13 February 2008

Potomac Pounding

Quite an amazing showing by Senator Obama here in the Mid-Atlantic and the "Potomac Primary" yesterday. Turn out was heavy, in spite of the bad weather here (roads and traffic was horrible in Maryland, sadly forcing the cancellation of a program here at the library with author Nathan McCall....he'll reschedule...), which led to an 1 1/2 hour voting time extension. My poll-working brother-in-law and his wife were none too happy about that, but most everyone else was fine with it (their two sons seemed okay with their parents being out later, as their somewhat more lenient uncles allowed them to watch cartoons and play video and computer games longer than their parents would have done!)

More amazingly, Maryland delivered an extremely rare 'here's your hat, what's your hurry' upset to two incumbent House members: Republican Wayne Gilchrest was defeated by state legislator Dr. Andy Harris (..no relation...:). It was NOT a pretty campaign as Gilchrest was painted as 'too liberal' for working with members on the other side of the aisle: he was one of the only two Republicans to vote with House Democrats for a timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, for example. What can I say? It's the Maryland 1st. Covering the entire Eastern Shore and parts of long-time Republican strongholds in Anne Arundel and other counties on the Western Shore, "Liberal = Communist" in much of that district.

The other surprise was the defeat of Al Wynn in the Maryland 4th by Donna Edwards, who just barely lost in her previous attempt to unseat him. Feeling was generally positive toward Wynn for much of his term, but he's turned increasingly to the right on a number of issues, and has become too comfortable with donations from the oil and banking industries for those of us over here on the left side of the spectrum. It also didn't hurt that Edwards attempted to embrace Senator Obama's mantra of "Change" (literally in some cases, as seen in this photo of her at Barack's University of Maryland rally)

A graphic from the Baltimore Sun on Maryland's Political Landscape (Hey, we really are "America in Miniature"!:)

Many thanks, however, to JohnK, for pointing out that, while we were voting, so was the Senate, on the FISA bill, moving to expand presidential powers to snoop on US citizens and give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who listen in on phone calls in the 'hunt for terrorists.' Shame on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for collapsing like a house of cards before this travesty.

10 February 2008

Deep in the Heart of....

Yet another reason my Other Half has no desire to visit Texas (despite my raves about Austin) -- Bolaño banned from the prison system (many thanks to the great Maude Newton for the heads up).

I'm impressed that someone behind bars was attempting to improve themselves by reading Roberto, but did the system think the offending passage was going to give the inmates ideas -- "Hey let's try this too!" -- although the description is of a heterosexual encounter (as if sexual activity doesn't happen behind bars anyway, sans literary influence).

I agree with Maude, Bolaño himself would have been amused this turn of events (and probably included it in his next fiction). I am so tempted right now to buy some copies and ship them to Texas (and/or give a call to our local jail librarian and see if they have the book here in Baltimore)!

04 February 2008

Safe Journeys, Dearest Vincent

What does it mean to heal, from betrayal by those who have often stood closest to us, to heal from the burdens of the past, to heal our insulted humanity, to heal from the belief that we are not holy and imbued with sacred function? And at what cost do we ignore our fatigue, deeply repressed angers, the bleeding absence of love, our silenced stories? We can and should talk and share and support one another, but the first order of business is relearning how to love and care for our individual selves/our souls. This is our primary sacred task and, as well, our road to liberation.

Cave Canem Remembers Vincent Woodard (1971-2008) (PDF)

Sunday, Feb 24 @ 1230 - 130pm
A Celebration of Vincent Woodard (d. 2008)
Brownstone Books
409 Lewis Avenue
Between Macdonough and Decatur Streets in Bed- Stuy, Brooklyn, New York
(A/C to Utica Avenue)

There will be small bites and juice. There will be time and space for readings, reflections, and creations to share. Please direct all questions to Andre Lancaster (andre@freedomtrainproductions.org).


I received the sad news today of the passing of Vincent Woodard, a fellow Cave Canem Fellow, University of Colorado faculty member, and one of the gentlest -- yet fiercest -- men I've ever met.

Vincent's critical/academic work explored issues of sexuality and gender in African American studies. But to me his real work was Spiritual. His readings and performances were more like revivals, visitations of the spirits, than what we usually think of as 'readings.' Relatively straightforward recitations would suddenly turn into incantations, sermons, divinations. His body and voice would shake as if possessed by the words, or the spirit of the words, he was the vessel for. "Moving" doesn't even come close to the experience of hearing him perform. The man could shake you to your foundations without seeming to break a sweat. Many of us remember him as someone who seemed made more of Light than of Flesh, radiating peace, wisdom, and a great deal of strength and courage.

And, yes, I think I fell a little in love with him when we first met. How could anyone resist such an Angel? I will miss his dear, beautiful soul.

The quotes above and belwo are from Vincent's essay in AIDS Project LA's Think Again. In typical Woodard style (The complete journal here in PDF format) the article 'transgresses' with style, discussing things some in our community would rather not talk about, and mixes critique with memory, fiction with non fiction, poetry with essay.

A powerful tradition of witnessing exists within black traditional religious practices dating back to slavery. In the context of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights era, witnessing was the way that black people affirmed the enspirited, boundless humanity that gave them the courage and power to overcome. Somebody stood up, in a church, in a field, down by a riverside, and told a story, their story, or perhaps a story that had been passed on to them, and the onlookers sat there, stood there, taking it, making it more real, through the act of witnessing. Too often, black gay lives exist between the chasm of wanting to be witnessed for and a silence that chokes down the voice. I know this silence is real. I battle it, hunt after it every day. I search for names for this silence so that I can call it out, march it to the stand, turn to the jury and make them acknowledge that too many black gays die from longing, invisibility, slow calculated suicides, addiction and numerous other forms of soul murder.

The power and legacy of the witnessing tradition demands, though, that we look through and beyond these deaths to the glory and the lessons they have left, like a pyre of ceremonial ashes painting our naked bodies in circles and blood. If I reach inside my stomach and pull out a story to tell you, it would be the springtime, dragonfly tears, a ripening of pines, oak trees and lost souls wanting to return, wanting to be witnessed.


Many thanks to Professor E. Patrick Johnson for this note on Vincent's papers and publishing projects

Dear All:

I know that there was a lot of discussion about Vincent's papers. I can tell you that his book manuscript was under contract at NYU Press and the press is still committed to publishing it. Vincent provided instructions before he passed with regard to getting the manuscript revised. The good thing is that NYU has the rights to the manuscript because of the signed contract, so the family has no say in that. He did not have a will and it is still unclear what the family will do with his other papers and his poetry, but Vincent did ask one of his colleagues at the University of Colorado to make sure that they were preserved.

This is all I have been able to find out, but I'll provide news as it becomes available.

E. Patrick Johnson
Chair & Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Performance Studies
Professor, African American Studies
Northwestern University