Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Very Heartfelt Letter of Gratitude

One of the charities I donate to is Women for Women International and I received a message from its President. This organization helps women in foreign war-torn areas rebuild their lives. I was so moved I had to share it with you all. Sometimes all we need is a bit of perspective to remind ourselves how blessed we truly are despite our own difficulties navigating through life:

A long time ago, the staff of Women for Women International decided that we would not do a gift exchange during the holiday season. Rather, we would share something symbolic with each other—a word, a song, or a wish.

There was the year where we sang songs to each other, the year when we made dishes for each other, and the year in which we gave the gift of words to each other. I remember a colleague wishing me not only good health so I can keep on going, deep love so my heart may be filled, but also enough challenges to keep me humble and enough pain to remind me of my blessings. I thought this was the most beautiful gift I had ever gotten and, God knows, the prayer did come true.

This year, around a simple pizza gathering, we shared what we are most grateful for. (Perhaps not the most ideal holiday party, but we are a nonprofit and there is a financial crisis going on out there. We need to squeeze everything we can out of each penny.)

And, I think, this year was the most profound sharing of gifts I’ve ever had. 

The night before, my father had called me from Baghdad and was complaining about how tough life is in Iraq—how there is only limited electricity each day, how water pressure is so weak one barely gets enough water (let alone clean water), how there was a bomb that exploded in neighborhoods all around him. And, as I was trying to calm him down, I was also thankful that he is alive, that my loved ones are alive and though he and other family members have endured so much, they are still there in my life. For my father's love, I am very grateful. 

The week before, an Afghan colleague was sharing her worries about her children's safety and while she will do anything to keep working for the women we serve, she just wants to make sure that her son’s life is safe. For her courage, determination, and love I am deeply grateful. 

And just the month before, I had the privilege of spending time with Honorata, a woman whom I first met as a participant receiving Women for Women International services in DR Congo and just recently, I met her as a colleague, a hero, and a great teacher in this life. On her first visit to the United States, Honorata stood in front of more than 800 people and gave her testimony about what she endured during her sexual enslavement in DR Congo, "I was married and was wearing a wedding ring on my finger. They sawed off the ring and, because of that, my finger can no longer function properly. They said I was nobody's wife and, at the same time, I was the wife of everyone. They called me ‘a meal’. Everybody who was hungry for sex could take me as their meal. After raping me, they would pick up any rag, put it on the end of their rifle, and insert it into me, saying that they were wiping me clean”. These were just some of the things she shared in telling her story. Later on, and in a private conversation with me, she talked about how important it was for her to have the power not to look back, not to have her past paralyze her life, to be able to love more, and speak more, and share more. Her resilience shows an amazing part of humanity's strength, courage, and beauty and for her I am incredibly grateful. 

I have always known that the women we serve and the colleagues we work with in our overseas offices will always be a source of inspiration for me. But, as many of us do, I have often traveled the world and looked ahead for what I will be grateful for and often forgotten to pay attention to what is around me every day, to show my gratitude to those who sometimes, because of their closeness, I do not always give them the time needed to communicate my love and admiration for them. This is what Sibongile taught me in our holiday party. 

As we went around the room in our headquarters office in Washington D.C., my colleagues expressed all kinds of gratitude. There were those who were grateful to have found love in their lives, those who were grateful for doing the work they do, and those who were grateful for good health. And then there was Sibongile, a newer staff member. She took a deep breath and talked about how she was grateful for the ability to communicate with one another, how she was grateful to live in a peaceful country, how she was grateful to have the basics in life. “Don't worry about the financial crisis", she said as she tried to put into perspective one's life, the gift of communication, the gift of sharing, and the gift of showing what is most valuable in our lives: love, kindness and generosity of spirit.

Sibongile grew up in South Africa under the apartheid regime and witnessed the disappearance and death of loved ones in her life, days without much food or basic amenities, and days of fighting and instability in her life. Sibongile and I have only met once before in her 9 months with Women for Women International, but I am deeply grateful to her for teaching me to see the blessings and wisdom that has been so close to me all year long, yet, I didn't spend much time to appreciate it. For the beauty of her words and her spirit, I am very grateful. 

As we all embark on a new year—hopefully a good year, a peaceful year, and, yes, maybe a tough year, but never for too long—remember to notice the blessings that are close to you and far away from you, remember to take the time to share a sweet word with someone, and hopefully, with a woman in a war torn region. Write a letter to your sponsored sister. If you have not yet sponsored a sister, please go to and sponsor a woman survivor of war. Share with her some of your financial blessings, some of your love, and some of your wisdom. 

And remember Rumi's words when he said:

Dance, when you're broken open
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off
Dance, in the middle of the fighting
Dance, in your blood
Dance, when you're perfectly free

May it be a very happy 2009.

With deep gratitude for all of your support,


Women for Women International 
4455 Connecticut Ave NW Suite 200 
Washington, DC 20008

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The book, "The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope" would make a great gift as well. 

What That Black Male Teen Homicide Report Says and Doesn't Say

I have mixed feelings about the report titled, "The Recent Surge in Homicides Involving Young Black Males and Guns: Time to Reinvest in Prevention and Crime Control". Like what we want to hear about is more bad news. I'm wondering why did it take 6-8 years of 'fact-finding' for enough a trend to emerge for this report to be released? Since this all occurred during the Bush administration and is just as much a condemnation of his failed policies as everything else. Didn't Kanye say Bush didn't care about Black people?! 

As if we need to be told of how dire the circumstances are for (not wealthy) Blacks in a predominantly Black environment. So a "thinking head" at Northeastern University - James Alan Fox - figures out that more male teens have been killing each other since 2000. Gee, do ya think the economy and lack of police presence had something to do with it? The ease with which weapons can be acquired illegally thanks to the lobbying efforts of the NRA? The failure of the "We Are Victims of White Racism But We Do Nothing to Address the Failure of Our Leadership" Civil Rights crowd? While we're ready to tsk tsk and shake our heads or be angry we should be asking a few more questions. 

Why the call to arms over this particular issue at this time? Have we noticed how quickly certain parts of this report have been disseminated in the media in a very specific way? This will increase the fears of certain segments of the population. It's not a coincidence this report comes out right before Obama takes office. This also serves to demoralize others. Was this an act of benevolence and a warning or more rhetoric? Are you wondering who James Fox is?

James Alan Fox, Ph.D.

The Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and 
Professor of Law, Policy and Society
Northeastern University
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

617-373-3296 office
617-416-4400 cell


Feel free to contact him and tell him how you feel about the report after reading it!

Report feedback via Associated Press

(AP) Black teenagers are killing each other in rising numbers as part of a troubling trend that has been masked by a falling crime rate in the United States, according to a new study released Monday by Northeastern University. 

FBI crime statistics show overall decreases in violent crime and murder. But amid those numbers, the report by criminal justice professors James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt found other disturbing trends. 

Among their findings: an increase of more than 39 percent in the number of black males between ages 14-17 killed between 2000 and 2007 and an increase of 34 percent in the number of blacks that age who committed homicide. 

The increases for white male teens, meanwhile, were nearly 17 percent and 3 percent, respectively. 

"We can't ignore the fact that hidden within the overall good news on crime is very bad news for a segment of the population - young black males - and that needs our attention," Fox said. 

Fox calls for an infusion of government money to beef up police forces and restore mentor, sports, after-school and summer programs that withered as federal funds were redirected from cities to homeland security after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. 

"We need to invest much more in the lives of these kids," Fox said. "I know there's lots of people who say times are tough and we don't have the money, but we either pay for these programs now or pray for the victims later because crime doesn't wait until the economy improves." 

Fox emphasizes that despite problems highlighted in his report, crime isn't out of control. Recent crimes statistics indicate progress, including a drop in overall crime and murder rates between 2006 and 2007, the most recent year available. The numbers are a vast improvement over the 1990s when the emergence of crack cocaine fueled an explosion in violence, the Northeastern report said. In 1993, 225 out of every 100,000 blacks ages 14-17 committed homicide compared with 81 out of 100,000 today. 

But that's an increase from 2000, when the number was 66 per 100,000. 

"When you stop paying attention to it, when you stop working at it, the problems can and do rebound," Fox said. 

The report indicates guns are overwhelmingly the weapon of choice for young black offenders and are now used in nearly 85 percent of all homicides they commit, matching 1990s levels. The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of the anti-crime Ten Point Coalition in Boston, said the spike in gun murders by and on young blacks "bears out what I see on the streets every day." 

"The victim and perpetrators of gun crimes are getting younger and younger," he said. 

Expansion in government and after-school programs would be welcome, he said. He added that local families and the larger community groups, particularly churches, also need to do more helping kids and families at risk from violence. 

Teens - who Brown said "don't know from one day to the next if a bullet screaming through their street has their name on it or not" - talk to him about more mentoring and after-school programs, more strong male and female role models. They also wonder if their lives would be different if their fathers were around. 

"When you get to the street level, politics doesn't matter. What matters are these young people and the daily violence that they have to face, and is there anybody out there to help them?" Brown said. "That's their question." 

But some warn more money for more programs could be wasted. Kay Hymowitz, a Manhattan Institute fellow who has studied the breakdown of marriage in the United States, said programs for at-risk youth are often ineffective and don't address the root problem of absentee fathers and fractured black families. 

"We still need to bring the conversation around to the subject that everyone has been uneasy about, and that's the breakdown of the family," she said. 

Hymowitz said people have shied from addressing the disarray in the black family because "it sounds like blaming blacks to some people." But she said the issue must be confronted head on. 

"We don't know how to bring fathers back into the family, but we do know that the silence on the subject over the last 40 years has been a disaster for blacks and this (report) is evidence of that," she said.
Why are there no studies on the poor quality of the lives of  Black female teens being dissected and given news coverage? Oh right, Black women don't count! And racism apparently doesn't apply if you don't exist. This just plays right into the tired argument of how (all) Blacks are victims and pathetic. Will the NAACP and "Hot Comb" Al Sharpton have anything to say about this or will they be holding a press conference defending the criminals as per usual? Jesse Jackson Sr. has been awfully quiet lately!

White male teen murder rates have also increased during this same period, but apparently the media likes to talk about how depraved Black people are exclusively. Columbine? A fluke! The Oklahoma terrorism and militia groups and growth of the KKK amongst younger whites? Hogwash! 

Apparently women don't express their aggression in ways worthy of studying by these male researchers either. I can't help but wonder aloud if Fox is looking for notoriety and a grant or two for being  a 'Black male homicide crime expert'? It's not as if it would take a rocket scientist to surmise that neighborhoods full of callously neglected, unemployed, enabling, besieged and otherwise accepting of the circumstances people that the outcome would be any different. We don't need yet another white person telling Black people how to feel or what to think.

This isn't a Hollywood movie where the white teacher with a heart of gold risks their relative comfort to go preach to the 'heathen' colored children about how they don't have to be savages anymore because said great white teacher can show them the way of humanity. And we can all feel good in about 1.5 hours pretending that's all it takes. As if certain policies have not caused harm and even prevented tackling some of the underlying issues at hand.

This report offers no solutions, no strategies for change, no identification of key elements to use to enact change and little accountability. Except to tell people that certain elements of Black society offer a bleak existence at best.

I did not believe this myself until a few short weeks ago. Certain neighborhoods are breeding grounds for dangerous people who will commit every evil act imaginable. We can dissect all the reasons for it and offer numerous 'solutions'. It's just time to roll outta there. This is a real-life Grand Theft Auto video game and somebody else has control of the joystick. If you don't want to you and yours to be part of someone else's fun for kicks it's time to go! 

It's the countdown to 2009. Leave and don't look back.

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Kwanzaa Day 6: Kuumba

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Today we are observing the sixth principle of Kwanzaa: Kuumba - Creativity.

The goal is to do as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. 

Now this principle is very important in light of the decaying neighborhoods many of us are trying to live in. Since it is usually Black women that are being conditioned to hold the 'community' together and rally against white racism to their detriment it's time for other people - the men - to step up. 

Until then I think the heart of this principle needs to be followed: leave the community. Perhaps once it's been restored there can be a reunion. Hanging on the roof while a tidal wave is raging doesn't offer the opportunity for community development though.

Now back to our scheduled message of the day. The History Channel has a society and culture section with a video on Kwanzaa traditions.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cynthia McKinney's Latest Crazy Antics!

I say crazy with the upmost respect because she risked her life trying to deliver medical supplies to Gaza earlier today. The boat she was on was surrounded by Israeli warships, fired at and rammed numerous times to render it inoperable. Now I'll argue the gov't has the right to take an appropriate military stance, but the boat was in international waters and did not initiate or return any aggression. Doesn't that make what they did illegal?

When citizens are in need and foreign policy makers want to posture on the issues, it is the weak and unaccounted for that are left vulnerable. Most people will not leave the comfort of their bed so whether some agree with her actions or not I applaud anyone's sincere efforts at relieving someone's pain. Bush is on vacay until he officially gets the boot and Obama is quick to point out that he's not the President yet so who's going to step up in the interim? 

The boat sailed from Cyprus (the land of the spectacularly yummy Holoumi cheese) but never made it to Gaza. They had to disembark in Lebanon where they may try again. Her parents gave a brief telephone interview that has appeared in the Washington Times:
"She told me that they were in international waters in the Mediterranean and that an Israeli warship started chasing them and rammed them three times," Mr. McKinney said in a telephone interview from his home.

"I was very worried yesterday, but I feel better today" because he spoke with his daughter, he said. "She said she's safe. She only wanted me to know, and her mother to know, that she was safe. I feel a whole lot better now. "If I know my daughter, she's going to complete that mission," he replied. "She's a very determined woman."
I'm certain McKinney is considered more of a pest to those whose interests lie opposite hers. Otherwise she'd have suffered a fate similar to the guy who's plane crashed last week when he was preparing to testify against the Bush administration. 

Update with CNN Interview:

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Bobby Rush Opened Up A Can of Kick Butt!

Governor Rod Blagojevich has appointed former Attorney General Roland Burris to the vacant Senate seat in IL. Mr. Burris has more than 40 years of service and is more than qualified.  If the voters had selected him or Rush for Governor when they ran - instead of Blago - the state wouldn't be in the mess that it's in now. Blago wasn't even close to being as qualified when he ran, but yet again, back room support, money and somewhat questionable strategizing helped him come out on top. Also having two Black people competing in a three person race will always split the vote in favor of that 3rd party. 

During the press conference Congressman Rush broke it down so it can forever be broke! There are no Black Senators currently serving for any state in the US. There's only been three (3) since Reconstruction. For all the complaining about sexism white women have fared very well in Senate and Gubernatorial elections. When you can be the wife of or the daughter of a white man that has acquired a power base it is easily transfered. As for Black women, IL had Carol Moseley Braun. And that's it! That's why it was so important to ask about finding a Black female candidate for the NYS Senate. 2009 is the year to change all of that and move forward!!

Anyway, that was a nice move on Rep. Rush's part. He has thrown down the gauntlet. That's how you do it! Harry Reid had expressed some opposition but now what's he gonna do? It's called checkmate.

Update: Obama has weighed in on this: “Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.”

Hmmm, aren't we all entitled to a functioning gov't? Blago may be a crook but I bet MANY other politicians would fit that description as well. If Burris is as decent as everyone says then let him have the seat. He has to run in an election in 2010 anyway! Perhaps Obama needs to shut up!

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Woman Run Over By Two Drivers Dies

Accidents happen, but two hit and runs in a row is insane! This is why everyone with a driver's license should be required to re-take the written test and the road test every two years. People are talking on phones, sending text messages, eating, putting on makeup and doing everything but driving and being fully focused on the road. (I know the handsfree laws are in effect - but where was the common sense in allowing it in the first place?)

Not to mention how many people are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or driving cars that they cannot maneuver well - I'm talking about women in big cars, trucks and SUVs. It's a particular pet peeve of mine for these drivers in CA.  I can't forget to add driving too fast.

Cyclist Laura Casey died Saturday in Richmond after being hit by two cars where both drivers stopped and took off. Neither of them had bothered to get out of their cars to check to see if there was a person injured. Residents were trying to assist Ms. Casey after the first car departed when the second one hit before they could reach her. Her sister made an appeal on television for the drivers to come forward and said she was certain it must have been an accident. Ha! Well the first driver - who it seems knocked Ms. Casey off her bike turned herself in to the police earlier this evening. The second driver - who actually ran over Ms. Casey is still hiding out. 

As someone who has almost been hit numerous times by drivers who try to bypass buses to go over crosswalks when the pedestrian has the right of way, or speed through the yellow light when you're supposed to yield or drivers who refuse to come to a complete stop at the curb it is hard for me to have a whole lot of sympathy for them. 

I was about 5 inches from being hit by a guy who tried to do an illegal turn into an alley on my way to a concert last month. He literally came out of nowhere and I had no time to react. If he hadn't hit the brakes I might not be here right now writing this. Yes I cussed him out, too! 

San Francisco has a particularly high pedestrian injury record with reckless drivers. I know people make mistakes...but I see far too many irresponsible drivers who should be charged with a fine the equivalent of a moving violation in order to get them to be more careful in the future!

I know the young woman who turned herself in will have to live with wondering if she had checked more thoroughly whether Ms. Casey would still be alive. I hope this motivates law enforcement and communities to take a more proactive stance in monitoring multi-lane roads better.

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Kwanzaa Day 5: Nia

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Today is the celebration of Kwanzaa principle five: Nia - Purpose

To goal is to make a collective vocation, building and developing the community in order to restore Black people to their traditional greatness.  (That's a tall order!)

On this day a Zawadi (gift) that is meant to be educational, cultural or made by hand is exchanged. 

Did you know there's a film about Kwanzaa titled, "The Black Candle" directed by M.K. Assante Jr., narrated by Maya Angelou and featuring Chuck D? You can rent it on Netflix or purchase it directly from the filmmaker at the link provided.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Local Protests Scheduled for Dec 30th National Day of Action

Well if Hamas started it, innocent civilians are getting their butts kicked - and worse! There's already the ongoing humanitarian crisis that still hasn't been resolved. Suffering makes you a little less likely to want to sit at the negotiation table.

There have been quite a few protests in San Francisco already, at the Israeli embassy and Senator Dianne Feinstein's office.

Tuesday will mark a day of demonstrations calling for an immediate end to the attacks on the citizens of the Gaza strip by the Israeli government. Let's hope calmer heads will prevail and trigger happy people move away from the weapons and use some diplomacy.

Courtesy of A.N.S.W.E.R.
Albion, CA
Monday, December 29
12 noon
Jct Rte 1 & Albion Ridge Road
Contact: 707-472-6486,

Anaheim, CA (Orange County)
Sunday, December 28
2:00 pm
512 S. Brookhurst St. (between Orange Ave. & Broadway)
Initiated by a coalition with a large number of groups

Fort Bragg, CA
Monday, December 29
12 noon
Rte 1 at Fort Bragg Town Hall Rally
Contact: 707-937-4352,

Fremont, CA
Monday, December 29
5:00 pm
Gather at the corner of Mowry and Fremont Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
Israeli Consulate: 6380 Wilshire Blvd.
Contact: 213-251-1025,

Sacramento, CA
Tuesday, December 30
4:00-6:00 pm
Gather at 16th and J
Sponsored by Sacramento Peace Action; Free Palestine Alliance; the National Council of Arab Americans, & Al-Awda, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition
Contact: 916-448-7157

San Francisco, CA
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Israeli Consulate:456 Montgomery St.
Contact: 415-821-6545,
* * * * *
Monday, December 29
5:00 pm
Vigil at Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Office: Montgomery and Market
Co-Sponsored by a number of local organizations

San Jose, CA
Tuesday, December 30
The San Jose Peace and Justice Center and South Bay Mobilization are organizing a bus to the protest in San Francisco. The bus will load at the SJPJC, 48 S Seventh St, San Jose at 2:30 pm. and depart at 3:00 pm. It will make a brief stop at the Caltrain Park and Ride lot at Page Mill Rd and 280 (the lot is just south of 280 on Page Mill). Anyone wanting to catch the bus there should plan to be there by 3:15 pm. The bus will load for the return trip at 6:15 pm. and depart San Francisco at 6:30. Anyone who wishes to take the bus should immediately email Jon at to make a reservation. $15-20 donation to defray the cost of the bus.

Santa Rosa, CA
Tuesday, December 30
5:30 pm
Courthouse Square: Santa Rosa Avenue downtown
Sponsored by the Board of the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County

When Isn't Rape & Violence About Hate?

Update: the 4 suspects have been apprehended!

I had to sit on this story for a while because I found it doubly even triply upsetting. Also it hit so close to home because it occurred just over the bridge in the city of Richmond, CA. This is an area known to be 'troubled'. Lots of crime, drugs, failing schools and people trying to hang on and avoid the maniacs that terrorize decent people. 

A woman was gang-raped by four men near her apartment building and there's a strong possibility they were motivated by her sexual orientation being that she is a lesbian. I am not defending the actions of the perpetrators but my immediate thought was that the story got traction because of the ongoing conflicts over the failure of the No on 8 campaign and the unresolved racial animus.

I cringed to find out Black and Latino men were involved and I hope they are caught and jailed. They'll be certain to find out exactly what it feels like to be violated - repeatedly - once they are. I also wondered if as usual, there was an underlying racial angle to this and whether the survivor was a white woman. Why should it matter? White women have plenty of people at the ready to protect them. That's one benefit of living under white supremacy. Have we not seen Nancy Grace talking about the "tot mom" every day for the past three weeks? 

I still feel uneasy about the Duke Lacrosse team alleged rape of the Black female student who was hired to be an exotic dancer for their party. They may have been found 'innocent' but that doesn't make it so. There are plenty of Black men on death row who've been exonerated for crimes they didn't commit - far too many posthumously. Black women rarely have the protection of society or their communities and since I have to make a choice about how I spend my time and energy that is what I want to focus on. We have to help each other or we will perish.

It's so much harder for Black women to have their rapes taken seriously. The ones that acknowledge their violations are often not believed: by the authorities or by the women in their communities. Others refuse to accept their sexual activity was a rape because it happens under nefarious or murky circumstances and they're often guilted into blaming themselves. Youth, poor judgement, emotional manipulation, intoxication or low self-esteem do not mix. R Kelly. Genarlow Wilson. Karl Malone. Thomas Jefferson. Your father/uncle/mother's boyfriend. The guy down the street. The list goes on. 

Are we to believe the sole motivation for those perps was seeing a rainbow flag on the woman's bumper sticker? Or were they out looking to do harm to any woman period? We may never know. Every woman that remains in a troubled neighborhood is putting her life in jeopardy. In a just world every woman would be afforded the same media coverage, police investigation, community action and BELIEF and help! 

When Duanna Johnson was beat with a baton and called the N word by her arresting officers was it because she was being charged with a crime, was it because they didn't like Black people or was it because she was trans? 

Had the woman not been a lesbian would we have even heard of this crime? Is that a sign of progress in a society that a few years ago would've said nothing was wrong with trying to 'teach' a lesbian a lesson? Had the perps been white men would people be so outraged? With statistics claiming 1 out of 4 women as being a victim of sexual assault there is far too much silence. I hope this will be the beginning of a focus on aiding those that need it and prosecuting those that deserve it.  Every female assault victim should have the appropriate courtesy.      

There is a Facebook Page with information about a fundraiser being held on her behalf. Understandably she does not want to return to an area where rapists are running free. If you feel like you want to store up some karma this might be a good place to start.    
If you would like to send a card, please mail it to:

Richmond Police Department
Attn: Sgt. Brian Dickerson
1701 Regatta Blvd.
Richmond, CA 94804

If you can send a financial contribution (even a few dollars) to help her pay her medical bills, moving fees, and other costs associated with her recovery, please mail a check payable to Community Violence Solutions to:

Community Violence Solutions
2101 Van Ness Ave.,
San Pablo, CA 94806
Attn: Mrs. Joanne Douglas

In the memo section of the check please write: Richmond Jane Doe

For credit card donations, please go to:

IMPORTANT: You must indicate that you want to the credit card donation to go to Richmond Jane Doe.

Please start sending your cards and donations as soon as possible. This woman needs to know that she's not alone in this. 
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Kwanzaa Day 4: Ujamaa

Today signifies the practice of Kwanzaa Principle four: Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics

The goal is to build Black owned and operated businesses. They have to be supported by patrons to survive and thrive. I already did a post on the Ebony Experiment but it deserves another mention. During 2009 we will be closely monitoring how the Andersons are able to best implement their focused distribution of resources and financial support. 
The Ebony Experiment Group, LLC, was created by John C. and Maggie Anderson of Oak Park, Ill., and is a community service oriented project that is seeking sponsors to support the experiment and maintain the website. The purpose of The Ebony Experiment is to infuse long-term wealth into the Black community by galvanizing and uniting Black consumers, investors, businesses and professionals.
What are ways we can encourage more people to be business owners? It is small businesses that actually employ the bulk of the people in this country. Hard to believe, huh? Not everyone wants - or has equal access to - a corporate gig or union.

Renaissance Entrepeneurship Center - this is based in San Francisco but you can research your local version  

Courses in how to own and operate a small business - at your local community college

Look into areas where Federal economic redevelopment funds are being considered - and if it's not in your area - move!

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As Somolia's President Resigns the Question of a New World Order Begs to Be Discussed

Was President Eisenhowser giving a prescient warning?

That Bush and the Neo-Cons or whomever they are have implemented?

President Abdullahi Yusuf has resigned from leading Somalia's government. Since he wasn't forcibly removed by the US like Haiti's President Aristide under threat of death, then can we ask whether the puppet decided to cut his strings?  

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Iconic Films, Critiques and Is Will Smith an Actor or a Movie Star?

Don't you just hate it when you're trying to sleep but the light seeps through the curtains? I was up nearly the entire night because I couldn't fall sleep but then when I wanted to stay asleep my body insists on noticing the daylight and I woke up with less than my 6 hour minimum. Also I must have been coming out of REM because I could hear my mind thinking aloud about what I wanted to write. The words were spilling out much faster than I can write so I just had to take a breath and just...breathe...and write. 
I have Goldfrapp on loop because I am always inspired by one of the coolest bands out there that's also fronted by a woman and I love Allison's creativity and vision. If you've followed all of their 2nd & 3rd releases they were headed towards a dance/disco/glam rock cliff and about to fall over but they pulled it back just in time. No they didn't return to the film noir inspiration of their debut release but they've settled somewhere comfortably in the middle. Some have compared Seventh Tree to a cross between Cocteau Twins and the Beatles. There's a sophistication to their music that might get lost on the average listener who's been conditioned to a catchy but simple pop song (though those are not easy to write) with less structured vocals. They may not be a household name in the States but they totally rock! 

Okay this isn't supposed to be a review of Goldfrapp, but I assume not everyone has heard of them and I am happy to spread to word. Speaking of which, I made a point of discussing the latest Keanu film and I should state for the record that while I enjoyed it, a lot of other people did not. I never said I thought the movie was "good", just that it was a good update. There is a difference. There are some purists out there who like to herald classic movies in the canon of film history and look to the original as some sort of masterpiece while overlooking its flaws. Well "The Day the Earth Stood Still" was never really that great to begin with. It was made with the intention of affecting public opinion about having a United Nations. Now it wasn't an actual propaganda film but the filmmakers wanted to grease the wheels of discourse for good. I look at the stylized acting and the dated effects and I find it to be cute, but Kurosawa it ain't. 

Which brings me to Seven Pounds. It is the must-see movie of the holiday season. Will Smith brought his A-game to this role. I am reluctant to even talk about it in case everyone hasn't seen it yet. It's best to go in knowing nothing and the official trailer is intentionally vague. A lot of the reviews from the critics yet again miss the mark. One they don't know film history, two they don't value plot development and three they expect to be spoon feed obvious plot devices where you see the end coming from a mile away. The movie requires its audience to focus on the film and doesn't pander. If that seems strange to critics it's because Hollywood has long abandoned the art of making a classic film for modern audiences and instead calculates how many car crashes or fight scenes they can throw in. That and computer generated talking animals that always have blue eyes.

Will is a movie star and it took a movie star to get a film like this the greenlight. Otherwise it would have been some obscure French film - good - but relegated to the art house crowd. So he puts butts in seats. The thing is though, is that he's acting in this film as well. He's not the hero in the bombastic summer blockbuster and his superstar status almost gets in the way. His character is so emotionally tortured that it's uncomfortable to watch because as an audience you can actually feel it. His emotional distance is palpable and irritating but haven't you ever pushed people away when you're working through your issues? There's the ongoing tension because we don't know exactly why he is so tortured. We get glimpses and we know we'll find out all the details but we're almost afraid to. When the tears fall from his eyes on screen yours have already been falling in the audience. The sheer weight of the things he does to relieve people in distress is real - it is especially poignant and applicable to what's going in the world right now. This movie would not have had the same impact pre-9/11. 

Rosario Dawson did a great job as well. I do believe a woman who knows she's dying and is also lonely would reach out to someone displaying genuine kindness - especially if it was a handsome male - when her heart is open.  She asked all the right questions about his intentions and had every right to remove herself, but since his character came back I can also see why she accepted him on his terms. Plus it would've diminished what he did for her in the end. He really loved her! Yes, I'm still being vague. She had nothing to lose being so available to him because she was losing everything anyway. That was the gift he needed as he'd planned on making the ultimate sacrifice anyway. 

I can see where the plot could've focused more on the relationship between Emily and Ben but it would've been a different film and I liked the fact that he was so involved with others. We've seen the star-crossed lovers but they are torn apart film numerous times. I also read some person on Twitter complaining that there were no Black people in the film other than Smith and I'm wondering what movie they saw. His brother, the cancer patient and his family, the nurses, the wife of his best friend, the first love, the person he hurt: that's at least 8. Perhaps they meant co-stars but Rosario is a Latina with acknowledged African heritage. She and the mutli-ethnic Thandie Newton have similar coloring and Thandie's mum is a Zimbabwean princess.

One thing I'd like to see Will do next is play a character who displays his sex appeal. I felt it in Bad Boys 2 when he reveals he was dating his partner's sister played by Gabrielle Union. I thought they looked great on screen together. He is working on numerous projects including an adaptation of Oldboy with Steven Spielberg that ought to be interesting! Once the director had expressed a reluctance at working with him because Will was doing populist films. 

This coming from the king of populist films had me rolling my eyes - especially in light of the fact he ruined War of the Worlds (where I think the original holds up) by changing the ending to pure fluff. There's also the fact that though he directed Amistad at Debbie Allen's behest - she should've gotten the nod to direct it herself! Then there's the out of court settlement he and Dreamworks had with Barbara Chase Riboud for plagiarizing her book "Echo of Lions" about the uprising in the first place. If only this wasn't the first time a Black female writer had her creative works stolen by Hollywood with a potential payoff for her silence. Paging Sophia Stewart, the real mother of the Matrix - and Terminator!!

Ok, so back to the movie: I loved how all the characters were interconnected on some level. I felt so bad for the best friend and the task he had to undertake. I really cried when he helped the mother and her children for all the reasons why it was so important that she take steps to reclaim her life. My only thought were how beautiful her surroundings would have been and how was she going to pay the property taxes! Also as an aside, it was understood that she wasn't going to go back to old patterns because helping her would've been a waste. I really liked the juxtaposition with the beauty and danger of jellyfish. Yes, I'm still being vague. I noticed a few teenagers in the audience and a few guys in their twenties. I wondered what they got out of the film and how it might inspire them because I can't recall so many people crying while watching one since the "House of Sand and Fog". Cell phones and driving don't mix!!! Yes, I'm still being vague - just go see the movie. 

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Separated At Birth?

Do you think these women look similar? One is a famous British actress. The other is the socialite and mother of an international music star. When I first saw a photo of Isabel Preysler I thought she was Thandie Newton's mum not Enrique Iglesias'. She is tres chic!


credit: WireImage

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More Celebrations

I forgot to include an oldie (circa 1996) but goodie from the UK group St. Etienne, "I Was Born on Christmas Day", featuring the ethereal vocals of Sarah Cracknell.

Today is the 3rd principle of Kwanzaa: Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility

The goal is to build and maintain a community. This is where it is imperative that people financially support those entities and companies that don't harm the Black community, especially Black women and girls. 

For example, if a large consumer products company such as Proctor & Gamble is paying for advertising on shows that degrades the image of Black women then we should NOT lend our tacit approval by purchasing their products. If a certain music artist displays skin-shade racism don't buy their music! It requires making informed and deliberate choices. Stop blindly supporting churches, Civil Rights organizations and even your neighborhood store if they don't offer reciprocity in turn. We can demand equal access and fair representation by using our collective bargaining power. 

It's like holding a large voting block on the board of a company where you can easily wield influence. It is time for people to begin strategizing and planning a long term goal and an overall course of action for the uplifting and care of those who show themselves to be allies and recognize and protect each other from the enemies. 

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kwanzaa Day 1 & 2

Oops, I forgot to post this yesterday so I'll combine the two principles today. Kwanzaa began on December 26th-Jan 1st (Boxing Day for the UK & Canada). For those who are not familiar with it, Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates Black American and Pan-African heritage. It is not tied to a specific religious practice though there is an element of spirituality to it I'd say. Wikipedia has a nice entry on it as well the official site for your review.

Umoja - Unity: Striving for unity in the family, community and nation.

A fractured community or nation is open to all sorts of outside attacks and can leave you on the verge of extinction. If you are considered part of a minority population where the deck has been stacked against you it is even more imperative to repair any breaches in self, in family and in community.

Kujichagulia - Self-Determination: To be ourselves.

Sometimes it can be quite the challenge to live your life based on your own ideals. Not based on traditions or religion beliefs passed down by your parents. Not based on a superficial societal pressure to conform to something. We can't be free if we're carrying other people's baggage.

As 2009 approaches and some people continue to look to symbolic advances that we hope will pan out for segments of our communities we really need to be thinking of ways to plan, strategize and build alliances with a long-term goal in mind.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Tribute to Eartha Kitt (1927-2008)

In a year that saw the passing of many great creative giants none compare to the amazing singer, dancer, actress Eartha Kitt. I've been trying to visit her official web site but the server is temporarily down from the spike in activity. She was not only an great entertainer, but she was conscious of her image, spoke out against injustice, was politically active when it was not always prudent to do so and set an example as someone who overcame a miserable childhood. 

She was sexy in a classy way and owned her femininity. You could just tell that she felt comfortable in her own skin. I can't even recall a performance or interview where she raised her voice or behaved in a vulgar way. She knew how to charm people and be engaging. Here's an interview on the Today show from 2006 (skip to 1:35 for less banter).

Known for her trademark growl she created opportunities for her to thrive despite the numerous obstacles and personal disappointments. I'd read her third autobiography, "I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten" where she spoke of being able to audition directly for the talent gatekeepers of the time. She didn't limit herself to the assigned roles of a Black person's 'place' in society at that time. Her contemporaries were also glamorous and well-heeled: ladies like Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge but she created her own niche. 


She travelled and worked in Europe after facing a career threat for her anti-war efforts. She also wrote a book on fitness, titled "Rejuvenate". One thing that struck me was despite feelings of inadequacy based on the rejection by her parents or being rebuffed by the families of some of the white men she'd dated and other disappointments she still forged ahead positively when a lot of people would've been mired in their misery.

She married, had children and grandchildren and continued to work, making her own destiny in an industry that hasn't exactly persisted in positive images of Black women. She was very upfront about being the product of a rape but she didn't dwell on it publicly. I sense the media likes to make victims out of Black women and she was a survivor and thriver, not the tragic mullato story some would seem to prefer. She was probably best known for her rendition of "Santa Baby", playing Catwoman on the Batman tv series from the 1960's and for later audiences as the cosmetics owner with thing for Eddie Murphy in Boomerang. The one thing she had an abundance of was talent which is fast becoming a rarity amongst entertainers of any genre. 
One of her last interviews from earlier this year in the Times UK she said, “I have never thought of myself as a race. I have always thought of myself as a communicator who has no race.” 

Notable quotes from a live blog interview with the Washington Post from 2005: 

"I'm sorry to say this, but you don't need that much talent to get into show business these days. Today it's more what you look like rather than what you have to offer." 

"I think this is one of the things that we in the western world -- especially in the United States, it seems to me -- do not have enough interest in other cultures in order for us to understand and appreciate the differences rather than fight the differences or try to oppress the differences. Like we've always said, no matter what religious leader comes along, learn to live with one another and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We don't live by The Ten Commandments it seems." 

"I was always interested in learning how to speak properly so that once you learn how to speak the language properly you can fall into any area of the language that is called for as a character"

From "Santa Baby", to "C'est Si Bon", to "I Want to Evil" she has amassed a legacy of memorable performances. She had a resurgence of popularity with the under 40 crowd a few years back and I am so glad I went to see her cabaret show. Seeing her and Nina Simone during her last tour was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Brava to a real diva!! 

Here's a great mix of tv and movie clips set to her rendition of "I'd Rather Be Burned As A Witch". May you rest in peace.

photos via Google search
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

More Holiday Music

Denyce Graves - Ave Maria (Caccini)

Patti Labelle - The Lord's Prayer with a nice intro 

Jessye Norman - Amazing Grace

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Let today be a time you can share with your family by biology or choice and be warm, safe and loved. Know that millions across the world are collectively sending out good thoughts today. Somebody loves you!!

          Bruce Springsteen & E. Street Band

          Luther Vandross & Chaka Khan

          Aretha Franklin

          Take 6 - Joy to the World

          Stevie Wonder - What Christmas Means to Me

          Adam Sandler - Hanukkah Song

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Was the Warren Pick An Effort at Neutralizing Gay Animus From Religious Zealots?

McCain And Obama Attend Campaign Forum At California Mega-Church

I'm wondering if Obama is just a mere politician pandering to those that voted for him and triangulating support - or if he really is pulling Ninja stealth moves and we're really slow on the uptake? Is he giving oxygen to haters or sucking out poison from a snake? The pick of Rick Warren to deliver the Inauguration Invocation, which is the opening prayer and lasts 5-10 minutes, caused a major uproar from Gay Rights advocates and rightfully so. I wondered however if people were overreacting and placing more significance than it warranted. 

Dr. Joseph Lowery is giving the Benediction, the closing prayer, which is 15-20 minutes or so and he is an advocate. Also there are other 'openly gay' scheduled participants scattered throughout the events of the day. I have a problem with those advocates who want to decry the Warren pick but won't examine their own privilege as well as those that don't build relationships with others across various communities. 

I find it very telling when so many white gays were quick to attack Black people when they didn't get what they wanted. I am also equally if not more appalled by the animus displayed by many Black people who are claiming moral hierarchy in condemning homosexuality and some people's stubborn insistence that they are "only quoting the word of God". Meanwhile, the Black community such that it is, has fast disintegrated into a cesspool of dysfunction and evil that far permeates any argument against teh gay. 

But people don't want to hear it. I'm having an ongoing conversation - argument if you will - at a black-oriented political blog about this very issue. Those people that cling to their very selective Bible quotations do not want to have a real conversation about dogma versus compassion. Or even a brief review of history, from the Crusades, to slave trading, to bombing health care workers and clinics. It's all in the name of the Lord! So there may never be a point of agreement. What didn't go unnoticed was the voting trends of the so-called evangelicals who voted for the Democratic nominee in such large numbers this election cycle while white gays and lesbians voted Republican.

What I also find interesting is how Warren is making nice nice with teh gay, well Melissa Etheridge and one owner of a store in West Hollywood. You know, other white people, because yet again Blacks are not a part of this conversation except to blame or to bash each other. Warren has also been busy sanitizing his web site of all the fire and brimstone condemnation. Which only proves my point that he is a false prophet and snake oil salesman hawking 'religion' to make his name and fortune. 

If he really believed what he preached he should not publicly change his stance to curry favor with the incoming President. Which brings me back to Obama and wondering if he chose Warren knowing he would start backpedaling in favor of.....a favorable spotlight. Of course it could also be because of the pressure he's getting from gay advocates, though he didn't seem to care about them before under cloak of "my religious beliefs are this". 

If the Warren choice neuters his animus then Obama may have accomplished more in the course of a few weeks than others have tried for years. Those that follow Warren will be forced to disavow themselves - as some have done - or rethink their position because their "leader" has done so. Even though the effort is minor, any budging at all signifies a huge shift. Maybe people will start thinking for themselves for a change instead of blinding following a guy on a pulpit. 

I could be wrong though. Now can we also talk about his views on abortion?

photo source: Getty
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