Archive for October, 2010

On Third Parties Vs Lesser Evils

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 26, 2010 by playthell

Dick Gregory in Birmingham Alabama 1963

Which Pose the Greater Danger?

This morning I received a video clip of Dick Gregory speaking on behalf of the Freedom Party, a third party movement organized by black activists here in New York City. Despite my great respect for the organizers of this political formation; I am highly suspect of the viability of third party movements in general – since they always seem to end up like Jack the Bear, making tracks but not getting nowhere!  The Republicans have embraced the Tea Party fanatics, but I believe it was a Faustian bargain they shall soon come to regret.

Yet I decided to give Dick’s video a listen anyway, despite the fact that I have announced repeatedly that I am a Yellow Dog Democrat.  It’s even posted on my face book page!  Furthermore I thought after publishing 100 commentaries about President Obama on my blog, many of which were aired on WBAI FM in New York City, the station to which all the radicals and progressives listen, everyone would know that I am an avid fan of President Obama.

The missive from Dick Gregory failed to convince me that the Freedom Party will be much different from those that have gone before – from the Bull Moose Party of Teddy Roosevelt, to the Communist Party, to the Freedom Now! party.   I have always admired Dick Gregory as a Comedian, entreprenuer and committed Civil rights activist – he walked with Dr. King in the shadow of death – but I have never been impressed with his skills as a political analyst. The video monologue did nothing to change that long held opinion alas.

I first heard Mr. Gregory in the role of political analyst when I was a Professor at the University of Massachusetts.  I attended the speech with Professors Mike Thelwell and William J. Wilson. Thelwell was an organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and ran the lobbying effort in Washington that nearly unseated the regular Congressional delegation from Mississippi at the Democratic National Convention.  Dr. William Julius Wilson was beginning to emerge as an important sociologist studying the relation between race, class and poverty.  He has since become a world renowned authority on the subject, and enjoys an endowed chair in social science at Harvard.  I also had a long history of struggle even then. We all arrived independently at the same conclusion: Most of what Dick Gregory says about race relations is mumbo jumbo…simple minded prattle!

The blather Dick spouts on the newly released video is no exception to that rule, as he admonishes us not to accept the “lesser evil” in the coming elections.  This is the kind of pious prattle one expects to hear from preachers and philosophers, people to whom the limitations of real life are viewed as mere illusions that are either unfathomable mysteries, or can surely be overcome by faith.  People like the Pope and Dr. Cornell West.

Yet choosing the lesser evil is a fact of life if one wishes to be successful in competitive participatory politics in America.  I am constantly astonished at the inability of otherwise intelligent and purpose driven people to grasp this simple point. It’s easy enough to understand; no rocket science here. Politics is the art of the possible! Hence there is no place for absolutes in political work. Politics is about creating and shaping relationships that result in the exercise of power.  Because power will enable you to get the most and the best of whatever there is to get!  And that means getting the best deal you can get without betraying your core principles. I thought after the Black Panther fiasco, black radicals had rejected the concept of “revolutionary suicide.”

Suicide is never revolutionary, and ignoring the fact that success at politics in our two party system often requires compromise to get anything done is like cutting your throat. We are facing an imminent disaster if the Republicans gain control of Congress.  With racist fanatics like Mitch McConnell in the Senate and John Boehner in control of the House, we will go from a democratic capitalist society to a plutocracy!  That is to say we will be transformed from a society where the rich are merely privileged, to a society where they dictate every sphere of American life.

This means that there will be no hope for poor and working class people, and the much reduced and increasingly insecure middle class will dwell on the brink of disaster.   This is the principle issue in the coming election; it’s literally a question of the quality of life those among us who are not rich –which is the overwhelming majority of us – will enjoy in the future.  This question is being decided by the policies we adopt now. The Democrats represent progress and the Republicans represent reaction.

Hence any suggestion that we should reject the option of choosing the lesser evil in the coming election in search of a perfect option is not only useless as political advice: It is downright dangerous!!!!!!    We have only to look back at the election of George Bush, who was appointed President by the US Supreme Court because the progressives in Florida decided to vote for Ralph Nader and made the election so close it was safe for the Republicans to steal it.   George Santayana was right alas: Those who refuse to learn from history are bound to repeat its mistakes!

 

*************

 

 

Playthell Benjamin

Commentaries On The Times

Harlem New York

October 26, 2010

 

 

On The Juan William’s Mess!

Posted in On Black Pundits, Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 23, 2010 by playthell

A case of poetic justice?

Like everybody else I have heard remark on the incident, I was shocked at the summary dismissal of the highly regarded long time journalist Juan Williams by NPR because of an allegedly bigoted comment against Muslims. After I actually viewed the video clip of Juan’s statement I concluded the executive who fired him must have a hidden agenda, or she has lost her mind!

Taken in context Juan’s comments are clearly a repudiation of the anti-Muslim attitude of Bill O’Reily; his intent is unmistakable!  Hence this decision by NPR can only be viewed as a brazen abuse of power, and the response of Ms. Schiller, the CEO of NPR, to Juan’s complaint that he was never consulted about his comment by Ellen Weiss, the Vice President for News, only adds insult to injury. Schiller said he should talk to his publicist or “psychiatrist.”

The sheer arrogance of her attitude reminded me far too much of the kind of white arrogance that African Americans have had to contend with from white males throughout our history.  Hence for black Americans this incident raises the question: “Are we now going to have to go through this again with newly minted white female power brokers?” Yet even if we remove the race issue, it remains a harrowing case of management abuse of a worker which should every on air talent in the industry.  The whole affair is so disconcerting that it has led me into a position that I could never have imagined just a few days ago: A defender of Juan Williams.

Let me be candid: I detest Juan Williams!  I have made no secret of this virulent enmity; you can even see me shadow boxing and challenging him to a fist fight, threatening to whip his ass on YouTube.  My challenge was sparked by Juan’s attempt to get Professor Boyce Watkins, an Afro-American professor of finance at Syracuse University, fired from his job because he criticized Juan’s coon show antics on Bill O’Reiley’s show. Thus one could view Juan’s present predicament as poetic justice!

My disdain for the much celebrated journalist and ubiquitous commentator on political affairs goes far beyond that incident however.  It is fired by my conviction that Juan is an intellectual quisling who supports reactionary political forces that oppose the aspirations of Afro-Americans and all working people.  His long association with FOX News is, in my eyes, an indictment.

Yet it must be said that he is more often than not the oppositional voice in the discourses, offering a counter-statement to the mindless right wing drivel that passes for serious argument on FOX.  Watching him I have sometimes felt that he is like the carnival clown who holds his breath and kisses a hog because it’s part of the show.  But other times I am convinced that he has made a Faustian bargain; selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for the sweet smell of success.

Whatever is the real deal about Juan’s motivation to do the jive things he do, his firing from NPR is dangerous abuse of power by management.  For in the final analysis this is a problem of management employee relations. Is there anyone in American who is a worker that would like to be treated like that by their boss?  Ironically, this foul deed may well blow back and devour his executioners. Already the forces on the right who have long wanted to scrap NPR are sharpening their rhetoric and their knives.

We are provided a glimpse of the role bullshit and duplicity will play in the unfolding drama, when we witness Roger Ailes, the head honcho at FOX television, stepping forth and awarding Juan a Two Million Dollar Deal, which surely makes him the highest paid black journalist in America. Considering the propaganda value of the signing, it was well worth the investment.  Among the nation’s serious journalists, media critics and Journalism professors – and I have been all three – the FOX network is a joke, a shill for the most deranged elements of the Republican right.

Yet FOX advertises itself as the place where one can always find a “fair and balanced” account of the news. Thus it is not without irony that by its precipitous dismissal of Juan Williams the management of NPR has provided this bogus outfit with the opportunity to play the knight in shining armor defending free speech.  And Roger Ailes, sly old fox that he is, has made the most of it. When announcing the fabulous contract extension he awarded Juan, Ailes pronounced that although he is an avowed liberal Juan was a fine journalist and his right to speak his mind will be protected at FOX!

The problem NPR management will have in defending their decision to terminate Juan is that the overwhelming majority of Americans share his feelings on the questions of Muslims on airplanes that they are boarding.  His statement that caused all the trouble is considered reasonable by most Americans…including this writer.  It is only natural considering that we are at war with Islamic Jihadists who view airplanes as weapons of mass destruction.  Hence one has to wonder if the management of NPR is totally out of touch with what the Average American feels.  And to say that everyone who feels this way is a bigot is prime facie absurd!

A great part of the problem here is that many on the left mistakenly believe that to admit there is a real threat from Islamic militants somehow dilutes, or weakens, their critique of American aggression in the Islamic world.  But it doesn’t!  This is not an either or situation – as few things in real life are.  Not only do these two positions fail to cancel each other out, they have a symbiotic relationship.  The reason why the Jihadist want to blow up American Airliners is precisely because of American policies in the Middle East for the past sixty years.

They have repeatedly told us that they wish to kill as many Americans as possible when Islamic militant are captured.  And  they keep trying, as the numerous foiled plots verify.  Anybody who does not believe this threat is real, a clear and present danger, is either a mad man or a moron!   In our present situation being a little suspicious is not only a good thing: It could save your life! That’s why Juan enjoys broad support from the American people, and NPR is now being targeted for destruction by forces on the reactionary right.

As I write Bill Bennett, that flawed old Republican war horse, has denounced Juan’s firing and used the incident to paint NPR as some far left mass indoctrination outfit posing as an honest journalist enterprise working in the best interest of the public – whose tax dollars are funding it.  And he says he can envision no justification for spending the public purse in this way.  Demented Jim Demint, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, has already announced that he will be introducing a bill to cut off funding for NPR.  And some people are even calling for President Obama to get involved…which is the last thing he needs to be distracted by.

All of this, the entire shit storm that threatens to obliterate NPR, was precipitated by this arrogant and thoughtless decision.  If the Republicans take the congress in the coming elections as predicted, there will be hearings on this affair and the inquisitors will have subpoena power.  These reactionaries will try their best to cut the budget and even repeal the act creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Should they succeed in their nefarious ambitions the management of NPR will have dug their own graves, achieving what the Republican ideologues have failed to do on their own.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcSYaM_oGos

 

******************

 

Playthell Bejnamin

Harlem, New York

October 23, 2010

On Repackaging Condosleeza Rice

Posted in On Republican Women, Playthell on politics with tags , , on October 15, 2010 by playthell

Still the Wicked Witch of the West!

 

Old Wine In A New Bottle?

Evidently Condoleeza Rice is banking on the anti-intellectual anti-historical tendencies of the American people in her transparent attempt to repackage her image for posterity in her new book “Extraordinary Ordinary People.”  In many ways hers is a story that makes white and black Americans feel good vibes about themselves and our country.  A black girl from the segregated south who couldn’t eat in a restaurant of her choice, or use a public toilet that was available to any stinking white hobo, two of whose girlfriends were murdered by a bomb in church, yet rose to the highest levels of power in the US government and elite academia.

She is the embodiment of the American dream.    At first glance she also appears to be the personification of the “Talented Tenth” envisioned by DR. W.E. B. DuBois. However upon closer inspection she is actually a perversion of the ideal advanced by Dubois.  His Talented Tenth would be dedicated Pan-Africanists who serve the black masses, at home and abroad, in their struggle to advance in a white racist imperialist world order bent on ruthlessly exploiting them for their profit.  Condosleeza is an unabashed defender of the racist imperialist forces that Dr. DuBois spent his life opposing.

In 1958, when he was well into his eighties, he wrote a book entitled “In Battle For Peace,” in which he lamented the grotesqueries that many members of the Talented Tenth had become.  He said that they were beginning to ape all of the worst aspects of their privileged white counterparts. Codosleeza is a model of the type of soulless opportunist that the Doctor was bemoaning.  For she is an unrepentant servant of the most racist reactionary, imperialist forces among the American ruling class.  In the last of Dr. DuBois’ three autobiographies – which was written around this time published but published posthumously – he observed “Negroes are finally becoming Americans,” but wondered “What are Americans becoming?”  Viewed from the perspective of Condosleeza’s history that was a very good question.

In her brazen effort to reinvent herself before our eyes and metamorphose from the Wicked Witch of the West to Little Miss Muffet, Condosleeza succeeded famously with Tavis Smylie, who assumed a lips to posterior posture all through his interview when the former Secretary of State appeared on his show Wednesday night to peddle her book. He who has been so merciless in his critique of President Obama fawned endlessly over this bumptious lackey for the plutocrats.  Watching them chit chat with   smiley faces I was reminded of the old adage: Pheasants of similar plumage generally congregate in close proximity, or to put it plainly “birds of a feather flock together.”  In fact, Tavis seemed much more interested in letting his viewers know that he and the famous Professor are old chums whose relationship goes back a ways, than getting down to the nitty gritty of her criminal career in the Bush government.

Lest We Forget

Real Love =Hero Worship

 

It is instructive about the purpose of the professor’s new book that it does not address her eight years at the pinnacle of political power in the US as the chief Bushwoman; instead she retreats to the safe haven of her formative years.  There are parts of this book that even tugs at my heart strings, because they paint a portrait of a black community that I remember well – but some contemporary black intellectuals raised in the socially disorganized and chaotic post-industrial northern cities claim never existed alas.    Michael Eric Dyson once accused me of “engaging in utopian reveries” when I reflected on the community where I grew up in Florida, or in the black Philadelphia community that produced Bill Cosby for that matter.  This is why Dr. Dyson does not understand the source of Bill Cosby’s anger – although I agree his fundamental critique of Cosby’s criticisms.  Yet my memories of these black communities are all too real, and the fact that a man in the know like Dr. Dyson, who is a student of Afro-American culture, cannot even imagine it is a measure of how far we have fallen from that halcyon era.

The black southern society that Condolezza recalls was a community where most kids had real parents, not confused teenagers who haven’t a clue about raising a child.  And people greeted each other with courtly manners.  It was commonplace to see regular working class black men tip their hats to black ladies when they met them on the streets of St. Augustine Florida, and greet them with genteel salutations such as “Good morning Miss Catherine,” or “Good Evening Mrs. Jones,” spoken in their best diction and intonations.    By comparison, the way many young men of all races and classes relate to young women in America today borders on the uncouth at best and the barbarous at worst!

Then it was the white racists who routinely referred to black women as “bitches and whores” now young black men do it on records.  Not even the worst white racist did that!  Back in the day, whites may have hated us but we respected ourselves, because we were listening to wise elders rather than rich ignorant adolescents.  The black southern community Condi so fondly recalls in this poignant remembrance of a bygone era, benefitted from the unintended consequences of segregation that forced the most intellectually talented strivers and dreamers among Afro-Americans into the public schools as teachers and administrators.  All other avenues for utilizing their talent and aspirations were closed due to their skin color.

Dr. Rice’s parents belonged to this class. And the uberwoman she has become in terms of her personal accomplishments is a tribute to their skill and dedication as parents and teachers. What this class of African Americans accomplished, in terms of producing strong, self-confident, high achieving black men and women in a racist society that was officially dedicated to making us believe we were nothing is astonishing and worthy of sustained applause.

After all, they produced Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, General Daniel “Chappie” James, Harvard biologist Dr. S. Allen Counter, Wynton Marsalis, Zora Neal Hurston, Jessye Norman, Ralph Ellison, The Astronaut and Director of NASA, Coretta King, Oprah Winfrey, and many many more.  The Price family of Mississippi produced the greatest Oprah Diva of her time Leontyne, as well as a General in the US Army who mentored Colin Powell, George Price, and many more.    These are some of the most outstanding people in America history.

However this leadership class also had to master tricknology and duplicity in order to survive in a social order where any offense to a white countryman – even if they were a stinking depraved derelict – could spell immediate disaster for an Afro-American….no matter what their socio-economic status.  Condi, as her right wing white boosters call her, certainly mastered that aspect of her class’ survival strategy.    This explains her crass opportunism in aligning with right-wing reactionaries in the Republican Party – which built its national majority by orchestrating the resentments of white racist.

Listening to Condi respond to questions on Morning Joe, the day after her appearance with Tavis, it is clear that she intends to try and rewrite the history of the Bush Administration and her role in the National Security and foreign policy disasters of those years. However she is highly complicit in the blunders and crimes of the Bushman.  My suspicions about these avatars of the lunatic right, whose ranks are filled with vile racists, led me to conclude early on that somehow the “Negroes” in the bush Administration were going to end up holding the bag for their screw ups.  Condi, however, made it easy.

I have carefully studied the sequence of events that occurred at the top levels of the National Security team before the attack of 9/11, and it is easy to see why some people who don’t understand how the air defense of the USA operates could conclude that the Bushman were complicit it the terror attack.  As cuckoo for coco pops as this theory is, there are a lot of otherwise intelligent people who believe it!

Here in New York there were many regularly scheduled meetings to discuss the “evidence” for this conclusion that went on for years after the attack.  WBAI, the station with which I have been associated off and on for most of the last twenty years, have interviewed many people who argue this point of view.  And the so-called “documentary” Loose Change, which purports to prove that the Bushmen did it, has been very popular with our listeners – some of whom have never met a conspiracy theory they didn’t like.   Suffice it to say that I would not hestitate to bet the family jewels that it didn’t happen that way…indeed it couldn’t happen!

I have an advantage over my adversaries who argue the affirmative however, because their arguments are based on a near total ignorance of the system of air defense tasked with protecting North America from a sneak attack.  I on the other hand once held a Top Secret Security Clearance in the United States Strategic Air Command, where I learned all bout such things; thus unlike the pugnacious, paranoid, numbskulls who passionately embrace the theory that Bush bombed America, I actually know what I am talking about.  But that is a battle I do not wish to fight here…again.  Especially since I almost had to pull my razor on a dude while waiting to go on camera in a television studio to discuss the 9/11 attack recently.  When he started talking that nonsense I called him “an idiot beyond instruction,” and he became so exercised by my pronouncement that he threatened me with bodily harm.

The reason some people are so convinced of this conspiracy is because the level of incompetence on the part of the Bushmen is almost impossible to believe.  We know from the first hand testimony of Richard Clarke, who was then the reigning anti-terrorism Czar, that he had personally warned Condolezza Rice and others that he had intelligence to the effect that Osama bin Laden was planning to crash Jumbo Jets into American skyscrapers.  The acting FBI Director also had reports from his field agents that there were some Middle Eastern men taking flying lessons on Jumbo Jets, but even though they paid the full fee of thirty five thousand dollars they weren’t interested in learning how to take off or land.    They only wanted to learn how to turn the jets around in flight!

But Dr. Rice and the bushmen were unmoved by this information.  On three separate occasions Clarke begged Condi to call a joint meeting of all of the nation’s intelligence agencies and have them compare information they had gathered involving a possible attack by Al Qaeda. Condi finally waved him away with a declaration that no camel driver in the Afghanistan desert could pull off such an attack.  Then she returned to preparing her strategy for developing the “Star Wars” anti-ballistic missile system around Russia.   It evidently made no difference to Dr. Rice – an intrepid cold warrior – that this was a policy designed to contain the Soviet Union when the Reaganites first proposed it…but in the meantime the Soviet Union had disappeared from the earth.

On 9/11 Dr. Rice was scheduled to give a major speech on the progress of Star Wars, but Osama bin Laden threw a monkey wrench in that plan.  The sad truth is that had Condi followed the advice of Richard Clarke, who was a holdover from the Clinton Administration and thus was the most knowledgeable person in the Administration on the Islamic Jihadists, the 9/11 tragedy probably wouldn’t have happened!    As the National Security Advisor to the president it was her responsibility to convene the joint meeting of intelligence agencies to evaluate all evidence regarding the possibility of an attack on the US, but she was asleep at the wheel!

The result was that the same “Middle Eastern Men” who were taking the flying lessons, preparing for their assault right out in the open, were the same guys who drove the planes into the buildings on 9/11!  That’s why some people find it impossible to believe that the Bush Administration was not involved in planning the attack. This level of ineptness is simply not believable to them.  Condi presided over it all, and no amount of revisionist propaganda can alter this fact.

Hence Dr. Rice has the blood of many thousand innocent souls on her hands, both here and abroad, since the 9/11 attack supplied the Neo-con cabal around”Dirty Dick” Cheney with the rationale they had been seeking to launch an attack on Iraq – a nation that had nothing to do with the attack on the US.  Yet even now, after all the lies they told to get us into a three trillion dollar war of choice, the former Secretary Of State still defends that criminal invasion.

Like Lady Macbeth pacing about crying “Out Damn Spot!” she cannot wish those blood stains away.   She may be able to shimmy around those ugly facts with this self-serving reverie on her innocent youth, but facts are stubborn things, and as the poet said “Truth crushed to earth will rise again!”    The historians will surely have their way with her in time; they shall diligently comb the archives and ferret out the tell tale evidence that will expose the full extent of Condosleeza’s dirty deeds – the murders she wrote.  Hence Sista Gurl can run… but she can’t hide!

 

**********************

 

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 2010

Magical Realism!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays with tags , , , , on October 8, 2010 by playthell

Astral traveling with the Fire Goddess In Hawaii

Makeda Takes Her Female Empowerment  Message Overseas

 

Conducting Her Sensual Strength Training Seminar

Calling Forth the Goddess Sprits with Sacred Rhythms

 

Makeda Takes a Healing Message to her Costa Rican Sisters

Witnessing the majesty of Makeda – A Shaman/Scientist/ Artist/Athlete – and her sisters drumming in Costa Rico, I am reminded of all the male chauvinist nonsense I was taught about women being forbidden by divine prohibition from touching the drums by my male Afro-centric tutors. They were convinced that they were imparting ancient ancestral wisdom.  Drumming, whether summoning the Gods or inspiring kinetic poetry in dancers, was purely a male prerogative in their minds.

Of course, I came of age in a drumming culture, but of a very different sort – the world of precision rudimental snare drumming associated with military style marching bands.  Bands that played marches like “El Capitan” and “Stars and Stripes Forever,”  Songs made famous by the great United States Marine Corps band, and composed by its founder John Phillip Sousa.  In these bands the percussion section sounded like thunder!  And while I can recall no instance when a woman was prevented from playing the drums, either by divine decree or social etiquette, I can’t recall a good drummer who was a girl either.

Girls played the clarinet – which is both a reed and a woodwind – and is one of the most difficult instruments to play. And they played piano, the master of all the instruments in the orchestra; they also played the violin – a feat I still regard as some sort of inexplicable alchemy.   But they rarely, if ever, played the drums.  There was something about the drums that emitted a macho vibe…it seemed to me a manly thing to do early on.  In retrospect I wonder if, like my initial love for football,  I was  attracted to drumming because it provided me an opportunity to show off for the girls.  Max Roach, the greatest improvisational artist on the drum kit in the twentieth century once told that this was the impetus for his virtuoso drumming style, which featured extended solos.  “Man I got tired of the horn players getting all the girls,” he recalled, “so I put the drums out front!”

However, Makeda is not one to be quietly shunted off into what some misguided male may mistakenly believe is her “proper place.”  She is an intellectual iconoclast and irreverent free thinker who is smart as a whip.  Plus she as stubborn as a Tush Hog.  In this she is every bit my daughter in mind and spirit.  She is exactly how I raised her to be!  I am explicitly making this point because lately she has informed me that some of the dudes who play drums have criticized her for wanting to play, demanding that she respect ancient taboos.  When she greeted such suggestions like the absurd insults that they are, some of these jokers caught an attitude and accused her of having problems with men.

The Greatest Drum Line in the world!

 

At which point Makeda pulls their coats to the fact that her daddy raised her to be just the way she is.  And I just wanna say “The girl didn’t tell a word of a lie” as my grandmother would say.  Witha twin brother who is also smart and was a two sport athlete to boot, Makeda had a worthy male competitor all of her life.  When she came to me one day and asked if she could be a cheerleader, which seemed a natural progression because she had been formally studying ballet since the age of five,  I told her in no uncertain terms: “Later for being a cheerleader, be an athlete and let somebody cheer you!”

She went on to become a multi-sport athlete and ran the 100 and 200 meter sprints in Division One.   I am delighted to report that she got everything I wanted her to get from playing sports.  Although there are myriad virtues embodied in active participation in competitive sports: learning how to view both success and failure as imposters; chameleons that are subject to change at a moments notice; thus accepting each situation with grace, maintaining your cool no matter what; this is the greatest lesson for real life.  Thus one does not become deluded by success or demoralized by failure.

This is what I learned from playing football, and I wanted my daughter to be armed with these virtues.  Especially since I knew that because she is a girl most boys would always try to play her cheap.  There would of course be some exceptions, I told her, “but the general lot of them will always underestimate you.”   However, I also told her that it was no disadvantage being thought a fool unless you are a fool; but if you are not a fool her competitors had placed themselves at her mercy.  And Makeda Voletta is nobody’s fool!

These are the attitudes that made her a division I athlete, Science Merit Scholar, and Dean List student.  It is also the reason why she has decided that she wants to possess the power and experience the ecstasy of playing the drums for dancers. I was surprised when she told me that she wanted to learn how to drum.  To tell the truth, I didn’t take her seriously because she had never shown any particular interests in playing a musical instrument.  But, of course, her interest in the drums grows out of their organic relationship to the dance traditions that most intrigue her.

Katherine Dunham and master drummer Ladji Camara

Two Legends Collaborate

 

Makeda Dancing Haitian Ra Ra

Like Katherine Dunham, Sevilla Forte and Pearl Primus – her God Mothers in the tradition – Makeda is a serious student of the dances of the African Diaspora throughout the Americas.  But she alone among these seminal figures in Afro-American dance has decided to learn to play the drums that so inspire them to dance.  I believe this is because Makeda never accepted the prescribed “place” set aside for women.  She has always pursued her dreams and ambitions without regard to the conventional wisdom on gender relations.

Makeda’s attitude toward life’s challenges can be summed up in Robert Kennedy’s favorite adage “Some people view things as they are and ask why? / I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”  That’s what she tells the women she counsels.  In studying traditional dances with a ritual function in society, it is also necessary to study the belief systems of that culture.  As a person raised free of religious dogma of any sort, delving into the spirit world of Shamans, Voodoo Priests and Priestess, Babaloshas and Babalaos,  Gods – Goddess are more her speed – has been a mind expanding experience.   By some inecpilcable alchemy she has managed to integrate these non-rational beliefs into her scientific view of the world and the human condition to arrive at a place I, as a cold and sober rationalist, cannot fully enter.

But for those who can go there – most especially women in search of a holistic experience of mind/ body/ spirit development – Makeda has a life enhancing message.  She is rigorously trained in the sciences of fitness and nutrition – she holds a degree in Sports science with a specialization in exercise physiology and a minor in nutrition from the University Of Delaware, plus graduate study in nutrition at Columbia University – Makeda holds certifications in Olympic style weight training and Sports Nutrition among others.  Beyond this she is a serious student of ancient spiritual beliefs that center on the Goddess figure in ancient cultures.

From this body of highly esoteric information she has devised a system for empowering women that strengthens them in mind, body and spirit.  Since she is in the process of trade marking her method, a necessary step in a field where everybody is looking for a new angle; I will say no more about it here.  What follows is a series of pictures and a couple of video clips showing her in action with the women in Costa Rica, as well as some pictures from her recent trip to Haiti, a country whose culture she has developed a profound love and understanding.

Makeda says her trip to Haiti was a spiritual sojourn in which she engaged in healing rituals centered around sacred dances and dispensing scientific information about fitness and nutrition based upon the resources available to the Haitian people in this time of national crisis.  Needless to say, as a Pan-Africanist for virtually my entire life, I am immensely proud of my daughter and her work.  However, as an Afro-Indio woman Makeda has passionately embraced her native American roots also.

In Search of her Seminole Ancestors!

Standing Outside the Castillio de San Marcos in St Augustine Fla

 

 

Standing In Front of War Chief Chief Oceola

Look At Their Faces: An Afro – Seminole Member of the Tribe?

 

 

Communing With Her Latina Sisters

 

 

Sharing Warm Vibes

 

 

Full Moon Ritual

 

 

Earth Mothers!

 

 

Conjuring the Rhythms of Life

 

 

Jubilation!

Moon Vibes!

Possessed!

 

 

Good Food Was an integral Part Of the Training

Like This Scumptiuous Soup

 

 

Or These Exquisite Delicacies

 

 

Fish and Rice Costa Rican Style

 

 

At the Edge of the Rain Forest

We could hear the monkeys chattering in the Trees

 

 

Poster Art In Public Places is Still Au Courant here

A Community Bulletin Board

 

 

Costa Ricans Are Beautiful

Rainbow people:  Black, Brown and Beige

And

They Showed Makeda Much Love!

She got the whole front page!

Her Visit Was Well Covered In The Press

 

 

And When her Healing Work Was Done

They Bade Her A Warm Farewell!

 

Her mother went down to Observe and the women thanked her…

for birthing Makeda!

Praying to The Fire Goddess Pele in Hawaii
Evoking The Feminine Powers Of Earth’s Flaming Bosom

I Believe She Can Fly!

No running start; no special effects; just a straight vertical leap!
****************************
Double click to watch Makeda on Costa Rican Television
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTGvNkANhvY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSF-k_JaTd0
Text by Playthell Benjamin
Photos from Coasta Rica by: Makeda Voletta
Excepting the ones in which she appears.
Cover Photo by: Tim Ormand
Other Photos will be credited later.
Harlem, New York
October 8, 2010

An Urgent Message to the American Left!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2010 by playthell

 

 Barack is heads and shoulders above his opponents

 

Stop Your Whining and Rally Round the President!

           The dominant argument from the left these days – and I am including liberals who are left of center – is that since President Obama has not made all their dreams come true he has betrayed them by failing to live up to his promises, and that he doesn’t show enough emotion in his response to Republican propaganda!  Both arguments strike me as beyond silly, and I will gladly compare my resume in the progressive left with anyone among the whiners.  First of all we knew that he was “No Drama Obama” before we elected him and I prefer him that way.  Secondly Barack promised “change that you can believe in” and thus far he has delivered on that promise magnificently! Since I have already enumerated his many monumental legislative and policy successes in previous commentaries – much of which amounts to radical changes in what he found upon entering the Oval office – I will not enumerate them here.

Yet it is self-evident that most of the whiners either do not understand the great transformation that is taking place in this nation under Barack’s leadership – which is light years ahead of the thinking of the reactionary right-wing Republican/Tea Party crowd – or they are mindless ideologues, pugnacious robots, who approach issues like pre-programmed automatons for who compromise and revision of their position has proven impossible! This dogmatic inflexibility, in my view, is the crux of our problem in devising a winning strategy against the right in the coming elections. 

For those who are still dreaming of a Bolshevik or Chinese style revolution led by a Vanguard party with armed cadres who will seize power by force, my feelings vacillate between pity and utter contempt.  For not only are they lost in space, their irrational behavior based on this fantasy could sink us all!  Since the Marxist left has a penchant for citing struggles from European political history in an attempt to clarify our situation here in America – a practice that has often led to more confusion than clarity, examples of which are too numerous to cite here – let me recall an event which is all too relevant to our present crisis.

We are facing an election where the most reactionary sector of the radical right is being funded by a coven of evil billionaires, that have been empowered to create a “Parliament of Whores” by the recent Supreme Court decision in the Citizen’s United Case, their publicly avowed intention is not only to repeal all of the progressive changes achieved by President Obama against the most solid Republican opposition since the 1930’s, but to undo the New Deal itself. 

Yet in the face of this ominous threat the liberals and lefties are embroiled in a silly and dangerous fight that resembles the acrimony between the communist and the social Democrats in Germany in the 1930’s that allowed the Nazi Party to come to power through the ballot box.  Although this event is rarely cited by our omniscient ideologues of the left, it is the most valuable lesson we can learn from the long and complex history of the European left just now.  Failure to heed this lesson is to invite disaster on a scale from which the nation may never fully recover.  Politics is the art of the possible, which means taking the best deal you can get.  And right now Barack Obama and the Democrats are the only game in town!

 

 ***********************

 

 Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 4, 2010

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,929 other followers