Category: Social

“Black Crime” revisited

“Black Crime” revisited

African Americans have disproportionately been victums of a punitive society and legal system. Did Blacks Really Endorse the 1994 Crime Bill. Here in California I was involved in The initiative called Proposition 47 which was passed to classify “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” as misdemeanors instead of felonies. I also creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund to distribute monies to education, victim compensation. A great move, but what happened to cause these problems?

Today political candidates are talking about the 1994 crime bill and the concept that black citizens asked for it (True). They explain that the black as well as all communities wanted change. However the New York Times recently disputed that, ad explored the legislation’s shortcomings and concluded that “punitive crime policy is a result of a process of selectively hearing black voices on the question of crime”.

At the time, calls for tough sentencing and police protection were paired with calls for full employment, quality education and drug treatment, and criticism of police brutality. When “blacks ask for better policing, legislators tend to hear more instead”.

Selective hearing has a deep history. For example, W. E. B. Du Bois wondered in his 1903 classic The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois’s captured the struggle of African Americans to forge and maintain a positive identity in a U.S. society that reduced their existence to that singularly alienating phrase “the Negro problem.” and during the 1960s, blacks argued for full socioeconomic inclusion and an end to discriminatory policing. Instead, they got militarized police forces.

With the 1994 Crime Billl of 993, black communities pushed back. The N.A.A.C.P. called it a “crime against the American people.” Also, the Congressional Black Caucus introduced an alternative bill that included prevention and alternatives to incarceration. The caucus also put forward the Racial Justice Act to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge death sentences. And so, Black support for anti-crime legislation was highlighted, while black criticism of the specific legislation was tuned out. This led to a compromise which eliminated $2.5 billion in social spending but only $800 million in prison expenditures. 26 of the 38 voting members supported the legislation.

This legislation wanted vulnerable urban communities to be managed through harsh punishment and heightened surveillance.

So, I urge the NA members and allies to be vigilant on making sure history is not rewritted and that they continue to support the struggle for racial parity and fight the mass incarceration of people of color.

New York Times



I have blogged on the lack of face to face communications previously, and in a recent New York Times article the concept of the three circles interested me. Remember the idea of the “six degrees of separation”? It is theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. The NYT article talks about, say the first ring the third (called the middle) and the last of these. Thus, the inner, middle, and outer circle of contacts.

Today, we have a political dysfunction which llies deep in society. If there’s truly going to be improvement in this, there has to be improvement in the social context politics is embedded in.

So, when I grew up I lived close to members of a family, my neighborhood, my school, in a a different nation, continent and world. My life had a varied but coherent circle.

Fast forward to my twenties and I am an immigrant to the US. I noticed a community/membership mind-set despite the Vietnam war that was waging I never regretted my move. There was a welcoming attitude. Sidebar: I was still a white person, who was “embedded” in the Peace Movement at Berkely but not completely cognsant of the privilege my skin color granted. Later I dated an African American who slowly and surely educated me on this.

Recently our nation has an individualistic and autonomotous direction and how large companies and rich individuals have restricted individual rights while advancing their power and their own interests.

Which brings me to my earlier writings. I have said “that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face”. and pointed out that this could be “an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in”. The problem is that the more people interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange.

Meanwhile, the individualist turn in society has compounded this divide such that the NYT quotes that “47 percent of Americans reported that they knew none or just a few of their neighbors by name”. Even sadder is there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who report that they have no close friends to confide in. And that’s where we as interracial connected men can act.

How can we do that? First learn, as stated above, that there are “Middle-ring relationships”, that can help people become skilled at deliberation. The guy sitting next to you at Starbucks may have political opinions you find abhorrent, but you still may have to get stuff done with him, week after week.

Given that the NA is a cauldron of diversity these middle-ring relationships can diversify your identity. You are also a citizen in a neighborhood in. Sometimes it seems that your neighborhood or, of course, the world is bigotted. However, as you go on our Facebook page with 12,000 members and rant, your middle-ring memberships may be deteriorating causing a lack of deliberation. People then may find it easier to ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts. We’re good at bonding with people like ourselves but worse at bridging with people unlike ourselves. I am not saying that one should abandon your principles but nurture the local membership web to include diverse political opinions as well as nurture the local membership web that includes diverse opinions ad well as diverse skin colors and sexual identity, Go to your local groups including your local NA chapter, as well as Facebook.

Remeber we may even be happier and more fulfilled. We can reach all of our discrete individual desires if we cultivate those middle rings of our lives. Once again, I believe NA friends and allies tend to the garden of our lives by feeding all three of our rings and not relying on those “six degrees of separation”.


New York Times:

Pan African Film Festival #4

Pan African Film Festival #4

(Entry 4 from Jeff H, BWMTSC Cochair)

On Saturday Feb 13 I saw two very different but fascinating movies. First I met up with Johnny to see “KPIANS The Feast of Souls,” a Nigerian horror film about an ancient curse and efforts to return a lost sister to life. This is a well done scary movie set in an abandoned house in the jungle. The threats are mysterious and enhanced by a style of close ups and focus on the interpersonal connections of the young Nigerian professionals summoned to the house. The message seems to be that the old ways and powers can still threaten even very modern denizens of urban society. The takeaway lesson on Africa is that they make all kinds of movies including this genre film with a unique Nigerian touch.

Then I rushed over to see the South African documentary “Nelson Mandela:The Myth and Me.” This is a fascinating exploration of the decision by Mandela to turn from vengeance to forgiveness towards the whites of South Africa who had inflicted such unspeakable misery and hardship on the Black African population. The movie is in the form of a dialogue between a young South African man and Mandela, and it ranges broadly from South Africa to other locations of mass murder and oppression such as Nazi Germany, Chile under Pinochet, etc. Many interesting thinkers and activists discuss the merits of forgiveness (“moving on”) vs a more hard core vengeance or retribution. One question asked is whether it’s easier for Mandela to forgive since he’s president compared to the poor widow whose children and husband were killed by the apartheid government but who isn’t president. (NB: a brief clip of Kissinger coming out in favor of forgiveness…I wonder why?)

The movie is a thoughtful exploration of this issue, and it was especially relevant in light of our own country’s efforts to deal with the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow racial oppression and especially with the issue of reparations raised recently and persuasively by Ta Na’hisi Coates. Should we just move on and try to help everyone succeed, or should we try to compensate those individuals and communities that suffered so grievously for centuries? The discussion conducted in this movie is one we should be having in this country, but of course GOP heads would explode if we did. Anyway it was a fascinating documentary that I highly recommend to everyone.

Next: “Out of Darkness,” “The Boda Boda Thieves,” “LUV Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” from Sunday.

And today (Monday, last day of festival) I’m about to head out to see “America’s Blues” (documentary about blues music), “America is Still the Place” (drama about a Black man’s struggle in SF in the 70’s starring the charismatic Michael Colter of Jessica Jones), “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill” (the great Audra McDonald portraying Billie Holiday), and (final movie of PAFF 2016 for me) “While You Weren’t Looking” (South African lesbian drama). Anyone want to join me?

Jeff H.

Pan African Film Festival #5

Pan African Film Festival #5

Sunday Feb 14
(from Jeff H. Cochair, BWMTSC)
Out of Darkness
The Boda Boda Thieves

I planned to bring both of my sons, Dante and Lorenzo, to see “Out of Darkness”, eat dinner, and then see “The Boda Boda Thieves.” Our friend Vicky was going to join us. Dante got sick and couldn’t come, but Lorenzo and Vicky and I saw the American documentary “Out of Darkness.” This is a powerful account of the central role of Africa in the development of human civilization (which I basically agree with although I’d give more credit to the Mesopotamia/Egypt interaction).
Through extensive interviews with thinkers and professors, the film then links the invention of the concept of race to the need for Europeans to justify their enslavement and massacre of the rest of the world. Taking a more psychological turn it suggests that Black people are to blame for not embracing their identity and accepting the oppression of white racism and privilege. The film urges Black people to support themselves commercially and otherwise. This reminded me of the Black power movement in the 70s. The film has a lot of passion and information, but for me it ends by downplaying political action and the alliances needed for successful political change. Anyway there is a lot to learn from this film, and Lorenzo really liked it.

Lorenzo wasn’t up for another movie and took the bus home, so Vicky and I saw the Ugandan coming of age film “The Boda Boda Thieves.” We both loved it! It is set in Kampala, a teeming metropolis of endless activity, and tells the story of a 15 yr old young man Abel from a poor family. His father drives a “boda boda” or motorcycle taxi, his mother breaks up rocks at a quarry, and he himself just wants to hang out with his buddies, smoke, and flirt with girls.

When his father is injured in an accident, and then imprisoned for failing to pay back his wealthy creditor, Abel must take up the taxi business. He opts for some unsavory characters and activities until the bike is stolen. This throws the family into even deeper crisis since that is their primary livelihood. Abel searches for the bike and eventually takes a big step towards maturity.

Boda Boda was so well made, so touching, and so vivid in depicting the hectic life of Kampala and the difficult lives of poverty. It reminded me in retrospect of post war Italian neorealistic movies by Rossellini, De Sica, and others. It pulsed with energy and then zoomed in on the lives and words of this family and those around them. The boy did a great job, as did all of the actors.

Once again a movie gives a real, flesh and blood picture of an African country and thus inevitably contradicts the cartoonish depiction of the American corporate media, limited to Ebola, Boko Haram, Somali pirates, and child soldiers. I’m sorry you couldn’t all see it.

Vicky went home to Sunland and I went to see “LUV don’t live here anymore”, an American movie about a very flamboyant Black gay man and his circle of friends, all Black. I ran into Deej and Gary in line for this movie, and we chatted about other movies we had seen. In this movie Reggie goes from “Reggie LUV with power from above” to being an invalid from HIV and meningitis. His friends and niece make valiant efforts to care for him, but each hits a wall at some point. Reggie himself struggles with his new situation veering between anger and lethargy. Everyone hangs on just long enough, however, and the ending is poignant and inspirational.

This is a movie about mortality and love of many kinds. The main characters are vividly drawn and allowed to grow and change naturally. The writer/director Mikal Odom was there and answered questions. He was very impressive and should have a great future. Deej and Gary liked the movie too, and since Deej is in the business he was especially interested in how the movie got made and other projects of Odom. We agreed we’d love to show this at a gabfest or movie night for BWMTSC.

So that was Sunday. One more day! Coming up: “America’s Blues” (a documentary about blues music), “America is Still the Place” (Michael Colter of Jessica Jones plays a cunning Black truck driver in SF in 1970 who takes on some big corporate honchos and weaves in and out of the stunning level of racism of that time), “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill” (HBO’s film of the Broadway play that Audra McDonald won an unprecedented sixth Tony for), and then “While You Weren’t Looking” (a drama about young professional lesbians in South Africa). Stay tuned!
Jeff H.

My President ’tis of Thee

My President ’tis of Thee

So we are into the primary season and I have been able tor resist backing one candidate while blogging on NABWMT. However I will talk about one ex candidate – President Obama.

I am an ex-pat Brit and though I have lived here longer than in England, I am still amazed how uncivil the political campaigns have been, particularly by the Republicans. I know that the NA mission statement is opposite to the platform of that party.

So I have been reminiscing of the times of the Obama “hope and change” era. Yes, he has not been perfect, but his demeanor has always been to my taste. Maybe thats because I am a Brit (famous politeness as the stereotype goes). This blog is not about his achievement, there have been many (healthcare, marriage equality, disarmament and more). This blog is not about his failures (get out of the wars, immigration). This is about his integrity and style.

So, he is rarely the “angry black man” or the war hawk but shows smoothness and thoughtfulness (“no drama Obama”). I can “dig” that, again because of my background and my analytical nature based on my scientific training. And of course he has been accused of not “bonding” with the Congress in his first term and can be aloof at times. But let’s not forget he has bee vilified more than any President in the current era. Hostility and outright racism have been rampant against him.

Of important is that his administration has been free of scandal compared to other presidents. He has appointed and cultivated people who are required to abide by a decent code of conduct.

Michelle and Barak Obama have nurtured a great family and shown grace and poise along the way. Say what you will about his policies, his believe in the dignity and decorum of his office is a true indicator of his character.

Here at the NA we hope to maintain such integrity, our mission statement demands it, our history records it. Yes, we get angry, but in my opinion, the majority of our members and board over the years have shown the rectitude needed to maintain our path ahead.

So, my President ’tis of thee, and my NA it is of you too!

Racial Justice in Education

Racial Justice in Education

As an educator, I have worked with students at the margin and become even more aware of the special plight of young African American males as they are schooled, and the expectations that are set for them.

Some facts first. Most teachers are white. according to a new study by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). “More than 80 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in education awarded during the 2009-10 school year were to non-Latino white students, according to Three-quarters went to women, and only 4.2 percent went to Latinos”.

While there is a dearth of black male teachers, one curriculum “Mastering Our Cultural Identity: African American Male Image”, is taught by Black males*. In Oakland, Calif., this is “a novel and ambitious initiative by the Oakland Unified School District is to rewrite the pernicious script of racial inequality, underachievement and lack of opportunity for African-American boys”.

African American students in particular are disciplined or suspended at disproportionate rates
for reasons that include lack of teacher training (in classroom management or culturally
competent practices) and racial stereotypes only contributing further to disengagement and
later dropout from school.

The main cause of dropout*** among LGBT high school students “appears to be the hostile
school climate created by continual bullying and harassment from peers due to their sexual
orientation. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school in
the past year, three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation,
and about a third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month due to feeling unsafe”.

If you wish to view cameos of this subject visit the Twitter hashtag: and see some of the latest thoughts on this.

I leave you with a quote from the activist Malcolm X: “Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world”. That is doubly true for people of color.




    • African American students in particular are disciplined or suspended at disproportionate rates
      for reasons that include lack of teacher training (in classroom management or culturally
      competent practices) and racial stereotypes only contributing further to disengagement and
      later dropout from school


    The full-credit elective, “Mastering Our Cultural Identity: African American Male Image” (commonly referred to as the Manhood Development Program), is now in the daily curriculum at 20 schools throughout the district, tailored to age appropriateness for third to 12th graders.

    While lower grades focus on the stories, legacies and images of black people, high school students take a deep dive into African-American history and culture, from ancient civilizations to the civil rights movement to contemporary media. All classes are taught by black male instructors whose own experiences and perspectives provide a multidimensional understanding of the students they mentor (in Oakland, as elsewhere, more than half the teachers are white and most are women).

    Manhood Development is the flagship program of the Office of African American Male Achievement, the country’s first department within a public school district that specifically addresses the needs of its most vulnerable children: black boys, who have stubbornly remained at the bottom of nearly every academic indicator, including high school graduation rates in most states, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

    Begun unofficially five years ago, the office kicked into high gear in 2012. That is when the district signed an agreement with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to improve outcomes following an investigation into grossly disproportionate suspension rates of black males — 42 percent annually, though they made up only 17 percent of the school population. A majority were for “willful defiance,” nonviolent infractions like texting in class or using profanity with a teacher.

    “When black children do what children do, the system reacts more harshly,” said Christopher P. Chatmon, the executive director of the Office of African American Male Achievement and its turbo-powered guiding force. “The No. 1 strategy to reduce discipline issues is engaged instruction.” In Manhood Development, he added, “we’re talking about how to elevate their game academically through the lens of brotherhood.”

    In a city with a legacy of black political activism — where the unarmed Oscar Grant was fatally shot by a police officer in 2009 at the Fruitvale BART station and #blacklivesmatter was germinated — the initiative begins with the premise that the words “black male” and “achievement” go together and that a college degree can be a part of their future. The philosophy might be encapsulated in a greeting scribbled on a whiteboard at Oakland High School: “Welcome Kings!” — the somewhat grandiose title a shorthand for holding oneself to a high standard and being responsible for others.

    Think of it as #blackmindsmatter.

    The mission of the Office of African American Male Achievement is to support all of Oakland’s black male students, which it strives to do through a variety of initiatives, including peer mentoring, a student leadership council and conferences that bring together role models and students — a sort of uber school assembly that has the cacophonous energy of a revivalist meeting.

    In addition, two Afrocentric core courses have just been introduced — in English language arts and history — that meet the strict prerequisites for the University of California. And a career academy is in the works at Oakland High called the Khepera Pathway, which will steep African-American male students in entrepreneurship, social innovation and civic engagement, with help from a $750,000 grant from Google.

    While the programs are too young to be assessed, in the last two years chronic absenteeism and suspensions have dropped for black males in the district (come July, defiance will no longer be a suspension infraction). Last year, more than half the 52 students who started Manhood Development classes as freshmen — the first graduating class — headed off to college with scholarships from the local nonprofit East Bay College Fund.

    Perhaps most encouraging is the African American Male Achievement’s honor roll for black students, male and female, with grade-point averages of 3.0 or above — an accomplishment celebrated every year at a raucous event attended by thousands at a gospel church. The percentage of young men on the roll has risen from 16 percent to 25 percent over the past three years.

    Each school day, Rahsaan Smith travels the city’s vast economic, social and psychic divide, leaving the flatlands of East Oakland, synonymous with violence, for a middle school perched on a steep hill fragrant with eucalyptus. He is one of the few boys in Mr. Jennings’s class with both a dad and a mom at home.

    Compared to a white child born in the Oakland Hills, a black child born in East Oakland is 21 times as likely to be poor and a third as likely to be reading at grade level in the fourth grade, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department.


    Students listening to Ernest Jenkins III in his Manhood Development class at Oakland High School. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
    In a survey of 250 boys in Manhood Development classes, Vajra Watson, director of research and policy for equity at the University of California, Davis, found that half of middle school students had seen someone shot; by 10th grade, two-thirds had.

    More than anything, it is the deep relationships between instructors and students, many of whom grow up with no male figure at home, that hold the key to ending the soul-numbing disenfranchisement that so many young men experience at school. Teachers will often stop by to ask Manhood Development instructors for insights about particular students.

    “You have to have your hand on their pulse,” said Earnest Jenkins III, who teaches the class at Oakland High, one of the city’s most diverse schools.

    Mr. Jenkins has seen it all — “crack epidemic grandbabies,” homeless students, the student who sells snacks at school as the family’s only breadwinner, “the parent who tells her son to go out and sell this weed to pay the bills.” And worst of all, “the trauma that nobody cares.”

    “You have to erase eight or nine years of low or no expectations,” Mr. Jenkins said. “You have to make them un-believe what they’ve been taught to believe.”

    Shawn A. Ginwright, a professor of education in the Africana studies department at San Francisco State University, noted that in cities like Oakland, “what shows up in the classroom is often the disinvestment outside of it.” Profound, meaningful relationships with teachers “help students develop a sense of agency,” he said. “Young people are not going to school just to accumulate skill sets but also to broaden the vision for their lives.”

    That vision was nonexistent when Mr. Chatmon was in elementary school in South San Francisco in the early 1970s. The teachers “didn’t know what to do with my spirited energy,” he recalled. In third grade, he was deemed so disruptive that the teacher moved his desk into the coat closet for two months, frequently shutting the door. In high school, he was told he “didn’t have what it takes to get into college” (he attended San Francisco State) and probably wouldn’t graduate (he would go on to earn a master’s degree in education from Brown).

    He vowed that, one day, he would be the best teacher ever to boys like himself rather than being “undercut, demeaned and made to feel not smart.”

    Mr. Chatmon’s background includes a stint as the principal of an alternative high school for formerly incarcerated and truant youth. The father of three sons, he radiates a sense of urgency beneath his signature Kangol caps. “Our role is not to say, ‘I caught you,’” he said. “It’s to ask, ‘What is our moral imperative and how does it show up in the education of our children?’”

    Lamar Hancock, an instructor at Oakland Technical, the city’s highest-ranking public high school, tries to retrieve the spark hidden within recalcitrant young men. “I see students with passion burning in their brains whose parents are not academic,” he said. “They’re looking for some kind of influence.”

    He stands outside the door of Room 141, shaking hands with each student as he enters class — a soft handshake or a lack of eye contact is a tip-off to something awry.

    “Some teachers don’t take you seriously when you raise your hand,” said Morris Jackson, a junior who is active in the Black Student Union and tutors at a local elementary school. “They think you’re just another ghetto black.” Not so in Mr. Hancock’s class. “What drew me was the unity of African-American men,” Morris said. “When we disagree, we disagree respectfully. Coming to this class makes you want to stay and do better.”

    A recent class discussion ricocheted from Marcus Garvey to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Brown and X-Men comics and a vocabulary lesson set to a jazz standard by Wayne Shorter. On “business excellence Thursdays,” students dress the part.

    Manhood Development students are typically an academic mix, including high achievers and those needing extra help. Some sign up for a class year after year; some move on and then come back.

    Continue reading
    Rickey Jackson, now a senior, almost failed his freshman year, burrowing into the school basement instead of attending class. At the time, his mother was in and out of the hospital with cancer. “I gave up, so to speak,” he said.

    Rickey and his siblings lived on their own, and when their mother died at age 57, Rickey called Mr. Hancock, who helped him make up nearly a year of school. He now has a 3.6 G.P.A. and recently went on an airplane for the first time to visit colleges. So far, he has gotten into six Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which reviewed his transcripts at a college fair and rendered an on-site decision. “My goal for Rickey was to hear the words ‘I got accepted,’ ” Mr. Hancock said.

    Manhood Development strives to create a scaffold of resilience with a flotilla of black male professionals and college advisers who mentor high school students. It also organizes field trips to local colleges and universities.

    Once a week, fellows with the U.C. Berkeley Destination College Advising Corps advise the classes. A recent session for Mr. Hancock’s juniors and seniors took creative license with “Jeopardy!”

    One category: “Myths About Blacks in Education.”

    For $100: “There are more black men where than in prison?” Answer: College.

    Work to elevate young African-American males is being done not just in Oakland but also in cities around the country. The Minneapolis Public Schools recently established its own Office of Black Male Student Achievement with a curriculum developed with the University of Minnesota. Last year, New York City, the nation’s largest public school system, announced plans to hire 1,000 black, Latino and Asian male teachers (black men make up just 2 percent of the nation’s teaching force).

    Some of the most heralded models are all-boys schools. Among them: Urban Prep Academies, a Chicago charter school with an all-black student body that famously boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate. The school day on its three campuses runs from 8:30 to 4:30, not counting time for required extracurriculars, and students wear jackets and ties. (It’s not for everyone: The school loses about a third of enrollees.)

    The District of Columbia Public Schools is working with Urban Prep’s founder and C.E.O., Tim King, to develop a similar all-boys school as part of its $20 million Empowering Males of Color initiative. As in Oakland, the “secret sauce” is high expectations and paying close attention, Mr. King said.

    While admiring these efforts, some educators see potential pitfalls. “They’ve done a lot to boost the self-esteem of these kids,” said Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles. But he added: “What you don’t want is for the other teachers to say, ‘I don’t have to worry about these students because the other instructor is taking care of it.’” Dr. Noguera would like to see a rigorous evaluation of the program. Understanding components that seem to be working would be beneficial to other districts grappling with equity issues, he said.

    Being embedded in a district also means students may still encounter what some researchers call “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

    “There has to be a focus on the cultural competence of white female teachers who work with black boys,” said Shaun R. Harper, a professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. “There’s not enough focus on, dare I say, remediating schoolteachers to effectively teach diverse students.”

    To Shawn Dove, head of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a national leadership network, the new programs are a result of America’s unfinished business, centuries old. “When you start to shift the culture, climate and language of an entire school district, you begin seeing changes,” he said. “But it takes time. It’s not Jack-in-the-beanstalk work.”

    At Montera Middle School, Mr. Jennings encourages his students to set goals for themselves, whether it’s straight A’s or simply handing in their assignments on time. He frequently tells his students that “success is addicting” and enjoins them: “Speak loud and proud!”

    He writes their names on the board when they do something positive, instead of the other way around. He watches his young charges change “not just academically, but their character — what they believe about themselves and what they want people to know about them.”

    Anthony Johnson, an Oakland Tech senior, recently won the Confidence Award at a national event for black men in Louisville, Ky. His goal is to be a pediatric nurse.

    “This is proof that what they teach us is not a myth,” he said. “We are the ones who are going to set the bar.”

    PAFF journal #2 

    PAFF journal #2 


    Sunday, Feb 7

    My planned viewing last night (Saturday) was altered by my underestimation of the popularity of the festival this year. (ALERT: Buy your tickets as early as possible!) I barely got into “Half of a Yellow Sun” and I had to substitute the American drama “Chapter and Verse: A Harlem Story” for “Lambadina” because it was sold out.

    “Half of a Yellow Sun” is a big budget Nigerian historical epic set in the bloody civil war of the 1960s when Eastern Nigeria tried to secede as the country of Biafra. The film tells the story of a middle class, educated couple (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton) whose romantic relationship and its missteps are inexorably and then suddenly overwhelmed by the violence of the civil war and anti Ibo persecution (they’re Ibo). Their lives, and the lives of their friends and her sister, devolve abruptly from a comfortable middle class existence to a frantic rush to find shelter from the war in a refugee camp. John Boyega is their loyal house servant. The transition from romantic melodrama to brutal and violent historical tragedy is jarring, and even though the main characters survive the violence, many of their friends and parents do not.

    This movie is a perfect example of why we should see the African narrative features. Our view of Africa is so distorted and twisted by centuries of anti African propaganda in Euro American culture that it really takes African stories (and movies) to tell the truth. This film not only presents a crucial historical event occurring shortly after independence from the colonial masters of England, it also paints a portrait of a fully rounded society with modern and traditional lifestyles. The actors do a superb job and the production is excellent. It’s showing again next Sunday Feb 14 at 215 pm. See it if you can, if you want to expand your understanding of African history and culture.

    “Chapter and Verse: A Harlem Story” directed by Jamal Joseph is also a gripping and revealing drama. Daniel Beatty, in a tour de force performance, is a recently released convict and former gang member who struggles to survive on probation in Harlem by delivering meals to the needy. He befriends an elderly woman (Loretta Devine) and her grandson, reconnects with an old friend who has also left the gang life behind for a barbershop, and in every case enhances the lives of those he encounters. The depiction of the tightrope that formerly imprisoned Black men walk in trying to survive gives the film a constant feeling of menace and uncertainty. All of the performances are genuine and human in the gritty, threatening, but vibrant world of Harlem depicted so vividly in the movie.  

    I give this one a high recommendation also. It is a Black perspective on Black life in the age of mass incarceration, neither sentimentally optimistic nor brutally negative. See it if you can. It’s showing Fri Feb 12 at 845 pm and Mon Feb 15 at 520.

    I’m about to leave to see “Stories of Our LIves,” a Kenyan feature with several vignettes about GLBT life in that country. I can’t wait go get a more balanced view of our brothers and sisters in Africa. I’ll report!

    Friday, Feb 5

    My first viewing at this year’s festival: the LGBTQ shorts program. This was a wonderful experience. There were 5 short films, 2 from Africa and 3 from the US. Afterwards there was Q & A with directors from the 3 American movies, all of them Black women. In fact all of the films are about women. They were all very well made and provocative. One of the African films “Oya” is an extensive exploration of the role of gender ambiguity in Yoruba culture contrasted with the vicious antigay laws being passed in Nigeria. “Transcend” is about a Black transgender man trying to reestablish a relationship with his parents. The others all deal with coming out and its consequences in one form or another. All in all I recommend this series highly. They are shown again on Thur Feb 11 at 345 and on Mon Feb 15 at 805.

    Tonight, Saturday, at 7 pm I’m going to see the exciting sounding Nigerian dramatic film “Half of a Yellow Sun” set during the civil war in the 1960s and starring John Bodega (Star Wars!) and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Then I’ll see the Ethiopian drama “Lambadina” at 930. Tomorrow, Sunday at 1255, I’m planning on seeing the Kenyan film “Stories of our Lives” which is a series of vignettes about LGBT life in that country.  

    Anybody interested in joining me?

    Jeff H

    Pan African Film Festival 

    Pan African Film Festival 

    From BWMTSC Cochair Jeff

    Friday, Feb 5
    My first viewing at this year’s festival: the LGBTQ shorts program. This was a wonderful experience. There were 5 short films, 2 from Africa and 3 from the US. Afterwards there was Q & A with directors from the 3 American movies, all of them Black women. In fact all of the films are about women. They were all very well made and provocative. One of the African films “Oya” is an extensive exploration of the role of gender ambiguity in Yoruba culture contrasted with the vicious antigay laws being passed in Nigeria. “Transcend” is about a Black transgender man trying to reestablish a relationship with his parents. The others all deal with coming out and its consequences in one form or another. All in all I recommend this series highly. They are shown again on Thur Feb 11 at 345 and on Mon Feb 15 at 805.

    Tonight, Saturday, at 7 pm I’m going to see the exciting sounding Nigerian dramatic film “Half of a Yellow Sun” set during the civil war in the 1960s and starring John Bodega (Star Wars!) and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Then I’ll see the Ethiopian drama “Lambadina” at 930. Tomorrow, Sunday at 1255, I’m planning on seeing the Kenyan film “Stories of our Lives” which is a series of vignettes about LGBT life in that country.  

    Anybody interested in joining me?

    Jeff H

    Black Lives Timeline

    Black Lives Timeline

    • 2013,
      George Zimmerman acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin
    • Alicia Garza, on Facebook, : “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.”
    • Two days later activists used #j4tmla (justice for trayvon martin l.a.)and #blacklivesmatter in tiny letters. 


    • Brittany Packnett, protests Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., appointed to President Obama’s police-reform task force.
    • A single understanding of the movement not used because  it would ultimately exclude so many people.


    • University of Missouri, a hunger strike and boycott by the football team that drives the president out of office.
    • National conferences to connect and swap strategies.
    • Encryption of communication with smartphone apps
    • Black Lives Matter network, consolidated by Garza, Cullors and Opal Tometi, now counts nearly 30 official chapters,
    • Tactics include physical occupation of public space decentralized by design, maximizing impact
    • Black Lives Matter influential LGBT activists work to make equality one of the movement’s hallmarks.


    • Emphasis on gender, identity and social inequality the violent arrest of Martese Johnson, at University of Virginia August, Rallies across the country to spotlight the murders of black transgender women.
    • Terms like the prefix cis—as in cisgender, and intersectional and micro aggression.


    • In  Bay Area, Black Lives Matter part of the Fight for 15, a campaign to hike the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
    • New York activists launched a Black Lives Matter super PAC.


    • Clinton’s overtures to Black Lives Matter interrupted by Atlanta activists
    • The Democratic National Committee, passes a resolution declaring its support for the movement


    • Shut down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
    • Death of teenager Laquan McDonald. Chicago activists run campaigns against school closures, and reparations for police torture.
    • University of Missouri Members of the football team announced that they would boycott team activities.
    • BLM sweeps out president and the chancellor of its flagship campus.
    • Demonstrators began in Minneapolis police protest the shooting death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
    • Republican presidential candidates said the movement spurs racial division, if not sheer lawlessness.


    • Opening the raw wounds of race has not made the protesters popular.
    • Despite its tactics (or perhaps because of it), BLM is winning ever more access to candidates as the race ramps up for next year.
    SCOTUS, Deportation, and Jobs

    SCOTUS, Deportation, and Jobs

    This blog covers two important topics, SCOTUS and Jobs.

    First, the Supreme Court took up the divisive political issue of immigration agreeing to rule by June on the Obama administration’s stalled plan to defer deportation of more than four million illegal immigrants.

    The justices also asked the parties to address whether President Barack Obama violated his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

    We have blogged on the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). The latter is under scrutiny here. The plan sought to prioritize the removal of serious criminals while allowing parents of these children to work without fear of deportation.

    Congress has only appropriated the funds to remove only a fraction of that population in any given year. Texas, along with 25 states, filed suit to invalidate the program, and so far has prevailed in the courts.

    In February 2015, a federal district judge in Brownsville, Texas, halted the program, a decision upheld by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

    So who will be injured” if this case is upheld? Texas has said the deportation reprieve would force it to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants currently ineligible for the privilege, costing the state money because license fees don’t cover the cost of issuing licenses.

    Some supporters of this view have suggested President Obama wants amnesty for these people. Others claim that the presence of undocumented workers affect jobs of native born workers.

    A summary report** provides an overview of research since the mid-1990s studying these factors. Unfortunately there is mixed results. Earlier studies indicate that immigration has little to no impact on the wages of natives, but recent analyses  finds that recent scholarship on wage impacts have been divergent.

    Some studies have shown substantial negative wage effects, particularly among African American and Latino immigrant workers. Other studies suggest that complementarities between high-skilled immigrants and similarly skilled natives, as well as between low-skilled immigrants and more highly skilled native workers, contribute to higher wages for natives. These studies lack consensus and still are largely up for debate.

    So why does the NA care about this subject? Well, we can turn to the concept enunciated by Coretta Scott King that  “freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others”.

    We care for the lives of Black people if they are harmed by social injustice but should we not care for others at the margin? In an earlier blog we talked about  “..building bridges not fences. Strive for a multicultural world to fight racism, homophobia, sexism and the like. The NA has done this in the past and can do it now and in the future”.




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