i am

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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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Barry Bonds Sentenced with House Arrest, Probation and Community Service

former major league baseball superstar barry bonds was sentenced last week to 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service & $4,100 in fines & court costs after he was found guilty of obstructing justice in august. u.s. district judge susan illston presided over bonds' controversial case.

bonds doesn't have to worry about spending his holy-days being trapped inside his two-acre beverly hills home as his sentence was stayed, pending an appeal unlikely to be heard for at least a year. prosecutors wanted bonds to serve 15 months behind bars.

during the 2003 bay area laboratory co-operative (balco) investigation, bonds attempted to mislead the grand jury by purposely answering questions about steroids with rambling non-sequiturs. the government - as well as the media - went after bonds for eight years. he became the face of the steroids era in baseball.

bonds is the 11th person convicted in the ongoing steroids investigation & was the government's biggest target. unlike fellow steroid abusers like sammy sosa & mark mcguire, bonds not only lied under oath, he was also chasing baseball's most prestigious record - hank aaron's all-time home run record of 755. bonds retired in 2007 with 762 homers, a number some baseball purists acknowledge with a hypothetical asterisk.

after years of denial & dishonesty, mcguire came clean in 2010. he admitted using steroids throughout the 90's during the peak of his career with the st. louis cardinals. the year before his guilty admission - which was not under oath in front of a grand jury - the cardinals hired him as their hitting coach. mcguire had been out of the spotlight long enough for fans & his former team to forgive him. st. louis won the world series in october.

bonds kept a low profile the past four years, yet his philanthropic efforts are rarely reported in the media. most notably, the 47 year-old husband & father has been a vocal advocate of bryan stow, the giants fan whom was brutally beaten outside dodger stadium in march. bonds paid for the college education of stow's two children & recently filmed a psa to help his cause.

judge illston was aware of & impressed with bonds' service for charitable issues. in fact, she cited his anonymous goodwill as one of the reasons he didn't receive the jail time sought venomously by the prosecution. said illston, "the thing that was striking to me was that most of that was done out of the public eye & privately."

baseball has a long list of talented players (jason giambi, rafael palmiero, andy pettite, manny ramirez, garry sheffield, i.e.) whose steroid use will undoubtedly hinder their chances at going to cooperstown. but only bonds had the unquestionable hall of fame credentials - before the dark cloud of suspicion began to follow his every waking move.

bonds was arguably the best player in the 90's. he hit 30 or more homers every year except 1991. he won the national league mvp award three times. with his blinged out diamond cross earring dangling from his left ear & his short, compact swing, bonds was the epitome of swag: long before the term became popular & culturally relevant. he was a 14 time all-star who won several gold gloves yet will probably go down in history as a man unfaithful to a sport which honors its heroes.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Mumia Abu-Jamal Will Not Be Executed

prosecutors have called off their 30-year battle to execute former black panther mumia abu-jamal for allegedly murdering a white, male police officer, putting to an end the racially charged case that became a major battleground in the fight over the death penalty.

flanked by maureen faulkner, the widow of police officer daniel faulkner, philadelphia district attorney seth williams announced his decision wednesday, just two days short of the 30th anniversary of the killing. he said continuing to seek the death penalty would open the case to "an unknowable number of years" of appeals.

said williams, "there's never been any doubt in my mind that mumia abu-jamal shot & killed officer faulkner. i believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982." williams, the city's first black district attorney continued, "while abu-jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, & that is where he belongs."

abu-jamal was convicted of fatally shooting faulkner dec 9, 1981. he was sentenced to death after his trial the following year. abu-jamal, who has been incarcerated in a pennsylvania prison over 29 years, has garnered worldwide support from those who believe he was & continues to be victimized by a racially biased justice system.

the writings & radio broadcasts of abu-jamal from death row made him a cause celebre & the subject of numerous books & movies. his 1995 book, "live from death row," describes prison life & calls the justice system racist & ruled by political expediency. the one-time journalist, reaped global support from the "free mumia" movement. hundreds of vocal supporters & death penalty opponents regularly attend court hearings in his case, even though abu-jamal is rarely entitled to be present.

the conviction was upheld through years of legal appeals. but a federal appeals court ordered a new sentence hearing after ruling the instructions given to the jury were potentially misleading. the u.s. supreme court declined to weigh in on the case in october, forcing prosecutors to decide if they wanted to again pursue the death penalty through a new sentencing hearing or accept a life sentence.

williams said he reached the decision to drop the death penalty bid with the blessing of maureen faulkner, who said another sentencing hearing would be just the beginning of another long, arduous appeals process. "another penalty proceeding would open the case to the repetition of the state appeals process & an unknowable number of years of federal review again, even if he were successful," williams said. he also said after nearly three decades some witnesses have died, or are otherwise unreliable.

widener university law professor judith ritter, who represented abu-jamal, applauded the decision. "there is no question that justice is served when a death sentence from a misinformed jury is overturned. 30 years later, the district attorney's decision not to seek a new death sentence also furthers the interests of justice," said ritter.

according to trial testimony, abu-jamal saw his brother scuffle with the young patrolman during a 4:00 am traffic stop in 1981 & ran toward the scene. police found abu-jamal wounded from a round from faulkner's gun. faulkner, shot several times, was killed. a .38-caliber revolver registered to abu-jamal was found at the scene with five spent shell casings.

maureen faulkner continues trying to remain visible to ensure her slain husband is not forgotten. they were 25 year-old newlyweds when he died. wednesday she said, "my family & i have endured a three-decade ordeal at the hands of mumia abu-jamal, his attorneys & his supporters, who in many cases never even took the time to educate themselves about the case before lending their names, giving their support & advocating for his freedom. all of this has taken an unimaginable physical, emotional & financial toll on each of us."

abu-jamal, born wesley cook, turned 58 earlier this year. his message resonated particularly on college campuses & in the movie & music industries - actors mike farrell & tim robbins were among dozens of luminaries who used a new york times ad to advocate for a new trial. the beastie boys played a concert to raise money for abu-jamal's defense fund.

over the years, abu-jamal has fearlessly & steadfastly challenged the lily-white makeup of the jury, instructions given to jurors & the statements of eyewitnesses. he also alleges ineffective counsel, racism by the trial judge & another man confessed to the crime.

but maureen faulkner railed against what she called the justice system's "dirty little secret" - the difficulty of putting condemned killers to death. since the u.s. supreme court restored the death penalty in 1976, pennsylvania has put to death three people; each of those individuals willingly gave up on their appeals.

faulkner lashed out at the judges who overturned abu-jamal's death sentence, calling them "dishonest cowards," whom, she said oppose the death penalty. "the disgusting reality with the death penalty in pennsylvania is that the fix is in before the hearing even begins," she says. faulkner also vowed to fight anyone who tries to extract special treatment for abu-jamal, advocating instead he now be moved to the general population.

she said, "i will not stand by & see him coddled, as he has been in the past. & i am heartened that he will be taken from the protective cloister he has been living in all those years & begin living among his own kind - the thugs & common criminals that infest our prisons."

both sides have events planned to commemorate faulkner's death & abu-jamal's subsequent arrest. faulkner, williams & others involved in the prosecution will gather in suburban philadelphia to mark the anniversary this week for a screening of the anti-mumia documentary by philly filmmaker tigre hill. supporters of abu-jamal, including princeton professor cornel west, planned a symposium friday at the national constitution center for the man they call an "innocent revolutionary & celebrated journalist."

south african archbishop desmond tutu said, "when the south african constitutonal court was set up after the end of the apartheid regime, one of its first acts was to abolish the death penalty. for three decades, mumia has been held in a windowless, bathroom-sized cell & denied any physical contact with his family or members of his community. this is in violation of the u.s.'s own constitution. now that it is clear that mumia should never have been on death row, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life - yet another form of death sentence."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Hershey School Refuses To Admit HIV-Positive Male Teenager

the milton hershey school was founded by the chocolate tycoon as a school that "nurtures & educates children in social & financial need to lead fulfilling & productive lives." sadly, that fulfillment won't be realized by a 13 year-old honor student from delaware county who's hiv-positive.

...is this how we celebrate world aids day?

in an exclusive interview with nbc philadelphia's denise nakano, the disheartened boy said, "i feel no other teenager should go through this, being denied just because they have hiv." his lawyer filed a discrimination suit in u.s. district court alleging the school "violated multiple anti-discrimination laws," by not admitting him due to his hiv+ health status.

the lawsuit was filed under a pseudonym. the boy & his mother requested their identities not be revealed. the school doesn't deny why they rejected him; furthermore, they petitioned to have the court review the case. the school released a statement wednesday; part of which stated, "in order to protect our children in this unique environment, we cannot accommodate the needs of students with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health & safety of others."

ronda goldfein from the aids law project is representing the boy & his mother in the federal discrimination lawsuit. goldfein says, "if you have a school that's open to the public, it's open to the public. if you have a student that has a particular need & requests assistance, then you accommodate. you don't simply say, we don't like you, we don't like your diagnosis, you can't come here."

the boy's mother said, "it makes me angry, like really, really angry, because they don't understand how great he is." the teenager has lived with hiv all of his life but doesn't feel hiv defines him. he excels in school, is active in sports & was learning to speak two foreign languages. he hoped hershey - a cost-free, private boarding school for children from low-income families - would advance his education.

"they didn't look at whether my client presented any threat, they just said 13 year-old boy with hiv, oh no, that's too dangerous," said goldfein. the lawsuit calls for the school to both admit the fun-loving student & give unspecified monetary damages. said the boy, "i think that it was wrong to put me through emotional distress."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NBA Players and Owners Reach Tentative Agreement for 2011-2012 Season

nba players & owners reached a tentative agreement early saturday to end the 149-day lockout with the intention of opening the delayed 2011-2012 season on christmas day. neither side provided many specifics but said the only words players & fans wanted to hear. "we want to play basketball," said nba comissioner david stern.

after a secret meeting earlier this week, both sides negotiated more than 15 hours friday to try & save the season. this handshake deal, however, still must be ratified by the players & the owners. stern said it was "subject to a variety of approvals & very complex machinations, but we're optimistic that all will come to pass & that the nba season will begin december 25."

barring a change in scheduling, the season will open with a triple header. the new york knicks will host the boston celtics, followed by the miami heat at the dallas mavericks & finally, the chicago bulls versus the los angeles lakers. president obama, after finishing a basketball game at fort mcnair in washington, gave a thumbs-up when told of the settlement. "all i feel right now is finally," said dwayne wade.

the league plans a 66-game season & aims to open training camps december 9. ironically, just 12 days after talks broke down, stern declared the nba could be headed to a "nuclear winter." the all-star game is scheduled to be held in orlando, yet no date was finalized. union executive director billy hunter said, "we thought it was in both of our interest to try to reach a resolution & save the game & to be able to provide the kind of superb entertainment the nba historically has provided."

a majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement. the nba needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. the nba owns the new orleans hornets. stern said the labor relations committee plans to discuss the agreement later saturday & expects them to endorse it & recommend to the full board. the union needs a simple majority from its 430-plus members. but their process is a bit more complicated.

the players dissolved the union november 14. they must drop their anti-trust lawsuit in minnesota & re-form the the union before voting on the deal. also, because the union disbanded, a new collective bargaining agreement can be completed only once the union re-forms. drug testing & other issues still must be negotiated between the league & the players. said stern, "we're very pleased we've come this far...there's still a lot of work to do."

participating in the talks for the league were stern, deputy commissioner adam silver, san antonio spurs owner & chairman of the labor relations committee peter holt, along with attorneys rick buchanan & dan rube. the players were represented by hunter, president derek fisher, vice president maurice evans, attorney ron klempner & economist kevin murphy.

the owners locked out the players july 1. both sides spent arduous months battling over division revenues & other changes owners wanted in a new collective bargaining agreement. they said they lost hundreds of millions of dollars in each year of the former deal, ratified in 2005. they wanted a system where big-market teams wouldn't have the ability to outspend their smaller counterparts. the players fought those changes, not wanting to see any teams taken out of the market when they become free agents.

said silver, "this was not an easy agreement for anyone. the owners came in having suffered substantial losses & feeling the system wasn't working fairly across all teams. i certainly know the players had strong views about expectations in terms of what they should be getting from the system. it required a lot of compromise from both parties' part & i think that's what we saw today."

stern opined despite some "bumps" friday evening, "the greater good required us to knock ourselves out & come to this tentative understanding." he denied litigation was a factor in accelerating a deal, but things happened quickly after the players filed a suit which could have won them $6 billion in damages if the court ruled the lockout was illegal.

"for us the litigation is something that has to be dealt with," stern said. "it was not the reason for the settlement. the reason for the settlement was we've got fans, we've got players who would like to play & we've got people who are dependent on us. and its always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides & get us playing as soon as possible, but that took a little time." this was the second shortened season in nba history. the 1998-99 lockout reduced the season to 50 games.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Herman Cain Denies Mounting Sexual Harassment Allegations

republican presidential candidate herman cain has unequivocally denied the mounting sexual harassment allegations against him, saying, "they simply didn't happen." cain has vowed not to withdraw his candidacy from the race. some polls have shown his numbers have slipped considerably since five women have accused him of sexual harassment. cain & mitt romney were front-runners a few weeks ago.

last week cain denied the claims of his latest accuser, sharon bialek, who said the two were out to dinner because she'd hoped cain could help her find employment. she said cain put his hands underneath her dress, reached for her genitals & put her head toward his crotch. bialek said she wanted to give a face & a voice to the women who are fearful of speaking out, although two admittedly cannot speak publicly due to confidentiality papers they reportedly signed.

bialek was accompanied at a press conference by controversial defense attorney gloria allred. cain appeared on abc's 'jimmy kimmel live' the same evening. when asked by kimmel if he'd consider hiring allred as his attorney cain quipped, "you almost made me say something that my handlers say you should not say. let me put it to you this way: i can't think of anything that i would hire her to do, ok? i can't think of a thing."

also last week, another woman, karen kraushaar, confirmed publicly for the first time she had accused cain of sexual harassment. kraushaar's initial allegations came when they both worked for the national restaurant association in the 1990s. cain has denied these & all other allegations from the women as "simply false."

dahlia lithwick, senior editor at slate, told amy goodwin on democracy now, "i think this goes to these archetypes, that if you fail everything else, just accuse women of being insane, accuse them of being trampy, accuse them of being hysterics. i think that that's a little bit of what you're hearing here...i find it fascinating that you never hear these accusations turned against male accusers of misconduct. these are really, really shakespearean ideas of women as emotional & unhinged."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Dr. Conrad Murray Found Guilty Of Involuntary Manslaughter In Michael Jackson Trial

a two-year legal battle over who was responsible for the sudden death of michael jackson came to a dramatic close monday. after about nine hours of deliberation, which began friday morning, a california jury found doctor conrad murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

dr. murray appeared to show no emotion as the verdict was read by court clerk sammi bentson. but latoya jackson, one of the infamous sisters of the late king of pop, let out a loud, but short scream. a loud celebration erupted among jackson's fans outside the downtown los angeles county courthouse, where emotions ran so high one woman fainted.

the clearly startled dr. murray was immediately handcuffed & taken away by deputees after los angeles county superior court judge michael pastor denied bail. explaining his decision to remand murray to police custody pastor said, "this is not a crime involving a mistake of judgment...this is a crime where the end result was the death of a human being. that factor demonsrates rather dramatically that the public should be protected."

sentencing was set for november 29, with dr. murray facing up to four years in prison. defense attorney ed chernoff told cnn the defense team's main job right now is to prepare for sentencing & limit the amount of time dr. murray spends in jail. said chernoff, "what matters most right now is trying to keep dr. murray from taking up a prison cell in this community. that's what we're focusing on right now & we'll deal with an appeal after that."

another of dr. murray's lawyers, nareg gourjan, told cnn monday night the outcome may have been different had the defense been able to introduce jackson's past drug use & "financial condition," as additional evidence. he described his client as "devastated" by the verdict, adding he's trying to stay positive with more legal options ahead of him. said gourjan, "we're hoping that the appeals court will have something to say about this."

dr. murray served as jackson's personal physician as he prepared for his comeback concerts. jackson said the 50-city tour - this is it - would be the final concerts of his illustrious career. according to testimony, dr. murray gave him the surgical anesthetic propofol to help him sleep nearly every night for the last two months of his life. jackson's tragic death on june 25, 2009 was caused by "acute propofol intoxication" in combination with two sedatives, the los angeles county coroner ruled.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Angela Davis Speaks At Occupy Wall Street

angela davis spoke to the people of occupy wall street at washington square park in new york city october 30. davis thanked the occupy wall street movement for transforming politics in the universe. she spoke to the brutal police crack-down on the occupy encampment in her hometown of oakland & supported the call for a national strike on november 2.

the activist, author, professor & scholar captivated her audience, speaking to the perils of language, while calling on the movement to transform the meaning of democracy, occupation & unity. davis utilized the "people's mic" to draw attention to rising concerns of inclusion, urging the movement to embrace a "complex unity," within the concept of "99 percent."

davis referenced the black feminist lesbian mother warrior poet audre lorde upon addressing the festive crowd. said lorde, "how can we come together in a unity that is complex & emancipatory? differences must not be merely tolerated but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which poles creativity can spark like the dialectic."

when asked about the upcoming u.s. election davis responded by saying, "the two-party system has never worked; it does not work now & we clearly need alternatives. personally, i believe we need a powerful, radical, third party."

davis continued, "in the meantime, this movement, which is not a party, can accomplish much that political parties are unable to accomplish & so it would seem to me, that the best way to exert pressure on that corrupt two-party system is to continue to build this movement & to demonstrate that it reaches not only across the country but across the ocean."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

What The Media Won't Tell You About Libya

some americans & others around the world seemed to rejoice in the october 20 death of libyan president muammar gaddafi. for decades gaddafi was identified by the media as a dictator, pariah &/or ruler. as such, the same people who read the new york times & wall street journal believed what they heard on cnn & fox about his regime.

listed below are some of the unknown facts which demonstrate how the people of libya have benefited from gaddafi's leadership. these facts were not printed in our so-called trusted news sources. these facts were not spoken about on our nightly news shows. yet people who consider themselves to be well-educated & well-informed will still believe what they are being told about libya under gaddafi.

1) every libyan citizen received free education from kindergarten to the graduate school of their choice anywhere in the world. 2) as a result, the literacy rate in libya has reached 92% - higher than the u.s. 3) every libyan citizen received lifelong free medical care. 4) every libyan citizen was provided with debt-free home ownership. 5) every libyan citizen received free electrical service.

6) every libyan citizen received free pure water service. 7) every libyan citizen received a 50% discount on the purchase of an automobile. 8) for libyan citizens, the price of gasoline was 17 cents per gallon. 9) every libyan citizen is eligible to receive loans free of interest. 10) interest is illegal in libya.

11) there are no income taxes in libya. 12) every libyan couple who decides to marry receives a $50,000 gift from the libyan government. 13) every libyan citizen is qualified to receive a gift of a free land package that includes free farming equipment, free seed & free water for irrigation.

since 1992, muammar gaddafi has been organizing african oil nations into a consortium to benefit the peoples of the african continent. two conferences were held & african leaders enthusiastically endorsed the unified movement. resolutions were passed & timetables were agreed upon. final agreement was near.

the key to this african unity movement & the key to understanding why nato was sent in to organize the strategy to destroy the gaddafi regime is this: the new african union proposed by gaddafi would no longer accept american dollars - or the european euro - in payment for oil. the financial basis being established by gaddafi meant the new african union would require any purchase of african oil be paid for in gold. no gold, no oil.

said professor michel chossudovsky, "with the killing of libya's leader muammar gaddafi, nato is celebrating what, in their view, is a great victory. however, this so-called victory has nothing to do with freedom or justice; it is part of a broad, insidious, geo-political strategy that has been on nato's drawing board for years. and what is even more frightening than the blood lust being shamelessly splashed across the mainstream media is the fact that this latest maneuver is merely a small part of a much wider military agenda with potentially catastrophic consequences."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals Win 2011 World Series

the st. louis cardinals beat the texas rangers 6-2 in game seven to win the 2011 world series. chris carpenter pitched six solid innings to get his second win of the series. the 36 year-old all-star right hander gave up two runs in the first inning. he would shutdown the rangers but was relieved by the bullpen after giving up a leadoff single in the seventh inning.

third baseman david freese, a native kid who quit baseball in college, was named most valuable player. freese hit .348 & set postseason records with 21 runs batted in & 52 extra base hits, while tying a postseason record with 25 hits. he became the sixth player in major league baseball history to win the league championship series mvp & world series mvp.

the cardinals' improbable journey was all the more remarkable considering the plethora of obstacles they overcame. they lost starting pitcher adam wainwright before the first spring training game was played. all-stars albert pujols & matt holliday, in addition to freese, key players each, missed significant stretches of the regular season. but they never lost faith.

the redbirds were down 10 & 1/2 games in the wild card race to the atlanta braves on august 25. undaunted, they captured a playoff berth on the last day of the regular season. st. louis beat the heavily favored, 102-win philadelphia phillies in the division series & took care of the 96-win milwaukee brewers in the championship series.

returning home to busch stadium with a 3-2 deficit, the cardinals played one of the most exciting games in world series history. despite twice being down to their last strike they showed their resilliency. freese hit a two-run triple in the 9th inning to tie the game at 7-7. berkman singled in the 10th inning to even the score at 9-9. freese hit a dramatic leadoff walkoff solo homer in the 11th inning to earn them a shot at championship glory.

st. louis won their second world series crown in six years - they beat detroit in 2006 - in front of a stadium-record crowd of 47,399 loyal fans. hundreds more were stationed outside the park in ballpark village, hotel rooms across the street & even atop a nearby parking garage. their 11 championships are second all-time to the new york yankees, who have 27.

"when you play in a city like this, where we have the greatest fans in the world, they come out every day & they allowed us to do what we did this year," said cardinals general manager john mozeliak. "so i thank all of them & all our employees, because without them, we're not standing here. so thank you," he said.

cardinals manager tony la russa, who now has 3 world series rings as manager, admitted, "it was overwhelming. we were on the edge game after game after game. you might lose one, but as it got closer, elimination games, the character on this club is off the charts. we are more talented i think than some people realize, especially as we got healthy. but you play with that urgency, its a little scary at times & it takes a lot out of you, but its really fun to compete that way."

carpenter, 36, pitched on three days' rest for the second time in his career - the first, in the nlds against the phillies. "you can't say enough good things about the guy," said lance berkman, who hit over .400 in the series. "he's such a big game picther. what he's able to do goes beyond his stuff. the way he competes, the way he controls the game, the way he studies a lineup, knows how to pitch to it," berkman said.

the texas rangers lost their second straight world series, falling last year to the san francisco giants in five games. 50 years ago they were the washington senators. but in 1972 the franchise moved to texas. their 2010 mvp josh hamilton said about game seven, "we caught carpenter a little bit by surprise there in the first inning. but he did settle down. you can never get comfortable. i think we got the feeling that most teams felt during the season when they played us."

the cardinals improved to 8-3 in seven-game world series. as berkman said, "we're world series champions & nobody can take that away from us. what makes that even sweeter was the manner in which we won it. hollywood would have a hard time scripting something like this. you hear that sometimes, but its true with this team. the reality of it is way better than anything you can make up about the team."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mountaintop - A Review

last thursday pm i attended the broadway premiere of playwright katori hall's olivier award-winning drama, the mountaintop. tony award nominee kenny leon directs samuel l. jackson as the rev. dr. martin luther king, jr. & angela bassett as camae, an enigmatic maid at the lorraine motel in memphis, tennessee where the civil rights leader has retired after delivering his legendary "i've been to the mountaintop" speech.

myself & the two buddies who invited me nestled into the mezzanine of the bernard b. jacobs theatre, undaunted by the chill inside. we were excited to witness two oscar nominated actors who have not worked together since the early 80's when the negro ensemble company produced colored people's time. says jackson, "we all know that somebody else was supposed to do the play & she didn't," referring to halle berry's rumored attachment, "but things always happen the way they're supposed to."

the part of camae was named after the playwright's mother (carrie-mae), who grew up near the lorraine motel. but bassett stresses hers is a fictitious character: "i'm doing my own thing." in shaping his portrayal, jackson - who was an usher at dr. king, jr's funeral - drew upon his connection beyond their shared spirit of activism. says jackson, "like me, he was a father, a husband & he dealt with fame."

the dubious encounter between dr. king, jr. & the maid takes place in room 306 of the motel on april 3, 1968, the night before his assassination. when jackson enters the room (to the audience's applause), what struck me immediately was his complete lack of physical resemblance to dr. king, jr. the make-up & wardrobe was terrible. additionally, his southern accent was horrendous. he consistently went in & out of the accent, which served more of a distraction than a reminder of dr. king's warmth.

still, the drama was interesting in depicting dr. king, jr. as a man, not an icon. anxious about writing an upcoming sermon & also out of pall malls, at one point he looks out the window & says, "where is that nigger with my cigarettes?" the audience howled with laughter, partly because those words were unexpected & also because the pain associated with the 'n' word has become normalized.

despite their quiet chemistry, this writer feels bassett overpowered jackson on stage. her role as camae was brilliant. her humanity evolved as the play progressed; ironically, she met dr. king, jr. on her first day of work. camae was initially meek & timid, somewhat awestruck. yet as they continued to rapport (aided by the liquor in her pocket & them sharing her pall malls) she became this fiery, sassy woman who could obviously hold her own.

there was a sense of discomfort in the air: dr. king, jr was openly flirting with camae. their sexual tension was palpable, yet camae made him subtly clear about her respect for his marriage & her dignity as a christian woman. she knew her worth. nevertheless, the two playfully traded jabs without causing harm. the actors' timing was sharp & the play's pace was brisk. hall's writing was excellent, allowing two people to become equals, regardless of their class & gender differences.

my friends & i liked the play immensely. seeing dr. king, jr. as a vulnerable hue-man being exceeded my expectations & shattered my illusions about his stoic image. ultimately, we were treated to a well-rounded portrait of a man with fears & flaws, yet remains steadfast to his principles. jackson said, "we hope audiences enjoy the play; more importantly, angela & i will enjoy being there together, telling this wonderful story."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Obama Dedicates MLK Memorial

at the dedication of a memorial of rev. dr. martin luther king, jr, president barack obama said, "an earthquake & hurricane may have delayed this day, but it was a day not to be denied." the memorial returned dr. king to the national mall - a symbol of the change he once galvanized - at a ceremony attended by thousands.

crowds began at dawn to crowd onto the memorial site, just southeast of the steps where king delivered his historic "i have a dream" speech. designed as what king described as a stone of hope hewn from a mountain of despair, the memorial is the first to a black man on the national mall & its parks, & the first monument to a non-president on the mall.

president obama said, "in this place he will stand for all time among monuments of those who fathered this nation & those who defended it...a black preacher, no official rank or title, who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams & our most lasting ideas - a man who stirred our conscience & thereby helped make our union more perfect."

obama also said the monument was not for the assassinated leader alone: "the movement of which he was a part depended on an entire generation of leaders. many are here today, & for their service & sacrifice we owe them our everlasting gratitude. this is a monument to your collective achievement."

the president went on to state, "some giants of the civil rights movement like rosa parks & dorothy height, benjamin hooks, rev. fred shuttlesworth, they've been taken from us these past few years. this monument attests to their strength & courage, & while we miss them dearly, we know they rest in a better place."

"finally," obama remarked, "there are the multitudes of men & women whose names never appear in the history books. those who marched & those who sang, those who sat in & those who stood firm. those who organized & those who mobilized - all those men & women who through countless acts of quiet heroism helped bring about changes few thought were even possible."

in conclusion, said obama, "faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black & white, who have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the constitution & the declaration of independence. to those men & women, those foot soldiers for justice, know that this monument is yours as well."

president obama was just six years old when dr. king was tragically gunned down on the balcony of the lorraine motel in memphis, tennessee. he credits dr. king with helping him pave the way to the white house as america's first black commander-in-chief. aretha franklin, stevie wonder & poet nikki giovanni were among those who honored the legacy of the nation's foremost civil rights leader. organizers anticipated over 50,000 people would attend.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gil Noble Resigns as Host of 'Like It Is'

gil noble will not return to hosting abc's 'like it is.' the 79 year-old cultural icon suffered a severe stroke two months ago. he continues to recuperate & according to his family is "making progress." noble began hosting the public affairs show in 1968. noble's loved ones, along with his attorney, told wabc/channel seven general manager david davis last week noble would not return as host.

"they have made the difficult decision that gil can no longer continue as host of 'like it is'," davis wrote in an e-mail to his staff. "i said i understood & after so many years of serving the community & hosting such an historic program, gil deserves the opportunity to completely concentrate on his recovery." noble's family says he will no longer be able to host the show.

airing sundays at noon, 'like it is' is a powerful resource for african-descended people. noble's cultural integrity, loving spirit & social consciousness was evident in every show. he's interviewed athletes, celebrities, educators, journalists, musicians, newsmakers, politicians & regular folk with compassion, fairness & respect.

noble has been a long-time activist for the african-american community. outside of his work at channel seven, noble has produced documentaries on w.e.b. dubois, rev. dr. martin luther king, jr & malcolm x. channel seven has been airing classic installments of 'like it is' since his stroke.

davis said, "channel seven will continue to serve the african-american community with a program that examines all the critical issues - jobs, education, housing, politics, transportation, culture - the list will be defined by our viewers' needs & interests." he said the news, programming & public affairs department would work on a new program, with details coming soon. "we cannot duplicate gil noble of 'like it is,' but we should always respect his passion for the truth," davis wrote.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Did the State of Georgia Execute an Innocent Black Man?

at 11:08 pm wednesday, the state of georgia executed troy anthony davis by lethal injection. about 500 peaceful protesters, 95% of whom were black, respectfully gathered in front of the jackson state prison in jackson, georgia. the diverse crowd included children, elderly folk & pregnant women. some of them proudly wore i am troy davis t-shirts. for hours upon hours they shouted, 'spare this man's life.'

according to historian & author william jelani cobb, "when word came that the supreme court was stepping in, there was elation. but we just sank when we learned that there wasn't going to be any change in his fate. people quietly gave in. as davis was in the process of dying, some prayed. some people fell out on the grass. others were talking about what we should do next. it was a roller coaster."

davis was originally scheduled to be executed at 7:00 pm. the u.s. supreme court, opting not to address this case previously, weighed in for over three hours before ultimately refusing his attorney's appeal. davis, a black man, was convicted in 1991 of shooting & killing mark mcphail, a white, male off-duty police officer in savannah, georgia in 1989.

no physical evidence was provided by the prosecution. no murder weapon was found. seven of the nine eyewitness recanted their testimony; many citing law enforcement coercion, stress & fear of reprisal. some said the police made them lie. one witness signed a police statement indicting davis - yet he was illiterate. some said the person, sylvester coles, who reported davis to the police, actually shot the police officer.

just before his controversial execution, davis humbly maintained his innocence. he urged people to dig deeper into the provocative case for the truth. when asked for his final words davis said, "for those about to take my life, may god have mercy on your souls, may god bless your souls."

historically, within every facet of the american criminal justice system, people of african ancestry have experienced financial shortcomings, inadequate legal representation, media apathy, racial discrimination & social inequality. marcus garvey once said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." richard pryor once said, "there is no justice for black people...there's just us."

some people felt u.s. president barack obama should speak to a case of this magnitude. obama is the most powerful black man in america. his attorney general, eric holder, is black. legally, the president lacks the authority to intervene in state convictions. but the justice department could investigate claims davis' civil rights were violated in his trial.

often when folks have been mistreated legally &/or wrongly convicted they have an opportunity to correct the injustice. you can sue the police. you can be granted a new trial. you can be released from prison. you can be given compensation. you can, at the very least, continue to exhaust the legal system of all its resources to amend the wrongs against you.

but there is no legal way to correct a death sentence. once convicted, the burden of innocence falls squarely on the shoulder of the convicted individual. if davis was serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, he could continue to press the legal system to grant him a fair trial - but because of the death penalty, he does not have that opportunity.

troy davis' case has ignited national discourse around the viability of the death penalty. many people feel strongly one way or the other on moral grounds. however, the many questions of doubt against davis were so uncertain in this case it left a bad taste with people who are staunchly pro-death penalty. furthermore, in a system which routinely misidentifies black suspects & disproportionately punishes black people, the cultural oppression of african people continues.

since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because they were wrongly convicted. the movement to add davis to this list was strong from the outset. the georgia board of pardons & parole received hundreds of phone calls to help delay davis' execution twice. over a million people signed petitions & others raised money to run ads on georgia radio stations calling for justice.

amnesty international, colorofchange.org, naacp, national action network & other activists, community-based organizations & progressive people fought valiantly to save davis' life. prayer vigils were held around the world from portland, oregon to paris, france. despite his inevitable fate, davis felt the case was bigger than him.

some of the prominent people across the political spectrum who spoke out included archbishop desmond tutu, former georgia republican congressman bob barr, hip hop group outkast member big boi, former u.s. president jimmy carter, members of the congressional black caucus, former georgia supreme court justice norman fletcher, pope benedict xvi & former fbi director william sessons.

long live the spirit of troy anthony davis!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Novak Djokovic & Samantha Stosur Win 2011 US Open Singles Titles

world #1 novak djokovic of serbia defeated world #2 rafael nadal of spain 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 to win his first us open men's singles title. djokovic is now 6-0 against the passionate lefty this year - all in finals - continuing his dominance over all opponents. he has 10 titles (six more than any other player) in 2011 & has compiled a mind-boggling 64-2 record.

djokovic becomes the sixth men's player in the open era to win three major championships in the same year. he beat andy murray of great britain at the australian open & nadal at both wimbledon & the us open. most notably, for the second year in a row, djokovic saved two match points against roger federer of switzerland in the semi-finals to emerge.

samantha stosur of australia upset three-time us open champion serena williams of the united states 6-2, 6-3 to win her first major singles title. the 9th seeded aussie outplayed williams from the outset, mixing powerful serves & punishing forehands to keep williams on the defensive. williams was seeded #28, as injuries sidelined her for most of the year.

this was stosur's third career title, a trophy most folks thought she would not capture against the favored 13-time major champion of usa. a finalist at last year's french open, stosur was inconsistent this year, yet she played within herself to her own surprise. williams had not dropped a set during the entire tournament, which was moved to sunday women's finals & monday men's finals due to hurricane irene the previous week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Legendary Motown Singer-Songwriter Nick Ashford Transitions

singer-songwriter nick ashford transitioned monday at the age of 70 in a new york hospital. ashford & his wife valerie simpson formed the brilliant duo, ashford & simpson. together they penned elegant & soulful classics for marvin gaye, diana ross & chaka khan, among other artists. ashford was battling throat cancer & underwent radiation treatment.

ashford & simpson garnered their greatest success at motown with songs like "ain't no mountain high enough" & "reach out and touch somebody's hand," by ross, & "you're all i need to get by" by gaye & tammi terrell; in the early 90's, mary j. blige & method man remade the song, earning them a grammy for best hip hop duo.

the gifted pair created anthems for others, among them, "i'm every woman" by khan, which was later remade by whitney houston. ashford & simpson also triumphed writing for themselves. perhaps their best-known song was the 80's hit "solid as a rock."

after learning of his friend's death, verdine white of earth, wind & fire said, "his music is unmatched in terms of great songwriting...they had magic & that's what creates those wonderful hits...without those songs, those artists wouldn't have been able to go to the next level." on twitter alicia keys wrote, "i'm so sad that he's gone...so many of the greatest are are going to a greater place...what a legacy of infectious music...man!"

ashford & simpson initially met in 1964 in a new york city church. ashford, a south carolina native, came to nyc to pursue a dance career. simpson was a music student. after they connected the two decided to write songs together. said white, "they were always comfortable with each other & they made all of us comfortable, because they were comfortable."

their first major success occurred when they wrote "let's go get stoned" for the legendary ray charles. the bluesy, gospel-tinged song became a huge hit for charles; as such, it brought them to the attention of motown records, who signed them to write for their artists.

at motown they wrote romantic & soulful ballads for the charismatic duo of gaye & terrell. songs like "your precious love" & "ain't nothin' like the real thing" became instant classics. originally, "ain't no mountain high enough" was their hit, until ross later re-recorded it with a new arrangement fueled by sweeping pop grandeur - making it her signature song.

ross may have been their greatest muse: with her, they had some of their biggest songs & helped give her lifetime-defining hits distinguishing her solo career apart from the supremes. among the songs ross made were "reach out & touch," "the boss," "my house," & "missing you," a tribute to the late gaye & others. they also composed some of the music for "the wiz," the ill-fated movie musical starring ross & michael jackson.

in an industry where marriages & partnerships are fleeting, their relationship stood the test of time. "the thing is they were married & working together, that was what was special about them...everybody admired that," white said. married for 38 years, ashford & simpson helped sell millions of records for several artists in the midst of succeeding as their own entity. writing into the new millennium they were credited as co-writers for amy winehouse's "tears dry on their own."

the pair continued to perform, stretching more than four decades of exciting & riveting showmanship. they also were owners of the popular new york city restaurant sugar bar, where many top names & emerging artists would showcase their craft. in 2002, ashford & simpson were inducted into the songwriters hall of fame. ashford is survived by his wife & two daughters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

NBA Hall of Fame/Class of 2011

the naismith memorial basketball hall of fame welcomes the class of 2011:

teresa edwards. artis gilmore. herb magee. chris mullin. dennis rodman. arvydas sabonis. tom 'satch' sanders. reece 'goose' tatum. tara vanderveer. tex winter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is There A Link Between Race & Disease?

around jackson, mississippi, where a common breakfast is eggs fried in lard, dr. herman a. taylor, jr. is known as "heart man." the respected university of mississippi cardiologist is director of the jackson heart study, the largest epidemiological investigation ever undertaken to discover the links between cardiovascular disease & race.

from now until 2014, dr. taylor, jr. & his team will follow 5,302 african-american residents of three mississippi counties: hinds, madison & rankin, they will observe their lives & seek to discover how their heart health is related to their environment.

for the study's participants there will be periodic medical examinations & referrals for care when problems arise. the ultimate aim of the $54 million investigation, dr. taylor, jr. said, "is to gain the information we need to stop an epidemic of cardiovascular diseases within the african-american community." the study is not without precedence.

the framington heart study, which tracked cardiovascular disease in three generations of new englanders, is thought to be the most productive investigation in public health history. but when the study was initiated in 1948, the town of framingham was mostly populated by second-generation immigrants & other whites. few blacks were included.

since 1963, death from cardiovascular disease for the nation as a whole has declined. yet, in regions like mississippi among african-americans mortality from heart disease is flat, or trending upward. particularly with women. a middle-aged african-american woman in mississippi has four times the risk of death from cardiovascular disease than a white woman elsewhere in the country.

dr. taylor, jr. & his team have identified a number of barriers to life quality, among them access to health care, high blood pressure, inactivity, obesity & smoking. they are also gathering relevant data on often overlooked issues such as anger, extended family, hostility, optimism, religion, social support & stress. they want to know what's killing folks.

african-american women in mississippi suffer from very high levels of obesity, higher than national averages. their rates of diabetes & hypertension are also quite high. fortunately, alcohol consumption among the women is much lower than average. additionally, the team will look at how these women respond to racial discrimination & how they cope with it.

one of the primary concerns of dr. taylor, jr's team is the immediate environment of the participants. a healthy lifestyle can be compromised when exercise - a jog or walk in the neighborhood - becomes a risky proposition. in other words: do people feel safe where they live? are there grocery stores in the area, or do people rely on the corner market with its customary jars of pickled eggs & pigs' feet on the counter?

in the traditional diets of african-americans in mississippi, the calories & fat are astronomical. they add up to being the fattest state in the nation. soul food, as such, could use a little tweaking. dr. taylor says, "the problem today for people living under stressful conditions is that harmful stuff is sometimes a cheap way to take a load off their lives & feel less stressed. i think that drives a lot of eating & smoking."

people in mississippi remember the highly controversial tuskegee study. in fact, the rationale for keeping valuable information from the study's participants was to not interfere with the history of their disease. says dr. taylor, jr., "we're an observational study. we take an active role in spreading the word about prevention. when one of our medical exams shows something of clinical importance in a participant, we contact their physician. if they don't have one, we have a group of local doctors who've volunteered to take them on."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stop Hydraulic Fracturing Now!

misleading the public under the erroneous claim natural gas is a "clean" energy, the powerful oil & gas industry currently uses a hazardous & toxic process for natural gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking). this devious process, ongoing in 34 states, is causing irreparable damage to the environment, poisoning animals & humans, making farms, homes & large tracts of land uninhabitable.

after several years of devastating many western states, gas drilling companies are now descending eastward - especially new york, pennsylvania & west virginia. they have already leased large areas including the susquehanna & delaware river basins. they're also poised to contaminate the water supplies of 41 million people from delaware, new jersey, new york & pennsylvania. these companies have already ripped thru western pennsylvania & west virginia, leaving these areas in ruins.

hydrofracking occurs when gas companies drill down, thru our aquifers, then horizontally thru the shale & pump in millions of gallons of tracking fluid comprised of millions of gallons of water, tons of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals & sand. its pressurized to such a high degree causing small earthquakes, fracturing the shale & releasing the gas.

it also releases tons of toxics - heavy metals, methane & radioactive materials. these toxibs seep thru the fractured rock, thru the vertical fault lines & other cracks in the ground & enter into our water supplies. once the water & the earth are poisoned there is no recourse.

the chemicals used in fracking do not biograde. moreover, there is no known technology to filter or treat the fluid waste. the small percentage of waste extracted usually ends up re-injected somewhere else, or worse, dumped. these toxins will be in our air, soil & water, for thousands of years...all for a short-term energy plan.

this process should be illegal. but its not. the halliburton loophole, inserted into the 2005 energy policy act, exempts hydrofracking from the clean air act, clean water act, safe drinking water act & superfund act - all of the environmental safeguards created to protect us. this process goes on completely unregulated & we must act swiftly, in the spirit of compassion, fairness & unity. for more info go to: www.unitedforaction.org.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Am A Man: Black Masculinity In America


this award-winning documentary links everyday black men from various socio-economic backgrounds with some of black america's most progressive academics, social critics & authors to provide an engaging, candid dialogue on black masculine identity in american culture.

i am a man was directed by filmmaker byron hurt. hurt directed the critically-acclaimed, "hip hop: beyond beats & rhymes," "barack & curtis," as well as the recent doc, "soul food junkies." hurt is also an anti-sexist activist, gender violence prevention worker & writer. his diverse media background includes experience in broadcast television, long-form documentary, print & public relations.

this powerful documentary features interviews with bell hooks, michael eric dyson, john henrik clarke, dr. alvin poussaint, mc hammer & others.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova Win 2011 Wimbledon Singles Titles

novak djokovic of serbia defeated rafael nadal of spain 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 to become the 2011 wimbledon men's singles champion. djokovic culminated his first title at the all-england club in london by also claiming the #1 ranking for the first time in his stellar career. djokovic's incredible match record this year is 49-1. his lone loss came at the hands of world #3 roger federer of switzerland in the semi-finals of the french open.

djokovic beat nadal, the defending champion, for the fifth consecutive time this year - all in final matches. but this was his first victory against the humble spaniard in five major tournament clashes. the personable serb credits a gluten free diet, confidence & hard work as subtle keys to his dominant success. the 24 year-old djokovic admitted afterwards he struggled with self-doubt yet continued to believe he could beat the best players in the world when it counted most.

petra kvitova of czechoslovakia upset maria sharapova of russia 6-3, 6-4 to win her first major singles title. the 21 year-old lefty displayed a powerful serve, crushing ground strokes & winning volleys to exceed her own expectations. seeded #8, kvitova reached the wimbledon semi-finals - her first major semi showing - last year, losing to eventual champion serena williams. but this year she was poised to go all the way.

the shy czech grew up watching her idol, martina navratilova, win 9 wimbledon singles crowns. although she doesn't serve & volley like martina, kvitova's aggressive style was reminiscent of a younger sharapova. in 2004, at age 17, sharapova beat serena williams in straight sets to shock the tennis world upon winning her first major singles title. kvitova is headed for the top 5 & will be a favorite at the u.s. open.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Same-Sex Marriage Legalized In New York State By Narrow Margin

lawmakers voted late friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making new york the largest state where gay & lesbian couples will be able to wed. the marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments b4 the vote, was approved 33-29 in a packed but hushed senate chamber.

four members of the republican majority joined all but one democrat in the senate to support the controversial measure after an intensely emotional campaign. with his position still undeclared, senator mark j. grisanti, a republican from buffalo who sought office opposing same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he agonized for months b4 concluding he was wrong.

grisanti said, "i apologize for those who feel offended...i cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district & across this state, the state of new york & those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that i have with my wife."

senate approval was the final hurdle for this historic piece of legislation, which was approved last week by the assembly. governor andrew cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m. the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning same-sex couples could begin marrying in new york by late july.

passage of same-sex marriage in new york followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. currently five states permit same-sex marriage: connecticut, iowa, massachusetts, new hampshire, vermont, as well as the district of columbia.

in 2009 the bill was easily rejected by the senate, then controlled by democrats. but as he pledged during the campaign cuomo made same-sex marriage one of his top priorities for the year. he deployed his top aide to coordinate the efforts of a half-dozen local gay-rights organizations - whose disunity & feuding was blamed for the bill's original defeat.

most of the republicans opposed the bill morally. however, many also had political concerns, fearing legalized same-sex marriage on their watch would embitter conservative voters & cost the republicans their one-seat majority in the senate. leaders of the state's conservative party, whose support many republican lawmakers depend on to win election, warned they'd oppose in legislative elections next year, any republican senator who voted for same-sex marriage.

but after days of contentious discussion capped by a marathon nine-hour closed door debate on friday, republicans came to a fateful decision. the full senate would be allowed to vote on the bill, the majority leader, dean g. skelos said friday afternoon. each member would be left to vote according to his or her conscience.

republican lawmakers spent much of the week negotiating changes to the marriage bill to protect religious institutions, especially those against same-sex weddings. the assembly & the senate approved those changes friday. yet they weren't enuf to satisfy the measure's harshest critics. in a joint statement, new york's catholic bishops assailed the vote.

"the passage by the legislature of a bill to alter radically & forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed & troubled," the bishops said. ruben diaz, sr. of the bronx, the only democrat to cast a no vote, said, "god, not albany, has settled the definition of marriage a long time ago."

legalizing same-sex marriage in america is a relatively recent goal of the gay movement. over the past few years gay-rights organizers have placed the issue at the center of their agenda, steering money & muscle into dozens of state capitals in an often uphill effort to persuade lawmakers, media folk & our society. in new york, advocates flooded district offices with thousands of e-mails, phone calls & signed postcards from constituents who favored same-sex marriage.

new york is now the largest state to grant legal affirmation to same-sex weddings. also home to a large, visible & politically influential gay community, supporters described the victory as both poignant & symbolic - in june 1969, a riot against police took place at a west village bar, the stonewall inn. led by black & latino drag queens, the fight was a major turning point of the gay movement, which, unbeknowst to many, actually began in the early 50's.

during a brief recess amidst the vote, senator shirley l. huntley, a queens democrat who recently supported the bill publicly, strode from her seat to the back of the senate chamber. she congratulated daniel j. o'donnell, an openly gay manhattan lawmaker who sponsored the legislation in the assembly. they hugged & o'donnell, standing with his longtime partner, began to tear up. "we're going to invite you to our wedding," mr. o'donnell said. "now we have to figure out how to pay for one."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dallas Mavericks Win 2011 NBA Title

the dallas mavericks defeated the miami heat 105-95, in game six, on the road, to win their first nba championship. dirk nowitzki was named most valuable player. nowitzki averaged 26 points & 10 rebounds, but most importantly, the 13-time all-star led his team to victory by averaging 10 points per game in the 4th quarter.

despite their third seed in the playoffs, pundits expected dallas to lose to the talented portland trailblazers in the first round. in game four of their exciting series dallas blew a 23-point lead & lost the game. however, the mavs showed their determination, grit & resiliency by winning the next two games decidedly. they would not be a one & done team.

in round two dallas swept the two-time defending champion los angeles lakers, to every one's surprise. led by veteran point guard jason kidd, former 6th man of the year jason terry, 3rd place defensive player of the year center tyson chandler & an incredibly versatile bench, the mavericks went on to beat the gifted oklahoma city thunder in the western conference finals to face miami for the second time in five years.

miami was a team some loved to hate. all-star forward lebron james was criticized for his "decision" to leave cleveland & take his talents to south beach. james was joined by all-star center chris bosh to form, with all-star guard dwayne wade, the big three. b4 the season began miami hosted a celebration on stage featuring the three players amidst a cloud of smoke & james boldly predicting multi-championships.

the heat beat the youthful philadelphia 76ers in five games in the first round. their highly anticipated second round series against the heavily favored boston celtics showcased the brilliant defense of miami. the heat prevailed in five games. miami's eastern conference final opponent, the chicago bulls, boasted mvp point guard derrick rose & coach of the year tom thibodeau, as well as the league's best record, 62-20, giving them home court advantage for the playoff season.

neither team shot well in the series, primarily because chicago & miami were the top two defensive teams in the nba. rose struggled from the floor. his teammates, most notably center joakim noah & forward carlos boozer, were inconsistent. the bulls were unable to score freely & lost close games as a result, sending miami to the nba finals again; miami defeated dallas four games to two in 2006.

dallas & miami finished the regular season with 28-13 road records, tied for best in the nba. as such, miami's home court advantage was tenuous. miami won game one failry routine. but in game two, dallas overcame a 15-point deficit with less than eight minutes to go in the 4th quarter - one of the greatest comebacks in nba finals history - to even the series.

after miami beat dallas on the road in a close game three, they would never feel the thrill of victory, only the agony of defeat. games three, four & five were decided by a total of eight points. each game was a defensive struggle, marked by james' inability to score in the 4th quarter, for which he was heavily criticized. said james after the series, "i did not play up to my own standards...i have a lot of work to do."

game six was close for the first three quarters. both teams blew sizable leads & the game was decided in the 4th quarter. dallas' incredible shooting from three-point range proved decisive. jason terry scored 27 points off the bench. jj barrea added 17 points. deshawn stevenson hit three from downtown. timely offensive rebounds from tyson chandler, shawn marion & nowitzki demoralized miami. the heat committed costly turnovers & showed no heart at the end. dallas was a team of destiny.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Long Live The Spirit of Gil Scott-Heron

gil scott-heron transitioned friday at age 62 in a new york hospital. the beloved author, lyricist, musician, poet & singer enjoyed a successful albeit tumultuous collaboration with musician brian jackson. their work fused blues, jazz & soul with a potent hybrid of critical thinking, political commentary & social consciousness which transcended age, culture, gender, faith & sexuality.

many of scott-heron's friends & musical contemporaries have paid tribute upon learning of his demise. abiodun of the legendary last poets said scott-heron was the "link between john coltrane & malcolm x." public enemy founder chuck d said on twitter, "we do what we do how we do because of you." wu-tang clan's ghostface killah wrote, "salute gil scott-heron for his wisdom & poetry. may he rest in paradise."

as a spoken word artist in the early 60's & 70's some deemed scott-heron the 'godfather of rap' & the 'black bob dylan' - labels he personally appreciated yet publicly rejected. a deeply sensitive man, his impact on today's artists was humbling. eminem wrote on twitter, "rip gil scott-heron. he influenced all of hip hop." cee-lo green called him the "god gil scott-heron," while talib kwali said "he completely influenced me as an artist."

politically outspoken rapper michael franti said scott-heron's talent was his ability to "make us think about the world in a different way." he would make listeners "laugh hysterically about the ironies of american culture, anger at the hypocrisy of our political system, all to a beat that kept us on the dance floor, with a voice & flow that kept you waiting with anticipation for the next phrase."

richard russell, who produced & released scott-heron's final album, i'm new here, in 2010, described him as a "master lyricist, singer, orator & keyboard player." said russell, "gil was not perfect in his own life, but neither is anyone else. and he judge no one. he had a fierce intelligence & a way with words which was untouchable; an incredible sense of humor & a gentleness & humanity that was unique to him. gil shunned all the trappings of fame & success. he could have had all those things. but he was greater than that."

the musician's publisher jamie byng remembered him as "a giant of a man, a truly inspirational figure whom i loved like a father & a brother." scott-heron touched people who encountered him with his "singularity of vision, his charismatic personality, his moral beauty & his willingness to take his fellow travelers through the range of emotions," byng wrote.

byng continued, "throughout a magnificent musical career, he helped people again & again, with his willingness & ability to articulate deep truths, through his eloquent attacks on injustices & by his enormous compassion for people's pain. hundreds of thousands of people saw gil perform live over the decades, always with remarkable bands, & few came away untouched by his magnetism, humility, biting wit & warmth of spirit."

lemn sissay, a friend of scott-heron's who produced a documentary on his work, told the bbc he was a "polymath who spoke crucially of the issues of his people. in the late 60's & early 70's black poets were the news-givers because their stories were not covered in truth by the mainstream media." scott-heron's critically acclaimed & most well-known piece, the revolution will not be televised - which he wrote at age 19 - is often referenced in american pop culture yet resonates with oppressed folk globally.

born april 1, 1949 scott-heron was the son of a jamaican footballer who was the first black man to play for glasgow celtic. he was raised by his grandmother in jackson, tennessee. she introduced him to the writing of langston hughes, a writer whose work scott-heron admired & revered. scott-heron felt hughes spoke intuitively to the people, not at the people, an asset he demonstrated in his grass-roots music.

during in an interview with bbc music 6 last year, scott-heron recalled, "my grandmother bought a piano for about $8 i think it was. i began to listen to the radio & try to pick out what they were playing by ear. there were a lot of blues progressions that i was able to give some life to on the piano, there, & i enjoyed it very much."

at age 17 he wrote the vulture, a story about the death of a drug dealer. by this time scott-heron had moved from segregated tennessee to new york city's chelsea, a neighborhood which he described as "85% puerto rican, 15% white & me." he began his recording career with the independent label flying dutchman records (a nod to the leroi jones play) in 1970, at the height of the black power movement.

scott-heron's militant voice of protest can be heard on his 1974 album winter in america, which produced soul-aching ballads & timeless classics. this caught the attention of music impresario clive davis who made him, in 1975, the first artist he signed to arista records. by age 23 he'd published a book of poetry, two novels & recorded three albums; addressing issues like apartheid, celebrity, drug addiction, nuclear power, poverty & racism.

scott-heron successfully campaigned alongside bob marley & stevie wonder for an american national holiday to be named in honor of one of his heroes, the rev. dr. martin luther king, jr. his spirited activism engendered a level of respect & warmth with his fans wherever he played, both locally & globally. in 1993 he wrote message to the messengers, calling on rappers & musicians to use their art for social change.

in 2001 scott-heron was jailed in new york state for cocaine possession & again, five years later, for violating a plea on a drug-possession charge by leaving a rehabilitation clinic. it was while he was doing jail time when he received a visit from russell, who guided him into the studio for his eagerly anticipated comeback album.

on his blog russell said, "to my knowledge he never accepted an award. he always wanted everyone else to receive credit for their work. he is the only artist i've ever worked with who requested that the studio's engineer photo be given equal prominence to his own on his website. gil meant a massive amount to me, as he did to so many people. his spirit was immense. he channeled something that people derived a huge benefit from."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

African-American CNN Anchor Don Lemon Reveals He Is Gay

in his new memoir transparent, african-american cnn anchor don lemon reveals he is a gay-identified man. in an official statement lemon says, "today i chose to step out on faith & begin openly living my truth."

lemon's admission was not a secret. in fact, many of his co-workers & managers were keenly aware of his homosexuality. he now joins national television news anchors like rachel maddow & thomas roberts who have similarly acknowledged their sexual identities in a public forum.

"i think it would be great if everybody could be out," lemon told the new york times. "but its such a personal choice. people have to do it at their own speed. i respect that. i do have to say that the more people who come out, the better it is for everyone, certainly for the tyler clementis of the world."

tyler clementi is the gay-identified rutgers university student who committed suicide last fall. lemon futher laments, "i think if i had seen more people like me who are out & proud, it wouldn't have taken me 45 years to say it...to walk in the truth."

even beyond whatever affect his revelation might have on his television career, lemon said he recognized this step carried special risk for him as a black man. he told the new york times, "its quite different for an african-american male. its about the worst thing you can be in the black culture. you're taught that you have to be a man. you have to be masculine. in the black community they think you can pray the gay away."

as a same-gender-loving man of african descent, this writer is curious to know exactly what lemon means when he says, "more people like me." does he mean black men? professional black men? men over 40? men at cnn? other media folk?

as arsenio hall would say, things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.

Friday, May 06, 2011

2011 NBA Post-Season Award Winners

the national basketball association recently announced its annual award winners for the 2010-2011 season. they are as follows...

most valuable player - derrick rose, chicago bulls.
coach of the year - tom thibodeau, chicago bulls.
rookie of the year - blake griffin, los angeles clippers.
defensive player of the year - dwight howard, orlando magic.
sixth man of the year - lamar odom, los angeles lakers.
most improved player - kevin long, minnesota timberwolves.
sportsman of the year - stephen curry, golden state warriors.

congratulations & godspeed for their worthy accomplishments!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Knicks Swept by Celtics in First Round of 2011 NBA Playoffs

the new york knicks were swept by the boston celtics four games to none in the first round of the 2011 nba playoffs. this was the knicks first playoff series since 2004 & they have yet to win a playoff game in 10 years. knicks coach mike d'antoni was obviously disappointed in the outcome yet remains optimistic about the future of his team, which was challenged with nagging injuries & new superstars.

amare stoudamire resurrected the culture of the knicks at the beginning of the season when he came over from the phoenix suns. in fact, bcuz of his stellar play he was the mid-season favorite for mvp. before the all-star break the knicks scored big wins over atlanta, chicago, denver, miami, new orleans & portland, establishing themselves as a legitimate force. stoudamire was voted by fans as a starter on the eastern conference squad - their first since patrick ewing.

after the all-star break the knicks acquired carmelo anthony, chauncey billups & anthony carter from denver in a blockbuster deal sending wilson chandler, danillo galinari, raymond felton & timofey mozgov to the nuggets. they also picked up (former knick) jared jeffries from washington & sent eddy curry to minnesota for corey brewer, who was later released to dallas.

the team noticeably struggled with their new lineup: brilliant one game & baffling the next. ny finished the season with a 42-40 record, their first winning season in a decade. the city was buzzed. the fans were excited. the players were hyped. their post-season relevancy benefits the league: madison square garden is the mecca for championship basketball & new york city is the media capital of the world.

still, the celtics displayed their chemistry, experience & resilience in each game. 2010 all-stars ray allen, kevin garnett, paul pierce & rajon rondo successfully embodied their roles within the team framework. glen davis, jeff green (newly acquired from okc), jermaine o'neal & delonte west solidified a team on a mission.

the first two games were hard fought. billups was injured late in game one & sat out the series. boston held their home court victories - by a total of five points - primarily bcuz they executed down the stretch, a skill the knicks must cultivate during the off-season if they expect to contend for a title next year & in the future.

stoudamire suffered back spasms in game two & was never fully healthy despite a gallant effort throughout. games three & four in the garden were blowouts, neutralizing the crowd's anticipation & thirst for killing celtic green. the knicks' bench competed mightily, outscoring the starters, yet boston proved why they deserved to move on the eastern conference semi-finals against the miami heat. the celtics are a better team.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

UConn Wins 2011 NCAA Title

the university of connecticut defeated the university of butler 53-41 to win the 2011 ncaa title. uconn coach jim calhoun joins john wooden, adolph rupp, mike kryzezwski & bobby knight as the only coaches to win three or more championships. at age 68, calhoun becomes the oldest coach to win the ncaa tournament. huskies all-american point guard, bob cousy award winner & naismith finalist kemba walker was named the final four's most outstanding player.

the game was played in front of a record crowd, over 75,000 fans, in houston. uconn's defense was brilliant, as they blocked 10 shots & held butler to an abysmal 18.8 field goal percentage - the worst in an ncaa final in 70 years. the bulldogs' best players mack howard & shelvin mack were a combined 5 for 23 shooting from the perimeter. furthermore, butler had no points in the paint during the entire game.

walker, who will graduate as a junior on his 21st birthday, may 8, averaged 23.5 points during the tournament. he scored 16 points & grabbed nine rebounds upon leading his young team to victory. uconn started three freshmen, among them jeremy lamb, who finished with 12 points & seven rebounds, along with roscoe smith who blocked four shots. sophomore center alex oriakhi played superbly, contributing 11 points, 11 rebounds & four blocked shots.

no one expected uconn or butler to play for the championship. butler lost last year's title game to duke amidst their cinderella run to the finals. they join the university of michigan as the only team in the last 20 years to both play & lose back-to-back title games. uconn (32-9) capped an amazing & unprecedented run after ending the regular season on a mild losing streak. they won the big east tournament - winning five games in five days - climaxed by their demoralizing win against butler.

the bulldogs played hard, but shot poorly, finishing with a record three two-point field goals. it was an ugly game to watch, particularly in the first half, as both teams struggled to drop the rock; the halftime score was butler 22 uconn 19. missed shot after missed shot for butler will be over-analyzed by pundits, yet the fact remains uconn's defense swarmed the bulldogs at every opportunity forcing bad shots & unlikely turnovers. uconn won the last 11 games of the season & deserve their place in history.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao: A Writer's Review

on a recent bright saturday afternoon in the village of harlem, i was excited to see my friend, elvis nolasco, star in the brief wondrous life of oscar wao. masterfully told by pulitzer prize-winning author junot diaz, this epic novel chronicles the life of oscar de leon, an overweight dominican boy growing up in paterson, new jersey who is obsessed with falling in love, science fiction novels & the curse plaguing his family for generations.

nolasco's solo gig was presented by special arrangement of the american place theatre's literature to life program. the american place theatre is committed to producing high quality new work by diverse american writers. the literature to life program gives students a new form of access to literature by bringing to life the world of the book with performances creating an atmosphere of discovery which spark the imagination.

the event was held at the harlem stage, a wonderfully intimate venue which celebrates & perpetuates the unique & diverse artistic legacy of harlem & the indelible impression it has made on american culture. harlem stage has been at the forefront of the development & presentation of new & experimental works by artists of color for over 25 years. in 2006, harlem stage completed a $26 million comprehensive campaign anchored by the restoration of the historic 135th street gatehouse into a state-of-the-art, flexible performance, rehearsal & support space.

i arrived about 20 minutes before show time, not knowing what to expect. i greeted a few friends & saluted some associates. there was a noticeable buzz in the air. the place was sold out to an inter-generational, multi-cultural audience. needless to say, i was hyped! i've known elvis almost 10 yrs & have witnessed him perform in film & on stage - but not alone, in this atmosphere, with this type of creative pressure.

as i'd not read diaz' novel, i was unfamiliar with the story, which only added to my anxiety & uncertainty. elvis was - in a word - brilliant. he captivated the pensive crowd for about 60 minutes with his charm, passion & wit. the variety of colorful people in the novel came alive on stage for us all to see. we felt their joy & pain. we identified with their trials & tribulations. elvis nolasco was treated to a standing ovation when his set was done.

finally, to every one's surprise & delight, junot diaz joined elvis on stage for a brief question & answer. diaz humbly praised his magnanimous performance. someone asked if a film was in the works. diaz mentioned possibly & he'd welcome elvis in the film upon witnessing his versatility. i was so proud of my friend. i felt like i was in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. his family & friends were there to support him as well.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Happy 54th Birthday to Ghana!!!

on march 6, 1957 in ghana, the union jack was replaced with a flag of red, gold & green with a distinctive black star at its center. the british-ruled gold coast was now a self-determining country. ghana became the 1st sub-saharan nation to claim its independence from colonialism.

this was a historic event, heralded as the force urging other sub-saharan nations forward in their quest for liberation. often not discussed & usually overlooked is the impact ghana's independence also had on america's civil rights movement, or the impact black america had on dr. kwame nkrumah, the brilliant man who eventually lead his country to freedom.

many african intellectuals of that era completed their tertiary & post-graduate education in europe: it was customary, if not expected. ever the visionary, nkrumah set his sights on america & enrolled in lincoln university, one of america's oldest historically black colleges. he studied economics, sociology & theology; he also received an informal education in the politics of race & the plight of american-born black folk.

when nkrumah was not in school in philadelphia, he lived in the village of harlem, where he sold fish on the streets & waited tables on merchant ships. nkrumah attended black churches in harlem & philly. he aligned himself with black political organizations like the n.a.a.c.p., where he met & began working with the scholar w.e.b. dubois, who quickly became a mentor to nkrumah.

upon completing his studies in lincoln, nkrumah attended the university of pennsylvania, where he earned master's degrees in education & philosophy. while there, an already politicized man began to shape his ideas of pan-africanism as well as his vision for a liberated & unified continent - a place where all people of the african disapora could return to & call their home.

marcus garvey, the jamaican freedom fighter who advocated black self-reliance in america, was another instrumental figure in nkrumah's life. nkrumah noted in his autobiography, "but i think, that of all the literature i studied, the book that did more than any other to fire my enthusiasm was philosophy and opinions of marcus garvey, with his philosophy of 'africa for africans' and his 'back to africa' movement, did much to inspire the negroes of america in the 1920's."

during nkrumah's time at the university of pennsylvania he helped to establish its african studies section. he also established the african students association of american & canada, while serving as its first president. given his investment in his country's future, its no wonder some of the most notable black people in american history were present to witness ghana's independence.

the a-list includes u.n. undersecretary for special political affairs ralph bunche, also a nobel peace prize recipient; senator charles diggs; rep. adam clayton powell, jr.; mordecai johnson, the 1st black president of howard university; international labor activist maida springer; horace mann bond, the 1st black president of lincoln university & father of julian bond; rev. dr. martin luther king, jr. & his wife coretta scott king; as well as lucille armstrong, representing her husband, louis, who could not attend.

also present was then vice-president richard nixon, who approached a group of black folk whom he assumed were ghanaians & asked, "how does it feel to be free?" they said, "we wouldn't know, we're from alabama." ironically, the 1st time nixon met rev. dr. king, jr. was two days b4 the event. king said, "i want you to come visit us down in alabama, where we are seeking the same kind of freedom the gold coast is celebrating."

the repeated reference to alabama & freedom was especially poignant because ghana's independence occurred virtually on the heels of a major civil rights victory there: the montgomery bus boycott. the yearlong boycott began on december 1, 1955 when rosa parks refused to get up & give up her seat to a white person. in november of 1956, the u.s. supreme court issued a ruling in which it was declared the laws of segregation on buses were unconstitutional.

in his book, african americans in ghana: black expatriates and the civil rights era, author kevin kelly gaines writes, "the fulfillment of ghanian and african demands for national independence informed many african-americans' struggles for equal citizenship." during a radio interview in accra, rev. dr. king jr. said of ghana's independence, "it renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice. and it seems to me that this is fit testimony to the fact that eventually the forces of justice triumph in the universe, and somehow the universe itself is on the side of freedom and justice. so that this gives new hope to me in the struggle for freedom."

ghana's close relationship with black america, which was forged by nkrumah, continues today. dubois, who was not at the independence celebrations because the u.s. government refused to issue him a visa, moved to ghana in 1961 & spent his remaining years there. among the african-americans who have called ghana home include activist, educator & poet dr. maya angelou, writer & pan-africanist george padmore, writer julian mayfield & lawyer-author rev. dr. pauli murray.

in 2001 ghana's parliament passed "the right to abode," unprecedented legislation affording any person of african descent the ability to live & work there indefinitely. ghana is the 1st african country to extend such an overture to people in the diaspora.

when u.s. president barack obama addressed ghana's parliament in july 2009 he said, "africa's future is up to africans. the people of africa are ready to claim that future. and in my country, african-americans - including so many recent immigrants - have thrived in every sector of society. we've done so, despite a difficult past, and we've drawn strength from our african heritage." for obama to choose ghana as the destination of his 1st official visit to africa was a befitting tribute to the legacy of kwame nkrumah.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Black Inventors/Brilliant Inventions

people of african ancestry have made extraordinary contributions throughout the course of hue-man history. these brilliant inventors realized their god-given talents to create useful products we probably take for granted everyday. in the spirit of african heritage month i've listed some of their inventions which simplify the lives of folks all over the world.

a.p. ashbourne - biscuit cutter. l.c. bailey - folding bed. james a. bauer - coin changer. andrew j. beard - car couple; rotary engine. g.e. becket - letter box. alfred benjamin - stainless steel pads. h. bradberry - torpedo discharger. phil brooks - disposable syringe. marie brown - home security system. henry blair - corn planter; cotton planter. sarah boone - ironing board. l.f. brown - horse bridle bit. oscar e. brown - horse shoe. otis boykin - guide missile; pacemaker. john a. burr - lawn mower.

burridge & marshman - typewriter. r.a. butler - train alarm. george carruthers - radiation detector. george washington carver - lotion & soaps; paints & satins; peanut butter. george cook - automatic fishing reel. a.l. cralle - ice cream mold. william d. davis - horse riding saddle. w.a. detiz - shoe. joseph dickinson - arm for recording player; player piano. o. dorsey - doorknob; doorstop. clatonia j. dorticus - photo embossing machine; photo print wash. p.b. dowing - postal letter box. dr. charles drew - blood plasma.

t. elkins - toilet. david a. fisher - furniture caster. robert fleming, jr. guitar. george f. grant - golf tee. j. gregory - motor. micheal harney - lantern. soloman harper - thermo hair curlers. b.f. jackson - gas burner. h.a. jackson - kitchen table. joseph n. jackson - remote controllers; video commander. isaac r. johnson - bicycle frame. jerry johnson - sani-phone. lonnie johnson - super soaker. william harwell - space shuttle retrieval arm. w.a. lavallette - printing press. lester lee - laser fuels. maurice w. lee - pressure cooker.

f.w. leslie - envelope seal. a.l. lewis - window cleaner. john l. love - pencil sharpener. hugh macdonald - rocket catapult. tom j. marshall - fire extinguisher. w.a. martin - lock. jan matzeliger - shoe lasting machine. elijah mccoy - lubricators. alexander miles - elevator. garrett morgan - gas mask; traffic signal. lyda newman - hair brush. alice h. paker - heating furnace. j.f. pickering - airship. purdgy & sadgwar - folding chair. w.b. purvis - fountain pen; hand stamp. l.p. ray - dust pan. a.c. richardson - insect destroyer gun.

w.c. richardson - baby buggy. n. rillieux - sugar refinement. walter sammons - pressing comb. g.t. sampson - clothes dryer. henry sampson - cellular phone. dewey sanderson - urinalysis mchine. ralph sanderson - hydraulic shock absorber. s.r. scottron - curtain rod. j.w. smith - lawn sprinkler. r.b. spikes - automatic gearshift. j. standard - refrigerator. t.w. stewart - mop. rufus j. weaver - stairclimbing wheelchair. paul e. williams - helicopter. j.b. winters - fire escape ladder. granville t. woods - auto air brake; electric cutoff switch; electric railway system; galvanic battery; relay instrument; roller coaster; telephone system; telephone transmitter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

President Obama Names 15 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

president barack obama today named 15 recipients of the presidential medal of freedom. the medal of freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the national interests or security of the united states, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant private or public endeavors. the awards will be presented at a white house ceremony early next year.

obama said, "these outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds & they've excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture & made our country & our world a better place. i look forward to awarding them this honor."

the recipients are: 1) george h.w. bush, 41st us president, vp during the reagan administration & former cia director; 2) chancellor angela merkel, the 1st woman & 1st east german to serve as chancellor of a unified germany, which this year marks its 20th anniversary; 3) congressman john lewis (d-ga), an american hero & freedom fighter during the civil rights movement who served as chairman of the student nonviolent coordinating committee at age 19 & continues to serve georgia's fifth district since 1987.

4) john h. adams, who co-founded the national defense resources council in 1970, served as executive director & later, as president of the nonprofit environmental advocacy group until 2006; 5) dr. maya angelou, activist, actress, author, educator, filmmaker, humanitarian, poet & producer who is currently the reynolds professor of american studies at wake forest university; 6) warren buffett, an american industrialist, investor & philanthropist, he's one of the most successful investors in the world.

7) jasper johns, an american artist who produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of identity & perception since the mid-1950's whose work has influenced pop, minimal & conceptual art; 8) gerda weissman klein, a jewish holocaust survivor who's written several books about her experiences & recently founded citizenship counts, a an organization teaching students to cherish the value of their american citizenship; 9) dr. tom little, an optometrist who was brutally murdered 8/6/10 by the taliban in the kuran wa munjan district of afghanistan along with nine other members of a humanitarian team on a mission to provide vision care in nuristan.

10) yo-yo ma, recognized as a prodigy since age five he made his carnegie hall debut in nyc at age nine & is considered the world's greatest cellist whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music; 11) sylvia mendez, a civil rights activist of mexican & puerto rican descent whose victorious lawsuit after being denied entry into an all-white school at age eight was a landmark case in the movement against segregation; 12) stan "the man" musial, a baseball legend & hall of fame first baseman for the st. louis cardinals for 22 years who was a 24 time all-star selection, three time most valuable player & member of three world series teams.

13) bill russell, the former boston celtics' captain who revolutionised professional basketball with his defensive prowess leading boston to 11 nba titles in 13 years, including a record eight in a row, five time most valuable player & the first african-american to coach in the nba; 14) jean kennedy smith, who in 1974 founded vsa, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the john f. kennedy center promoting the artistic talents of children, youth & adults with disabilities; 15) john j. sweeney, the current president emeritus of the afl-cio who served as their president from 1995 to 2009, revitalizing the american labor movement by emphasizing social justice, union organizing & workers' advocacy rights.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Power To The People! The Egyptian Revolution Was Televised!

the sounds of freedom continue to ring thru cairo 24 hrs after hosni mubarak was forced to resign by the awe-inspiring courage, determination & resilience of millions of egyptians who poured in2 the streets in unprecedented numbers for 18 str8 days. after 30 yrs of authoritarian rule, the impossible became possible: the hated dictator has left the country & his notorious police force has all but vanished.

for the tens of thousands who were in tahrir (liberation) square friday pm, the explosive news of mubarak's resignation spread like wildfire; within seconds crowds erupted in2 screams of joy & relief. strangers exchanged congratulatory embraces, their eyes moist with tears of disbelief & pride at the historic change they helped create & witness.

all night long every street in cairo lit with celebrations. people streamed in2 tahrir square from across the colossal city, waving egyptian flags, breaking out in2 dance, poetry & song, their faces bursting with a sweet & unknown delight. loud chants of "the people have brought down the regime" & "hold your head up, you are egyptian" echoed late in2 the night.

egypt's revolutionaries defy trivial generalizations. they are men & women, young & old, rich & poor, educated & illiterate, muslim & copt, atheists & believers, capitalists & workers, peasants & techies, artists & state employees, housewives & professionals, salafists & socialists, long-time activists & apathetic citizens.

after their long night of jubilation the revolutionaries returned to the square saturday, now armed with brooms, garbage bags & a new found sense of national pride. thousands dutifully swept the dusty streets in & around tahrir square, pausing at different intersections to recall the bloody battles with state security & thugs unleashed by mubarak's oppressive regime. others applied a fresh coat of paint to the pavements while talking about the freedoms they wanted to enshrine in their rejuvenated country.

the january 25th uprising in egypt has set an inspiring example to people globally. three days in2 the shift of power tens of thousands of peaceful protesters on cairo's qasr-al-nil bridge shattered the invincibility of egypt's security forces empowered with their bodies & a neo-gandhian fearlessness in the face of extreme brutality. when the panicked regime took the police off the streets to intimidate people in staying at home, the people responded by organizing committees to guard their neighborhoods.

when the regime unleashed hired thugs to stage pro-mubarak demonstrations & attack journalists & pro-democracy protesters in the square, thousands fought back with rocks while others set up make-shift clinics to treat the wounded & distribute blankets, food & water, as well as tents to those inside the square. when state television framed the demonstrators as directed by "foreign elements," folks waved egyptian flags, asserting a patriotic struggle. employees of state media outlets & well-known media personalities soon began to speak out in protest.

challenging mubarak's power has been fatal. according to estimates by the human rights watch & united nations, at least 300 people were killed in the uprising. many others have been detained & possibly tortured by egypt's intelligence & military force. every time mubarak or his recently deputized vice president omar suleiman appeared on television, they expressed contempt for the protesters, announcing piecemeal reforms to try & appease the millions in the streets.

indeed, each day brought a litany of new reasons for the people's frustrations & rage against the regime to swell. but despite the lack of restraint on the part of mubarak's hostile regime, the pro-democracy protesters did not respond to the constant provocations with violence. instead, the diverse & united people in the square delivered periodic chants of "ours is a peaceful revolution, ours is a popular revolution."

18 days of progressive struggle brought power to the people. egypt's revolution was televised but remains far from over. who will shape the post-mubarak era? who will be allowed to guide the transition to civilian rule? as the celebrations in tahrir square continue folks' concerns about the prosperity, restoration & success of egypt are not awash in cynicism. there are more questions than answers. egyptians have tasted the power of a popular uprising whose foremost demand was met & now they can't imagine giving up until all of their conflicts are resolved.

these include the repeal of the emergency law, the dissolution of parliament, constitutional reforms to ensure fair & free elections, the release of all political prisoners & justice for all those killed during the revolution. no one knows how quickly these demands will be met, but affirmed by their monumental victory against mubarak, millions of egyptians now believe if they continue the struggle anything is possible.