Archive for the Cultural Matters Category

Now’s The Time to Talk about Guns!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 18, 2012 by playthell
           obamamain1(2)_580_x_380         President Obama Speaks to the Mourners

 “The Constitution is Not a Suicide Pact”

Abraham Lincoln

Once more President Obama was called upon to eulogize the slaughtered innocents who were murdered in cold blood by a mad gunman.  It is the fourth time in his four year tenure in office that he has been called to soothe the pain of the nation after a mindless mass murder.

This time it was the coldblooded murder of 20 little children in the tranquil, affluent, village of Newtown Connecticut. With expressions that ranged from solemnity to disgust to anger, the President asked with an air of barely concealed outrage if anyone believed the murder of children was the price of freedom.

It was a shocking thought and an unacceptable bargain odious to all Americans.  Some thought it a rhetorical question, but it was carefully targeted at the Second Amendment gun nuts – like the Gun Owners Association and the National Rifle Association  who argue that the right to own guns of whatever caliber and quantity is a constitutional right identical to freedom of assembly, religion and the press.

However I have long believed this is a bogus argument, as do the best and the brightest legal scholars.  Including President Obama, who was a Professor of Constitutional Law, trained by brilliant constitutional scholars at Harvard such as Lawrence Tribe and Charles Ogeltree. My feeling on the matter derives from my understanding of the historical milieu in which the Second Amendment was drafted.

There is grand irony in the position of those who argue for “Originalist” interpretations of the Constitution, but now choose to ignore “original intent” in regard to the Second Amendment. The kind of muddled twisted legal arguments advanced by the right on the question of the original intent of the drafters of the US Constitution regarding the right to own guns, is on dramatic display in Justice Clarence Thomas’ written Opinion in the Otis McDonald Vs. Oak Park case regarding a challenge to the gun control laws of the city of Chicago.

On the face of it to argue that the architects of our constitution intended for American citizens to walk around with assault rifles, as does Larry Pratt, the President of the Gun Owners of America, is ludicrous. Especially when the fool argues that we need such weapons to protect ourselves against the US government…whom we can just vote out of power!

It is the argument of a charlatan or a fool, especially after the experience of the 1960’s when white and black “revolutionaries” on the left actually tried it and  were easily crushed by the local police departments actting on intelligence from the FBI.  They are far better armed now with intelligence and weaponary!

The argument that the Founding Fathers would bless these deadly weapons is a retreat into fantasy that borders on collective madness among the gun freaks. First of all they couldn’t even conceive of killing machines like modern weapons, and would surely have been appalled by them.   I haven’t the slightest doubt that they would have hastened to ban such ghastly weapons, just like the best and brightest Americans wish to do now.

Aside from the fact that it is absurd to argue that we don’t have the power to ban something that is a menace to society today because it was once a good idea, the reasons why the Second Amendment was crafted in the first place no longer exist; after all this is an 18th century document and it is now the dawning of the 21st century!

When the framers of the Constitution formulated the Second Amendment they had just concluded a war with England at felt threatened by other great European powers interested in overseas expansion.  Hence the citizen/soldier was a critical component of the nation’s defense.  But foreign invaders are no longer an issue, given the vast power of our nuclear armed military, which can project devastating force anywhere in the world with blinding speed.  We are more likely to be invaded by men from Mars as another sovereign country.

The sad truth is that the greatest danger to Americans comes from the guns on the home front.  And, irony of ironies, Americans wouldn’t accept prolonged involvement in a foreign war where the casualty rate was equal to the domestic rates – which stands at 30 gun casualties a day!  What does that tell us about the state of our union…it is in a state of emergency, and many Americans are on life support as I write trying to recover from gunshot wounds.

Dr. WEB DuBois’ description of white racist violence against Afro-Americans in the early twentieth century – the hey-day of lynching when a black person was hung, shot or burned alive for the amusement of morally depraved white spectators every two and a half days – is an apt description of the predicament of all Americans today.  “Not all the time but anytime,” wrote DuBois…Not everywhere but anywhere.”

The well-financed gun lobby has scared the shit out of opportunistic politicians who fear that the lobbyist will marshal their organizational and financial clout against them in the next election if they support gun control legislation.  Hence the rest of us are forced to live in danger of becoming a random casualty of some crazed gunman or a criminal with a bad aim.

The situation is such as I write that just going out of the house is like playing Russian Roulette.  Although right-wing charlatans like Mike Huckabee blame the shootings on banning prayer in schools,  I believe that most Americans are getting tired of living in terror, as the slaughter of children in the idyllic village of Newtown Connecticut underlines the fact that nowhere is safe…because the danger zone is everywhere!

By virtue of the public outrages over this latest massacre President Obama should move boldly and swiftly to change the gun laws and outlaw assault weapons. And he should double dare the Grand Obstructionist Party to block its passage.  If they remain intransigent about gun control they will dig their own graves.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set forth a challenge to the Congress, calling the National Rifle Asociation paper tigers, and President Obama should follow his lead.

What we are witnessing in these mass murders is barbarism…and the lapse of the ban on assault weapons signed into law by President Clinton is yet another plague visited upon the American people by the Bush Administration.  As for those who cry that gun control infringes on their constitutional rights, Barack should once again consult his fellow Illinois politician “Honest Abe” and tell the Second Amendment zealots “The Constitution is not a suicide pact!”

 Not Everywhere …But Anywhere

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 Not all the time…But anytime!

 

Yo Poot-Butt Poets: Step Off!

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left! with tags , , , on November 24, 2012 by playthell
At Dr. J’s Country Club: The “Step Off Poot Butt!” Stare

Playin the Dozens with Leroi and Marvin

Although, like Pontius Pilate, I publicly washed my hands of one Marvin X of Oakland, a recovering left coast crack head and shameless sophist with an alter-ego bearing the curious name of “Plato Negro;” a pompous wag who confuses mindless mumbo jumbo with profound wisdom, alas I have been dragged back into an ethnic kerfuffle of the sort they love to wallow in but I eschew.  As those who read me regularly well know, I write about all the great issues of our time, and I’m interested in the whole world.

Yet I have spent a half century chronicling the triumphs and studying the problems of the black world.  Indeed I was a co-founder of the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in history – the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Mass, Amherst.  I also spent quite a few years as an activist trying to solve those problems, beginning with the explosion of the black student movement in the south during the spring of 1960.  Since then my life story would make a spectacular read even by the standards of a romance novel.

Hence when an obnoxious churl steps to me and challenges my story, accusing me of fabricating my personal narrative, the small part of it that he pretends to know, I am forced to respond at least once more.    Curiously, I hardly knew who Marvin X was a few weeks ago; I know him mainly through mutual friends in the Bay Area.

However we had a clash over President Obama, when he wrote some dumbass shit on my wall dissing the Pres.  So I yoked the chump and challenged him to debate me on the issues he had with Barack.   But he punked out!!!   When he started talking shit out of school I stepped to him and publicly chastised his silly ass!

The reader can follow the progress of the discussion because they are all in my Facebook Notes, and the last essay is posted here on the Commentaries.  And I shall soon publish them in my forthcoming book “The Crisis of Black Leftist and Nationalist Intellectuals.” After reading his response to my questions about his specific policy differences with President Obama, and his suggestions for politically achievable policy options, I decided that Marvin’s brain is so fried from a decade of sucking the crack pipe he is incapable of formulating an intellectually rigorous argument.  Hence I just wanted to be rid of this nuisance.

But Marin X seems to have become obsessed with proving that my story is untrue….well, good luck with that dog.  Frankly I find it amusing, because I don’t give a fuck about his story….not even his bizarre adventures wandering around the Bay area whacked out on crack!  I just don’t find him interesting or relevant to anything I care about. And the only reason I am talking about him is because the chup keeps getting up in my face.

I stumbled into this protracted dust-up with Malevolent Marv because he took issue with some things I said in defense of President Obama while smacking around one of his intellectual heroes, Glenn Ford. Then he got huffy about some of the science I dropped on his silly ass about the founding of the Black Panther Party of Oakland.  He didn’t know shit about it and yet he fancies himself an authority on the history of the Black Panther Party.

So he has been running around telling lies on me, saying I am claiming to have founded the BPP of Oakland, when I have claimed no such thing.  What I said was that the Oakland Party was founded by a cadre of the Revolutionary Action Movement / RAM named Kenny Freeman – whom I knew as Mamadou Dia. Freeman was a sociology teacher at Merritt Jr. College, and recruited Bobby Seales and Huey Newton who were students there.

Marvin #10
A Glutton for Punishment?

I interviewed Bobby for an award winning cover story in Emerge Magazine titled “Radical Changes: Sixties Militants, Where are they Now?” in which bobby verifies my version of events.  I think I have a copy of the magazine in my files so I shall scan the article and post it on my Facebook page within the week. I also said that I was a co-founder of RAM with Max Stanford/Dr. Muhammad Ahmed in Philly.  AND I STAND BY THAT!!!!!!!

Now the hapless Marvin has interrogated his bosom buddy, the venerable Newark poet Leroi Jones/aka Amiri Baraka about me, and the over-the-hill fabulator bad mouthed me alas.  I am not surprised by this, and yhall won’t be either…once you read what I have written about him over the years.  Marvin said that Little Leroy told him that I was a self-confessed army intelligence agent, and our intrepid Oakland investigator and self-confessed crack head wants to know if I was in military intelligence before or after the founding of RAM.

Well first of all, little Leroi got it wrong.  I was never in the army at all.  I was in the Strategic Air Command, where Leroi was a bombardier, trained to drop nuclear bombs on innocent populations. I was in combat defense with the 91st Strato-Bomber Wing stationed on the DEW (Distance Early Warning) Line stretching from the Canadian border to Tule Greenland.  My unit’s job was to protect America’s nuclear arsenal – including the B-52 bombers that Leroi was flying on, programmed to commit a monstrous crime against innocent civilians – from Russian saboteurs or their American agents.

Since I went in the service to get away from the brewing race war in my home town of St. Augustine Florida, upon my grandfather’s advice, I chose the air-force because I figured I would have no chance of ending up in a combat situation.  But, alas, I ended up in the only unit in the Command that was trained for ground fighting.  It was an intense experience for a teenager who came of age during the cold war and had participated in atomic attack drills in school.

I didn’t question anything my military teachers told us about the evils and dangers of Communism, and I was committed to our mission.  We were called “SAC Trained Killers,” and I was trained in the use of a variety of weapons, as well as how to kill people quickly and efficiently with my bare hands. And I am more dangerous with a knife than most thugs are with a gun!  Although I am seventy now, I’m still a rock and “once a SAC Trained Killer…always a SAC Trained Killer!

However once I attended classes on the destructive capacity of the weapons we were protecting, and considered the implications of my base’s mission, I was troubled by it and began to openly question our mission.  I once even asked the chaplain how he could teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ yet bless our mission.  These kinds of questions got me in trouble and eventually a Convenience of The Government Discharge under Honorable Conditions.

It is interesting that Little Leroi, who was charged with dropping these bombs on helpless civilians, did his whole stint…didn’t seem to bother him none.  This probably explains his ruthlessness and lack of a conscience in some of the things he has done since. Ironically, I actually became a radical while serving in the military.

Stationed out in the Great Plains, I witnessed the plight of Native Americans, and I saw first-hand the horrors of their condition.  And when I put that together with my experience in Florida, and the mission of my SAC base, I saw  just how evil the white man could be.  That’s what set me on the road to participating in the founding of RAM, when Max Stanford presented me with his blueprint for building a revolutionary movement!    And by the way, I was the one with actual military training.

So the answer to your question Marvin is yes I was a SAC Trained Killer before the founding of RAM.  Now since we are talking about things people said, I have a question for you Marvin.  Somebody told me that during the decade that you were on your “long journey into night” as you describe it, when you were strung out on crack, you used to hang out in the all  night porn theaters in San Francisco sucking dicks to get money for crack!

Everybody who knows anything about the subject knows that crack heads will do anything to get it. And I wondered how you financed a crack habit for a decade.  Conventional wisdom has it that if you will suck on the glass pipe you will suck on the skin pipe.  So my question for you Marvin is was you sucking dicks before or after you got strung out: Was you a dick head before you became a crack head?  Jes askin….ain’t no skin off my teeth.

 ******************

As for our Newark poet, Little Leroi,  he was a beatnik poet, living with his white wife in the milky white prescints of Greenwich Village – where the great militant writer Richard Wright had been constantly insulted and driven out of the country just a few years earlier – so he don’t know shit about the founding of RAM…he hadn’t been “blackified” yet.

Since I have decided to dismiss Marvin X, and waste no more time intellectually sparring with him because he is a dullard and a bore, I must resist the temptation to engage him in his foolish rantings and waste even more time that I am squandering now.  But to those who read Barakas’ comments to him,  I ask that you consider the source.  You see Amiri Baraka and I have a history.  I have flogged his ass repeatedly in print over the years for his myriad follies and foibles.

Baraka and I were once on the same side, black revolutionary nationalist/Marxist.  But over the years we have had a parting of the ways. We even had some of the same fiends, like the brilliant Philadelphia poet/critic/essayist/dramatist Larry Neal,and Max Stanford aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, with whom I co-founded the first branch of the Revolutionary Action Movement /RAM in Philly.

Larry was one of my best friends in Philly before he ever met Baraka, and although Little Leroi piggybacked off of Larry’s broad knowlege of literature and critical gravitas as co-editor of the seminal anthology of the literary component of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, he is taking the bows and Larry is practically forgotten

Leroi has shamelessy hogged the spotlight.  He even came to Larry’s memorial service and talked mostly about his own importance.  That’s not just my opinion; it was a subject of much derisive comment from those in attendance.  But Larry was every bit as good a poet as Leroi, and came to a revolutionary position on black culture before him.

Larry was teaching Literature at Drexel University in Philly before he moved to New York and hoked up with Leroi, and he died of a massive heart attack while lecturing to his class at Yale.  His importanc in the development of the Black Arts Movement was second to no one – except perhaps the Braithwaite brothers and Max Roach, who set a lot of the forces in motion that became the Black Arts Movement. (See, On Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman.)

However Larry and Leroy had become estranged and were barely speaking when Larry danced and joined the ancestors.  I know this because we remained good friends until the end and lived around the corner from each other.  And we talked all the time.  He had become turned off by Leroi’s egotism, dogmatism, and refusal to admit that he had led a lot of people astray with wrong headed ideas that he had abandoned.

Baraka and I had a dramatic parting of the ways for similar reasons.  Our first dustup came when I published a complex essay on the proper relationship between politics and art, inspired by Baraka’s petty and vicious attacks on Spike Lee when he was making his great bio-pic of Malcolm X.  Although he tried to camouflage his true intentions in the high flown rhetoric of leftist “revolutionaries,” it was readily apparent to me that the mad poet was fueled by the basest of motives: egomania and envy!

In his fevered megalomaniacal mind he felt that somehow he was the one who should be chronicling Malcolm’s story.  He, the great Imamu, should spin this narrative for posterity.  And thus he called Spike Lee everything but a child of God – impugning his motives and traducing his character!  When I could bear no more of his abominable bullying – opportunistically flaunting his history in the movement to try and discredit Spike, although nobody had prevented him from writing his own book or play in tribute to Malcolm –  I took up my pen and chastised the pompous scoundrel!

The title of the essay is “Bearing the Cross: Spike Lee and the Malcolm X. Movie Mess,” It was first published as a cover story in Emerge, a nationally distributed hard news magazine published by Afro-Americans.  The features editor at the New York Daily News liked the essay so much they bought the reprint rights and published it on the cover of their Sunday Magazine.  So this was a widely read piece…and I whipped little Leroy like a runaway slave!

A couple of years later we ended up on a panel at a writer’s workshop during the International Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, which I chaired.  Baraka made such a complete ass of himself at the conference that I thought Ishmael Reed was gonna smack him. Avery Brooks had to make a special speech defending the purpose of the conference from Baraka’s incendiary attacks on everybody as “compradore intellectuals,” while declaring that only he was a true “revolutionary artist.”

As Chairman of the Panel

I had to put Little Leroi in check!

 I had to fire his ass up from my position as chairman of the panel and put him in check.  Little Leroi was such a pain in the ass that his wife felt the need to apologize to the conference for his behavior.  I was an Editorial Page columnist at the New York Daily News at the time and upon my return to the Big Apple I wrote a column about the conference in which I whipped his head again in print for millions to read!  The column was titled “Artist Should Obey Inner Voices…Not Politics.”  It is posted on this blog.

The position I took in this essay was what Little Leroi was referring to in his speech at the Georgetown Conference, where he misrepresented my position on the relationship between art and politics.  And it inspired the essay “On Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman,” on this blog.  The Daily News column is directly below this essay, just scroll down.  After you read them you will know why Little Leroy will jump at any chance to throw stink on my name.

Finally, let me say without fear of contradiction, that in truth I have led a remarkably honorable life in a nation that rewards thieves, hustlers and whores – just look at Mitt Romney and his crowd – and it has cost me dearly in terms of wealth and status.  I have repeatedly spoken truth to power, and only beat up on those who deserve it.  I have defended the defenseless and gave a powerful voice to the voiceless.  I did what I wanted to do and I have no regrets.

I have made many wonderful friends…and some enemies too.  But no matter…as my uncle Jimmy said: “A man who never makes any enemies is a man who don’t stand for nothing!”  Well I have stood for many things…and I have made some enemies.  But like we use to say down south: “My name is Buck and I don’t give a fuck!!!!”

However I make no claim to perfection…only the Lord is perfect, but I declare without hesitation: The worse that can be honestly said of me is that I beguiled and enjoyed the favors of women who were forbidden to me by the laws and strictures of church and state. And that this roguish behavior has driven wounded cuckolds to wish me harm, a couple shot at me and others refuse no opportunity to throw mud upon my good name.

Alas, their hostility is justified because I was guilty.  All I can say in my behalf is that the women thought I was fine, and I found them irresistible….and I could not prove stronger than David Samson and Solomon! But beyond these transgressions, weaknesses of the flesh, I have been like Caesers wife: pure as the driven snow.

Unless you want to hold the fact that I used to piss in the lemonade when I worked in the kitchen of a restaurant that served “whites only” as a teenager in apartheid Florida. But if you think it would have been appropriate for Jews to put poison in the food of Nazi’s then you are subjecting me to a double standard.  Nazi’s got their ideas about race from the US, and based their discriminatory laws against Jews on the Jim Crow legal system of the American South that I was living under at the time.  Beyond these transgressions any charges brought against my character and conduct is baseless lies!

Since I don’t remember ever taking a girl from Little Leroy, I can only speculate that his hostility derives from the fact that I have repeatedly whipped his head and ass in print…and he has never had the balls to respond to my substantive critiques of his silly wrong-headed ideas, so he resorts to misrepresentations of my views and personal attacks.

Alas, that marvelous man of letters and peerless wit Ishmael Reed warned me that these leftist ideologues can’t defend their positions against my intellectual assaults, so they will resort to character assassination. More prophetic words have rarely been spoken.  In the present case the antagonists are two poot-butt poets – Fatty Jackmon aka Marvin X, and Little Leroi aka Imamu Amiri Baraka.

Fatty J is a recovering Crack head who is in constant danger of slipping back on the pipe – as they say “once a crack head always a crack head” – and his arguments show definite symptoms of scrambled brain syndrome.  Like the old folks down home used to say “Dat boys understandin is bad.”  While I have no knowledge that Little Leroi has abused drugs, he suffers from handicaps that are just as debilitating in terms of being able to see the world clearly and think straight: A Napoleonic Complex and a Messiah Complex.  The former is fueled by the fact that he is a runt, and the latter by a tragic overestimation of his importance as a political thinker.

 Not content to be A good poet…

 Leroi Jones insist on being a bad political Theorist

 As poets their verse runs from mediocre to great.  While I have never read anything by Marvin #10 that made me go “Wow!” Amiri Baraka has written some great poetry, he is an original and important voice among American poets.  And in the first essay the reader will see that I have given this mad poet his due, as is my habit.   I especially like his Jazz poems.  Not that long ago I was on a program with him at the Iridium, a famous Jazz club in Manhattan.

We had both been invited to participate in a tribute to the great saxophonist Jackie McClean, who had lately danced and joined the ancestors, by his son, Renee Mclean, a virtuoso saxophonist in his own right.  I told him about the latest spanking I had laid on him in the essay “Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman” and challenged him to come on WBAI and debate me, or otherwise respond in writing about my views on politics and art.  He has never said a mumbling word.  And although his non-response was cowardly…it was wise.  Being brain damaged Marvin #10 is obviously not smart enough to just go away and shut the fuck up!

As far as I can see, both of these poot-butt poets are completely out of their element when they dabble in political analysis – a complex science for which versifiers are ill suited – or historical reconstruction, a task for which they are perhaps even less suited given their tendency to fabulate.  Hence for their own safety they should stick to writing poetry and leave these other matters to those of us who have paid their dues by laboring in the archives of ancient prudence.

And most of all, unless they get off on being publicly flagellated by being exposed as fools and charlatans before a candid public, they should leave me tha fuck alone!   Read my two essays on Leroi Jones – if he doesn’t like that name blame his parents not me – and you will see why he has no kind words for me….BUT HE HAS NEVER HAD THE BALLS TO RESPOND MY ASSAULTS INTELLECTUALLY!!!!!!

There is something about me Marvin that you obviously don’t understand.  In trying to figure out just how to explain it to you succinctly, I decided I would just quote Ralph Ellison’s remark to the critic Addison Gayle, who was all up in Ellison’s face talkin smack: “I’m a street boy, I’m mean, and I’ve got a very dirty mouth!”

Yo Poot-Butt Poets!

Get tha fuck outta my face yo!!!!

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

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November 23, 2o12

Some Final Advice for Marvin X

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left! with tags , , , , on November 10, 2012 by playthell

           

RAM Comrades: Playthell, John Bracy, Muhammad Ahmed, Askia

Recovering Crack heads shouldn’t Rewrite History!

Yo Marvin, when I posted my critique on the misguided, silly and dangerous blather of Glen Ford – who said it didn’t matter if Afro-Americans voted in the Presidential election – I received a note from the great writer Ishmael Reed.  He warned me that since none of the people that I am critiquing on the left could prevail in a debate with me, they would resort to personal attacks.  Now I see what he means.

You say that I was never a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement aka RAM?  You say you talked to former RAM members and they don’t know me?  Well either you are lying or they are lying.  But you should know better than to lie about things that are a matter of historical fact, and can be easily verified as such.  As a former history professor I sure as hell do!

But then Marvin, since the only things I know about you, or what you believe, is based on the things you have written about yourself and my encounter with you on FB, enriched by things I have heard from people who do know you well in the Bay area.  Early on I was forced to conclude you are a hapless fool stuck on stupid.  And everything you do confirms that conclusion.

For instance, when you wrote that mindless drivel on my page about “Negroes,” I recognized that you untended it as an insult…since the politically correct term is “black.”  But that’s such an asinine move I just decided to play past it.  But then you wouldn’t take no for an answer, you had to keep on pushing.  I have decided that you are suffering from what the psychologist call “projection,” which is a process by which one projects one’s own vices and shortcomings onto others.

In this case it is all too clear.  You are the one with the alter-ego named “Plato Negro,” who spouts pompous prattle that you evidently mistake for wisdom.  However the more I listen to what you have to say I find myself thinking of Queen Mother Moore’s definition of the term Negro – “No, Nay, Never Grow!” – she would say.  Hence it is the perfect term for you; since you are an intellectual anachronism, a poot-butt philosopher stuck in the past who never grows!

Maybe you are actually dumb enough to try and rewrite history while the actors in those events are still around. Perhaps that’s what smoking crack does to the human brain; since I have far better sense than to crack up I really don’t know.  But I did win the first annual Tom Focade Award for honesty and accuracy in drug reporting, presented by High Times Magazine, for my columns and feature stories on drug addiction and anti-drug laws in my in the Village Voice, and the Editorial Page of the “New York Daily News.”

I concentrated a lot on crack addiction becausecrack headsand crack dealers were wreaking havoc in black community at the time.  In my view both are enemies of the black community!  And by the way, I was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary, in 1995.

The nominating letter is on this blog, and anybody can read it – see: Playthell’s bio- A Thumbnail Sketch.  It is easy to see that thequalities enumerated in the nominating letter are clearly present in the commentaries on this blog, of which there are nearly 500, ranging from 800 to 80, 000 words!  And do note the fact that this is my second nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, the first was for political feature writing. That nominating letter is also on display.

The picture above was taken at a conference held at the University of Massachusetts about two years ago.  It was a program hosted by the WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, of which I was a founder.  The four men in the picture were discussing the founding of RAM, the Emergence of the Black Arts Movement, and the creation of Black Studies.  And we were speaking from personal experience because we were principal actors in those historic developments.

From left to right they are Playthell Benjamin, John Bracey, Max Stanford / Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, and the great poet Askia Muhammad.  Between the men in this picture are the founders of RAM, Black Studies and the Black Arts Movement. Max Stanford and I co-founded RAM in Philadelphia in 1962, John Bracey was a RAM cadre in Chicago, who became a professor of history, and Askia Muhammad was a leading force in the Black Arts movement, as well as a RAM cadre.

I presented some lectures at the University of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, and I talked about the development of the armed black “revolutionary” movement of the 1960’s.  There were several people in the audience who were there at the founding of RAM.  One of them was Walt Palmer, who not only was a witness to it all, but was instrumental in putting together legal representation for RAM cadres arrested for trying to poison the Philadelphia police, a dramatic development at the time.

Walt is a towering figure in Philadelphia.  He knows who was who and where all the political bodies are buried.  He is a remarkable man whose career includes radical activist, pioneering medical researcher, lawyer, writer, and a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and he recently ran the 100 meter sprint in the senior division of the Penn Relays at 73 years old!

At present he has designed and founded one of the best charter schools in the country.  He is a lucid and reliable witness…and there are others in Philly who attended my lectures and remember well who done what!   If you want to set the record straight about my involvement in the founding of RAM I will send you Walt’s number by private message and you can interview him.

I can also provide numbers for others who were there at the beginning!  You claim to be an intellectual so do your job chump!  But I doubt that you will pursue this because you are not really interested in the truth.  Ish pegged you clowns just right!  You are not smart enough   to win the debate with me. This is demonstrated by the fact that you are going through all of these changes to avoid answering the damn questions I put to you about how you intend to make this “revolution” you prattle on about ad- nauseum.  Instead, you attempt to attack my character and deny my personal history.

That’s really some low life punk-ass shit Marvin, especially since my story can be easily verified.   For instance, Walt Palmer has a “Wall of Heroes” in the multi-million dollar building that houses his “Learning and Leadership Charter School.  It is very impressive, with life size oil paintings of great freedom fighters from the 20th Century.  Walt gave me a tour of the Hall recently, and as I was perusing the handsome portraits of Kwame Nkrumah, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mao, and then….I suddenly came upon a striking portrait of yours truly!

Walt Palmer by Wall of Heroes

 Philly Activist, Educator / Griot 50+ years in Struggle!

 It was quite a surprise; I thought the artist really captured the real me.  Of course I photographed it, so you can check it out for yourself Dog.  But I hear that you will be visiting Philly, so you can call Walt and check it out.  You say you talked to people in Philly who don’t know me…you don’t say?

Playthell on the Wall of Heroes

Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

Listen fool, I left Philadelphia in 1969, to go help build the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in the world: The WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, at U-Mass Amherst.  This turned out to be quite an achievement, as we persuaded the University to purchase and preserve the voluminous papers of Dr. DuBois, publishing several volumes of them under the distinguished Marxist scholar Dr. Herbert Aptheker, who was Dr. DuBois’ chosen executor of his papers.

I had rejected the idea of an armed revolution in America for some very complex reasons, when I went to Amherst.  That was 43 years ago Dog, and it was 50 years ago that Max and I founded RAM!   But when I quit the “revolutionary” movement I became a professor, and Max took longer to reach a similar conclusion, after spending time in prison for “revolutionary” activities.

He is now a professor too, right there at Temple University – as is Dr. Anthony Montiero, who also spent time in jail for “revolutionary” acts.   Hence it seems that Ram cadres were not only way ahead of the BPP of Oakland in political development….but we evidently had far better character too.  The book below was recently published by the Palmer Foundation; it istitled “Unveiling 150 Philadelphia Iconic Figures from 1950-2002.”  When you interview Walt Palmer ask him to sell you one: Me, Max and Tony are all there!

It’s on the Record
Prominent Philadelphians of the last half century

So what if people you talked to don’t know me.  There are plenty who do, and they were the ones who were around at the time.  I know fuckin well that Dr. Ahmed didn’t tell you no shit like that; so don’t lie on him Dog.  Because everything I am saying can be verified by neutral sources.  What they will tell you is that I was the one with the big following in Philly, because I was presenting black history lectures on the radio; plus I was a highly skilled orator who could move a crowd.  Max was the theoretician who had read widely in the works of Mao, but he was a boring speaker then and now, and he had no following.

So max conceived the organizational structure and was the chief theoretician, but I attracted the crowds from which the cadre was recruited with my black history lectures, which increasingly centered around the history of our struggle for liberation.  We made an effective team, and when I began speaking around the country through the OIC network, whose centers were located in the black ghettoes all over the country, I was by far the most effective national recruiter for RAM.  These were the years between 1962 and 1969, when I left the movement and became a professor.

These facts can be easily collaborated by both living witnesses, and the very accurate FBI Co-In-Tel-PRO documents.  If you really want to know my story chump: DO SOME FUCKIN RESEARCH!!!!!!  Beyond that you will have to await my memoir!  I don’t generally make a point of emphasizing my role in RAM, because unlike your experience in the Black Panther Party, I don’tdefine myself by it.  In fact, I consider it the folly of my youth…well intentioned folly, but folly no less!

Of course it does not surprise me that your approach to research is sloppy, because you have a history of undisciplined sloppy thinking.  This is very clear from the revelations you share in your book: “Wish I Could tell you the Truth.”  Well,  if there is more to your story I can’t wait to hear it.  However what you tell is damming evidence.  I ask the readers to consider the following passage, where you and Huey Newton are sitting in a Oakland crack house contemplating the “Revolution.”

“…it had been a long day’s journey into night but it was ending.  In 1989 I lost my comrade Huey Newton, killed by a young crack dealer in West Oakland.  I was happy to have one last conversation with Huey, even though it was in the crack house.  It was one of those rare times in the crack house when conversation was more important that smoking.”  Then Marvin recreates the voice of Huey, who asks

Huey:“Jackmon, what we gonna do about the present situation?

To wit Marvin replied:  “Well, it’s a pretty bad situation: the black army’s on crack – –the generals are on crack, man this is pitiful”

Huey replies: “We can come out of this, Man, we came out of slavery, see what I’m sayin?

Marvin: Yeah, we gonna come out of it or die…Being about five years for me, Huey, caused my family great pain and suffering.  I’m sure you did too.”

Huey: “Right”

Marvin X: “For what?  Some hot air…?”

Huey: “Ah, don’t beat yaself, Jackmon, enjoy yourself…On a lighter note, have you seen you- know- who- lately?

Marvin X: “You mean your buddy?”

Huey: “Naw, Jackmon, your buddy!”

Marvin X: “I don’t see Eldridge much anymore, not after our little escapade driving down the street with the Damned desk on top of the car.”

Huey: “Yeah, that was some funny shit, Jackmon, that shit made Jet magazine. “ 

Marvin X: Huey, on the real, think you and him will ever get together?”

Huey:  Not in my life time.”

Marvin X: “Why?”

Huey: “Too many people lost their lives behind Eldridge.  Just too much blood on the path between us, man, too much blood.  So even though I might want to get together with him, out of respect to the loved ones of those comrades who went down, I cannot deal with him, I will not deal with him.

Marvin X: Huey, fuck all that.  Arabs kill each other in the Middle East every day, but the next moment they are hugging and praying together in the Mosque.”

Huey: “We ain’t Arabs… “

Huey was right Marvin, yhall ain’t Arabs, because Arabs would have actually committed “Revolutionary Suicide” to destroy the enemy and make a statement…not sit around in a crack house conducting a pity party, crying about how yhall can’t fight because the “army” and “the general” is on crack!!!!!

I have nothing more to say to you Marvin, you are just a sad little fat guy, an intellectual mediorcity living in the past.  I shall let the readers reach their own conclusions.   Alas, this exchange has degenerated to the level of what the wise old folks in Florida, who were sober as judges, used to call “a damned nigger mess!”

Every move you make justifies my view of you as a pretentious, hapless, fool.  The proof of it is that you keep picking fights with your intellectual superior in public – anybody who doubts that you are my intellectual inferior should just read my broadly learned essays and compare them to the mindless prattle you write.  Maybe you just get off on public humiliation.  But I don’t want to play your jaded game anymore.  Find somebody else to whip you for your sins!

Henceforth I shall follow my grandfather’s advice: “Never argue with a fool in public, because the people looking on can’t tell who’s who!” You, on the other hand, would do well to understand that while Shakespeare was right, “All the world is a stage,” you are not writing the script!  Rather you should heed the warning of Mark Twain: “Tis far better to be thought a fool….than open yo mouth and remove all doubt!!!!!”

                                                                            Pootbutt Poet Marvin X
            The wisdom gained from 12 Years on CRACK!                
 Alas, Plato Negro I had to spank yo literary mentor too!

                  Chairing the Writers Panel with Sanchez and Baraka, Black Arts Festival

 

*** For my critique of Baraka read: ‘Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman” on this blog.

 

 *********************

 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

November 10, 2012

Playing Mas!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Photo-Essays with tags , , , on September 30, 2012 by playthell

Struttin their stuff in the Road March

 A Bacchanal in Brooklyn

Once again Brooklyn’s beautiful Eastern Parkway was awash in colorfully costumed revelers on Labor Day. It is the biggest annual parade in the USA – although partisans of the Puerto Rican Day Parade dispute this claim.   On this day the Trinidadian tradition of road marches, playing mas and Calypso music is employed to celebrate the cultures of all the English speaking Caribbean.

Its Carnival time in Brooklyn and everybody “jumps up” for the sheer joy it brings.  No matter where I happen to be I make it my business to get back to the Big Apple for the Labor Day bacchanal, a restorative ritual that rejuvenates the Caribbean community through the joy of music and dance, breathes new life into the culture, cements a sense of community, and showers observers of all backgrounds with good vibes that makes the spirit dance!

It is a colorful and dynamic spectacle that is unique among public events in the US, except for Madi Gras in New Orleans, but is common fare south of the border.  Although Carnival serves many functions, social catharsis chief among them, the display of black bodies and the celebration of their beauty is a major raison d’ eter.  It’s one of the main things that attract revelers of both sexes to the Eastern Parkway “jump up.”

The big event of the day is the road march.  This is where those who dress up in costumes – which the Trinis call “playing Mas’ – stroll through the streets singing Calypso songs, strutting their stuff to the beat and trying to compete for the coveted road march prize.  The judge’s standards are demanding and the competition is fierce.  Groups are graded on costumes, floats and music.

This competition is taken so seriously that the different organizations work and plan all year in order to compete on this very special day.  This kind of serious effort is characteristic of organizations that participate in this public Dionysian ritual.  One need only look at the “Samba Schools” of Brazil or the Mardi Gras clubs in New Orleans in order to witness the intensity of the preparations.

Whatever else Carnival may mean it is an opportunity for narcissist of both sexes to display their assets; thus proving a visual feast for those who love human eye candy.   Here are some select images as seen through the lens of the internationally renowned art photographer, Ms. Lisa Dubois.

 The Joy of the Moment Beams from their Faces

 Jubilation!

 Winding!

 

Getting down and Dirty!

 

 The Art of Carnival

 

 The complexity of design is marvelous
The Goddess Oshun Personified!

 

 Elegant Erotica!

 
A Golden Gal

 

 Paint and feathers are pervasive in the costumes

At Carnival….

 

…..The Women Rule

 

Flying the Flags High….

 

 Celebrating their Island Homes
 
The Boy’s Rubbing Up!

 

She’s playing it off …chillin in the groove

 

 Salivating over the Pulchritude!

 

Intricate designs painstakingly executed

 

 A Trini Dougla Gal!

 

Africa and India meet in Trinidad

 

 Watch the Hands!

 

 Jewelry as Art

The Next Generation

 

 

 Passing on the Tradition

 

 At The End Road March

 A graceful stroll down Eastern Parkway

 

 The Masquerade is over!

 

 

Looking to next year

 

  “Da Mayor” of Harlem Leslie Wytche was There

 

 

Partying Hearty Jumpin Up in the Streets!

 

 

 ***************

 

Photos By: Lisa Dubois

Text by: Playthell Benjamin

New York City,

September 26, 2012

The Empire State Shooter

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , on August 24, 2012 by playthell

 

                  Another Slaughter on an American Street

 A Sign of the Times!

Mass shootings have become almost a routine affair, a sad fact of life in the USA today.  They may not happen all the time, but they can happen anytime. Not everywhere but anywhere. And as I write they are happening with such frequency it’s hard to keep up with them. However while most appear to be senseless, or at any rate unfathomable to the average citizen, today’s shooting near the Empire state building, in which ten people were shot an two killed,  appear to be crystal clear.

A laid off worker decided to kill the man who fired him.  A few years ago this type of shooting was routinely referred to as “going postal,” because the most dramatic instance of a mass shooting at the time was perpetrated  by a fired postal worker who decided to exact vengeance on his former co-workers  by returning to the job site and opening fire on as many people as he could.

This kind of mass slaughter differs from those in Columbine, Arizona, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Wisconsin, et al; in which the shooter had some vague and generalized discontent with the world.  Here the shooting is work related and the target was a person the shooter feels is the cause of his economic plight; the boss who took the bread off his table and threw their life into chaos. From all appearances this seems to be the motivation behind todays shooting.

Recently the question was asked on a cable talk show as to whether the prolonged unemployment crisis will result in civil unrest; the way it has elsewhere in the world.  I think we are already seeing civil disturbances due to the stress of economic desperation; the unending anxiety experienced by people facing homelessness and starvation.

But because it is expressed in anti-social behavior like an escalating crime rate, and the increased incidence of mass shootings, it is not recognized as social unrest.  It is simply dismissed as criminal behavior or a fit of madness, with no connection to the brutal protracted economic crisis that is swelling the ranks of the dispossessed in the richest society the world has ever seen.

The Republicans who speak so glibly of shredding the social safety net and leaving the poor and unemployed to starve, while accusing them of being lazy good for nothings looking for a handout, are playing with social dynamite.  In some parts of the world violence is targeted against the rich by the poor; like Knee capping in Italy and kidnapping in Latin America.

Right now disgruntled workers in the US have advocates in the organized labor unions that have fought for programs that help the unemployed maintain the basic necessities of life. But if the Republicans succeed in destroying these government entitlements, shredding the safety net  and destroying the power of unions to fight back through the political system, we shall many more acts mass slaughter and the danger zone will be everywhere!

Nowhere to run….

 

Nowhere to hide!

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

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 24, 2012

 

An Open Letter To My Friend Bill

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , on August 15, 2012 by playthell

The First Ladies

On God, Science and Gabby

Yo Bill!

You need to take a chill pill!!  Your excoriation of the double gold medalist in gymnastics Gabby Douglass on my wall is outrageous! “The “Brown Butterfly” is an inspiration to us all. … I wish, though, she hadn’t made the ignorant comments about god; but what can one expect from a young girl, especially an African American who are the most religious group in the U.S. Even more than white Southerners.”

Your attempt to add clarity to your original statement missed the mark: “What I objected to was her statement, “God is a win win situation. I praise him and he gives me blessings (gold medals), or something to that effect. … This really pisses me off when athletes praise god for their acomplishments. I understand that she is just a young girl so i will cut her some slack and admire her historic achievements.”

Your insensitivity is exceeded only by your arrogance and ignorance!!!  This young lady is entitled to her beliefs!  She was probably raised in the church: which is a very good thing – especially the Afro-American church!  We as a community and a nation would be much better off if the teenagers presently visiting havoc, committing murder as casually as a walk through the park, were in church, listening to the biblical injunction to “do unto others as you would have them “do unto others as you would have them do unto you;” treat thy neighbor as thyself;” “Thou shalt not kill;” etc.

I also know this young people have told me so.  Once I was sitting in an herb spot in Georgia smoking the high grade Wisdom Weed, when all of a sudden some gunmen kicked the door down ad stuck up the joint.  They were holding their roscoes in that sideways fashion common in gangsta rap videos.  Although they were wearing masks I could clearly see their eyes and I recognized the fear in them.

Since I am trained for trouble I remained absolutely calm as they herded us all in one room and robbed the joint.   I told the other dudes in the room if they came back lets jump them…and I pulled out my blade and waited at the side of the door.  The others began to pray.  After the robbers left, one of the people in the room said the Lord had answered his prayer.  I called his statement of faith nonsense!

At which point another said to me “Lemme tell you something Old School, if it wasn’t for the fact that I believe in god I’b be robbin and killin motherfuckers 24/7.  And I can tell you for a a fact that a lotta othere dudes I know would be doin it too.  So you better be glad we believe in God or you wouldn’t be able to walk the street!”  If you view my debate with Christopher Hitchens on the Iraq War, you will see that I defended the black church against Hitchens’ snide and profoundly ignorant dismissal.  And that’s one of the reasons why.

Not too long ago I participated in a “Great Debate,” where the question upon the floor was: “Has the Bible Been Good for Black Americans?”  To the shock and surprise of many, since I may be the best known black atheist in New York, I argued in defense of the Bible.  Yet I was an avowed atheist before you learned how to pee straight!  And unlike most of you who say that you are atheists, but prove to be “fair weather atheist” in time of trial; I am a tried and true atheists, having successfully passed the “high seas test.”

In case you have never heard of it, the high seas test refers to whether you call on the Lord if you are in stormy seas and believe the ship is about to sink.  Well I have been in a horrendous storm at sea and even the old salty dogs were praying, but I could not bring myself to call on the Lord.  So my atheistic credentials are unimpeachable: I concluded at 13 years old that God was a man made myth and that was over a half century ago!

However I find most atheist to be far too arrogant about their beliefs…you are no exception.  The fact is that your fervent belief that God does not exist is no less an act of faith and has much in common with the religious fanatic.  The fact is that SCIENCE CANNOT PROVE THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST!   And please spare me the tiresome arguments that attempt to demonstrate the contrary. For  I shall simply dismiss them, and you, out of hand. I have heard every argument on this question, and further discussion would only be a redundant bore: Trust me!!!

You see, I have many friends who are preachers and theologians, more friends who are atheist, and a former student who may well win the Nobel Prize in the biological/medical sciences: Dr. S. Allen Counter, MD/Ph.d, Professor of biology at Harvard, Senior Research Fellow at the Korylinska Institute in Sweden, where the Nobel Prizes are awarded.  Dr. Counter is one of the world’s greatest biological sciences and was good friends with the late Stephen J. Gould, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard.

Dr. Counter tells me that very thing he has learned in science has made him a better Baptist!  He says scientist have no clue whether God exist or how the miracle of life came about…not really!  He feels that all scientist are doing is tracing the marvelous handiwork of God!  He believes that people who think scientist can explain the riddle of creation are fools!

Professor Counter scoffs at the idea.  He also tells me that among his scientific colleagues – the greatest scientist in the world – about half are atheist and half are intensely religious!  Hence if the world’s greatest scientist cannot resolve this question you strike me as the man who tried to be more royal than the king!

The point of this discussion is that you need to show a bit of humility on this question!  Of course you are a grown man and can do whatever you pleas.  But if your convictions lead you to attack a wonderful young lady for her beliefs then  you are an arrogant fool and I will continue to point this out to you.  Consider the following proposition: IT DOES NOT MATTER IF GOD EXIST OR NOT IF THE A BELIEF IN GOD INSPIRES GREAT THINGS FROM HUMAN BEINGS!!!!!!

There can be little doubt that a belief in God inspired Gabby to greatness.  And it’s not just because she is a “young girl.” There is absolutely no doubt that an intense belief in God inspired Muhammad Ali in his astonishingly easy victory over the murderous Sonny Liston to win the Undisputed  Heavy-Weight Championship of the World!

Liston scared the shit outta everybody and won his fights mentally before they ever got in the ring!  Former champion looked like he was going to shit his trunks before a single punch was thrown.  But the time Ali spent with Minister Malcolm X  in the week before the fight gave him a feeling of invulnerability, and he came in the ring talkin smack: Joking. jiving and signifying: as Dr. Geneva Smitherman put it. But Sonny was a an ex-muscle man for the St. Louis Mob who learned to box in Prison; he was a for real killer and there was reason to be scared!

Who but an ignoramus could deny that an intense belief in God inspired the artistic genius Michelangelo displayed when he painted the magnificent Sistine Chapel, or Bach when he wrote the marvelous B Minor Mass, or Mozart’s Requiem. Or George Frederik Handel’s transcendent “Messiah,” or the soul stirring oratory of Dr. Martin Luther King that inspired my neighbors in St. Augustine Florida to walk in the shadow of death and fear no evil!!!  I know this because they told me so!!!

What, pray tell, but a belief in the power of the almighty could have enabled by people to survive the long horrible night of slavery here in America – 250 years – and emerge from that experience where everything around them conspired to deny their humanity, yet emerge with their soul in tack but a powerful belief in a just God who would deliver them on the day of Jubilee!!!

Dr. DuBois, the most broadly learned, prophetic, consequential American humanist intellectual of the 20th century – who was also an atheist – wrote some of the most moving prose ever penned in the English language about the power of religious belief among the slaves, and how it helped them through their trials and tribulations.

Read the chapter “The Coming of the Lord” in his masterpiece “Black Reconstruction.” Read his essay on the Afro-American spirituals “Of the Sorrow Songs” in “The Souls of Black Folks.”    Then read my analysis of that essay in my book “Reconsidering The Souls of Black Folk.”

Few white Americans have any idea what the church has meant in Afro-American history or what it means now.  The church has been an overwhelmingly positive institution despite the ignorant denunciations of the church by Black Nationalists and Marxist; unlike much of the white church- which supported slavery, genocide, and apartheid.  But there is also a heroic tradition in the white American church too.  Both the Abolitionist Movement that ended slavery and the Civil Rights Movement that ended Southern Apartheid are unimaginable without it.

I know of nothing that atheist have come up with that can match the grandeur of the progressive black church: the music, the poetry of the sermon; the magnificence of its life giving message to a people in constant struggle for freedom.  If you know of anything please hip me to it.  Otherwise a little humility on your part would be in order!

 The Greatest!

Belief in God is the wind beneath this Butterfly’s wings

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

As always, I remain

Your friend, Playthell George Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 15, 2012

 

Opening Night for Harlem Exhibition

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2012 by playthell

           

Mishon & Lisa: Guest and Curator

 Images of Harlem Old and New

On Friday evening August 10, a unique photographic exhibition opened at the Rios II Gallery on Riverside Drive in Harlem.  The photographs in this exhibition celebrated the multifaceted culture of Harlem with selected works from the oeuvres of outstanding photographers who have been capturing images for years.  While there were some color photographs, the majority of the works were in black and white, a form that many photographers believe is the test of their skill and artistry.

The show was curated by Lisa DuBois, Anthony Barboza and John Pinderhughes, and featured photographers: June D. Truesdale, Lenora Brown, Kwame Braithwaite, Adger Cowens, Sonia Louise Davis, Lisa DuBois, John Penderhughes, Shawn Walker, Lewis Watts, Lee White, Burroughs Lamar, Antoine Minter, Deborah Willis, Ocean Morrisette, Andriana Lopez Sanfeliu, Jamel Shabazz and Klytus Smith.

The gallery was packed with a stylish crowd who came out to view the arresting images tastefully mounted on the walls.  There were poets and politicians, writers and musicians, dancers and dandys, folks from all walks ate, and drank and made merry as they strolled about the gallery or lounged on the spacious terrace overlooking the beautiful Hudson river with the George Washington Bridge spanning the horizon like a giant steel sculpture.

This exhibition is the brainchild of Ms. Lisa DuBois, she conceived it and made it happen.  I know where of I speak because she discussed the idea with me in the early stages of conception.  A worker bee with a Queen bee attitude she charged forth and began to put the many pieces of the puzzle together and the result was the poignant pictures of Harlem realities we were treated to last, graphic slices of life frozen in time by visual alchemists armed with Camera’s.

While Lisa was the mover and shaker that brought this historic project to fruition, she is quick to point out that in order to make it happen in such a grand way, she enlisted the critical intelligence and well tutored  taste of the great photographers  Anthony Barboza and John Pinderhuges, who became her co-Curators of the exhibit “Old Harlem/New Harlem.”  And she gave special props to Antwan Minter, her Asistant Coordinator.  “The show would not have been possible his hard work and dedication,” says Lisa.   Everyone associated with this exhibit has reason to be proud.

Lisa told me after the evening’s festivities came to a close that her one regret was that she didn’t get to personally thank everybody who helped make her dream come true personally, the way she had planned.  She especially wanted to thank the management and staff of the Rios II Gallery, and she wanted to thank Sandra Fuller, who donated and designed the floral arrangements.  The food and drinks were superb: compliments of Livians Bakery, Dougee’s Restuarant – owned by celebrated Harlem hip hop pioneer Doug E. Fresh – and the Gallery staff.

Lisa also wanted to thank the poet Lydia Elizabeth, who had written an epic poem, “Harlem Rapsody,” which she came out to debut at the opening of the exhibit.  But most of all, she wanted to thank all who came out to celebrate the opening of the exhibit; beautiful and interesting people.  Hence, at the end of the evening, it is fair to sum things up thusly: “All’s well that ends well.”  The exhibit will be mounted until August 31, if you enjoy great photography, or is intrested in Harlem life and culture: See this exhibit!!!!

“Da Mayor” and the Poet

Leslie Witche and Lydia Elizabeth
The Priemier Historian of Harlem’s Art and Architecture

Michael Adams Perused the exhibit….and said he liked it
Poet Don Raphel was there

And he sang for us
The pianist Accompanied Don

And Serenaded us all Evening
Ernest Gregory Was there

Wynton Marsalis’ on the road photographer
Gregory had his Camera and Preserved this Moment

Iconic Photographer Kwame Brathwaite, A. D. Minter, Lydia Elizabeth, Playthell

The World Renowned Harlem Artists Ademola was in da House!

Strolling with his entourage dressed in casual white

Tajjidin Aleem Was There Splendidly Locked
A Globetrotting Cultural Connoisseur

His poignant pictures capture priceless moments

In the life of Harlem
The Curators

Tony Barboza and Lisa DuBois

It Was a Stylish Crowd

A Black and Tan Fantasy

There Were Free Thinkers like Poet Michaelangelo

With an eclectic approach to fashion

There was Old School Cool

Grand Master Kham and his Lady Representin!

And the Casual Cool of Youth

Makeda Voletta and Odugu

As Night began to fall

TheParty Moved out to the Terrace

Where we were Serenaded by Bruce Edwards, a fine Guitarist

He Entertained us with Timeless Standards

It was a Wonderful Night….

……For a Moon Dance

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

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 11, 2014

All Photographs by: Playthell Benjamin

** Except those in which he appears.

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