Entries from April 2004 ↓

Poem on Your Blog Day

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Today in New York, it is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Everyone is invited to carry their favorite poem with them to share with friends and family. Ronn ran with the concept and has encouraged bloggers to post poems on their sites.

Now, Ive never been that much of a poetry buff but was actually quite surprised to find I had so much to choose from around the house. Sticking with my personal interests as expressed on this blog, here are a couple I found interesting.

Brothers loving brothers
Vega
Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men 1991

Respect yourself, my brother,
for we are so many wondrous things.

Like a black rose,
you are a rarity to be found.
Our leaves intertwine as I reach out to you
after the release of a gentle rain.

You precious gem,
black pearl that warms the heart,
symbol of ageless wisdom,
I derive strength
from the touch of your hand.

Our lives blend together
like rays of light;
we are men of color,
adorned in shades of tan, red,
beige, black, and brown.

Brothers born from the same earth womb.
Brothers reaching for the same star.

Love me as your equal.
Love me, brother to brother.

Telephone Booth Number 507
Pedro Pietri
Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe 1994

I will jump out the window
if thats what it takes
to satisfy you sexually,
but only if you live in the
basement

The Revolution Was Postponed Because of Rain
David Allen
Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe 1994

The underlying
immediate
political
socio-economic
and trigger mechanism causes
were all in place when
some nee-gro or the other got hungry
had to stop at the McDonalds
had to get on the line
with the new trainee cashier
uhh, wheres the button for the fries?
so we missed the bus

Then the leader couldnt find his keys
didnt want some poor ass moving
his brand new 20 and VCR
out his living room on the shoulders.
It was too late when the locksmith came

Then our demo expert Willie Blew got arrested
came out with his head hanging under his hoody
Didnt know they started doing that
for jumping the turnstiles, he said.
How many times must we tell you–
dont get caught.
we voted against shootin him on the spot

In the winter we were all depressed
so we leaned our guns against the sofas
and listened instead to Tim Tim Tiree
singing about his dysfunctions:
Sometimes I wonder if ahll ever be free
free of the sins of my brutish daddee
Like the cheating, the stealing, the drinking, and the beating…

The weatherman said the 17th would be sunshine
and it wouldnt be too hot–
Tim Tim Tiree doesnt like sweatin
but that night the weatherman came on crying
saying he didnt control the weather
that God was real
that hes lucky He, God, didnt strike him, the weatherman, with lightning
for taking the credit sometimes
and that he, the weatherman, was in no way responsible
for the hurricane coming
and that we, the viewers, should
pray Jesus into our hearts
before it was too late

Superbowl Sunday was out
all the women wanted
to see the game
and the men were pissed
at their insensitivity

The 20th was supposed to be a definite
we looked for some Bastille to storm
didnt find any
settled on the armory instead
before they moved the homeless in
Well bum-rush it anyway, i said
It smells like a collection
of a thousand farts in there, they said
So we waited for the approval of the city
contract to build a Bastille
which set the revolution back five years.

Peace wanted to start the revolution on Tuesday
She was in a pissed-off mood
her tax return didnt come in time for the rent
But they showed the We Are the World video
on cable that evening
and we all held hands
and cried to stop from laughing
and our anger subsided
Looking back, it couldve been a plot
but there are more substantive plots to expose
than the We Are the World conspiracy

Now we wait for the rain to stop
All forces on the alert
some in Brooklyn basements
packed in between booming speakers
listening to Shabba Ranks and Arrested Development
bogling and doing the east coast stomp
gargling with Bacardi and Brown Cow
breaking that monotony with slow movements–
slow, hip-grinding movements
with the men breathing in the womens ears to
Earth Wind & Fires Reasons
and wondering what the weather will be like
next weekend.

How Diddy Do?

A night the New York theatre community had been anticipating since announcement of the plays mounting was made months ago, occurred on Monday, April 26, when Lorraine Hansberrys A Raisin in the Sun returned to Broadway. The first ever dramatic revival of the 1959 play (a musical version was staged in 1975) officially opened at the Royale Theatre on West 45th Streeet, but the usual opening night buzz was fueled even more by the stage debut of rapper/hip hop mogul/fashion label entrepreneur Sean Combs in the lead role.

Combs.jpgTongues had wagged since his casting in the part of Walter Lee Younger, the frustrated chauffeur and aspiring business owner who is the lone adult male in a struggling household on Chicagos Southside. Director Kenny Leon and show producers said Combs impressed them in auditions, despite having never stepped on a theatrical stage before. The acting community was less impressed with the decision, feeling that such an iconic role in an important piece of Black theatre like Raisin deserved to go to a performer of proven talent and range. The casting of a rapper was seen as nothing more than a publicity stunt designed to sell tickets and lure a new audience to the theatre.

Well, if the reaction from the New York theatre critics is any indication, despite Combs shortcomings, this show is a success.

Reviews from the four major dailies, the New York Times, Daily News, NY Post and Newsday, as well as WNBC Newschannel4 and Broadway.com, found that while most acknowledged his limitations, they were not sufficient to destroy the play.

Ben Brantley of the Times was the most critical, determining that the important statements the play makes deserved a more worthy Walter Lee. His character must go through a transformation physically and emotionally, and Combs was unable to pull it off. Mr. Combs Walter evokes a man who in his 30s is still marooned in early adolescence. Rashad and Combs.jpgGiving praise to co-stars Phylica Rashad (Mama Lena Younger) and three time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald (wife Ruth), he blames Combs performance for making the show a lopsided and ultimately dreary affair.

Eric Grode of Broadway.com took a similar tack in commenting on the significance of the struggle for dignity and respect that Hansberrys play tells but also found fault. with the exception of one central piece of miscasting (and I do mean central), Kenny Leons empathic, vibrant direction gives rich voice to the plays stirring vision. He adds Combs is not as good as you may have hoped and not as bad as you may have feared.

A general willingness to see this production for what it was, an earnest re-staging of a memorable play that originally had a legendary cast of Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands and Claudia McNeil (later made into a movie with much the same cast), led the other reviewers to be much kinder to Combs.

The Daily News, Post, Newsday and WNBC seemed to all recognize that Combs image coming into the play would serve as a sort of shorthand to the non-traditional theatre-goers unfamiliar with the play or the theatre experience. In a sense Puffy as hungry, aspiring go-getter may make for a believable Walter Lee to the hip hop ticket buyers, with tv and music video attention spans, and that its all good in the end.

Ultimately this is what producers wanted. A play that will first, make money, and second, bring in a new audience, one not typically interested in live dramatic entertainment. When this play eventually closes, will they come out for other shows, or will it take 50 Cent doing Othello or Jay-Z as Willy Loman to lure them back?

Brothaly Love

Philly bldgs.jpgTook a short trip to Philly this past weekend, to see the Penn Relays. It was my first trip to both the city and the sporting event although Id been trying to get to the latter most of my life. Things just never quite worked out before. It was a great day for a track meet and general people watching, and boy were there some people to watch.

I really had no plans to take in Black Pride while I was there, and being without an internet connection, I frankly didnt know where stuff was taking place. It was just as well. This weekend was about unwinding and relaxing, not trying to hang out all night (like I ever do). I got to catch up with some old friends and sightsee a little. Philly seems cute. Clean, quiet, nondescript. The usual prettied up touristy spots masking the rundown rough neighborhoods. Ill need to visit again to get a better sense of the place.

oggle of boiz.jpgI needed to get away. Work and the possibility of no work has been stressing me out. But that may be changing soon, for the better. Two Fridays ago, I had an internal interview for a different position in the agency, with a new program, and it went well. There are apparently people looking out for me who want me to stay and I was encouraged to pursue it. It would be less responsibility than my current job and almost as much as I make now. Yeah, a pay cut, but I can live with it. The upside is Im not gonna be suddenly unemployed scrambling to find a job, trying to make ends meet. Instead, Ill get about 12-18 months to put in place my exit strategy so I can eventually leave on my own terms. Just thinking about it all was keeping me awake nights.

When the tension in my brain eases a bit I plan to get back to regular blogging including updating those side blogs and other creative writing, like the play I’ve been neglecting. There are also a bunch of shows I wanna get out and see and other things Ive been meaning to comment on. I just havent had the clarity of mind to handle them.

Today is Earth Day

But perhaps you forgot. Don’t feel bad. Most people did.

There was a time in this country when we actually cared about environmental issues. Automakers were moved to build fuel efficient vehicles and we bought them. Average citizens fought to keep area waterways clean and free of industrial dumping. People banded together to clean up parks, abandoned lots, prevent toxic emission sites from being placed nearby. We were informed, active and philosophically in synch with the belief that we could make a better world environmentally.

Boy have times changed. Everybody’s got to have their full-sized SUV, despite the price of gasoline hovering around $3.00 a gallon. Federal and many state lawmakers, hungry for campaign contributions, have allowed big business free reign and eliminated regulations governing emissions, dumping, fuel exploration in nature preserves, and the like. Earth Day, Schmearth Day! Who cares?

Meanwhile increases in asthma among urban residents is on the rise. A report this week told how bad smog was in our major cities. As a nation, we are even more dependent on foreign oil, while government and corporate investment in alternative energy technology has been drastically reduced or eliminated. Does anybody care?

While we’re strategizing to get the asshole-in-chief out of the White House, let’s put environmental issues back on the American agenda.

Wisdom

Black Radical Congress Statement in Support of the
Right to Gay Marriage

The Black Radical Congress stands in total solidarity
with gay and lesbian people residing in the United
States as they affirm their human right to marry under
U.S. law on an equal basis with all others who enjoy
the rights and benefits of marriage in this nation. We
say that human beings who live as family, love each
other as family and want society to perceive and treat
them as family should be entitled to precisely the
same legal acknowledgments granted to heterosexuals.
Current efforts to deprive gay and lesbian people of
equal marriage rights are an ultra right-wing attempt
to deem “illegitimate” any family that does not
conform to narrow-minded, religious fundamentalist
doctrine. These Republican efforts are also timed to
distract voters form the critical issues facing all of
us: rising unemployment, lessening access to
healthcare, and endless spending on war.

Since ancient times, homophobia has in various ways
proscribed the freedom of gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people to live their lives openly and on a
par with others, and denials of freedom are something
we Black people know a lot about. During slavery,
family members could be separated on a master’s whim,
never to see each other again. Indeed, although the
word “family” does not appear in the U.S.
Constitution, U.S. law evolved to include numerous
supports for family connections in reaction against
the destruction of family wrought by the institution
of slavery.

The BRC cautions all Black people being called upon to
oppose gay marriage to resist such calls. Given our
own history of suffering and exclusion, we have no
business assisting anti-democratic forces in their
disgraceful campaign to deny marriage rights to a
sector of the population that wishes merely to have
their families accorded “equal protection of the
laws.” Whether the pretext is color or class or gender
or sexual orientation, a denial of civil and human
rights to people on the basis of who they are is
unacceptable. The time was yesterday when we should
realize that our overall struggle against racial
oppression requires us to confront and fight against
homophobia, not only on principle because it can limit
and destroy Black people’s lives, but also because it
has harmed the lives of Black people, past and
present, who are vital actors in the overall struggle.
Have we forgotten James Baldwin, Bessie Smith, Audre
Lorde, June Jordan, Langston Hughes, Marlon Riggs,
Barbara Smith and countless other lesbians, gay men,
bisexual and transgender Black people who HAVE lent
their voices and bodies to the ongoing movement for
justice, even as they were being dissed and dismissed
by their own sisters, brothers and associates? How can
we continue living in denial of the fact that color is
not the only layer of oppression that burdens many
Black people? How can we, with our retrograde
attitudes and actions within our own communities,
continue making their burden heavier?

We could only shake our heads in sadness when a Black
minister in Chicago was quoted as stating that “if the
KKK opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.”
That is precisely the kind of confused and misguided
sentiment among many Blacks that right-wing forces are
hoping they can marshal for their arsenal. While the
right-wing claims to be attacking gay marriage out of
“moral” concern for the welfare of American families
and communities, morality is not the real issue here.
If the right truly cared about the welfare of
families, they would abandon support for the economic
and political policies that daily challenge family
survival — wages inadequate to sustain families;
inadequate health care; lack of affordable housing,
etc. The assault on gay marriage rights is a cynical
ploy aimed at directing anger toward an historically
oppressed group and away from the real threats to
security around the world.

In these times of dwindling employment, rising
poverty, corporate corruption and foreign military
adventures brought about by the desire of economically
powerful forces to make even more billions than they
already have, the Black Radical Congress decries the
scapegoating of ANY sector of the people to divert
attention from the total collapse of honest and humane
governance in this country, and the looting of public
coffers. We stand with gay men, lesbians, bisexual and
transgender people of all colors in their quest for
full and equal human rights, including the right to
marry, raise children and sustain family life.

Black Radical Congress Coordinating Committee