Friday, November 28, 2014

Reading On The Subway

When I'm reading a book on the subway here in New York and see three or four other riders doing the same thing either with a physical book or an e-book device, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I'm sitting in a reading room on wheels and confirms that reading hasn't completely died out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

"John Bull's Nigger": One Black Man's View Of Other Blacks

One book I would like to read, although it will probably turn my stomach as I turn the pages, is John Bull's Nigger by Dillibe Onyeama, published in 1974. From the way the book is described in the August 1974 issue of the British publication CRC Journal, it contains the rantings of a self-hating black man.

"Mr. Onyeama's high principles and experience of living in Britain," reported the CRC Journal, "lead him to conclude that the black man is '...more of an animal--only marginally human.'"

Furthermore, Onyeama, who was born in the part of Nigeria then known as Biafra, saw black people as being "Dirty! Stupid! Inferior to the white man."

John Bull's Nigger was seen as so inflammatory and hateful that, according to the CRC Journal, it "has been referred to Sir Robert Mark, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, for investigation under Section 6 of the 1965 Race Relations Act, for allegedly inciting racial hatred."

I looked the book up on Amazon. There are four hardcover copies available for $22.57 each. I may check with the Strand, a used-books store in New York City, to see if they have any copies in stock.

If the author, forty years later, is still alive, it would be interesting to talk with him to see if his "very decided views on black people" has changed or remained the same.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dictionary Browsing

As a leisure time activity, I often browse the dictionary, finding, to my delight, words I've never seen before. Thumbing through my beat up copy of Merriam-Webster's, I discovered this term: "open dating." It sounded at first like there was a romance or "singles's night" connection. When I read the definition, I learned there was a marketing connection instead. The dictionary defined "open dating" (which came into usage in 1971)  as "the marking of perishable food products with a clearly readable date indicating when the food was packaged or the last date on which it should be sold or used."

So now whenever I go grocery shopping and look at the "Sell By" or "Packed On" date on a container of milk or on a deli item, I know those printed dates are called "open dating" and I can make reference to that term when talking to a store manager about an item that's been on the shelf past its expiration date.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

AIDS Researcher Wins Eviction Battle

A Greenwich Village co-op board 's year-long court battle to evict a doctor who treats persons with AIDS ended in defeat on October 17 [1984], due to the efforts of a gay rights group and the New York state attorney general's office.

The board, representing the tenants of 49 West 12th Street, told Dr. Joseph A. Sonnabend last year that the tenants wanted him out of the building because of concern for their health and the lowering of property values of their apartments due to AIDS patients entering his office.

Sonnabend, a microbiologist and the occupant of the ground floor office since 1977, consulted his lawyer, William Hibsher of the New York law firm Teitelbaum and Hiller. Hibsher is also a board member of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the organization which took the case to court and succeeded in blocking the eviction with a temporary restraining order. The order was issued on October 14, 1983, by the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Sonnabend had no quarrel with the board's right to evict him. "But the mistake they made," said Sonnabend, "was to say it was over AIDS."

Then it became a case of discrimination, said Hibsher,"against a population that is really more deserving of people's compassion and help. I think that all people know that very often discrimination against people with AIDS is another form of discrimination against gay people."

In New York State, there is no law prohibiting discrimination against people because of sexual orientation; however, Lambda used a provision of the state's human rights law protecting disabled people from discrimination as the basis for their lawsuit.

"Five of Sonnabend's patients," said Hibsher, "joined in the lawsuit for legal reasons. We were concerned that since Dr. Sonnabend is not himself a disabled person, the defendant might take the position that [Sonnabend] could not raise the disability statute in support of his legal position."

With the patients as co-plaintiffs, continued Hibsher, "they could say they are disabled persons, and they are potentially being discriminated against by the building's decision." Two of the five patients have since died of the disease.

In the court settlement, Sonnabend was awarded $10,000 in damages and a new one-year lease. The co-op must also pay $1,000 in legal costs to state Attorney General Robert Abrams's office, which acted as Lambda's co-counsel.

Hibsher sees the settlement as a landmark case that "projects a very strong image on the part of those who protect the rights of these citizens."

He continued: "It's, to our knowledge, the first litigation brought in connection with alleged discrimination against people with AIDS, and it established very importantly legal procedures in the State of New York and nationwide; One, that people with AIDS are considered disabled persons under the disability laws, and most states have a civil rights law which protects persons who are disabled from discrimination. Two, the court issued a preliminary injunction in the course of the litigation and part of its ruling was that it accepted the expert opinion that AIDS is not casually transmitted. Consequently, the court rejected any notion that a person with AIDS could be segregated or kept out of a public accommodation on the grounds of potential contagion. Three, and I think most important, the case stands for the proposition that the civil rights community, Lambda, the attorney general of the State of New York, and other litigants are not going to sit back and let people discriminate" against people who are gravely ill.

Sonnabend, who spends much of his time doing research, said that after the settlement, "some of the tenants offered their congratulations. Many tenants at the time [of the eviction attempt] were quite unhappy with the way the board proceeded."

This article was originally published in the Gay Community News (Boston) on November 10, 1984.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Writer's Dream

This unpublished interview fragment was found in a manila folder. It was written on August 12, 1980. It was intended for inclusion in a Q & A interview that I did with Professor Addison Gayle, Jr.:

Professor [Addison] Gayle's most recent book is the literary biography, Richard Wright: Ordeal of a Native Son (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980).

It seems as though the professor was destined to be a Wright biographer. In Wayward Child [his autobiography], he writes that of the many black writers his father encouraged him to read as a child growing up in the South "...Richard Wright was [his] favorite." He goes on to say, "...instead of imaging myself as one of Richard Wright's characters, I imagined myself as Richard Wright. I imagined people looking up to me as a famous writer, asking for my autograph, seeking me out."

Professor Gayle's early identification with Wright was probably due to similar experiences in their young Southern lives.