Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Six-Word Memoir

Smith Magazine (no relation to me) pioneered this new form. I first heard about the six-word memoir on "The Leonard Lopate Show" on WNYC, a public radio station in New York City. Here goes:

Learning new things makes me happy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gay Programming Is Needed on Air America Radio

I began listening to Air America, the liberal radio network, from Day One and I have enjoyed listening to the progressive viewpoints expressed on it. However, there is one type of programming that is missing from its program schedule: a program that is exclusively devoted to the gay/lesbian'bisexual/trasnsgender community.
I was a regular listener each Sunday evening to the gay programming offered by the Pacifica station WBAI, here in New York. But the quality and the scope were limited. When the show was called "The Gay Show," the focus was mainly about white gay men. And when the show was renamed "Out FM," with different hosts, it went the other way, focusing on women and people of color, almost exclusively. I would have preferred gay programming that was much more inclusive and balanced.
Air America has the golden opportunity to develop a program that addresses the interests and the concerns of the GLBT community in an entertaining, informative, and provocative way. GLBT people are visible in all areas of media. Discussions about gays in the military, gay marriage, gay parenting, gays in the workplace are no longer rarities. Air America can help further such discussions and eradicate misconceptions about GLBT people. I don't expect Rush Limbaugh or the other right-wing talk hosts to do justice to these issues or other topics that are relevant to the GLBT community.
Right now, there is room for such programming, especially on the weekend. A weekly one- or two-hour show would reach tens of thousands of GLBT people across the country, creating another venue for them to find out what's going on in similar communities here and abroad. If the network is liberal enough to air a weekly show by atheists, it should have no problem airing a show by and about the GLBT community.
There are so many gay and lesbian writers, historians, artists, actors, political and community leaders, it would be almost impossible to run out of people to invite to come on the air and share their views and experiences.
I hope that this five-year broadcasting venture called Air America will continue to succeed so that such a program that I am proposing will come to fruition. The national GLBT community and radio listeners in general would be the beneficiaries and it would truly make Air America a beacon of liberalism.

RIP Wilbert Tatum

As a former freelance contributor to the New York Amsterdam News, I would like to offer my condolences to the family of Wilbert Tatum, the paper's publisher emeritus, as well as to its staff and management.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Big Harlem Retailers Need to Support the Black Press

The newly opened Harlem Furniture, on 125th Street between 5th and Lenox Avenues, is repeating the same mistake its predecessor, Bargain World, made. That mistake is failure to advertise in the black press. Both businesses however willingly advertised in the New York Daily News. Bargain World had been in that location for several decades and never saw fit to place a full-page ad in the Amsterdam News, which is just down the street.
I browsed through the pages of several recent issues of the Am/News and the New York Beacon and found ads from Con Edison, Macy's, HSBC, Wal-Mart, and radio station WWRL. Absent were ads from Harlem Furniture, New York Sport Clubs, Starbucks, Citibank, Raymour and Flanagan (another furniture retail outlet), among other businesses that have set up shop in the black community and expect its residents to patronize them. But these establishments neglect to support the black media that have served the black community longer than many of these businesses have been in existence. They need to be made aware of this woeful oversight. Black people don't only read the mainstream tabloids.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Lawyer Explains His Profession

If you are thinking about hiring a lawyer, you should keep in mind the following words:

"'s anger that drives us and delivers us [negligence lawyers]. It's not any kind of love, either--love for the underdog or the victim, or whatever you want to call them. Some litigators like to claim that. The losers.
No, what it is, we're permanently pissed off, the winners, and practicing law is a way to be socially useful at the same time, that's all. It's like a discipline; it organizes and controls us; probably keeps us from being homicidal.
Certainly we get paid well for it, which is a satisfaction, yes, but not a motivation, because the real satisfaction, the true motivation, is the carnage and the smoldering aftermath and the trophy heads that get hung up on the den wall. I love it."
--Mitchell Stephens, Esquire, The Sweet Hereafter: Novel
by Russell Banks (HarperCollins, 1991)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How Is the Health of the Black Press?

Looking through the articles regarding layoffs at and closings of newspapers and magazines across the country in media sites such as Mediabistro and Romenesko, there are no mentions of the black press. During good times, these publications have a hard time getting sufficient ad revenue. It would be interesting to find out how they are faring in this weak economy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Sweet Lorde

The following article, based on a telephone interview I did with the late poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992), was published in NYQ magazine, December 15, 1991. The magazine, later renamed QW, is now defunct. It was co-edited by Maer Roshan, who later edited New York and Radar magazines. I reprint the article in commemoration of Black History Month.

"Poetry," according to Audre Lorde, "is a weapon for change. I see it as one of the most subversive uses of language there is because we are in the business of altering feelings. As June Jordan said once, 'We're in the business of making revolution irresistible.'"
Although Lorde has lived for the last six years in the U.S. Virgin Islands, she returns to New York City regularly because her son and daughter are here and the cancer treatments she requires are unavailable in St. Croix.
When she lived on Staten Island, Lorde explains in a phone conversation from the Caribbean, "I was every day going to war. If you've been reading the papers, you know about the racial situation on Staten Island. It's gotten worse, from my understanding, since I left." In response, she has sought refuge in the relatively more sedate Virgin Islands. Racism, classism, homophobia, and sexism exist there, too, she concedes, "but on a different scale."
Her selection as New York's State Poet is, in Lorde's eyes, "a contradiction." She wonders what that appointment really means in a state where many see her, and those like her, as irreconcilably other. "In New York State," she says, "a black woman can be raped and her college-student attackers are freed, where attacks on lesbians and gay men are increasing. It's an intense contradiction. I see my function, the function of all poets, as attempting to learn the lessons of these contradictions and learning how to use ourselves to lessen them."
"Part of my work," Lorde concludes, "is to ask every person I come in contact with: 'How are you using yourself?' 'How are you doing your work?' 'How do you define yourself?' 'How are you using that self to fight for what you believe in?'"

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Few Words From Julius Lester

"A minute is so important and so many pass me, unused. I compare my aspirations and my abilities and realize: I am one person among billions living one life, about 65 years out of a million which have preceded mine and will come after. Yet I do not despair. My 65 can help shape the million to come."---Julius Lester, from his autobiography, All is Well (William Morrow, 1976).