Wednesday, November 30, 2005


On the eve of World AIDS Day Black women still bear brunt of the pandemic in the U.S.

According to the CDC, Black women represent 68% of the new HIV diagnosis among women in the United States. African American women are 18 times more likely to contract HIV than white women, and AIDS remains among the leading causes of death for Black women ages 25-34. Yet nearly 25 years into the epidemic, there has yet to be a mass mobilization of Black women to respond. To remedy this, the Black AIDS Institute and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women will host It’s All About MEE!: The Mobilization, Education & Empowerment Conference - the first ever National Black Women and AIDS Conference - on December 1-4, 2005 in Los Angeles. The institute will also release a report in conjunction with the conference, Getting Real: Black Women Taking Charge in the Fight Against AIDS The report will be released in conjunction with the opening of the first national conference for and about Black women working against HIV. From Dec. 1-4 in Los Angeles, the Institute .

Here are some more sobering facts from the report:

•New infections are overwhelmingly happening through unprotected heterosexual sex – 78 percent of Black female infections between 2001 and 2004 were through sex with men.

•Among young women aged 13 to 24, African Americans accounted for 68 percent of all infections through 2001.

•Among 13 to 19 year old girls, the Black share of infections through 2001 climbs to 78 percent.

The report then walks through the social and political forces that undermine Black women’s efforts to build and sustain healthy sexual partnerships – and relationships in general.

•The impact of negative – or nonexistent – relationships with Black males during formative years. In particular, the impact of sexual abuse, which studies show increases the likelihood of a woman later engaging in behavior that will put her at risk for HIV by seven fold.

•How relationship dynamics discourage Black women from standing up to protect their sexual health by insisting on the use of condoms and having consistent, open dialogue about trust and sexuality.

•How poor access to health care and poor literacy surrounding STDs in general facilitates HIV’s spread among Black women.

•How America’s centuries-long assault on Black men has in turn impacted Black women’s sexual health.

So, brothas, in support of World AIDS Day, put on your Jimmie Hat and let's help put an end to this disease that is hurting sistash everywhere and that WE are carrying into our homes, communities and bedrooms. May the Goddess forgive us.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Bad Blood Means Big Business

A screenshot from 50 Cent's new video game Bulletproof - a fully interactive revenge fantasy.

Guess what. Black people are killing each other over chump change and somebody higher up is eating cake. So goes the age-old story in today's SF Chronicle A deadly tale of underground rap. This sordid little piece of ghetto pulp pulls back the curtain on a world where revenge, murder and retribution have created cycles of violence and vendetta; and exposes the links between beef and bank in the world of Hip-Hop marketing.(Case in point Fat Joe & 50 Cent Beef For Record Sales.)

Since the "music" by itself probably wouldn't interest anyone, producers fabricate feuds between crews - and the faux fighting supports the sale of both sides of the dispute. Fat Joe, who has "beef" with 50 Cent in the above linked article, freely admits that it's all just "entertainment and is helping the pair get bigger sales." That may be true for Joe and Fitty, but is this the way youth read the situation? Are they fooled by the fake feuding - probably not. But it does valorize vendetta - and contributes to the cycles of violence that are engulfing communities.

Most likely, without the side show of counterfeit controversy, the 50 Cent's and Mac Dre's of the world would disappear from view. Instead, the marketing machines continue to crank out cultural heroes fabricated from gangsters, crack dealers and two-bit rappers. And all done up so slick and bulky so the girls go "ahh" and the guys go "Yeah!" If you didn't know it already, Corpo-Hip-Hop culture has become completely infected with a sneering and leering brand of machismo, gangland codes of violence and vendetta, and a voracious hunger for bling and thing that is corrosive to Black culture in general and deadly for those that buy into the bullshit. Wake up people! Wake up!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Can Oprah help Hillary Win?

Oprah Winfrey, left, recipient of the International Emmy's Founder's Award, stands with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

CNN today tried to gauge what it called the "Oprah Effect". The term, now the subject of a class at McMaster University in Canada is described in the course description as "the single most influential factor on book sales in the history of publishing." The media mogul met the senator this past week at the International Emmy's Founder's Award where Oprah was honored and delivered what amounted to an unofficial endorsement by urging Clinton to run for the presidency in 2008. The two are considered the "most admired women" in the U.S., and, no doubt, the New York senator hopes to turn Oprah's marketing might into votes and to strengthen women's support for her candidacy. In a poll reported on by CNN, if the elections were held today, a McCain candidacy would win again Clinton by 10 points, in part due to men's overwhelming support of McCain and women's split support of Clinton. If the so-called "Oprah Effect" can be activated to help secure the White House for Hillary Clinton in 2008 it might signal an historic shift in the role of women in American politics and mark the emergence of Oprah winfrey, not only as a cultural icon and marketing force but also as a political power.

CNN Video


UNICEF calls for an end to Female Genital Mutilation

A young African woman undergoes the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). UNICEF announced that approximately 3 million women in Africa and the Middle East are affected by this practice each year

I must applaud UNICEF for calling for an end to this gruesome and barbaric practice. A Nov 24th article on quoted a U.N. report that estimated that three million young women in Africa and the Middle East will undergo genital mutilation in the coming year - an increase of 1 million from previous estimates. It horrifies me to to think this practice, that can result in trauma and even death not only continues but may be increasing. This cruel and disturbing practice, known as "female circumcision," or FGM, can range from piercing to severe disfugurement of the genitalia, and is believed to "enhance a woman's beauty, honor, social status and chastity" and is, according to UNICEF "one of the most persistent and silently endured human rights violations." There are degrees of severity and many of the practitioners are untrained and use crude instruments. "It takes at least two people to circumcise a girl, one to hold her legs and the other her arms," said Ourey Sall, a woman who for years performed the procedure. "Afterwards, we apply a mixture of goat droppings and plants to stop the bleeding." In fact, the UNICEF report states that "Many girls enter a state of shock induced by the severe pain, psychological trauma and exhaustion from screaming," that occurs during the mutilation.

The UNICEF survey showed the incidence to be highest in Guinea, Egypt and Sudan, each with a 90 percent rate of mutilation. Small decreases were reported in Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Yemen.

WHO Factsheet: What is female genital mutilation?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Obama calls for U.S. to back out of Iraq

On Tuesday reported that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has called for the U.S. to begin reducing the number of troops in Iraq following the country's Dec. 15 elections.

"The senator parsed his words carefully, clearly articulating he was not advocating a full withdrawal..."

A short excerpt from his speech:

"First and foremost, after the December 15 elections and during the course of next year, we need to focus our attention on how reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq. Notice that I say "reduce," and not "fully withdraw."

This course of action will help to focus our efforts on a more effective counter-insurgency strategy and take steam out of the insurgency.

On this point, I am in basic agreement with our top military commander in Iraq. In testimony before Congress earlier this year, General Casey stated that a key goal of the military was to "reduce our presence in Iraq, taking away one of the elements that fuels the insurgency: that of the coalition forces as an occupying force."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Rosa Parks editorial cartoons from across the U.S.

Sistah Karmiko in Detroit emailed a powerpoint file with 20+ editorial cartoons marking the passing of Rosa Parks. All of them are respectful, but I found one recurring image a little disturbing...All the God images and St. Peter images are of nice, fatherly, gatekeeping, bearded little White guys inviting Mrs. Parks into a nice, white fluffy heaven. I suspect the scence of her homecoming was more like a raucous church service, cook-out or family reunion. These images subtely betray the fact that we assume its always going to be a littel old white guy holding the keys to any heaven we wish to enter. The more pointed and interesting of the cartoons refer to the loss of understanding among younger black people of the sacrifices made to attain the freedoms they often mindlessly enjoy.

In this one Rosa Parks doesn't even appear. Isn't it sweet of the kindly old white man to offer up a place in heaven...

Friday, November 18, 2005


Tortured language: the poetry of human rights

Jack Mapanje, Malawian poet, and human rights activist.
One of the featured writers on Open Democracy's Tortured Language: The poetry of human rights

Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing: edited by Jack Mapanje

from Open Democracy:
Tortured language: the poetry of human rights

Poet in the City and Amnesty International organised an event in London on 15 November to highlight the connections between poets and poetry and human rights abuses. Hosted by Helena Kennedy, the distinguished human rights barrister, “Tortured language: the poetry of human rights” featured readings by three celebrated poets: Jack Mapanje, Yang Lian and Choman Hardi.

openDemocracy presents profiles of these three poets, plus an excerpt from Helena Kennedy’s introduction to the event, and exclusive audio clips of the poetry readings, which includes the poetry of Shi Tao, a Chinese poet and activist recently arrested by his government.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


The King of Coiffure: Ted Gibson celebrates success at 40

New York's celebrity hair stylist Ted Gibson enjoying the red carpet at his 40th birthday party held at his Manhattan salon on Tuesday, November 15th.
photo: Reggie Prim

New York - November 15th. A gleeful mood prevailed on Tuesday night, as backers, clients, friends and staff gathered to celebrate star stylist Ted Gibson's 40th brithday. His eponymous Chelsea salon was bedecked in signature pink and brown, and guests enjoyed red carpet, catering and open bar. Gibson reigns over what is fast becoming an empire of style. His work has appeared in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Rolling Stone, Jalouse, Elle, Allure, Vanity Fair, Nylon, Surface, and Marie Claire. He's linked with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Jessica Simpson, Keira Knightley, Diane Sawyer, Sara Foster, Vanessa Carlton, Ashanti, Julia Stiles, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Eva Herzigova, and has worked backstage for Chanel, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana. On TV he's appeared on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Good Morning America, Movie and a Makeover, Inside Edition, and Entertainment Tonight. Recently he could even be found online offering advice to Camilla, Duchess of Wales on how to appeal to Americans. Gibson suggests that the dowdy duchess, "wear jeans, cowboy boots and a really great Marc Jacobs jacket." He believes that such a style upgrade could help Camilla attain, "A more youthful appearance (that) will give people the idea that she's a little hipper, more understanding, more accessible," sage advice from a man the stars trust with their tresses. The surpise of the evening came late when a major backer called for song on the occassion of a major deal with a midtown retail giant to carry Gibson's new product line. All this coupled with buzz across the media landscape where gibson is being hailed as "one of the most sought-after editorial, runway, and celebrity hair stylists in the business," suggest that his 40th year is going to be one to watch.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf becomes first woman elected head of state in modern African history

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
President Elect of Liberia

from In First for Africa, Woman Wins Election as President of Liberia
"DAKAR, Senegal, Nov. 11 - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official who waged a fierce presidential campaign against the soccer star George Weah, emerged victorious on Friday in her quest to lead war-torn Liberia and become the first woman elected head of state in modern African history."

"Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf's victory propels her into an old boys' club unlike any other. From the Cape to Cairo, from Dar es Salaam to Dakar, men have dominated African politics from the earliest days of the anticolonial struggle."

Liberia's Johnson-Sirleaf calls on soccer-star opponent to concede defeat

Who is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?

Friday, November 11, 2005


Culture Hero: Monica Haslip

Monica Haslip
Founder & Executive Director
Little Black Pearl

A couple of years ago, I attended an American Association of Museums conference in Chicago and was stunned by a presentation by Monica Haslip, Executive Director and founder of Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center. Monica, aside from being one of the most striking women I've met, is one of my cutlural heroes...she traded in her successful corporate marketing career, bought an abandoned building on Chicago's South Side for $24,000 and put $250,000 into renovations. After two years of work on the building, Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center opened with a mission to teach inner-city kids about art and entrepreneurship.

Little Black Pearl is now a 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art home for arts education offering a curriculum that focuses on the "business of art." The organization now has 12 full-time staff and serves thousands of kids annually. The 40,000 square foot space includes a two-story glass atrium with courtyard, garden terrace, gallery, state-of-the-art studio spaces with viewing areas, gift shop, and café. The program allows children to explore the connection between art and business through courses in art history, business, photography, painting, pottery, mosaics, computer graphics, welding, wood working and glass blowing. This unique approach not only teaches kids how to do art but also how to sell it. So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to one of people I most admire in the world, give a big round of applause for Monica Haslip and Little Black Pearl.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Getting back on the boat: Homeless Awareness exhibit at Mall of America

About three months ago, I decided to shelter an artist, Felix Brown, who is homeless. I also connected him to Outsiders and Others, a Minneapolis based gallery, that has organized, what they believe is, the first curated exhibit of work by artists who have experienced homelessness. The show, Homeless Awareness, which is being held at The Mall of America, opens on Saturday, November 12th with a reception from 6-9 pm. And, Felix is profiled today in the Pioneer Press by Neil Munshi in a story titled Exhibit could open a door for homeless artists. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Brother Boatang breaks down the essentials of men's style

from 100 Great Black Britons

"Ozwald Boateng is widely credited with introducing Savile Row tailoring to a new generation. The first tailor to stage a catwalk show in Paris, Boateng's many clients include Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Keanu Reeves and Mick Jagger.

While studying computing at Southwark College, he was introduced to cutting and designing clothes by his girlfriend at the time. Using his mother's old sewing machine, he started designing and selling clothes to his fellow students. At sixteen he sold his first collection to a menswear shop in Covent Garden, and by the time he was twenty-three he had set himself up full time in business."

In other words, if this brother tells you it's essential you should listen. Check out his suggestions latest suggestions...
The Master of Modern Tailoring Names His Favorite Items

Friday, November 04, 2005


While New Orleans Drowned Brownie Primped

In my September 13 post Katrina Refugees Must Demand Right of Return Now! I linked to a cartoon with the caption "Genocide by depraved indifference" and while the "G" word may not be fully appropriate in discussions of Katrina, "depraved indifference" sure fits the bill. Can you believe these guys? I find myself almost incapapable of forming a response to the emails that surfaced yesterday that detail how, while Katrina bore down on New Orleans and water spread murderously through this historic American city, consuming lives, property and invaluable history, Michael "Heck of a Job" Brown was worried about his appearance and asking could he quit. Here's Brownie e-mailing his spokeswoman Sharon Worthy, days before Katrina crashed into Louisiana and Mississippi: "Tie or not for tonight? Button-down blue shirt?"

Here's a bit more from the Howard Kurtz piece..."Days later, after Brownie was reckless enough to appear alongside Bush in a long-sleeved white shirt, came this urgent advice from Worthy: "Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt, all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working."

What the f*&$! Its withering the amount of pure evil that keeps pouring from this administration. I think I'm going to throw up.


Brown preened as New Orleans flooded

Michael Brown Discussed Wardrobe During Katrina Crisis

Dressed for Success, Primed for Failure

Brown joked in e-mail as Katrina churned

Thursday, November 03, 2005


The Fire This Time: Despair and Poverty Ignite in the Paris Ghettos

Franck Prevel / Reuters

A car burns during a riot in the Paris suburb of Le Blanc-Mesnil on Thursday in an eighth night of rioting.

I love Paris and unlike many Americans consider myself a true Francophile. But, I remember clearly when I visited the city, how frightening the suburbs seemed as we drove into town from the airport. I remember feeling that I wouldn't want to break down in one of those areas and could sense the despair that permeated these ghettos. And so, it isn't surprising to see this erupt into what amounts to a Parisian intifada. Peter Ford wrote in today's Christian Science Monitor that, "The spreading violence has lifted the lid on an ugly stew of poverty, discrimination, and desperation amongst immigrant-descended families that most French citizens have long preferred to ignore." Sound familiar? I seem to recall similar thoughts expressed in the United States following the Katrina disaster.

Black and brown folks all over the world who are subjected to extremes of poverty, discrimination, police brutality and military occupation, who are fed a load about equality but denied at every turn, just lose it sometimes. I hope that President Chirac's calls for dialogue are the beginning of real change in France, but I won't hold my breath. I was just talking briefly with Howard French, the American journalist, about this issue and he called the French ghettos an "open secret" and mentioned that after Katrina there was a certain segment of French society that took glee in the fact that the American inequalities and under-class were on display. He describes it as a certain French Schadenfreude toward the U.S. and although the thought may seem petty, this unrest may seem to many Americans like comeuppance. But, beyond this sort of banal French/American tit for tat, what's most striking is the resemblance between the circumstances of the lives of Black and Brown folk all over the developed world - forgotten and hidden away is horrific ghettos, subjected to segregated education (if any at all), locked out of the economic system, and left to lead lives of, what, no doubt, the moneyed classes hope will remain, quiet despair. Well, there's no peace and quiet in Paris tonight.

What's truly frightening is that all this comes on a day when Republicans have pushed through a bill that will amount to about $36 billion in cuts over five years for programs that help the poor, the elderly, students, and farmers while handing Big Oil the rights to drill in Alaska and more tax cuts for the wealthy. These heartless and, in the long run, stupid eviscerations of the social safety net will not help us reduce poverty, maintain security or give every American the opportunity to live a decent life. By continuing to tread on the poor and the disadvantaged (read black and brown) we risk the fire next time.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Hung Out: A flaccid look at Black men's dick issues

MY TAKE ON...Hung: A meditation on the measure of Black Men in America
by Scott Poulson-Bryant

You have to give it up for the brother for attempting to tackle the briar patch of issues that is Black male sexuality, but this slim volume reveals, not an author intent on really shedding light on his subject, but rather, an adolescent obsessed with stroking his, I assume, well endowed ego by writing, what amounts to, a spiritual biography of his own dick. It’s a long trek from the first 11 Black male slaves in New Amsterdam and the importation of the first Black slave women, who were expressly imported as sexual partners, wives and breeders, and the complexity of their experience and the 80 plus generations of Africans since then who have loved, sexed, fucked and been bred in the United States, to the banal and juvenile musings and obsessions with dick size and wankery touted in this book as a "meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America.” But, I'm afraid it's a chasm that cannot be forded by Scott. (See my September 18, 2005 post The Measure of a Man.)

It's really too bad that brother Poulson-Bryant (a combo name I imagine he calls his own because his empowered proto-feminist Black mother deemed it necesary to call attention to her participation in the sexual equation - a courtesy brother Paulson-Bryant does not extend to the sistahs, whose sexual experiences in American culture and history barely show up in this book) does no service to advancing a serious sense of Black cock with the kind of trite bio-pic fluff that occupies too many of these pages. However, I suspect, this titilating little nugget will find some eager readers in the DL community.

If you’re going to deal with the topics of Black masculinities, balls and all, you'd better be ready to throw down a tome. Brother Poulson-Bryant doesn’t even deem it necessary to give us a bibliography. I mean: even a memoir has sources, inspiration, and references. So, while I admit, it’s nice to see someone attempting to address issues of sexual identity and Black men, something a little more substantial would have been appreciated. Maybe he’ll grow into it on the next book. What irked me most on first reading, was that he'll blithely throw out a half-page of interesting questions about African American male sexuality and identity and then never answer them, but sentences later, prowl back, strutting the whole time, into a kind of trance of semi-lurid confession about men who are worried, obsessed, organized around and consumed by a narcissistic obsession with their own dick sizes. In the end, this is a book that, like unsatisfying sex, begs the question, "So fucking what?" What's sad, is that we live in a time, when body-image issues are really beginning to afflict men in serious ways (as they have women for eons) and black men in particular, and one would have hoped that Brother Poulson-Bryant might have, duhh, utilized some of his, duhh, much touted Ivy-League education, for a more voluminous look at the issues, history, psychology and perhaps transcendence of the stereotypes Black men’s sexuality has been assigned and subjected to over our long history.


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