STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 19th, 2011, by Staff

While Japan continues to battle the devastation wrought by the recent earthquake and tsunami, concerned citizens abroad are doing what they can to help get Japan back on its feet. Within the country, meanwhile, donations of food, water and other essential supplies are coming from an unexpected source: the yakuza.

According to a piece by Jake Adelstein in The Daily Beast, several prominent Japanese organized crime syndicates have been sending truckloads of supplies to the worst-hit areas of the country, and even opening the doors of their offices to the stranded and homeless. It’s a surprising gesture, coming from groups renowned for extortion and violence; but it’s nonetheless a heartening sign in a country that clearly needs to pull together through hard times.

Check out the story here.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 14th, 2011, by SUSAN SWARTZ
American aviator, Amelia Earhart
American aviator, Amelia Earhart

This post was previously published at juicytomatoes.com.

I have a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt on my home office wall that my
sister gave me. Eleanor peers down at me through her glasses and inside
the frame I’ve attached the Eleanor quote: “You must do the thing you
think you cannot do.”

I am surrounded by women. I have postcard images of Toni Morrison, Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn being Rosie in The African Queen. I have a Frieda Kahlo light switch. A souvenir ‘Hillary for President’ bumper sticker.

Every March since 1987 Women’s History Month has been officially
celebrated throughout the country, the intent to identify women artists
and writers and astronauts who have contributed to the nation, not to be
outdone by the mighty men who once dominated history. The project was
organized by the National Women’s History Project in Sonoma County, CA,
where I live, and spread across the country.

As a newspaper columnist, now blogger, I’ve been writing about Women’s
History Month and celebrating practically every March since then, but I
realize I also require daily reminders from the different women I look
to for courage, grace, spirit, humor and resolve.

There’s my photo of Rebecca Latimer from Sonoma who was married to a
diplomat and became liberated in her 60s when her husband left
government, they became pacifists and Rebecca started writing books.

I have a birthday card from one of my daughters that shows a woman in
a red dress dancing barefoot. The text, by Anne Lamott, says, “Dance
hungry, dance full, dance each cold astonishing moment.”

There’s a postcard of Mayan women in brilliant dress holding hands
with children and standing up to a police barricade. A cut-out doll of
Simone de Beauvoir. A moody photo of a middle aged woman sitting
comfortably alone in a bar, maybe Chicago, maybe Berlin.

I do adore men and children and dogs and pictures of foggy beaches
and lush French country scenes of tables set with yellow cloths and a
bottle of wine.

But in the small working space where I go to think, write and be alone I need my women speaking to me.

There’s a newspaper photo of Indian women lining up to vote. A
calendar picture of a Victorian woman stretched out on a couch, holding a
book, in a swoon over something she just read. A photo of the Angel of
the Waters, the full-skirted and winged sculpture at Bethesda Fountain
in Central Park. Plus a bulletin board packed with photos of daughters
and girlfriends, my sister, my mother, my book club.

A witch doll with curly red hair hangs from the window next to a
figurine of a peasant woman with her hair in a bun leaning on a broom.

I look over my shoulder at delicious Josephine Baker with her big
eyes and shake-a-tail feather attitude, who fled America to take her
talent to Paris, saying she was too afraid to be Black in this country.

Gloria Feldt, the feminist author who used to run Planned Parenthood,
in the even more embattled years than today, says that we all make
history, whether or not we end up on a poster or a greeting card.

In her book, No Excuses, about women and power, she writes:
“Every action you and I take moves women forward, takes them back or
maintains the status quo.”

Given this point in women’s history, when some would like to halt our
progress, I think it’s important to keep all our women in our sights.

Susan Swartz is a journalist, blogger and public radio commentator in Northern California. She is the author of The Juicy Tomatoes Guide to Ripe Living After 50, and you can read her at juicytomatoes.com.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 9th, 2011, by Staff
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.

Rap artist Lupe Fiasco says he has no problem taking President Obama to task, even though it might not go over well with some of the fans of his music.

“I respect him. And I love him as a brother,” says the Chicago native, whose long-awaited third album “Lasers” is out this week. “But there’s some serious issues.”

In the clip below and on the show tonight, Fiasco offers his take on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, addresses an economic system that he believes is “flawed” and explains why he had concerns about President Obama from the beginning.

“You judge a man on his actions,” says Fiasco. “You don’t judge a man on his words.”

Be sure to check out the clip, tune in tonight for the full conversation and weigh in.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 7th, 2011, by Staff
elkikhia2

Should the United States lead the way in imposing a no-fly zone over Libya?

Libyan dissident and University of Texas political science department chair Mansour El-Kikhia says that if the U.S. doesn’t push for a no-fly zone, at the very least, it should give the Libyan people a chance to level the playing field by supplying the opposition in their fight against Muammar Qaddafi.

“This is not a revolution by rebels,” El-Kikhia says. “I understand if it’s a rebel [force] of 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000. But not when one million and a half people are opposed to you. They cease to be rebels.”

Check out the clip below, where El-Kikhia explains that the notion of a post-Qaddafi Libya turning into a terrorist state is nonsense, and tune in tonight for the full conversation.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 3rd, 2011, by Staff
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.

When Forest Whitaker appeared on the show recently, he addressed a piece in the The New York Times entitled “Hollywood’s Whiteout,” about the absence of Black artists in the 2011 Oscar nominee class. Whitaker admitted that while there was a “paradigm shift” in the industry where Blacks are concerned, African Americans are by no means at a “destination point” with regard to their presence on screen.

Even though this year’s Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone, the “Whiteout” conversation isn’t over yet.

Tonight, Tavis sits down with actor Anthony Mackie of The Hurt Locker and Million Dollar Baby fame, who argues that African American artists need to create their own film projects.

“This is a business,” Mackie says. “Let’s be smart about our business.” Later he adds, “If we don’t tell those stories, then we can’t expect someone else to tell them for us.”

Watch the clip below, where the actor discusses the business side of filmmaking and explains why he feels African Americans in film have been “lazy” on their game, and tune in tonight for the full conversation.

Also, be sure to share your thoughts. Are African American artists to blame when they’re not in Oscar contention? Are they “lazy” on their game or being shut out?

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
March 1st, 2011, by Staff
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.

Legendary singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson, who sits down with Tavis tonight, discusses his recovery from a more than two-year drug addiction.

The Motown great also shares the advice that he offered his “little brother” El DeBarge, who, after an amazing musical comeback, recently returned to rehab for his own addiction.

“Unless you get your spiritual self together,” says Robinson, who has been sober since May 1986, “you are not going to beat it.”

Watch the clip below, where Robinson describes the path that he took to move beyond his addiction, and tune in tonight for the full conversation.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 28th, 2011, by Staff
charlesferguson

If you watched the Academy Awards Sunday night, then you likely heard Inside Job director Charles Ferguson’s acceptance speech after his film won for best documentary. Ferguson’s acceptance speech began this way:

“Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.”

Tonight, Ferguson sits down with Tavis and explains how it feels to have won the Oscar when the actual issue that his film addresses remains unresolved.

In the clip below, Ferguson explains why he is still hopeful for America’s financial future even though he calls the current financial struggles that many Americans face “the new normal.”

Watch the clip below and tune in to the full conversation tonight.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 23rd, 2011, by Staff
MichaelBennet

In this Web-exclusive video, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), discusses the future of the teaching profession in Wisconsin and beyond as it relates to ongoing protests in that state.

“What we’re seeing is the result of commitments that were made over many, many decades that can’t be afforded in a lot of states,” Sen. Bennet says.

“There are important values that seem like they’re in conflict, and what we need to do is figure out, on a state-by-state and city-by-city basis, how to sort through that,” Sen. Bennet continues.

Watch the Web-exclusive clip below, where Sen. Bennet outlines what is needed to ensure high-quality education going forward, and watch the video of his full conversation to find out what more he had to say.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 22nd, 2011, by Staff
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.
Photo by: Van Evers, TS Media, Inc.

In this Web-exclusive clip, Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker addresses a recent piece in The New York Times entitled “Hollywood’s Whiteout,” about the absence of Black artists in the 2011 Oscar nominee class.

The article states:

The consolidation of a black presence in the movies and television did not signal the arrival of a postracial Hollywood any more than the election of Barack Obama in 2008 spelled the end of America’s 400-year-old racial drama. But it was possible, over much of the past decade, to believe that a few of the old demons of suspicion and exclusion might finally be laid to rest.

Are the coming Oscars an anomaly, or an unsettling sign of the times? The Academy, in any case, does not work in a vacuum. A look back at the American films of 2010 reveals fewer of the kinds of movies — biographies like “Ray” and urban dramas like “Training Day” — that have propelled black actors, screenwriters and directors into contention in the recent past. With a few exceptions, like the romance “Just Wright” and the ghetto farce “Lottery Ticket,” it was perhaps the whitest year for Hollywood since the post-Richard Pryor, pre-Spike Lee 1980s. The superhero, fantasy and action genres were drained of color. The urban dramas were set in Irish-American New England neighborhoods. Even the male-male buddy picture, a staple of interracial bonding since 1958, when Mr. Poitier and Tony Curtis were chained together in “The Defiant Ones,” has become a largely white-on-white affair.

“There has been a paradigm shift,” says Whitaker, who won an Academy Award in 2007 for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. “We’ve moved a long way, but we’re not at a destination point.”

Watch the Web-exclusive clip below, where Whitaker explains why he embraces technology to help with the democratization of Hollywood, and watch the video of his full conversation to find out what more he had to say.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
February 15th, 2011, by ALAN KURTZ
Mark Twain, left, with John Lewis, a lifelong friend and inspiration for the character Jim in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
Mark Twain, left, with John Lewis, a lifelong friend and inspiration for the character Jim in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

“Until the lions have their own historians,” begins an African proverb, “the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s worth noting that the African American experience has often been chronicled by whites. Do such accounts, in effect, glorify the hunter at the lions’ expense? And if so, is the solution to declare Black history off limits to “white hunters?”

African American culture has long been irresistible to white authors, and often to the dismay of Blacks. In 1957 the NAACP condemned Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, citing its unseemly Negro dialect and lavish use of the N-word. As late as 2007, the book was banned from a Connecticut high school after a parent objected to its language. Now an Alabama publisher is selling a sanitized version that replaces the N-word with “slave.” Such controversies, writes Twain biographer Ron Powers, “have left deep imprints on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, encouraging students and general readers to approach the work not so much as literature but as battleground in the American culture wars.”

In a recent blog at Technorati.com addressing this subject, I argued that America’s story is no one’s property. It’s our collective experience and belongs to all races. Three days later, The Huffington Post adopted my title “Are Whites Entitled to Write Black History?” for an article that attracted hundreds of online comments, mostly from readers who identified themselves as African American. Not everyone answered my question, but of those who did, a ratio of 4 to 1 were in favor.

However, many Huffington posters attacked the question itself, calling it “a non-issue … a question that does not need to be asked … dumb beyond words … irrelevant … insane … nonsensical … ridiculous … silly … most stupid question ever … blatantly racist … racist and really ignorant … this is why racism is alive and well.”

Several Huff posters went so far as to flatly deny the existence of African Americans today who oppose a white author’s claim to write Black history. One even accused me of race baiting. “Ah yes,” he wrote, “nothing like a little Jewish race baiting to get the Blacks and whites worked up.”

Yet consider the following extracts from this same Huffington Post thread.

“White people should stay away from writing about other people. Leave Black history to Blacks.”

“Whites have written as much Black History as I’d like to see written by them. How about we let Black people write their own history for a change!”

“Whites have misquoted, outright lied about Black history. I prefer the offspring of the people tell the story.”

“When whites have the unmitigated gall to write about Black history they inevitably find a way to venerate themselves, no matter how undeserving. Their white racial frame makes it necessary. We have nearly 300 years of white folks writing American history and we have nothing but a one-sided lie.”

“One cannot possibly write the history of a people who were here on earth hundreds of thousands year before they were. We are tired of your lies about history.”

Given that 20% of these African American respondents reject on principle a white author’s legitimacy in writing Black history — without reading a word of what he wrote — anyone who calls this a non-issue or a question that doesn’t need to be asked is celebrating Black History Month by wearing a blindfold. It’s something that must be discussed, if only to dispel the myth that “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” If the historian is honest and true to his trade, the color of his skin should not matter.

Alan Kurtz blogs at Technorati.com and is the author of Stereotypes in Black Music: The African-American Crossover Compromise.

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