times Obit

NBC's Ron Allen on Why Bradley Mattered

The Best of Bradley from CBS.com

Watch more video on the CBS News website, and see how what television journalism is supposed to be.

08 November 2006

Mid-term Correction

So...it turns out the Democrats were right to start measuring the Congress for new drapes last week! What a Tuesday...Democrats take back both Houses in Washington, and you can hear the breaks starting to be pressed on the Bush Administration's fast track to disaster both hear and abroad. I could not be more pleased.

African American Governor in Massachusetts

African American Muslim congressman elected -- to represent Minnesota?!?

Arizona rejects a ban on Gay Marriage...but is sadly alone in that move.

Pennsylvania sends the evil Rick Santorum home -- where ever that is.

Rhode Island restores voting rights to those convicted of a felony

South Dakota says no to a total ban on abortion, while Missouri says yes to stem cell research

(...also does Florida have a Gay Governor? Don't ask, don't tell....)

And Dubya finally 'gets it' and shows Donald Rumsfeld the door. Of course, he admits that the decision was made toward the end of last week, and he saying Rummy was going to be at the Pentagon for as long as he was in the White House was perhaps a little white lie...

Since our first female Speaker of the House has a Baltimore connection -- does this mean the old pols will be gathering at Sabatino's again, just like in the good old days?

Here in Maryland, I and a number of others I've talked to were pleasantly surprised by the victory of both Martin O'Malley (shown here with new Lt Governor Anthony Brown) and Ben Cardin in their races for Governor and Senator respectively. Many of us suspected that perhaps Bob Erlich would be returned to Annapolis, but he too got caught up in the Blue Tide flooding the country last night.
(Interesting note here in Maryland: So long as your numbers are good in the more conservative counties to the East and West, if you win the I-95 corridor from Baltimore County to the Washington bedroom communities, you win the state)

We also heaved a major sigh of relief over the loss of Michael Steele. Trying to position himself as an "Independent", and urging African Americans to vote for him just because he is Black, most didn't fall for it. Bravo us.

I noted with interest last night how some (white) commentators were attempting to access the meaning of the losses by black Republicans Steele, Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, and Ken Blackwell in Ohio. Some were patting the GOP on the back for putting up African American candidates ("You found one! Good for you...."). To me their loss, and Patrick's victory in Massachusetts, shows a greater maturity on the part of the electorate when it comes to those running for office. Black and other voters pulled the leaver (or pressed the touch screen) for those who best represented their interests, not (just) because they looked like them. Or not.

Unless you happen to live in Tennessee. We all say we hate those attack ads on our TV sets, but the "Call me, Harold" ad seemed to have worked to remind viewers that yes, Mr Ford really WAS black, and they needed to lock up their blondes. Fortunately after his poised and classy concession speech, I'm pretty sure we've not seen the last of him. Although he's a bit too Conservative for my Socialist tastes, he should take a page from the re-elected (thanks to his shift to the left) Gubernator of California and say "I'll be back"

04 November 2006

All Saints Day

"Merece lo que sue~nas"/"Deserve your dream"

As John reminds us, it is All Saints/All Souls/Dia de los Muertos. And although he's not 'tagged' me, I'll counter his Octavio Paz poem with a Paz selection of my own, from one of my favorite books of all time, the prose poem masterpiece, "?Aguila o Sol?" "Eagle or Sun?"

from "The Poet's Work"

Escribo sobre la mesa crepuscular, apoyando fuerte la plima sobre su pecho casi vivo, que gime y recuerda al bosque natal. La tinta negra abre sus grandes alas. La lampara estalla y cubre mis palabras una capa de cristales rotos. Un fragmento afilado de luz me corta la mano derecha. Continuo escribiendo con ese mu~non que mana su jeta de piedra, grandes tempanos de aire se interponen entre la pluma y el papel. Ah, un simple monosilabo bastaria para hacer saltar al mundo. Pero esta noche no hay sitio para una sola palabra mas.

I write on the glimmering table, my pen resting heavily on its chest that is almost living, that moans and remembers the forest of its birth. Great wings of black ink open. The lamp explodes and a cape of broken glass covers my words. A sharp sliver of light cuts off my right hand. I keep writing with this stump that sprouts shadows. Night enters the room, the opposite wall puckers its big stone lips, great blocks of air come between my pen and the paper. A simple monosyllable would be enough to make the world burst. But tonight there is no room for a single word more.

(translation by Eliot Weinberger)

01 November 2006

Quote: Bill T Jones

The great dancer's April 28, 2006 keynote address on Culture and the role of the Artist in Society to the Tides Foundation (full text available on "Bill's Blog")

I desire to be no slave to fear, to be clear in thought and action, to be compassionate and, yes, to be safe, loving and loved. I want to hold up my end of the
social contract - to be an effective citizen. And you?

31 October 2006


A very interesting All Hallows Eve here in B-town. A group of African American politicians from the DC suburbs have thrown their support to Republican candidate Michael Steele (mainly it seems because he's black and his Democratic opponent is white -- certainly can't be because of what Steele stands for, since it seems he doesn't stand for anything beyond the Bush party line). Trick or Treat?

Yesterday a friend sent a photo of a white couple on their way to a party: the guy was in blackface, wearing a dreadlocked wig, beliving himself the image of the perfect 'Rasta'.

To be fair, I did see a young white kid today wearing dreads also -- but he also had a fake sword and was dressed a la Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribbean. He was sitting not far from a young black kid in black face -- which matched the rest of his all black "Ninja" outfit.

Older kids, however, seem to be auditioning for episodes of everyone's favorite reality show "Whites Behaving Badly"

Johns Hopkins University and Hospital are my neighbors on two fronts. My neighborhood is within walking distance of the University campus, and part of their Kennedy Krieger Institute is directly down the street from us. At work, one of our locations is almost literally surrounded by the growing Hospital complex, and will be moving in 2007 to make way for another Hopkins building.

It is something of an open secret, particularly when it comes to the Hospital, that they are not 'good neighbors.' Both are extremely insular organizations, and their relationship to the surrounding neighborhoods is weak at best, and filled with condesention at worse.

So the following news item doesn't surprise me in the least:

"Johns Hopkins University suspended a fraternity Monday afternoon following a racially themed Halloween party Saturday night at an off-campus house.

The uproar began shortly after the “Halloween in the ’Hood” party was advertised on the Web site Facebook.com. The invitation encouraged racial-stereotyping costumes, included references to the late attorney Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson, and prefaced descriptions of Baltimore as “a ghetto,” “the hood” and “the HIV pit” with a four-letter epithet"

From The Baltimore Sun:

"A picture of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accompanied the posted invitation, BSU members said.

"ps we STILL don' discriminate against hoodrats, skig skags, or scallywhops," it read.

Rob Turning, the university's coordinator of Greek Life, told the chapter president, Richard Boyer, that the advertisement was "racist and offensive" and asked him to withdraw it, according to a statement from Johns Hopkins officials.

The ad later reappeared in an "altered but still offensive form" without the coordinator's knowledge, said the statement.

The BSU students, who met Saturday night, agreed to send a contingent to the party, said Christina Chapman, 20, a senior and BSU president.

Ten students went to the party, at the fraternity's house at 235 E. 33rd St. Ashlea Bean was one. Bean said she expected to be upset but when she and the others saw the skeleton-cum-pirate dangling from the roof of the fraternity's house in a rope noose and heard fake gunshots, she was outraged.

In a statement, President William R. Brody said he was "personally offended" and called the incident "deeply disturbing."

"The invitation to this party represented a serious and unacceptable misjudgment on the part of the fraternity chapter that organized it," said Brody. "We will move quickly to address that appropriately with the chapter."

More than 100 students attended a lengthy campus forum last night before a panel of the university's top administrators.

A wide range of topics surfaced during the meeting - which at times became heated - ranging from discrimination against gay and lesbian students to the scarcity of tenured minority professors."

There was one JHU frat that seemed to have a rolling party, with brothers and others beginning to gather on Friday afternoon, leading to the main blow out bash on Saturday night, and a little 'hair of the dog' follow up Sunday afternoon (once the unconscious had awakened). I also once had the odd experience of having a Middle Eastern cab driver pick black male me up rather than a group of white JHU students. He expressed to me ("his brother") his dislike of the students, how those he had carried in the past had acted, treating him as if he were stupid, 'probably a terrorist', and something less than human.

The school has a long standing problem in both recruiting and maintaining black instructors. I know from an African friend who was in one of their Language programs, that the head of that department was quite hostile toward him as he was working toward his PhD, and has continually refused to hire minority instructors. A few years ago Hopkins hired a brilliant young black (gay) professor -- then let him go and committed 'sin of omission' by not informing him of the fact that funding for his position was available and he COULD have stayed on if he wanted to. In talking to a number of black staffers and others on campus, many consider the atmosphere there toxic. However, because of their small numbers, and the fact that they need their jobs, they are loathe to say or do anything to jeopardize their positions.

Of course the somewhat ironic thing about JHU is that there's been an increasing number of South Asian and Indian students attending the school in recent years. With their dark skin color, some of them would be as unwelcom in some neighbhorhoods here as I would be. But then, I suppose, one of the functions of Black People in America seems to be to act as the floor upon which everyone else stands (or walks all over).

So this Halloween Party doesn't surprise me in the least. IMHO it's just an example of how well many of the students at JHU are being educated.

One part of this incident, however, that also disturbs me is this: If we as Black people have problems with these objectifications of our community by others, how much responsibility do we also have for the negative images of Black people some African Americans traffic in as well? If we have negative attitudes toward ourselves, expect the worse of our brothers and sisters, pour big bucks into the pockets of minstrels and fools, how can we expect those outside our community to behave any differently toward us?

All Saints Day UPDATE: The story continues as the Hopkins Black Student Union uses the incident to discuss broader issues on campus (some of which I've mentioned above). Also be sure to check out the growing 'Comment on this article' section: some people 'get it' others think this is an example of the Political Correctness Police at work...

24 October 2006

Steve Reich, "Classical" Father of Sampling?

I am a major fan of the form of 'classical' music known as Minimalism. As with the visual artists we now know as "The Impressionists" that term, Minimalist, has as often been avoided by the composers creating these works as it has been embraced. In any case, the repetitions, the stasis and slow evolution of changes, even the occasional way in which the music might be seen as 'boring' more often as not engages and transports me. My CD collection is heavy with the work of John Adams, Michael Nyman, Philip Glass -- and Birthday boy Steve Reich.

Reich, along with LaMonte Young, Terry Reily, Glass, and Pauline Oliveros, is one of the founding figures of the music. Holding to his convictions the creater of a once reviled music is now the subject of a major retrospective at that temple of the musical establishment, Carnegie Hall. Ah, to be back in New York again!

One of the things that has consistently fascinated me about Reich's music is his use of 'sampling' (while most Hip Hop artists were dreaming of big wheels for Christmas) and its relationship to African and African-American music and speech. In 1970 he studied drumming at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana in Accra (before heading on to study Balinese gamelan music and the singing of Jewish cantors). But even before that, in early Process Music pieces like It’s Gonna Rain (made up of recordings of a sermon about the end of the world given by a Pentecostal minister, 1965) and Come Out (a line of testimony given by an injured survivor of a race riot, 1966), he sampled African-American voices to create music. 1972's Clapping Music always struck me as a 'highbrow' version of the kind of rhythmic clapping I grew up watching the girls in my neighborhood doing (Think Miss Mary Mack goes to Juliard) There have been any number of Reich's pieces I've found myself bopping my head to.

I've also been to a party where the art school student DJ showed up with his masterwork Music for 18 Musicians in the milk crate along with his other records. DJ's Coldcut, Mantronik, Spooky (That Subliminal Kid) and others have returned returned the favor on Reich Remixed.

Personally, I was somewhat disapointed by the Remix CD, and continue to like my Reich 'straight'. Here's a VERY short list of some favorites for the uninitiated:

African Rhythms A mix of works by Reich, the late great György Ligeti, and the singing of the Aka Pygmies. A haunting and glorious recording.


Music for 18 Musicians

Different Trains A True Masterpiece of 20th Century music.

City Life

Triple Quartet

Happy Listening! And get ready for next year's celebration of the 70th Birthday of Reich's friend and former roomate, Baltimore's Own Philip Glass!

18 October 2006

Who Needs Freedom?

"The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions." -- Anthony Romero, President, ACLU

One of the many things I learned reading James A. Monroe's Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History is this: almost every law 'reformers' have passed in order to curb some perceived 'national sin,' has turned out to have far more unexpected consequenses than those reformers could have ever possibly imagined -- and they have succeeded in expanded the role and power of the national government.

Today, President Bush signed "The Military Commissions Act of 2006" and, in the name of pursuing terrorists, kissed habeas corpus goodbye.

Secret Detentions? Sure no problem

Torture? Why not!

Human Rights? Who needs 'em...

The President says 'trust me'. He says he won't use it to toss in jail those who disagree with him (possible and 'legal' under this law). "We're going after the terrorists," he reminds us.

This new law disturbs and terrifies me. To my mind, todays signing means the terrorists have won. Our governemet has survailled us, tapped our phones, ramped up the fear levels, turned us against our better selves and our history, and have gotten us to give away basic liberties, all for the sake of some kind of 'safety.' And no one seems to care (one glorious nightly exception: MSNBC's Keith Olberman)

"The Congress just gave the President despotic powers and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to Dancing With the Stars." Jonathan Turley

And again I come back to Hellfire Nation. Even if we agree with these and other moves 'for our own safety', even if we think President Bush will use this law sparingly and judiciously, what about the future? What's going to happen in the next administration, or the next, or the one after that?

My partner and I have always loved A Man for All Seasons, and enjoyed and memorized a number of quotes from that film. This scene is one of our favorites, and seems chillingly apt for our own times:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

The United States now appears to be lead by William Roper -- and he's been handed an axe.

16 October 2006

Quick Cave Canem poetic photo round up

A Great Day in Manhattan: Cave Canem Faculty and Fellows pose for a 10th Anniversary portrait (photo by Mignonette Dooley)

Till I can get my photos up (and my camera DIED during the Friday evening reception!), peruse these for shots and news from last weekends Black Poetry extravaganza

Thanks to Jacqueline Johnson for these...

Cheezin with Jacqueline Jones LeMon, Dwayne Betts, Tim Seibles, and Tyehimba Jess

Your Humble Correspondent with Herman Beavers and Tracy Morris

From Remica Bingham

"Inner Workings" Panel discussion: Dante Micheaux, Ronaldo Wilson, Gloria Burgess, Phebus Etienne, Jacqui Johnson, and Ross Gay.

Our takeover of the Harlem restaurant Native Sunday evening

From Amanda Johnston's blog

An Atmospheric Curtis Crissler

A Regal Toni Lightfoot

Amanda with Cave Canem Office Manager (and Official Muse) Dante Micheaux

From John Keene's blog

Ronaldo Wilson's 25 push up "Closing Statement" at the Inner Workings panel

And from the Official CC Events Blog Dog Bytes

Cave Canem Prize winners

Tracy K. Smith(Winner of the 2002 prize), Major Jackson (2000), Constance Quarterman Bridges (2005), Kyle Dargan (2003), Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon (2001), Amber Flora Thomas (2004), Dawn Lundy Martin (2006)

More beauty and talent all in one place than one can possibly imagine. And these folks/we are also the most the huggin-est, kissin-est, people in the world...I'm exhausted!