i am

My photo
harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

President Obama Signs Historic Hate-Crimes Bill Into Federal Law

president barack obama signed a law making it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. hailed by supporters as the first major federal gay rights legislation, the expanded federal hate-crimes law was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill signed by obama at a packed white house ceremony.

the matthew shepard and james byrd, jr. hate crimes prevention act was named for matthew shepard, a gay wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in october 1998, and james byrd, jr., an african-american man dragged to death by a group of young white males in texas the same year. the appropriations bill signing was attended by shepard's mother, judy, as well as vice president joe biden, attorney general eric holder, defense secretary robert gates and other leading members of congress.

obama cited the work of the late massachusetts senator edward kennedy and others "to make this day possible." to loud applause, obama hailed the hate crimes measure in the bill as a step toward change to "help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love and how they pray." later that day, wednesday october 28, obama stood with shepard's parents and relatives of byrd, jr. at a separate white house event honoring passage of the expanded hate-crimes law.

noting reports of 12,000 crimes in the last decade based on sexual orientation, obama called the historic bill another step in the continuing struggle for human rights. obama said, "because of the efforts of the folks in this room, particularly those family members standing behind me, the bell rings even louder now." upon finishing his remarks he hugged the weeping relatives as the audience applauded.

several religious groups are concerned a hate crimes bill could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects like abortion or homosexuality. however, holder said any federal hate-crimes law would be used only to prosecute violent acts based on bias, not to prosecute speech based on controversial racial or religious beliefs. former president george w. bush threatened to veto a similar measure but obama brought a reversal of that policy to the white house.

when the bill won final congressional approval last week, human rights campaign (hrc) president joe solmonese called the hate-crimes measure "our nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." earlier this month, obama told the hrc - the nation's largest gay rights group - our nation still needs to make significant changes to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians. while addressing the group at their annual dinner, obama said, "despite the progress we've made, there are still laws to change and hearts to open...this fight continues now and i'm here with you in that fight."

among other related initiatives, obama has called for the repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on gays serving openly in the military, a policy hotly debated by both obama and biden during the 2008 presidential campaign. obama has also urged congress to repeal the defense of marriage act and pass the domestic partners benefit and obligations act. the defense of marriage act defines marriage, for federal purposes, as a legal union between a man and a woman. the act allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. the domestic partners benefit and obligations act would extend family benefits now available to heterosexual federal employees to gay and lesbian workers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Harlem's Mart 125: The American Dream

a couple of weeks ago i attended an interesting film & culture series at medgar evers college in brooklyn. the ongoing series is free & offers filmmakers from the african diaspora the opportunity to share their work in a culturally affirming environment. b4 the film an open mic is available for poets & spoken word artists. after the film a panel discussion is held to explore various concerns & issues impacting our community, as well as to engage the audience in dialogue. in the spirit of activating social change, we exchange ideas, raise awareness & speak truth to power.

the film, harlem's mart 125: the american dream, was brilliantly directed by rachelle salnave gardner, a native new yorker who moved to atlanta. this documentary film is about the history of mart 125 & how it correlates to the 'revitalization' of 125th street - harlem's main commercial sector. right from the opening moment, the film gives viewers a historical journey depicting the economic transition of 125th street from the late 60's (rev dr king/malcolm x era) to our current post-obama reality.

mart 125, a now-defunct space across the street from the apollo theatre utilized by business owners of african descent, is used as a metaphor to examine the plague of perplexities surrounding this unique black community & its relationship with the plans of urban renewal from a commercial standpoint. the film offers a microcosmic analysis of the displacement (read: genocide, or its politically correct term, gentrification) of black american communities today.

the film is dispersed with candid interviews from activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, residents & stakeholders whose conflicting views about how harlem changed right b4 their eyes illuminates the complexity of issues surrounding a community in peril. one of the statistics which resonated with me was how rent skyrocketed in a decade. in 1997 a one-bedroom apartment was available for $650/month. in 2007 that same apartment was $1500/month. the question on many folks' mind: who benefits?

i was inspired by the ensuing panel discussion. expertly facilitated by the series' mc, miles mcafee, the spirited audience was treated to food from the soul. in addition to the beautiful filmmaker, the panelists were kanya vashon mcgee, founder of the tree of life bookstore in harlem (circa 1969), kevin powell, activist, author (recently defeated in a brooklyn community district primary), fred saunders, real estate developer & pierre thiam, owner of the dakar restaurant in brooklyn.

miles immediately pointed out another sistah - in the spirit of gender equity - was invited yet could not attend. he also shared all of the panelists were personal friends, in other words, be kind to my peeps. after opening remarks, panelists shared their perspectives on the film & the many underlying issues disturbing our community: apathy, hiv/aids, mental illness, prison industrial complex, racism, substance use, unemployment, violence, etc. the audience was encouraged to ask questions in what miles termed "the liberation zone." he also suggested we network afterwards, as well as return for their upcoming film on october 15.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama Wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

us president barack hussein obama was awarded the 2009 nobel peace prize. the nobel committee said he won it for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy & cooperation between peoples." his efforts to support international bodies & promote nuclear disarmament highlighted the committee's choice, deemed controversial by some, considering his inauguration was less than two weeks before the february 1 nomination deadline.

early friday morning the president was awakened by his youngest daughter malia who exclaimed, "daddy you won & its bo's birthday." his other daughter sasha was quick to remind him, "we have a three day weekend coming up." upon addressing the white house he said "its good to have kids to put things in perspective." obama said he didn't feel he "deserved to be in the company of such transformative figures" who'd previously won the prestigious award. among the record 205 nominations were zimbabwean prime minister morgan tsvangirai & chinese dissident hu jia.

the nobel laureate is chosen by a five-member committee. five norwegians are chosen by norway's parliament to sit on the nobel committee. those qualified to nominate candidates include academics, international judiciary, members of national governments & previous prize winners. the committee compiles a shortlist of between five & 20 candidates. details of the nominations & selection process are kept secret for 50 years, augmenting the awards' mystique.

reactions to the committee's decision were swift & varied. mark mardell, bbc north america editor said, "there was already a huge weight of responsibility on obama's shoulders & this medal hung round his neck has just made it a little heavier." mohammed elbaradei, the head of the un's nuclear watchdog, the iaea, stated, "in less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves & the world we live in & rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself." taliban spokesman zabihuilah mujahid told the reuters news agency "obama should have won the nobel prize for escalating violence & killing civilians." republican national committee chair michael steele said, "the question americans must ask is what has obama really accomplished?"

in a prepared statement, the norwegian committee said, "only very rarely has a person to the same extent as obama captured the world's attention & given its people hope for a better future...his diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values & attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." asked why the prize was awarded to obama less than a year after he took office, nobel committee head thorbjoern jagland said, "it was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve...it is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done."

archbishop desmond tutu of south africa, a former winner, said, "it is an award that speaks to the promise of president obama's message of hope." french president nicolas sarkozy said the award confirmed "america's return to the hearts of the people of the world." furthermore, the statement of the nobel committee said, "mr obama had created a new climate in international politics...multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the united nations & other international institutions can play." the committee added the us was now playing a more constructive role in meeting "the great climatic challenges" facing the world & that democracy & human rights would be strengthened.

obama is the first american president to win the prize since former us president jimmy carter in 2002. former vice president al gore shared the prize in 2007. among earlier leaders, theodore roosevelt won the prize in 1906 & woodrow wilson won in 1919. first awarded in 1901, the nobel prize was invented by the swedish industrialist & inventor of dynamite alfred nobel. obama's new found gifts include a diploma, gold medal & $1.4 million, which he's donating to charity. the prize-giving ceremony for the peace award is scheduled to take place on december 10 in oslo, the norwegian capitol.