jazzoLOG: From Duke 'N Satch To Obama: A Personal Triumph    
 From Duke 'N Satch To Obama: A Personal Triumph14 comments
picture16 Jan 2009 @ 13:16, by Richard Carlson

I have been asked many questions in my life about poetry, religion, life, and I have given precisely the same number of answers, but I have never, I repeat, never, satisfied a single interlocuter. Why? Because all questioning is a way of avoiding the real answer, which, as Zen tells us, is really known already. Every man is enlightened, but wishes he wasn't. Every man knows he must love his enemies, and sell all he has and give to the poor, but he doesn't wish to know it---so he asks questions.

---R.H. Blyth

When a man is instantly awakened, he comes back to his original mind.

---The Vimalakirti Sutra

As naturally as the oak bears an acorn and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done.

---Henry David Thoreau

During the 2008 presidential election campaign, I did not think of Barack Obama as a black man. He mentioned his racial origins himself from time to time, referring to his mother and grandmother when he did so. As president-elect he said, before all the other ferocious issues fell upon him, the most important decision was what kind of dog to get that he had promised his daughters. He'd like to find a mongrel, a mutt, like he is, he said, himself. I really liked that! I like thinking of him as the Melting Pot personified...and I said so one evening at Obama Headquarters here in Athens, Ohio. I realized race is a sensitive issue, even in there, but I was pleased no one seemed shocked or obviously uncomfortable.

With our first lady-elect, it's different. When Michelle Obama started to talk about her origins, the whole Civil Rights Movement came pouring out. I was in a huge audience here one of the times she stood on a stage and did that, my daughter on my left and a black single mom, in graduate school at OU, on my right. All around us were obvious members of every race and mix in the land, and it was thrilling. I was one of the people telling everybody who would listen that I hadn't felt this happy exhilaration in 45 years. That was when there were interracial agencies and programs for educational and neighborhood encouragement. Black and white, we got to know each other intimately sometimes, dance together, party in each other's houses, and---yes---argue. Races in Michelle's audience looked at each other joyfully that way, and I too felt really proud to be an American again---after a long time.

Well, she capitulated to the image makers a bit and I was disappointed if it meant she was being silenced. And like many progressives, I have questions and doubts about how Barack Obama is starting out. I worry about some of those cabinet appointments and so much inclusion of all sides as to risk diluting important decisions. I worry about hesitancy on Gaza and possible support to any and all Israeli policies. I don't want trillions handed over to banks, which have no history as effective social helping agencies. And then there's investigation and possible prosecution of Bush and his people. See Krugman this morning on that! [link] I understand not wanting it to be partisan, but if President Obama is going to be another one of these politicians who only talks about "moving forward" all the time I'm going to be sick.

But this is a time of inaugural celebration and let's get back to it. I am of a very fortunate generation in this country who has started out in segregation, nationality as well as race, and moved myself and been moved into the wonders of a multicultural world. My mother raised me to "play with our own kind" and she reacted physically to memories of bathing black men off the streets of the Lower East Side during her nursing training at Bellevue Hospital. This was a farm girl from Appalachia...but I didn't excuse her and went my own way. For one thing, we were being taught differently in school. After World War II the curriculum, at least in New York State, changed. We began to get a smattering of black history. We read Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver in grade school and junior high. Folk music entered our music training, and we got black melody and rhythm...stilted but there. Jackie Robinson was our hero on the Brooklyn Dodgers...though I didn't abandon Stan Musial or the Cards.

One of my father's friends gave me a couple 78 RPM records of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Goodman I responded to immediately, but the Ellington ("Swamp Fire" on one side and "Chloe" on the other) took me years to learn the language. A friend soon gave me a 78 album of 4 Goodman records called "Sextet Session." I was 8 or 9 years old, the album was new, although the sessions were from 1945. The group was integrated, and I soon learned that Benny had been hiring musicians for years because of how well they played, whatever race or nationality they were. I learned jazz was like that. Later I learned there were recording sessions going back to the earliest days of the music that were integrated. Besides that, there were jam sessions after hours in which every conceivable kind of character joined in, as long as he or SHE could cut the changes and create a solo of interest. I loved not only the music but the very idea of it. I became an evangelical about jazz---in the very face of early rock 'n roll---pointing out it was America's original art form and the very essence of democracy.

By the time I went to college in 1958, I already was in the just-emerging Civil Rights Movement. One of the people of whom I was aware was Nat Hentoff. From Boston, he had turned up writing intelligent and informed album notes for jazz records. He also wrote reviews in the couple of magazines that served the music...and he wrote in the Greenwich Village Voice newspaper to which I had been subscribed a couple years---to my mother's mounting horror way out 365 miles west of the Big Apple. Hentoff too was noticing civil rights increasingly, and soon he was writing about it. By the mid 60s he was writing legal columns about court cases and things, work that apparently had no connection to jazz. But those of us who knew him realized it all was connected and one flow in his life and mind, as it was and is in ours. Now Nat has written a piece for the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, that brings it all together. It's the history of jazz, it's civil rights, it's the new president. It's a classic.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT JANUARY 14, 2009, 11:49 P.M. ET
How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil-Rights Movement
By Nat Hentoff

On Jan. 19, Martin Luther King's Birthday, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Rockefeller Foundation, also focusing on the next day's presidential inauguration, will present at Kennedy Center "A Celebration of America." Headlining the cast are Sandra Day O'Connor and Wynton Marsalis. As Jazz at Lincoln Center declares, Dr. King called jazz "America's triumphant music," and the presence of Mr. Marsalis is to "illustrate that American democracy and America's music share the same tenets and embody the same potential for change, hope and renewal."

This focus on jazz as well as President-elect Barack Obama (who, I'm told, has John Coltrane on his iPod) should help make Americans, including our historians, aware of the largely untold story of the key role of jazz in helping to shape and quicken the arrival of the civil-rights movement.

For a long time, black and white jazz musicians were not allowed to perform together publicly. It was only at after-hours sessions that they jammed together, as Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke did in Chicago in the 1920s.

In the early 1940s, before I could vote, I often lied my way into Boston's Savoy Café, where I first came to know jazz musicians. It was the only place in town where blacks and whites were regularly on the stand and in the audience. This led police occasionally to go into the men's room, confiscate the soap, and hand the manager a ticket for unsanitary conditions. There was no law in Boston against mixing the races, but it was frowned on in official circles.

I had heard, however, of a New York jazz club, Café Society, where there was open, unquestioned integration. In "Café Society: The Wrong Place for the Right People," a book by the late Barney Josephson, with Terry Trilling-Josephson, to be published in April by the University of Illinois Press, Mr. Josephson, Café Society's founder, is quoted as having said: "I wanted a club where blacks and whites worked together behind the footlights and sat together out front. There wasn't, so far as I knew, a place like it in New York or in the country." He hadn't ever been to imperiled Savoy Café in Boston.

But Jim Crow was so accepted in the land that when Benny Goodman, during the 1930s, brought Teddy Wilson, and then Lionel Hampton, into his trio and quartets, it was briefly big national news. And Artie Shaw later hired Billie Holiday and Roy Eldridge, both of whom often met Mr. Crow when having to find accommodations separate from the white musicians when on the road.

When booked especially -- but not only -- in the South, members of black jazz bands had to be put up in homes or other places in black neighborhoods. Nor were they seated in restaurants outside of those neighborhoods. In a 1944 New Yorker profile of Duke Ellington, Richard Boyer told of a white St. Louis policeman enthusiastically greeting Duke Ellington after a performance, saying: "If you'd been a white man, Duke, you'd have been a great musician."

With his customary regal manner, Duke, smiling coolly, answered, "I guess things would have been different if I'd been a white man." Later, Duke told me how, when he was touring the deep South from 1934 to 1936, he sidelined Jim Crow.

"Without the benefit of federal judges," he said, "we commanded respect. We had two Pullman cars and a 70-foot baggage car. We parked them in each station, and lived in them. We had our own water, food, electricity and sanitary facilities. The natives would come by and say, 'What's that?' 'Well,' we'd say, 'that's the way the president travels.' We made our point. What else could we have done at that time?"

A stronger point was later made throughout the South and anywhere else blacks were, at best, seated in the balcony. In his touring all-star tournament, Jazz at the Philharmonic, Norman Granz by the 1950s was conducting a war against segregated seating. Capitalizing on the large audiences JATP attracted, Granz insisted on a guarantee from promoters that there would be no "Colored" signs in the auditoriums. "The whole reason for Jazz at the Philharmonic," he said, "was to take it to places where I could break down segregation."

Here's an example of Granz in action: After renting an auditorium in Houston in the 1950s, he hired the ticket seller and laid down the terms. Then Granz personally, before the concert, removed the signs that said WHITE TOILETS and NEGRO TOILETS. When the musicians -- Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, Lester Young -- arrived, Granz watched as some white Texans objected to sitting alongside black Texans. Said the impresario: "You sit where I sit you. You don't want to sit next to a black, here's your money back."

As this music reached deeply into more white Americans, their sensitivity to segregation, affecting not only jazz musicians, increased. A dramatic illustration is the story told by Charles Black, a valuable member of Thurgood Marshall's team of lawyers during the long journey to Brown v. Board of Education. In 1931, growing up white in racist Austin, Texas, Black at age 16 heard Louis Armstrong in a hotel there. "He was the first genius I had ever seen," Black wrote long after in the Yale Law Journal. "It is impossible," he added, "to overstate the significance of a sixteen-year-old southern boy's seeing genius, for the first time, in a black. We literally never saw a black then in any but a servant's capacity. It was just then that I started toward the Brown case where I belonged."

Armstrong himself, in a September 1941 letter to jazz critic Leonard Feather, wrote: "I'd like to recall one of my most inspiring moments. I was playing a concert date in a Miami auditorium. I walked on stage and there I saw something I'd never seen. I saw thousands of people, colored and white, on the main floor. Not segregated in one row of whites and another row of Negroes. Just all together -- naturally. I thought I was in the wrong state. When you see things like that, you know you're going forward."

As Stanley Crouch, a keenly perceptive jazz historian and critic, wrote recently in the New York Daily News: "Once the whites who played it and the listeners who loved it began to balk at the limitations imposed by segregation, jazz became a futuristic social force in which one was finally judged purely on the basis of one's individual ability. Jazz predicted the civil rights movement more than any other art in America."

Also providing momentum were the roots of jazz -- going back to the field hollers of slaves reaching each other across plantations; gospel songs and prayers connecting slavery here with Old Testament stories of deliverance of Jews from slavery; and the blues, the common language of jazz, echoing in Armstrong singing "What did I do to be so black and blue?"

In his recently published "The Triumph of Music" (Harvard University Press), spanning four centuries and diverse nations, Tim Blanning of Cambridge University, tells how black musicians have helped prepare and participated in the civil-rights movement. As when opera singer Marian Anderson, denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939, sparked the start of the 1963 March on Washington by rousing the huge crowd with "I've Been 'Buked and I've Been Scorned."

I was there, at the back of the stage, covering this typhoon of protest for Westinghouse radio; and during Martin Luther King's world-resounding speech, Tim Blanning writes, "Mahalia Jackson called out to him: 'Tell them about your dream, Martin!'"

The tribunes of soul music also quickened the tempo of what A. Philip Randolph, the primary organizer of the March on Washington, called "the unfinished revolution" -- among them James Brown, "Say It Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud."

During the 1950s and early '60s, when my day and night jobs were all about jazz, I wrote of the civil-rights surge among jazz creators: Sonny Rollins's "Freedom Suite"; "Alabama" recorded by John Coltrane; and an album I produced for Candid Records that was soon banned in South Africa -- Max Roach's "Freedom Now Suite."
It was Max who first taught me the connection between jazz and my other passion, the Bill of Rights. "Like the Constitution, we are individual voices," he said, "listening intently to all the other voices and creating a whole from all these personal voices."

My involvement in his "Freedom Now Suite" -- whose album cover carried a wire-service photo of black students at a whites-only lunch counter in the South -- was to work with the engineer on the sound checks and the timing of the tracks. I wouldn't have dared interfere with the incandescent fusion of anger and triumph in the studio, with Max propelling the black American experience from "Driva Man" to "Freedom Day."

One of the griots was the magisterial Coleman Hawkins, who invented the jazz tenor saxophone, and whose signature sound was so huge he didn't need a microphone in a club. He filled the room that day. And Abbey Lincoln, the former subtly sensual supper-club singer, was transformed before my eyes into a blazing Sojourner Truth.

After Rosa Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to leave her seat in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., Dr. King spoke before some 15,000 black citizens in, and on the sidewalks around, Holy Street Baptist Church. Dr. King, as recalled by his close friend and adviser Clarence B. Jones in his new book, "What Would Martin Say?" (HarperCollins), energized the transportation boycott that followed the arrest: "We are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness in a mighty stream."

Not long after, when some black civil-rights activists rebuked Ellington for not having been publicly enough involved in the movement, he said to me: "People who think that of me have not been listening to our music. For a long time, social protest and pride in the Negro have been our most significant themes in talking about what it is to be a Negro in this country -- with jazz being like the kind of man you wouldn't want your daughter to be associated with."

Suddenly he brightened: "When Franklin Roosevelt died, practically no American music was played on the air in tribute to him. We, our band, were given a dispensation, however. We did one radio program, during the period of mourning, dedicated to him."

On Jan. 20, joining Franklin Roosevelt in the lineage of American presidents will be Barack Obama. If I'd been asked about the music to be played, I'd have suggested to Wynton Marsalis that he and the orchestra swing into a song I often heard during an Ellington set, "Things Ain't What They Used to Be."

Not that Jim Crow has finally been interred, but jazz has been a force to hasten that day. Clark Terry, long an Ellington sideman, told me: "Duke wants life and music to be always in a state of becoming. He doesn't even like to write definitive endings of a piece. He always likes to make the end of a song sound like it's still going somewhere."

So we will be on Martin Luther King's Birthday and Inauguration Day.

Mr. Hentoff writes about jazz for the Journal.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D7
Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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14 comments

17 Jan 2009 @ 12:40 by martha : Chicago
I spent four years in Chicago (1959 - 1963) and racial tensions were high. Both schools I attended were slowly shifting from all white to mostly African American. So from 9 to 13, I saw lots of fights break out between the two groups. In my last year there my two closest friends (William and Theresa) were both black. In fact my first kiss was from William.

When I moved to Connecticut all that changed. It was rare to have an African American in any of my classes. When I went to college there were a few but they were all jocks on scholarships. Living in Virginia during the 70’s I heard lots of stories from my soul sister about the segregation she grew up with and was very slowly changing.
Now I live in NC in the 21 century and my biggest disappointment has been to join the local quilt guild and look at all the white faces. I love diversity so I will need to look around the area to see if I can also join another group with a mix of races.

Both my parents held prejudice against blacks but they learned after their daughters grew up not to speak their false beliefs about blacks. Along with my sister we would chastise them and I made it very clear that my daughter would not be around such prejudice. Wisely they kept their comments to themselves.

One thing Jazzy I would like to point out is that the rise of racial equality is tightly bound with the rise of women’s rights. These energies rose to the surface together and without the combination, the movements would not have happened. Racial equality and the Divine Feminine are joined at the heart and allow an opening to occur. We are all connected.  



18 Jan 2009 @ 10:11 by jazzolog : Martha's Comment
Certainly the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s changed things for us all, but again the stage had been set in schools, sports, and particularly in jazz and other forms of "entertainment" for a new perception. When jazz musicians, black and white, returned from service in World War II, something about the reality of America compared to our own propaganda about what we stood for just didn't jibe. Jive began to take on a new meaning and eventually become a derogatory term. Bebop was born, and swing became something of an enemy---although still a firm chordal foundation for the new music. The vast racial changes we experienced in the '60s grew out of these things. I sense that many Americans are thinking about such issues this long weekend.

Martha also is right about the women's movement. In fact of course, women suffragists can claim they were there first with insistent demands. Workplace and social concerns raised at the height of the Civil Rights Movement have gained steady momentum ever since, but I think also suffered from a similar backlash detour that partially opened the door for the Radical Right to take over the country.

Throughout the 1960s I have distinct memories of stepping aside in particular work promotion opportunities for blacks and women to move up. I felt such sacrifice was necessary to do, and I'm proud of though poorer for doing so. I feel the same way toward young people today, as we older ones linger at our jobs---and even return to double-dip and hog substitute positions---while a new generation scrambles for anything to afford moving into a sufficiency apartment and putting bread on a table. The reason of course is health insurance and that no one can afford to retire.  



18 Jan 2009 @ 10:20 by jazzolog : White Like Me
Frank Rich is one of those obviously thinking about the racial changes in his own youth. Several years younger than my generation, he speaks well for those who still we children as we moved into the 1960s~~~

The New York Times
Op-Ed Columnist
White Like Me
By FRANK RICH
Published: January 17, 2009

I cannot testify to what black Americans feel as our nation celebrates the inauguration of our first African-American president. But I can speak for myself, as a white American who grew up in the segregated nation’s capital of the 1960s. Barack Obama’s day is one that I never thought would come, and one that I still can’t quite believe is here.

Last week I joined a group of journalists at an off-the-record conversation with the president-elect, a sort of preview of the administration’s coming attractions. But as I walked some desolate downtown blocks to the standard-issue federal office building serving as transition headquarters, ghosts of the past mingled with hopes for the future. The contrast between the unemployed men on Washington’s frigid streets and the buzzing executive-branch bees inside was, for me, as old as time.

My particular historical vantage point is a product of my upbringing as that odd duck, a native Washingtonian whose parents were not in government. The first presidential transition of my sentient lifetime, Kennedy’s, I remember vividly. Even an 11-year-old could see that the sleepy Southern town of the Eisenhower era was waking up, electrified by youth, glamour and the prospect of change.

But some of that change I didn’t then understand. J.F.K.’s arrival coincided with Washington’s emergence as the first American city with a black majority. Many whites responded by fleeing to the suburbs. My parents did the opposite, moving our family from the enclave of Montgomery County, Md., into the city as I was about to enter the fifth grade.

Our new neighborhood included the Sidwell Friends School. My mother, a public school teacher, decreed that her children would instead enroll in the public system that had been desegregated a half-dozen years earlier, after Brown v. Board of Education. In reality de facto segregation remained in place. Though a few African-Americans and embassy Africans provided the window dressing of “integration,” my mostly white elementary, junior high and high schools had roughly the same diversity as, say, today’s G.O.P.

I wish I could say we were all outraged at this apartheid. But we were kids — privileged kids at that — and out of sight was out of mind. Except as household help, black Washington was generally as invisible to us as it was to the tourists who were rigidly segregated from the real Washington while visiting its many ivory marble shrines to democratic ideals.

Gradually we would learn more — from our parents and teachers, from televised incidents of violent racial confrontations far away, and from odd cultural phenomena like the 1961 best seller “Black Like Me.” In that book, a white novelist darkened his skin for undercover travels through deepest Dixie, whose bigotry he then described in morbid firsthand detail to shocked adolescents like me.

Surely such horrific injustices could not occur in our nation’s capital.

But as an unintended consequence of Washington’s particular brand of Jim Crow, white public school students got a tiny taste of what racially mandated second-class citizenship could mean. In those days, the city didn’t even have the bastardized form of “self-government” it has now; it was run as a plantation by Congressional District panels led by racist white Southerners (then Democrats). These overseers didn’t want to lavish money on an overwhelmingly black school system, and they didn’t. By the early 1960s, per-student spending in Washington was less than that of any state, impoverished West Virginia and Mississippi included.

If Washington’s white schools received a larger share of that meager budget, as they no doubt did, it was still obvious that our teachers had far fewer resources than their suburban and private school counterparts. Extracurricular activities could be curtailed by the costs of light and heat. The curriculum was also abridged, lest anyone get too agitated by America’s racial inequities. In my history class, the Civil War was downsized to a passing speed bump. In English, we read “Tom Sawyer,” not “Huckleberry Finn.”

Now that we were teenagers, we had both the curiosity and mobility to investigate the strangely undemocratic city that dealt us this hand. In the words of Constance McLaughlin Green, a Pulitzer Prize-winning urban historian, the District’s black population had long occupied “a secret city all but unknown to the white world round about.” We wanted in on the secrets.

There was so much we didn’t know, so much Americans still don’t know. Take the Lincoln Memorial, to which the Obama family paid so poignant a nocturnal visit this month. If you look up coverage of the memorial’s 1922 dedication ceremonies in The Times, you can read of President Harding’s forceful oration commemorating the demise of slavery. You also learn that Dr. Robert R. Moton, the president of the Tuskegee Institute, was invited to pay tribute to Lincoln “in the name of 12,000,000 Negroes.”

Here’s what The Times did not report about Moton: “Instead of being placed on the speaker’s platform, he was relegated along with other distinguished colored people to an all-Negro section separated by a road from the rest of the audience.” So wrote Green in “The Secret City,” her landmark history of race relations in Washington. This was no anomaly. A local Ku Klux Klan had been formed months earlier, with no protests from either Congress or the white press, and the young Harding administration had toughened the exclusion of blacks from the city’s public recreation facilities.

The eye-opening “Secret City” recounting this secret history was not published until 1967, some four years after the Lincoln Memorial served as a backdrop for “I Have a Dream.” It was also in 1967 that I graduated from Woodrow Wilson High. As a valedictory, a bunch of us on the school paper voted to publish an editorial in favor of home rule for D.C. “Washingtonians have to beg, plead and cajole members of Congress for funds to renovate slums and slum schools,” it read. That was putting it mildly; we still had much to learn. But the editorial was enough of an irritant that our principal tried to censor it, which prompted a brief civic kerfuffle (“Student Editorial Banned at Wilson” read the headline in The Washington Post) and jump-started a few starry-eyed careers in journalism and political activism.

It was one year later that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and Washington’s secret city exploded. The fires and riotscame within a block of the building where the Obama transition set up shop.

One would like to say in the aftermath of the 2008 election that everyone lived happily ever after. But the American drama, especially when it involves race, is always more complicated than that.

Looking back at my high school years, I’m struck by how slowly history can move. The great civil rights legislation of the Johnson administration had been accomplished in 1964 and 1965, but by the time of my graduation the impact was minimal — even in the city where the laws were written and passed. Today the nation’s capital still has no voting representation in Congress and is still a ward of the federal government, reduced to begging, pleading and cajoling for basic needs. Some 19 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and that 19 percent remains a secret city to many who work within the Beltway.

Washington is its own special American case, but only up to a point. For all our huge progress, we are not “post-racial,” whatever that means. The world doesn’t change in a day, and the racial frictions that emerged in both the Democratic primary campaign and the general election didn’t end on Nov. 4. As Obama himself said in his great speech on race, liberals couldn’t “purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap” simply by voting for him. And conservatives? The so-called party of Lincoln has spent much of the past month in spirited debate about whether a white candidate for the party’s chairmanship did the right thing by sending out a “humorous” recording of “Barack the Magic Negro” as a holiday gift.

Next to much of our history, this is small stuff. And yet: Of all the coverage of Obama’s victory, the most accurate take may still be the piquant morning-after summation of the satirical newspaper The Onion. Under the headline “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job,” it reported that our new president will have “to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind.”

Those messes are enormous, bigger than Washington, bigger than race, bigger than anything most of us have ever seen. Nearly three months after Election Day, it remains astonishing that the American people have entrusted the job to a young black man who seemed to come out of nowhere looking for that kind of work just as we most needed him.

“In no other country on earth is my story even possible,” Obama is fond of saying. That is true, and that is what the country celebrates this week. But it is all the tragic American stories that came before him, some of them still playing out in chilly streets just blocks from the White House, that throw both his remarkable triumph and the huge challenge ahead of him into such heart-stopping relief.

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18 Jan 2009 @ 16:30 by quinty : Ozzie and Harriet
From time to time we hear some nostalgia for the fifties, a kind of "golden era" of American life. Those of us who lived through the fifties may have different memories, though.

It was a period of great conformity and fear. And though fifties nostalgics remind us there was a blooming of the arts most of the important art of that time was protest art. Beat poetry and the new jazz of the fifties did not start out as mainstream.

Wherever there is any form of injustice we will always find at least a few voices protesting. Abolitionism goes back before the founding of the Republic and there have always been those who opposed cruelty to women. The history books may not always emphasize these protest movements because, at the time, they may not have been large. But nevertheless they were there.

And eventually, so long as the unjust conditions continue, rights movements emerge and grow large. We are seeing that in gay rights today. Does it matter Obama will have a homophobe offering a prayer at his inauguration? Symbolically it does. But gays will obtain their rights, eventually. In Gaza it is a another matter: the Palestinians there may be slaughtered by the Israelis while the world looks on with indifference. Though some day their rights will be recognized too. Let's just hope that doesn't come too late.

There's an interesting piece in the Nation on the rise of the hard right in Italy. Racism is on the rise in Italy too. Nativism and fear of "the other," unfortunately, appear to be deeply ingrained in human nature. But we do see change. Obama is an example.

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18 Jan 2009 @ 21:41 by Quinty @68.9.133.5 : Forgot to say
great stories Hentoff offers us.

And also a paean to democracy.

Had Martin Luther King lived in the Third Reich we would never have heard of him. He would simply have been shot. Same was true of Gandhi. As bad as the British were they were constrained by democratic principles. Had the Nazis run India Gandhi would never have emerged either.  



19 Jan 2009 @ 10:51 by jazzolog : Mamoud Mohamed Taha
A great Martin King Day to all! Speaking of martyrs, as Paul was just above, I became acquainted with the Taha legacy yesterday. A favorite wildman and jazz/blues genius, Cornell West of Princeton gave the keynote address here yesterday at an OU weekend conference to celebrate 100 Years of Progressive Islam. Despite the peculiar hour of noon, the new Baker Center Ballroom was packed with hundreds of dignitaries and students from all over the Muslim world.

Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was executed some 20 years ago by the fascist government of his native Sudan for his unwavering stand on social justice. Professor West, a Christian by the way, has become a leading advocate for spreading the news about the remarkable Taha. West also was celebrating the end of the Reagan Era, a period of rampant fundamentalism that spread throughout the world and nearly destroyed us all. He urges progressive revival and a universalism based on God's covenant with Abraham---which of course liberates Jerusalem for all 3 religions that have history of trying to "claim" it.

The noon hour for Cornell West's intense blues shout---that had us on our feet many times and in tears sometimes too---was occasioned by his plane schedule. He's on his way to pick up his mom in New Jersey, and take her to the Inaugural. There he'll introduce her to Brother Barack and have a few words with him. Would I love to be there for that!  



2 Feb 2009 @ 11:03 by jazzolog : Forty-Nine Years Ago Today
Well, yesterday actually. One of my college room-mates and continuing friend Don Frese sent me a link to a most interesting article about the origins of the Civil Rights Movement~~~

Greensboro Four defined by choices made
By Edward Cone
News & Record
2-1-09

There were four young men, students at A&T. They are famous now for sitting down at a segregated lunch counter at the Woolworth's store on South Elm Street, 49 years ago today, for helping to propel the civil rights movement to new heights. Do not confuse these men with the big bronze statues in their likeness on the campus of their alma mater.

Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, the late David Richmond, and Ezell Blair Jr., now known as Jibreel Khazan: We recognize their legacy in our everyday lives and, many years on, in the inauguration of a black president. But things did not have to happen the way they happened. Events that seem in retrospect to have been inevitable were contingent as they unfolded. Choices were made. We remember the Greensboro Sit-ins for what transpired here, but how things happened is important, too.

The Greensboro Four chose a strategy of nonviolence, which made it easy for others to rally to their cause. They showed great physical courage and perseverance, which allowed the spark they had struck to catch and spread. And they sought inclusion in an America that had made them second-class citizens, which helped America become what it had pretended to be.

I knew the story of the Sit-ins. I knew the pride this city takes in this piece of local history. But I did not know how the philosophy of passive resistance had come to the store at the corner of South Elm and Sycamore. I looked at myself, and at my own 17-year-old son, and I wondered, where does a college kid find the strength to risk his life for justice? I was curious about how the men themselves see their roles, and the role of Greensboro itself.

So I asked them. I stuck with my narrow line of inquiry, but each conversation had its own flavor. Khazan spoke of his family's deep roots in Greensboro's Warnersville community. McNeil, a retired major general in the Air Force reserves, was economical and direct. And McCain summed up their thinking in vivid terms: "We knew that this thing called love worked, this thing called patience."

Nonviolence as strategy

They talked about it for months, even before they knew exactly what it would be. Khazan had wanted to sit at that Woolworth's counter since he was a kid. Sit-ins in Midwestern cities had caught their attention.

"It developed over time," says McNeil. "After years of frustration. It was there for our parents, it was there for us, it would be there for our children if we didn't do something." And then, a catalyst: He could not sit down to eat during a long bus trip over Christmas vacation. Enough.

Nonviolence was always part of the plan. It was a moral choice and a practical one, too. That was stressed at the Blairs' house the evening before they acted.

"We were from Greensboro, our whole community would be blamed if things went wrong," says Khazan. McNeil says, "We knew violence would bring a bad image to what we were doing, and we needed to be in position to say, 'We're going to keep coming back.' "

McCain sees the practical and the moral as intertwined. "I didn't believe in violence, and neither did my friends, but even if you were to choose that route, we didn't have the guns or the numbers. People don't know how to combat nonviolence -- when they do something to irritate or harm you, and you turn and say, 'I love you because you're my brother,' they say, 'What kind of nut is this?' We needed to bring people to our side, and it wasn't automatic. You don't want to cause people to turn away."

The pole stars were Christ and Gandhi. Closer to home, Martin Luther King Jr. was showing how the strategy could work. "We modeled ourselves on people who had seen tremendous success in the face of near overwhelming odds, with little support," says McCain. They were raised as Christians and said the Lord's Prayer together before walking toward downtown.

Gandhi and King they knew from the lively black press of the day -- The Afro-American out of Baltimore, the New Journal & Guide from Virginia, Ebony -- as well as newsreels and the powerful new medium of television (television would spread the news of their own deeds, with sit-ins starting quickly in other cities). They learned from conversations with parents and teachers and preachers. McCain even had a comic book about Gandhi.

Finding courage

Physical harm or death were very real possible repercussions of the sit-ins. The four went anyway. Khazan remembers David Richmond, who had been a legendary athlete at Dudley High School, as "cool, a warrior. He said, 'Let's do it.' That was his expression." The other guys seemed confident, too. The smallest of the group was scared.

"I was wondering, would I be hit? Would I be arrested?" says Khazan. "I thought about a pretty girl I knew -- maybe I'll never see her again. I had read about people getting arrested and never making it to jail. I was thinking about Emmett Till. Those things were going through my head. I was hoping my parents would say no when we told them. My knee was going up and down when we sat at the counter. But I reached a point where I was ready to die for a cause."

The young men were taunted and menaced. Female college students in the crowd gathered outside to support them were jostled and pushed. McNeil says faith kept him going. "There were horrible things that went on around us. You had to believe you could keep coming back, spend time in jail, and stay strong."

McCain drew his courage from a different place. "I was angry as hell about what was happening to us," he says. "A man can't live without a modicum of dignity. I felt I had nothing to lose. I had a commandment to do what I did. It was the less terrible choice."

A place at the table

King spoke of "a dream deeply rooted in the American dream" and quoted the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, Anthony Lewis wrote recently, he "made clear that his vision of the future for black Americans was for them to be part of the larger society, not embittered opponents of it." That vision was in the minds of the Greensboro Four, more than three years before King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington.

"Very much so," says McCain. "We thought we were part of the American experiment. We were Americans." So they bucked a black establishment that counseled against sit-ins and picketing and protests in hopes of gradual gains. "They told us we should study and become doctors and lawyers, but this was imperative to do first," he says.

I asked the three men how Greensboro figures in their own view of events. McNeil speaks warmly of white students from local colleges who turned out alongside the kids from A&T to support them. "I'm not sure the initial response would have been the same in another place," he says. The participation of white students, adds McCain, was "heartwarming" and "doubly welcome, because their presence caused people to think about what was happening."

Khazan grew up in a segregated Greensboro but also saw close relationships between some white and black families. "Things went beyond the traditions of racism," he says. He remembers a white man in the Woolworth's store, a veteran of the Second World War, who urged the counter man to serve the students, and asked them if they would be back the next day. "That was a lesson in history, and ethics, right there."

Yet McCain is ambivalent about Greensboro's image as a progressive city. "If there was no Bull Connor, it was because the people pulling strings didn't want it," he says. After some hesitation from the power structure, "the façade worked to our advantage. The city fathers wanted nothing to tarnish that false image they lived under." I asked if doing the right thing for less than noble reasons makes it less right. He laughed.

At some level, one that seems worth remembering today, this was the story of a powerful friendship. "We had something unique," says McCain. "There were four people who learned to respect and love each other, who had the same convictions and concerns at the same time. We were all marching in concert. The relationship to each other -- that was the prime reason for the success of the movement in Greensboro."

© News & Record 2009
[link]

One of the comments at Mr. Cone's site refers to a similar demonstration in Wichita a couple years earlier~~~

[link]  



1 May 2010 @ 08:28 by jazzolog : An Ancient NewCiv Entry
It's quite amazing to visit this essay and the comments from 8 years ago. [link] My God, there even is a link to William P. Meyers' website! Please note: Bill Meyers is not Bill Myers...or Bill Moyers...and especially he is not Bill Ayers, but he gets into Radical Right conversation about Barack Obama anyway. In this context, the President made some amazing comments to reporters the other day, and I congratulate him~~~

“It used to be that the notion of an activist judge was somebody who ignored the will of Congress, ignored democratic processes, and tried to impose judicial solutions on problems instead of letting the process work itself through politically,” Mr. Obama said.

“And in the ’60s and ’70s, the feeling was — is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach. What you’re now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error.”

He added, “The concept of judicial restraint cuts both ways.”

Mr. Obama’s comments, which came as he prepares to make a Supreme Court nomination, amounted to the most sympathetic statement by a sitting Democratic president about the conservative view that the Warren and Burger courts — which expanded criminal defendant rights, required busing to desegregate schools and declared a right to abortion — were dominated by “liberal judicial activists” whose rulings were dubious.

Still, Mr. Obama, who formerly taught constitutional law, did not cite any specific decisions. He has long been a supporter of abortion rights, and repeatedly defended the court’s interventionist stance during the civil rights movement because minorities were cut out of the political process, even while saying that such a role would be inappropriate today.

Mr. Obama made his remarks in an impromptu conversation with reporters on a flight to Washington from the Midwest. They were in response to a question about whether concerns about “conservative judicial activism” would play a role in the court nomination.
[link]

At the same time People For The American Way has a long excerpt from a new book Rise of the Corporate Court: How the Supreme Court is Putting Businesses First
From Bush v. Gore to Citizens United v. FEC: The Making of a Corporate Democracy, 2000-2010 (good grief, is all of that the title?)~~~

A decade ago in Bush v. Gore, five Justices on the United States Supreme Court intervened in the 2000 presidential election to halt the counting of more than 100,000 ballots in Florida, thus delivering the presidency to the preferred candidate of America's largest corporations--like Enron, Haliburton, Exxon-Mobil, Blackwater, AIG and Goldman Sachs. These corporations proceeded to shape public policy in significant ways, promoting financial deregulation, privatization and the spread of corporate welfare, the contracting out of warfare, and the creation of what economist James Galbraith has called a "predator state."
[link]  



2 May 2010 @ 17:13 by Quinty @68.9.182.136 : The Supremes
I don’t see how you can have it both ways. It seems to me a contemporary justice has to interpret the Constitution in the spirit in which it was written, recognizing the importance of diverse individual rights. And in doing so we can not ignore contemporary concepts of those basic rights, which, over the centuries, have actually moved in quite a progressive direction.

A strictly strict point of view of original intent, to the letter, remaining fully in the eighteenth century, would condone many abuses we find abhorrent today, even slavery. Though the Constitution was ammended to rectify that basic fault.

At one time the Supreme Court put property rights (ie defended private property and the owners of private property as a growing class) above the rights of powerless individuals: workers, child labor, women, blacks, gays, etc. With FDR that all changed.

The simple objective truth about any Supreme Court Justice is that he will interpret the meaning of the Constitution in his own lights. If he is conservative he will be conservative. A liberal will be liberal. There is no absolute objectivity, or even strict interpretation of the Constitution. The Framer’s meaning, or eighteenth century attitudes and view of the world, which can be seen in different ways, is all that “objectively” matters.

What’s more, if the Founders were alive today they would surely write a somewhat different document: with no mention of 3/5ths citizenship and perhaps adding a mention of minority and environmental and women’s rights, along with others. They were, after all, an “advanced” revolutionary group. Even if they were a bunch or slave owning old white guys.  



3 May 2010 @ 15:24 by jazzolog : Yes You Can
We have to have it both ways, Paul...and I was glad to see the President use his law professor chops. It's tough to overturn a Supreme Court decision, and there has to be tremendous popular support for an amendment. It can be done though. There have been relentless attempts to overturn the decisions of the Warren Court, but they clicked with the American ethos...so far anyway. This court: not so much. We shall see if the Reagan/Bush 1 + 2 views, given whom they put in empty seats, will prevail...and primaries tomorrow will begin to show if there's sugar in the tea.  


3 May 2010 @ 15:47 by Quinty @68.9.182.136 : The Court
What I meant was you can't be opposed to judicial activism and be an activist yourself. That a built in interpretive bias exists in any approach, conservative or liberal. And that an "objective" interpretation of the Constitution is mostly a fiction.

My point of view is that the Founders were quite progressive for their time. (Though I don't think the term, "progressive," existed as a widely used political description then.) And that the course of American history has fundamentally been progressive, building on the framework the Founders gave us.

Has human nature somehow changed in the past two hundred years? That's a good question. But there has been progress in at least recognizing certain basic human rights. I would like to see Justices appointed who continue that trend. Though the Thomas court leaves that in doubt.

That is, if I understood what you said correctly. Gottago....See you in a month.....  



3 May 2010 @ 16:21 by Quinty @68.9.182.136 : The "predator state..."
That's what we had before Roosevelt. Justices who protected property rights and came down on the side of property owners, including employers. The "little guy" didn't have much of a chance until Roosevelt came along. After several decades of progressive decisions we are forced to wonder now if the Roberts Court will return to the old standards.

Did I say Thomas Court up above? Well, I deny it. Are you going to believe me or your eyes? (Look - others get away with it why can't I?)

We take off tomorrow for Europe, Paris, San Sebastian, and Madrid. Later.....  



4 May 2010 @ 15:24 by jazzolog : Actively Opposed To Activism
I agree with your interpretation of progressive social change in our country's history, but there also is the tradition of shoot-'em-up-I-do-what-I-want. That element has been creative too, but has not always thought through the problems beyond immediate solution and $$$$$. Thus we have an oil leak in the Gulf that could have been prevented, we learn, by more money spent on safety equipment. Lots more money, to be sure...but now look. And I believe we know the name of the man responsible for making that decision. Stay tuned.

But have a wonderful vacation abroad Paul. Usually we don't hear from you during those times of leisure in the cafes and bistros on the continent. If we don't hear from you over there, come back when you're broke and we'll see how things stand or have fallen then.  



26 May 2010 @ 01:33 by Quinty @68.226.90.195 : Zzzzzzzzzzzz
Back.

I write to you from three twenty one in the morning. Actually nine twenty one in the evening here, in the states.

Didn't go broke, though. The dollar kept rising so money was no problem. In fact, whenever we go over there we tend to let all the stops out and forget about money, conversions, excesses, or throwing it ($) away. A Euro is a pretty object, with composers, novelists, architects and the like decorating its different denominations. In fact, the old peseta had Manuel De Falla, Benito Perez Galdos, and Francisco Goya on its various bills.

Were we Europe we would probably have named Washington's airport after Walt Whitman instead of Ronald Reagan. Mark Twain would be on the ten dollar bill. Aaron Copeland would be on the twenty dollar bill. And honest George (who couldn't have been that honest!), after all, who was the "father of our country," would remain on the one.

That's all I have to say in the middle of the night. Jet lag is a bummer. Small price to pay though for a swell time overseas where you can taste, see, and experience all sorts of things you would never encounter here at home. This morning Madrid. Now it is the middle of the night, though my clock says it is only nine thirty.

(The difference is six hours.)  



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