Selma Revisited: from Violent Racism to Reflective Compassion (part 1)

3 Producers of the film
Left to right, Producers of the Golen Globe Award-nominated film Selma:
Dede Gardner, Oprah Winfrey, and director Ava DuVernay. (photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for AFI)

 The movie Selma, directed and executive produced by Ava DuVernay, opened on Christmas Day 2014 and rang in the New Year 2015 with domestic sales estimated at $1, 204,000 according to Box Office Mojo. Whereas there have been any number of films about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. produced for television, Selma is the first major feature film on the great civil rights leader made for theatrical release.

The movie’s box office performance at the beginning of the year placed it at number 23 on Fandango’s list of “Top Box Office Movies,” and it currently stands at number 22. Both positions place it far behind “The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies” ruling at the time at number 1, and “Unbroken” at number 2.

However, Selma played during the first week of its release in only 19 select theaters. It is set to screen nation-wide on January 9, just in time for the 86th anniversary of Dr. King’s birth on January 15. In honor of the fact that the movie would not have been made without the definitive role played by the people of Selma, Alabama, in the past as well as in the present, Paramount Studios announced that residents will be allowed to view it for free until the end of January.

DuVernay has already won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award for the film and it has earned 4 African-American Film Critics Association Awards. It has also received 4 Golden Globe Award Nominations. In addition to DuVernay, the line-up of producers includes Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey, who also performs in a supporting role as Annie Lee Cooper. Paul Webb provided the screenplay and among the exceptional cast that brings it to life are David Oyelowo (as Martin Luther King Jr.), Carmen Ejogo (as Coretta Scott King), Cuba Gooding Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Tim Roth, and Allesandro Nivola.

Technology and the Struggle for Human Rights

The story of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery is now a well-known one for many important reasons. It is obviously vital for the place it holds in the story of African-Americans’ ongoing struggle for social and political equality in the United States, as it is for the place it occupies in America’s attempts in general to refine its practice of the concept of democracy. In addition, it dramatically demonstrates the role which the evolution of technology has played in struggles for human rights in the modern era.

For the full article by Aberjhani please click this link:
Selma revisited: from violent racism to reflective compassion (part 1 of 5) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

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Poets of the Past and Present in 2014 Spotlight (part 1 of 2)

Cover of Enoh Meyomesse's

“Sometimes: the struggle and willingness to say the unsayable –– has cost poets and artists their lives.”––from Journey through the Power of the Rainbow

Each year the value, presence, and volume of poetry in the world intensifies after spring arrives largely because the international community celebrates March 21 as World Poetry Day and people in the United States celebrate National Poetry Month in April. Both of these events since their establishment––National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and World Poetry Day by UNESCO in 1999––have served to magnify the focus on, and respect for, poetry as a universal cultural legacy.

People around the globe felt World Poetry Day significant enough that they celebrated it (some are still doing so) in a number of notable ways, from individual blog posts and the publication of new books to poetry festivals and extended open mic nights. In Ghana, for example, theater groups, members of writers’ workshops, and spoken word artists worked with the Goethe Institute and G3 Channels to stage presentations. At the Customs House in Sydney, Australia, multilingual poets presented recitals in indigenous Aboriginal dialects as well as in English.

Poetry and Freedom: the Case of Enoh Meyomesse

One of the more powerful observations of the day came from English Pen, the original hub for the PEN International collective of literary affiliates (which includes PEN American Center) dedicated to advocating freedom of expression in literature and journalism. True to its mission, prior to World Poetry Day, PEN sent out a call asking “our supporters to help translate imprisoned poet Enoh Meyomesse’s work into as many different languages as possible…”    

For the complete article by Aberjhani please click the link:
Poets of the past and present in 2014 spotlight (part 1 of 2) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

A Double Dose of Dynamic Compassion – Bright Skylark Literary Productions

“To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity.” –The Charter for Compassion

You could say I recently received a double dose of compassion. The first came in the form of a friendly reminder from fellow wordsmith Barbara Kaufmann that the founder of the Charter for Compassion movement, Karen Armstrong, was going to be a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday program. The second came in the form of a photograph of the late much-loved actor Paul Walker assisting a group of children. Reach Out Worldwide, the organization founded by Walker, had paired the image with one of my quotes about compassion back in September and it resurfaced on Twitter and Facebook following Walker’s tragic death.

1. Paul Walker

For many, the death of the late actor and humanitarian was a shock as well as a revelation. It was a shock partly because he was so young and partly because people generally prefer Hollywood scenarios where the beautiful heroes and heroines triumph over brutal opposition rather than succumb to it. Most––would prefer that reality were a better respecter of persons. But it––like gravity, time, or disease––is not. Reality as we live it most often takes on qualities like mercy, grace, and yes, dynamic compassion, when we choose to endow it with such powerful elements.

Please enjoy the full post by Aberjhani at the following link:
A Double Dose of Dynamic Compassion – Bright Skylark Literary Productions.

This is why hip-hop icons like LL Cool J tweet positive quotes – by Aberjhani

LL Cool J on cover of March 2013 ESSENCE Magazine         

                    March 2013 cover of ESSENCE Magazine featuring actor and rapper LL Cool J.

“What I’m sowing today, I be reaping tomorrow So here’s some joyful bars, to replace your sorrow.” –LL Cool J (from Old School New School)

It was very difficult not to laugh when reading Robbie Ettelson’s satirical rant, “Being Positive is for Chumps,” in last week’s online Acclaim Magazine, against celebrity rappers for their inspiration-oriented tweets. In fact, I’ll admit it. Even though the sarcastic tirade was based in large part on a quote from The River of Winged Dreams, the subtitle of the piece almost sent me rolling on the floor:

 

“If Robbie of Unkut comes across one more inspirational tweet from a rapper he’s going to vomit rainbows.”

 

At the same time, I smiled at the realization that the quotes which apparently have threatened to turn Robbie’s tummy inside out were often, for the rappers who shared them, not just quotes at all. They were testimonials to what it meant to battle the demons that nearly derailed their own lives and which did destroy the lives of some of their peers, relatives, lovers, neighbors, and friends.

Gold and Rainbows

Specifically, Ettelson pointed out in his comical piece tweets from MC Lyte (who is fond of the hashtag #unstoppable), Russell Simmons, and LL Cool J (who is on the March 2013 cover of ESSENCE Magazine). While acknowledging LL Cool J as “the greatest rapper of all time,” he found that title inconsistent with this tweet:

Please enjoy this full article by Aberjhani by clicking the link:

This is why hip-hop icons like LL Cool J tweet positive quotes – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Tricks and Treats of the 2012 Presidential Debates (part 1): Editorial and Poem – by Aberjhani

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greet their audience
at first presidential debate. (Photo by: ZHANG JUN/XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS/MCT)

 “I really think that one of the profound decisions the American people have to make now is whether they want to be governed by a president, or a boss. And I mean a boss!” ––Bravo Television’s James Lipton in conversation with Chis Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball Show.

 Halloween is close enough to the date of the 2012 American presidential election that the idea of the country waking up to either a trick or a treat on November 7 serves as an appropriate metaphor for the intense anxiety that has characterized much of the current campaign for the White House’s Oval Office.

Critics of Democrats have accused them of guerrilla decontextualization trickery in the form of a presidential administration that has delivered less that they believe it should have over the past four years. Likewise: critics of Republicans have charged them with attempting to force upon the country a potential leader whose potential administrative policies seem to shift and adapt to audience preferences.

In one sense, critics of both parties can claim the opposing candidate guerrilla decontextualized himself during the first 2012 presidential debate on October 3. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did so by passionately presenting his political platform in much more moderate terms on such issues as affordable health care, women’s rights, and taxation than in the positions previously stated in live campaign appearances or the notorious 47 percent video. This penchant for reversing positions has been described by Mother Jones Magazine, Mr. Obama, and the Urban Dictionary as “Romnesia.” 

Republicans can claim the president engaged in guerilla decontextualization during the first debate by playing the role of a timid schoolboy allowing a classmate prone to bullying others to, in the consensus of the news media and much of the Democratic base, walk all over him and straight to a first-debate victory. For the second debate on October 16, it was Mr. Obama who executed the U-turn, not so much where his stand on fundamental issues is concerned but in regard to how dynamically he presented and defended his position. Whereas he had previously appeared somewhat reticent or even docile while Romney drove home point after point, in the second debate he repeatedly stood and challenged Romney’s contentions to such a degree that the two men often appeared more as if they were engaged in a boxing match rather than a debate.

Please click the link to read the full post by Aberjhani:

Tricks and Treats of the 2012 Presidential Debates (part 1): Editorial and Poem – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Considering Michael Clarke Duncan: Big Black Man within a Nonsociopoliticohistorical Context (Editorial with Poem) by Aberjhani

Photo of Michael Clark Duncan by Ethan Miller for WireImage.

Since his emergence during the 1980s and 1990s as a master of horror and suspense, author Stephen King has enjoyed popularity among a racially diverse reading audience. His popularity among African Africans likely ticked up a notch when his novel The Green Mile was made into a movie in 1999 and the late Michael Clarke Duncan brilliantly brought King’s character, John Coffey, to awe-inspiring life.

Duncan, who died September 3, 2012, at the age of 54 from complications following a heart attack suffered in July, received an Academy Award nomination for the role. Moreover, he actually won the Saturn Award, Black Reel Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics’ Choice Award, and Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for his performance.

The accolades that rained upon Duncan and the fact that he earned himself a spot among Hollywood A-listers did not prevent some critics from accusing the Chicago-born actor of promoting a negative racial stereotype with the role.  Instead of the morally superior close-to-angelic being that King created and Duncan represented so impeccably, they saw a witless aberration with slave-like speech and mannerisms, someone too unaware of his sociopolitical status to hate the white people who so clearly hated him.

Big Black Man Within a Nonsociopolicohistorical Context

 In an interview with PopMatters film editor Cynthia Fuchs, Duncan, who in real life stood 6’5” and weighed in at 300-plus pounds, shared the following: “The film is about this: you can’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s the main thing that people do with John Coffey. And me too.”

In many ways, whether considered negative or positive, the more dominant images of African-African men in mainstream media and parallel outlets are manufactured utilizing some form of guerrilla decontextualization. The millionaire entertainers, superstar athletes, demonized criminals, and hyper-sexualized players often have little other than color in common with the average striving student, husband, son, brother, incarcerated loved one, or friend who considers himself African American.

For the full article with the poem by Abejhani please click the link:

Considering Michael Clarke Duncan: Editorial with Poem – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Summer-Song Rhapsody for Michael Jackson: Editorial with Poem by Aberjhani

Poster for “King of Pop” Michael Jackson’s birthday celebration in Brooklyn, New York.
(Image courtesy of: A Spike Lee Joint)

Assistant program director “Lady Grace at Savannah State University’s WHCJ radio station (90.3 FM) pointed out during one of her shows at the beginning of June that June and August represented the station’s “Michael Jackson time.” By that, she meant listeners could expect to hear during these months an occasional extended broadcast of music by the late enduringly great Mr. Jackson.

She then launched into an uninterrupted set that lasted for longer than I could stay tuned in to listen. The music spanned every period of the creative genius’s exceptionally prolific career and included a variety of samplers from innovative mixes by diverse musicians and producers.

In contrast: I recalled a fellow author informing me that she was “burned out” on Michael Jackson and didn’t see the point of different people’s continued expressed devotion to him or his work.  I understood and respected what she said. Yet at the same time it seemed clear enough there was––and is––something more than blind fanaticism that drives individuals to continuously visit websites like Seven’s MJJ-777, devour books such as the Official Michael Jackson Opus, look forward to annual celebrations of his birthday in Brooklyn (and elsewhere), and feverishly anticipate the release of both the 25th Anniversary Edition of Bad and director Spike Lee’s documentary on the making of the album.

It did not take long to figure out what my esteemed friend was overlooking.

A Part of the Antidote

The recent massacre in Aurora, Colorado, at the Dark Knight Rises screening, the nonstop bloodbath in Syria, the killings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and starvation in Ethiopia as well as here in the United States are among the kind of phantasmagoric atrocities that have made human existence in 2012 a very unsettling venture. In one sense, such things have always been a part of life. In another, our experience of them is more intense than ever before because of the constant bombardment of information about such events. Although himself frequently a target of guerrilla decontextualization, a major part of the meaning of Michael Jackson’s life was to help balance the accumulation of horrors with something closer to love in its most empowering and healing sense. 

For the full story and poem by Aberjhani please click this link:

Summer-Song Rhapsody for Michael Jackson: Editorial with Poem – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.