Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013



I plan to post an interview I did with actress Cicely Tyson in 1983 for USA Today. At the time of the interview, she was appearing in the Broadway production of The Corn Is Green.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Beauty Of Black Women

I'm the one responsible for getting Washington, D.C. filmmaker/writer Michelle Parkerson's article appreciating the beauty of black women in the New American (formerly the Black American), a weekly newspaper, where I worked as a proofreader and copy editor. I edited out of the manuscript* she sent me all references to her girlfriend and the word "lesbian"  because of the paper's past homophobia. I gave the piece to Mayo, the art director, who had it typed and pasted up for the printer.

 Mrs. Offord, the office manager and wife of the owner, was upset that we hadn't cleared it with her. I immediately pointed out that  Parkerson was a good writer, she reluctantly agreed. So even though I tried to camouflage the homoerotic aspects of the article, the lesbian  slant was still there, between the lines.

My goal was to see how successful I'd be in slipping in subliminally gay content. Parkerson became a Trojan horse.

The following is the brief article by Michelle Parkerson that ran in the New American (April 25-May 1, 1991):

An Open Letter To African Women Everywhere

I confess.

Last night, I was mesmerized by the September issue of Essence. The pages overflowed with vibrant images of sisters with everything on the ball and all of their clothes on. Each one varied in skin shade or circumstance, but everyone of them was gorgeous and giving it to the camera. I flipped through the photos, feasting on our particular beauty: dark and fair, dread and silky, abundant, angular, Black.

Undoubtedly, women of color are God's most fascinating creation. And undoubtedly, we are the most impoverished. I thrive on the fierceness, the borrowed magic that sustains us through generations of adversity. I know the future belongs to us.

We are the lineage of African women who lavished in their own brilliance, women who struggle now  on every frontline. When Black women come together and touch, it is a measure of bravery, a testament to the distance traveled.

*Note: I believe Parkerson originally submitted this manuscript to me for inclusion in the black gay and lesbian supplement I guest edited for the New York Native in 1984.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obama, Savior Of American Newspapers?

Voice of the People
New York Daily News
November 10, 2008

To The Editor:

The day following Barack Obama's historic victory, it was hard to find a newspaper. Maybe Obama will be a godsend for the ailing newspaper business.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

This letter-to-the-editor was submitted via e-mail and was published November 14, 2008.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Army And The Air Force Want A Few Good Recruits

"...[W]e live with certain socio-economic realities in this country and for some people going into the military is a step up. I wouldn't subscribe to the military but for some people it's the only way out of the situation. We can't judge other people's decisions. We can only support them in their choices."--Virginia Apuzzo, executive director, National Gay Task Force.

Today's Army is looking for the best and the brightest recruits it can sign up. Those with a high school diploma who score 50 or better on the Army test have any of 300 jobs from which to choose. Many of these jobs require a considerable degree of intelligence, especially those involving technical skills (something minorities will have to master, if they want to compete in our increasingly technological society).

Black Enterprise magazine for September 1982 states that "The US Army is presently one-third black" and that "a significantly greater number of black recruits over whites graduated from high school."

No longer is the Army a refuge for those unable to make it in civilian life. "If you can't do anything else," says Capt. Alvin K. Phillips,the former area commander for recruiting, Manhattan, "we don't want you. We can't use you." The captain, who is black and a University of Arkansas graduate, adds: "If you can't read or write, if you can't do basics, we don't need you because we're not a social agency."

However, if you're what the Army needs, you can sign up for the Army College Fund, which came into being in January of 1982, says Capt. Phillips, as a new "incentive for people to join the military." (It replaced the G.I. Bill which ended in 1976.)

Anyone in college or considering a college education these days knows how expensive it can be. But by enlisting for a minimum of two years, you can accumulate as much as $15,200 toward college. If you decide to enlist for three or four years, the amount increases to $20,100. The Army College Fund is a voluntary program.

Let's say you enlist for two years. As a private (or E-1), you earn $573.60 a month, plus a $213.60 bonus if you have dependents such as a wife and child. (Starting January 1, an E-1 will earn $596.40 a month.) From that amount each month  you can contribute to the fund no more than $100 and no less than $25. If you decide to put aside $100 monthly by the end of your two-year enlistment, you will have saved $2,400. The Army which will put in two dollars for every one dollar you put in the fund will add $4,800 to the pot giving you $7,200. Add to that the eight-thousand-dollar bonus and you have the grand total of $15,200. Even if you receive an educational grant or loan, you still get every penny in your fund account. If you choose to go to school while  in the service, the Army will pay 75 percent of your tuition.

Like the Army, the Air Force is quality-conscious. In its desire to keep up with the latest technological advances, the Air Force places great emphasis on education and encourages airmen to go to their base Education Services Center to inquire about the various educational opportunities available. However, the Air Force is not quite as liberal as the Army (which has been working very hard to change its negative public image) as far as money for eduation is concerned, despite the fact that it provides more of a variety of educational programs. (Ninety-seven percent of Air Force personnel are high school graduates.) As in the Army, an airman can contribute $25 to $100 from his salary each month but only to a maximum of $2,700. The government will match every dollar put in with two dollars thereby bringing the maximum of the government's contribution to $5,400. At the end of your stint, you will have a grand total of $8,100. (In order to qualify for financial aid, you must sign up for at least four years.)

This is an excerpt from an article about the Army and the Air Force that I wrote for the National Scene magazine's special Armed Forces issue published in 1983. The National Scene was an African-American publication that appeared as a monthy supplement insert in African-American newspapers such as the New York Amsterdam News.