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.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

NYC Awards $7 Million Settlement in the Slaying of Sean Bell

new york city awarded a seven million dollar settlement in the case of sean bell, the unarmed african-american killed by nypd in a 50-bullet barrage on nov 25, 2006. bell, 23, died around the corner from a queens bar where his bachelor party took place. two of his friends, joseph guzman & trent benefield, were also wounded. undercover police were investigating complaints of prostitution at the club.

bell's death ignited community outrage & inspired social change. the deal awards $3.25 million to the estate of bell, $3 million to guzman & $900,000 to benefield, minus 30% for legal fees. a day after learning of the settlement, during a news conference guzman said, "nobody wins in this case." guzman was shot 17 times & still wears a leg brace.

william bell, sean's father, told the daily news wednesday he's outraged. bell lashed out at michael palladino, a top police union official who called his slain son drunk - suggesting he brought on his own demise. palladino called the settlement "an absolute joke." said bell, "he thinks life is a joke...i don't think life is a joke."

upon learning of the settlement tuesday palladino fumed, "bell was intoxicated and tried to run the cops over." he further lamented the cops were "doing their lawful duty." he also said, "the settlement was excessive and disregards sean bell's actions and culpability."

the bell estate payout will benefit two young daughters he had with nicole paultre bell, the beautiful, poised & resilient fiancee who legally took his name after his death. she called the settlement, "reasonable," but poignantly added, "the girls will never have their father."

at a two-month trial in 2008, detectives marc cooper, gescard isnora & michael oliver said they opened fire on a car carrying bell & his friends because they believed the men were armed & the men defied orders to halt & tried to drive away. no weapons were found.

a judge who heard the case instead of a jury cleared the officers of manslaughter & other charges. he said in a decision prosecution witnesses who testified the officers opened fire without warning lacked credibility. the officers remain on modified duty & face departmental charges which could result in their dismissal.

the bell settlement follows other multi-million dollar payouts in high-profile civil lawsuits involving the nypd. in june the city agreed to pay a record amount for a civil rights lawsuit when it settled for $9.9 million with barry gibbs, an innocent man who spent 19 years in prison - after being framed by a police detective.

in 2001, the city & police union agreed to pay $8.7 million to abner louima, who was beaten & sodomized with a broomstick in a police precinct by officers. after legal fees, louima was left with about $5.8 million. the plaintiffs in the bell case said they would now lobby for pending state legislation calling for a special prosecutor for police shootings, more firearms training & other measures.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Racialized Marketing Masks Publishing Industry Cultural Biases

sue monk kidd's best-selling novel, the secret life of bees, was published by penguin books. the story was set in the south with african-american characters. kidd's novel garnered fame, fortune & recognition, in addition to being utilized on screen in a film of the same name starring queen latifah, jurnee smollet & alicia keys.

kathryn stockett's novel, the help, also published by a penguin books imprint, sold one million books w/in a year of publication. her accolades & awards include the prestigious south african boeke prize. the help is being adapted for the screen under the production of academy-award winning director steven spielberg.

both authors have realized their dreams. yet they are not the first white women to pen stories of the black american south & achieve success. in 1928, julia peterkin wrote a novel, scarlet sister mary, for which she received the pulitzer prize in fiction. kidd's & stockett's novels explore racism while celebrating the power of friendship & acceptance. the covers of both novels did not reveal the race of the characters, yet they were both marketed to black & white audiences.

bernice l. mcfadden's debut novel, sugar, was recently published by a penguin books imprint. set in the 1950s south, the story - akin to kidd & stockett - deals with racism & celebrates the power of friendship & acceptance. the original cover depicted a beautiful black woman standing behind a screen door. sugar was marketed solely to african-american readers. this type of marginalization is uniquely known among african-american writers as seg-book-gation.

the practice of seg-book-gation is culturally biased, financially impotent & historically demonizing. literature about the oppressed written by the oppressor has a long tradition. the disturbing trend can be traced to colonialism, a movement not only physical but textual, the evidence of which can be found in the diaries, journals & letters of colonists, plantation slave owners & settlers.

representation of african-americans by white folk in texts records a his-tory of inferiority. based on these perceptions, as well as institutional, legal & societal oppression, african-americans have endured enslavement, genocide, medical apartheid & segregation. inferiority is a fundamental tool to ethnic distancing in society. today, this tool is used with great precision in the mainstream publishing industry.

although the distancing may not be total, as a few african-american authors have enjoyed mainstream success, the brilliant work of many african-american authors is racialized in bookstores as african-american literature. this type of marketing implies our literature is anomalous & singular, but not universal. african-descended authors' works, then, are not viewed as people, rather, as a genre, much like mysteries, romances or thrillers.

if you walk through any local bookstore in america, or major bookstore abroad, you will not see sections of books labeled with the following categories: british literature, korean literature, pakistani literature and/or white american literature. none of these ethnicities are objectified or singled out the way african-american writers are.

mainstream publishing houses contort themselves to acquire books glorifying crime, drugs & illicit sex. known as hip hop fiction or street-lit, these novels often reinforce stereotypical images african-americans fought hard to overcome. we are the descendants of great literary pioneers who first gave voice to the african-american experience, yet somewhere we lost our way; today folks embrace, by default, a genre denigrating a cultural institution which took hundreds of years to construct.

2010 is arguably the 90th anniversary of the birth of the harlem renaissance. 50 years ago we honored the transition of zora neale hurston, a fiercely independent, yet misunderstood cultural icon during the renaissance. in 1950, hurston's poignant essay, what white publishers won't print, published in the negro digest, addressed current challenges faced by african-american authors seeking the american dream.

hurston wrote, "for various reasons, the average, struggling, non-morbid negro is the best-kept secret in america. his revelation to the public is the thing needed to do away with that feeling of difference which inspires fear, and which ever expresses itself in dislike." the sistah speaks truth to power!

...but is anybody listening?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams Win 2010 Wimbledon Singles Titles

rafael nadal of spain defeated the czech republic's tomas berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to capture his 2nd wimbledon singles crown. nadal did not defend his 2008 victory at the famed all-england club last year due to injury. the buffed & handsome 24 year-old now has 8 major singles titles in his glorious young career. the only major nadal has not won is the us open, yet he's regained the #1 ranking, again, from roger federer of switzerland.

federer was soundly beaten in the quarterfinals by the hard-hitting berdych 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, his 2nd str8 quarterfinal loss in a major tournament. federer, who later admitted he weathered back & leg injuries during the event, drops to #3 - his lowest ranking since nov '03. serbia's novak djokovic, whom berdych dominated in the semifinals in str8 sets, rises to #2. berdych's amazing run at wimbledon catapults him to #8 in the world.

serena williams defeated russia's vera zvonareva 7-6, 6-2 to win her 4th wimbledon singles title. williams passes billie jean king & is now 6th on the all-time list of women's major singles champions, led by margaret court-smith of australia with 24 wins. zvonareva, in her 1st ever grand slam final, competed mightily, yet could not handle the aggression, experience & savvy of williams. her sistah, venus, lost in the quarterfinals.

earlier this year, williams, the 2010 australian open champion, conceded she wanted to win a calendar grand slam. williams won 4 str8 grand slam tournaments, though not in the same year; the feat was dubbed the serena slam. however, she lost in the quarterfinals of this year's french open to australia's hard-serving samantha stosur. williams' triumph is her 13th, a number she says is lucky 4 her.