Be well D.C. When I was a kid this one known as Agnes whipped through the east coast. D.C. only caught the edges of it. Wilkes Barre, PA got smacked hard. We know hurricanes in D.C. Maybe not like Florida or New Orleans but we know hurricanes. Like I said, be well, everyone.
When I was in college, my English 101 Professor Keith Schlegel shocked us all and his department one year when he made us all subscribe to Newsweek. Gone were those dull, traditional English writing assignments; Dr. Schlegel, as I knew him, made us read a well written, political weekly, and then we had to write essays responding to what we would read. It was quite an engaging experience.
It was not only engaging because it was different that what the other classes were doing; it was engaging because I got to read Newsweek.
Now, Newsweek, like so many other print publications is on its ways to the electronic world exclusively. We will see more of this surely. Matt Rothschild, editor of the Progressive Magazine in Wisconsin, told me recently that his magazine will have to re-make itself for the digital world in about 10 years.
Even though I didn’t necessarily agree with Newsweek, it was always informative to read the magazine. I can remember in college writing my first real paper on “Why Ronald Reagan was so popular?” It was in response to a cover story by Newsweek on Ronald Reagan’s rise. I will never forget Dr. Schlegel writing on my paper – “a fire opening” in response to my opening line.
Newsweek like TIME and many other publications shapes our discourse, good, bad or indifferent. It has been shaping it for decades but we are entering quite an unsure period in the U.S. and the world.
One of my students told me today that she hasn’t read a newspaper in years. She means an actual newspaper. What is going on now for the most part is young people are receiving scattered information on their social media sites and then maybe they track it down. Other young people are subscribing to what they like through their pads and phones but there is no real order to how the news trickles out now. It is such a strange time considering I grew up in Washington D.C. with the Washington Post, the Washington Star, and TIME and Newsweek and Jet and Ebony and so many other publications that shaped the world.
The end of Newsweek is not the end of news as we know it. That happened a long time ago. But this is more evidence that the world is different even though we don’t yet know what that means. And all of this has me wondering how Dr. Schlegel feels about this wherever he is these days.
It was 17 years ago today that my father summoned me from my bed and asked me was I going to the Million Man March? I remember it vividly.
The night before the march, I had been out real late with my good friend, the poet, Joel Dias Porter. We killed time over Gaston Neal’s house hanging out with the poet and writer and activist, Amiri Baraka and the free jazz trombone legend, Craig Harris. Neal, who passed in 1999, had called us and told us to come over because Baraka and Harris was there and he knew that it would be a cool hang. Trash talking, politics, music, poetry. How could it get any better?
Truth is it was like taking a class in Black Culture in four or five hours. I probably learned more about the essence of Black American culture that night than I would ever learn reading books. Baraka talked poetry and literature and politics and what was the way forward for black people in America. Harris talked jazz and music and spirituality and how black music was the foundation for what we were as a surviving people. Neal talked everything.
We sat there late into the night: I dare say I might have gotten asleep by 4:00 or 5:00 am. So when my father showed up, I was exhausted. But when he stood over my bed and told me of the civil rights marches he had participated in including the March on Washington of 1963 and the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, I got up, showered and dressed.
Out front, many of my long time friends from the neighborhood had gathered and were ready to take the train to the march down on the mall in Washington D.C. That is how it was for the locals. Neighborhoods traveled to the march. Streets. Blocks. I recall getting on the train and the Metro cars were jammed pack with black men, old and young, and middle aged, all wanting to say just for one day, we are alive. No one pushed or shoved or argued even though we were packed almost like those trains we see today in India where people are riding on top (no one rode on top though).
As the train stopped at the Rhode Island station, one young brother offered a prayer.
“Y’all pray, right?” he asked. Many on the train said ‘yes’ and so we bowed our heads and prayed. The train was as silent as a church or mosque as it began easing back down the tracks. It was just one of many such moments of sudden magic associated with the march.
Was the march perfect? This day of absence? No. Perhaps there were too many speakers and not enough agenda following the march. There was also the issue of black women being told not to come to the march However, flaws and all, it was quite a historical achievement. The fact that the march was announced as a chance to seek redress and then mutated into something else was the march’s true failure but hey, it is what it is now.
But within the march to a certain degree are the answers to many of the riddles of the black male experience if the politics behind the march can be forgotten. Black men can get focused. Black men can gather and be for black men. Black men can rally for themselves.
Yet, we all know it is far more complicated than that because bills have to be paid, children have to be fed, and old tensions don’t a march vanquish. I get that. I see that everyday, the struggle, the daily difficulties, the tensions.
But I am proud to say I attended the march. It did not result in a politically organized agenda internally or externally but it proved that the problems we face are not beyond our repair. It only lasted for 24 hours of course, this moment of peace and brotherhood. But it is still there to grasp. All we have to do is reach down deep. Deeper than we have ever reached before.
I do not buy the Obama could not be the angry black man line currently circulating the globe. I have many friends and colleagues who are promoting it as the reason he lost the debate to Mitt Romney nearly two weeks ago and as a result, has thrown his chances for re-election into a political furnace.
No one said Mr. Obama had to be the anrgy black man; however, Mr. Obama did need to challenge Mitt Romney on his facts, and on his brazen dishonesty. Whether that was done with anger or vigor didn’t matter. Months ago, this same Mitt Romney called the country, much of it, scum. He was caught on tape and eventually said he was wrong but only because he was caught. If Mr. Obama had acted indignant towards him and brought that up, half the country would have rallied to his side. Instead, he stood at the podium for 90 minutes and allowed Mr. Romney to repeat false statement after false statement and he barely made a complaint. Some of us were saying, what the hell? (I watched the tape, didn’t catch it live).
But most of all, he also didn’t sound passionate, like he wants to live in Washington D.C. for four more years and be President. If he doesn’t, it is a fine time now to decide; the election is upon us, the barbarians are at the gate.
I also believe Mr. Obama has to reject such a suggestion that he can’t be a whole person and be real and angry and indignant because it buys into racism. If Mr. Obama wants racism to recede and be challenged, the first debate was it. At some point black people in America have to be who we are and the rest of the country needs to accept it. The only way that can be found out is by doing what you want or need to do. Mr. Obama is the President; why is it necessary for him to walk softly?
My friend and colleague Deangelo Starnes says Mr. Obama is like Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champ. He was a radical figure at a time when the world was not ready for such a figure. Johnson wasn’t political in that he tried to be political; he was the politics. He did things that people didn’t expect black people to do. He dated white women openly. He made money and wore fur coats. It was decided that he had to go. The quest for a Great White Hope was born.
Now, if my man Deangelo Starnes is correct, Mr. Obama’s time is up. Don’t cry but judging by the extraordinary manner in which he is being attacked, one has to wonder.
I just read online that the anti-Obama film (Obama 2016) is going to be screened in churches. This is, of course, illegal. But, it would not surprise me if it happens. There is an element in the U.S. that has decided Mr. Obama has to be voted out of office. For many of this element, it is all racial. He represents an affront to everything the country was founded upon. For others, he is a small disruption for them economically but not really. Those who were rich are still rich. In fact, statistics say they are even richer and many say they don’t mind paying more taxes. Regardless, the Jack Johnson model, if true, says Mr. Obama must go and he must be humiliated.
Jack Johnson, as many known, was finally beaten down in Cuba by Jess Willard. The stars were aligned again. As I said, I am beginning to accept this event. Pundits on CNN today were discussing Romney’s policies and what the country would look like under him. I was shocked to a certain extent. Here’s why:
Mr. Obama, even with his failure to cure everything, deserves another term easy. He arrived in office and inherited a disaster (but this is the black experience). He received no cooperation from the other side (the Republicans). Racist talk and chatter was regular. Disrespect was routine. Death threats soared. He has endured four years of bitter, divisive hell, and yet, the country is on the way back from economic chaos and is doing fairly well.
The unemployment rate was over 10 percent by October 2009; he had been in office just 9 months. From November 2008 – April 2009, the country lost over 3 million jobs. Today, unemployment is below 8 percent. His first term has produced 5 million jobs. He has passed equal pay legislation for women, and hate crimes legislation for gays. He has passed a health care law that will provide millions with health coverage who can’t get it. The auto industry was saved; the bankers got bailed out (by Bush but Mr. Obama didn’t rescind it). Al Qaeda has been decimated and their leaders are dead though they are showing a little sign of life far away from America. This is not a perfect President but for those who say his term is a failure, I have concluded they are racist bigots.
His term might have had some failings but this is not Herbert Hoover. There is tangible success in a variety of areas. There were tax cuts for everyone under Mr. Obama as the Bush tax cuts in place since 2003 are still the law. Education policy is far more coherent, No Child Left Behind is being streamlined. HUD, our troubled public housing agency, is quite dynamic in its approach and some of its programs. The housing market, though too slow, is turning around. The administration sued the hell out of some mortgage companies and got huge monetary settlements. Finally, one wonders why big business and Wall Street are complaining; they are earning record profits with Mr. Obama in charge.
But still, when it gets down to it, Jack Johnson (Mr. Obama) must go. He disturbed the way things were. The U.S. never had anything but white leaders. White male leaders. The country was not ready for a black leader. It thought it was but it wasn’t. I am going out on a limb and saying Deangelo Starnes is onto something. He said it first. That is all I can conclude Mr. Obama is not re-elected. You push out a guy who was handed complete failure and he has it turning around despite overt bigotry and non-cooperation and you say, race has nothing to do with this. I beg to differ.
At the next debate, Mr. Obama has no choice; if you are going to be voted out, you might as well tell them you are a man and not a boy. Be indignant. Be serious. Stand up for those who Mitt Romney called scum. Tell them, legend is when Jack Johnson lost in Cuba, he took a dive to save himself. Tell them, you won’t.
Frank Howard threw out the first ball yesterday in Washington D.C. The first playoff game in the city in 79 years (it could be longer). Frank Howard who used to hit homers into the chairs at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in D.C. when I was just a boy. In 1969, he hit 48 dingers. He hit 237 homers overall in my city.
My father used to take us all to the games. Once on my birthday, he took me and they announced my name over the loud speaker. They brought a cake to my seat. (Those were the days).
The Senators were the worse team in the league back then, ably coached by the great Ted Williams (yes, that Ted Williams), and I loved them dearly. I had jerseys, caps, helmets, bats, balls, all of it. I played baseball all summer every summer. Then, in 1973, they went to Texas. I was devastated. George Bush soon owned them.
But baseball has returned to the Capitol of the World, and we have a solid team now. The team had the best record in the league this year. And yesterday, in the 9th inning, playoffs, St Louis Cardinals, the champs, scored tied 1-1, Nats facing elimination, Jason Werth, one of the team’s stars, hit a dinger out. Just like my hero of yesteryear, Frank Howard.
Frank never hit any of any meaning because the team was never in the hunt. But we are now and it is cool that Frank Howard was in the house to witness it all. It seems almost appropriate.
Jason Werth knocked it out on the 13th pitch (my mother, the superstitious type would be happy) after fouling off everything he could to get the at bat set the way he wanted. No one wants to walk anyone, not in the 9th inning.
Baseball is back in Washington D.C. Frank Howard is back. Where is Ed Stroud? Dick Bosman. Paul Casanova. Ed Brinkman. Aurelio Rodriguez. Toby Harrah. Dick Billings. Mike Epstein. Jeff Burroughs. Del Unser. Curt Flood (how many of you knew Curt Flood spent his last days in baseball in D.C.), Horacio Pina, Tim Cullen, and so many more of my heroes.
My absentee ballot has arrived. I am voting in Maryland where I have lived and had a home since 1998. I am a Washingtonian by birth but a proud member of the DMV (if you have to ask, don’t.).
But the Maryland ballot again is the reason why we must all vote. I am not talking about President of the United States. If you want to boycott that, I might not agree, but I get it.
However, I am talking about the other votes. Offices like local school board and then those pesky referendums or questions on the ballots we always see. Where I work, out in Michigan, there are a number on their ballot, and in Maryland, there are several.
One involves establshing the ability for individuals, including undocumented workers, to become eligible for in state tuition rates in Maryland. A second – Question 7 – is for a vote for expand commercial gaming in Maryland for the “primary purpose” of education in the state.
And finally, and probably most importantly, is Question 6, a ballot issue that would establish civil marriage in the state between gay and lesbian couples. Considering Maryland has recently passed such a law, this question is clearly a test of the popularity of the law with voters.
Of these three, the trickiest is the gaming law and the focus should be on “primary.” When I received my ballot I also received literature exposing how the law won’t necessarily give money to education and doesn’t have to in principle. That is why the word “primary” is thrown in the mix. It is an attempt to cloud the issue (as always with gambling revenue) when the moment of the truth arrives.
Personally, I am not against gambling but I think this question is a con game. I know of too many cities that passed such laws, began operating casinos, and yet, their school systems are still lousy and not receiving the funds. It is a familiar move.
I have no qualm with the state tuition change. This sounds like a move to get ahead of the failure of the Dream Act.
As for civil marriage for all, I am completely for this as well. Of course, I will read these “questions” closer before voting as they are long but it is good to have ballot in hand and ready to get the vote over. If you are voting Maryland, a little more time remains to register. Don’t delay. Be a citizen. Vote. Or as Obama said, don’t boo, vote.
Nothing that happened last night meant anything in the hood. Tonight, the police will patrol, the drugs will be sold, people will try to survive and thank God for the day.
The bad schools will open. The stores selling garbage will too. The landlords will not come to repair the apartments they own.
Things will go wrong. A women will need an insulin needle. A child will continue to live with dyslexia, will get no diagnosis, no help. Their self esteem will drop.
Coughing all day will go on. And people will still smoke, and drink, and try to forget about where they are living.
No one talked about them last night. No one talked about lifting them up. One guy has $250 million and thinks he is taking it to heaven with him. The other has millions too but to his credit, he seems genuinely more generous, and understanding.
Yet, that man could only talk about shrinking government and cutting government. The richer man swore he is for the little guy though he has no idea what that means or what he can do for the little guy.
There was a debate in the hood last night. It had to do with should I buy medicine or food for my kids. A mother has that debate all the time. She opted for the food. She will try to get by for a few days without her pills.
As Dough Boy said in “Boyz in Da Hood,” no one cares what goes on in the hood. That is why it is always making noize. It is trying to scream, holla like Marvin G. The world don’t have to have hoods. It chooses and has chosen to have them. Will someone ask a question next debate about the poor?