Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Black does not equal African American. Spanish does not equal Latin@. yes, Black Latin@s do exist. Nationality, Ethnicity, & Race are different things.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

OCTOBER 9, 2008

What Do You Get For Two Million MySpace Friends and 26 Million Streams?

Atlantic rapper T.I. has passed two million MySpace friends, his MySpace page has over 82.6 million views and his hit single "Whatever You Like" has over 27 million streams at MySpace. Right now all of the songs at his MySpace page are collectively getting well over one million streams per day and to date have streamed over 138 million times.

How does all that translate into cash?

First-week sales of the album Paper Trail were 568,000. The album will have a big second-week drop but should top one million units within a few weeks. First week sales of the song "Whatever You Like" totaled almost 335,000 units. That's 0.13 song purchases per MySpace stream, or $0.09 of download revenue per song stream. (I'm comparing U.S. sales to global MySpace statistics. Comparing numbers across territories like that isn't the best way to compare artist statistics, but it's the only way I can do it.)

Having a #1 song will influence traffic at an artist's MySpace page. At a penny per stream, T.I.'s MySpace page can bring in $15,000 per day if visitors listen to 1.5 million streams (which T.I. will easily exceed today). Those streams would generate even more revenue if the songs had an buy button (which they do not yet have). That's $105,000 in ad revenue for one week. Album sales, assuming a 15/85 digital/physical split, brought in (roughly) $5.42 million. First-week sales of "Whatever You Like" brought in $235,000 (I don't know a la carte sales from other tracks on the album, so I am ignoring them as well as ringtones). The total of the three is $5.76 million. That's $3.75 per MySpace friend (again, not including ringtones).

Robin Thicke released an album last week as well. Something Else sold 137,000 units. His MySpace page has 8.52 million visits to date and he has 279,000 friends. Even though Thicke's MySpace page has streamed 17 million songs, he doesn't currently have a #1 single as does T.I. Thicke's MySpace page has streamed his latest single only 130,000 times. The page is getting about 30,000 streams per day. That's only $300 per day at a penny per stream and $2,100 per week. Just to get in revenue from a single, let's say Thicke sold 50,000 units last week. That's $35,000 in revenue. With a 15/85 split on the album, that's revenue of $1.31 million. The total for the three is about $1.35 million. That's $4.82 per MySpace friend.

Let's compare to another debut last week, The Glass Passenger by emo band Jack's Mannequin. The album debuted with sales of 49,000 units. Relative to the band's number of MySpace friends, that's the same as T.I. but worse than Thicke. If friends of Jack's Mannequin had purchased the album at the same rate Robin Thicke friends bought his record, they would have sold about 104,000 units. The band's MySpace page had streamed over 14 million songs to date and is currently doing less than 100,000 streams per day. That's $1,000 per day at a penny per stream. With a 20/80 split on the album (a bit higher because it's rock) that's first-week revenue of about $467,600 without taking into account a la carte track purchases and ringtones. That's only $2.21 per MySpace friend.

• T.I.: 0.263 albums per MySpace friend, 0.026 MySpace friends/profile views
• Thicke: 0.491 albums per MySpace friend, 0.0327 MySpace friends/profile views
• Jack's Mannequin: 0.23 albums per MySpace friend

Peep the original article from Coolfer Here

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Don't Vote

Pimp my Piragua

The NY Times has a niece piece(w/video) on Puerto Rican artist Miguel Luciano's new project "Pimp My Piragua." Miguel is one of my favorite artists. His work addresses the "playful and painful exchanges between Puerto Rico and the United States, questioning the efficacy of a colonial relationship that continues to exist today." If you haven't seen his other work, you must. His Pure Plantainum project is one of my favorites.

Luciano's "Pimp my Piragua" project is currently being exhibited in the Queens Museum of Art

Here is some more of Miguel's other work:

"Luciano critically reconstructs, subverts and establishes
new hierarchies, meanings and allegories that redefine
the Puerto Rican paradigm."
-Juan Sánchez

For more info on Miguel click Here

Kanye West - Love Lockdown (Mysto & Pizzi Electro House Remix)

Dope Remix...Props to Kanye for releasing the stems

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hipster Rap

Been meaning to post this for a while.....Jay Smooth gives us his take on "Hipster Rap."

Lil Wayne, A Tribe Called Quest - A Milli (The Sample)

Pew/Internet: African Americans and the Internet

African Americans and the Internet

Tom Spooner
Lee Rainie

While there has been strong growth, African-American adults still lag far behind their peers in other ethnic groups. This growth has been primarily driven by women, creating a notable gender gap that isn’t found in other ethnic user populations. Also, the African-American Internet population is younger, has more modest incomes and a higher proportion of users without college diplomas. When African-Americans go online, looking for information that is beneficial to their lives, like searching for a new job or place to live, is especially popular. Entertainment features online are also popular, which is most likely a result of the relative youthfulness of the African-American Internet population. Because of the relative inexperience of the average African-American user, the Web has not been fully integrated into his or her daily life. African-Americans are less likely to use the Internet on a daily basis and also spend less time online than their peers.

View the full report Here

More to Come

Haven't been posting regularly because I've been out of the country most of the summer, more posts to come soon. Here are a few of my pics from Puerto Rico....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Runnin' Scared From Brooklyn, a Rap Campaign Against Tight Clothes

Runnin' Scared
From Brooklyn, a Rap Campaign Against Tight Clothes
You can call their rhymes tight, just not their jeans
by Arcynta Ali Childs
June 24th, 2008 12:00 AM

If clothes make the man, do tight clothes make the man a homosexual? A Brooklyn-based rap group thinks the current trend in hip-hop—medium tees and sagging jeans cinched tightly below the hips—is causing some confusion. And they are not alone.

Members of the rap group Thug Slaughter Force—three brothers and two friends calling themselves Drama, Filthy, Tempa, Rebel, and Blanco the Don—walk the streets of Brooklyn in XL T-shirts with the words "Tight Clothes" slashed through with a red stripe: their message of protest against what they see as the move away from traditional baggy clothing and toward tighter-fitting outfits in today's hip-hop. The "No Tight Clothes" campaign is their latest idea in a decade of trying to make it in the rap game.

"Where'd you get that shirt from?" yells Elijah Bilal, sitting outside Lalove Uniform on Fulton Street. "Bring me one!" the 40-year-old adds, and then offers a reporter his own observation about the direction of hip-hop attire: "The tight clothes—what, the boys is gay now? Boys walking around thinking they girls, girls walking around thinking they boys . . . No wonder all the girls are dating girls—because the boys are gay!"

And Bilal isn't alone in his analysis. "I like that shirt," says a 28-year-old NYPD officer on foot who didn't want to be named. "This movement of everyone wearing tight-fitting clothes—it's not nice."

"That's a beautiful thing," says 26-year-old Thug Slaughter Force member Tempa. "You walk through the street and don't have to say nothing—the product sells itself."

Besides the shirts for sale, TSF are also promoting themselves with (no surprise) a YouTube video, which shows scores of young people wearing their own shirts and leaping to the lyrics of TSF's anthem, "No Tight Clothes."

The video opens with an over-the-top "Slaughter General's Warning": "Wearing tight clothes by men may result in feminine tendencies, homosexuality, possible yeast infection, severe hemorrhoids, permanent wedgies, and genetically inherited transsexual characteristics in your son."

And then come the lyrics:

Take them tight-ass fuckin' clothes off

That shit ain't gangsta, nigga

We don't wear tight clothes . . . we let it hang!

. . . Shirt extra-small and you six feet tall

Lookin' like you got your pants off a Ken doll

Silk speedo cheetah-print Superman drawers . . .

. . . And what the fuck is this shit?

Rude boy rockin' Prada

Rhinestones on his collar

Cowboy belt buckle with a chain like a rocker

You forgot you was Rasta

You need to puff on the ganja. . . .

Are these rappers for real? "It basically boils down to: You are in a homosexual attire, and you are claiming to be something else," says 28-year-old TSF member Blanco the Don. "That's what I have a problem with—not the homosexualism. You're a front artist, and you're promoting homosexuality with your actions and dress code, but you're promoting gangster lifestyle with your lyrics. The two don't match up."

To be clear, the "you" he's referring to are the artists who set trends—the ones who wear rhinestones, big belt buckles, tight shirts, and small jackets, and carry "man bags."

"It's a string of rappers with the man bag . . . calling it a 'man bag,' but you're wearing a purse," says Tempa. Blanco and Tempa both say that the language of the "Warning" is meant in jest, but not everyone is convinced.

"I think it's offensive," says Park Slope resident Jenny Brauer. "It's homophobic, inflammatory, and highly prejudicial." Although, she added, "there is a humorous aspect to this; it's not lost on me."

Blanco, for his part, insists that "it's not a gay-bashing movement." On the other hand, he added, "if you are homosexual, you are not gangsta. There's nothing gangster about being homosexual."

Homophobia in rap is nothing new, of course. And there's a growing awareness of homosexuality in hip-hop.

"You walk in urban communities [like] Harlem, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and you see these young people walking around with pants sagging way down below their ass cheeks and underwear showing—what are you selling? That's much more homoerotic than fitted jeans," says Terrance Dean, author of Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry—from Music to Hollywood, a book that electrified the music industry when it was published last month and hinted at the homosexuality of numerous unnamed music figures.

"It just so happens that heterosexual people are always emulating gay style," Dean says. "Most stylists are gay," and, he points out, those styles then make their way from international runways to inner- city neighborhoods. "I don't think it necessarily correlates with people being gay or feminine," he adds. "I think it's just fashion and hip-hop go hand in hand."

But he doesn't share TSF's fashion sense: "It's about time that people started wearing clothes that fit."

Among some residents of Brooklyn, however, this is a minority view. One such young man, emerging from the Brooklyn Courthouse in a Boston Celtics jersey stopped briefly to talk with Blanco and Tempa and, upon hearing they were rappers, even kicked a little rhyme: "As I reminisce/with two of my bros/tell them niggas/don't wear no tight clothes!"

Here's the video for TSF's "NO TIGHT CLOTHES"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lil Wayne and the Afronaut Invasion

Lil Wayne and the Afronaut Invasion
Why have so many black musicians been obsessed with outer space?

By Jonah Weiner
Posted Friday, June 20, 2008, at 1:50 PM ET
In 1927, the Rev. A.W. Nix, a preacher from Birmingham, Ala., entered a recording studio to commit several of his sermons to wax. He intended to release them commercially on the burgeoning gospel-music circuit. A Southern Baptist, Nix had an ear for the musical possibilities of oratory and a taste for fire and brimstone. His sermons, delivered in the rich, ravaged singsong of a Delta bluesman, bore darkly chastening titles like "Death Might Be Your Christmas Gift" and "The Prayer Meeting in Hell." Tucked into this catalog of apocalyptic warnings, though, was "The White Flyer to Heaven," a rapturous, six-minute homily about riding a spaceship piloted by Jesus up to the pearly gates: "Higher and higher! And higher! We'll pass on to the Second Heaven, the starry big Heaven, and view the flying stars and dashing meteors and then pass on by Mars and Mercury, and Jupiter and Venus and Saturn and Uranus, and Neptune with her four glittering moons."

"White Flyer to Heaven" is probably the earliest recorded evidence of a phenomenon that's persevered in black music ever since: Call it the Afronaut tradition. Last Tuesday, rapper Lil Wayne put this tradition atop the pop charts with his No. 1-debuting album Tha Carter III, which sold a stunning 1,005,545 copies in its first week. Lil Wayne starts from a hardened gangsta-rap template, but outer space has figured into his increasingly loopy songs for more than a year now: During the 2006 freestyle "Dough Is What I Got," he claimed Martian provenance in a boast about his otherworldly skills; on the woozy 2007 drug track "I Feel Like Dying," he imagined playing "basketball with the moon," adding, "I can mingle with the stars and throw a party on Mars." On Tha Carter III, Wayne devotes an entire song, "Phone Home," to the subject of his alien origins: "We are not the same, I am a Martian," he announces in an E.T.-inflected croak.

The last rapper to post comparable first-week sales was Kanye West (957,000), who is currently traveling the world with a space-themed tour titled Glow in the Dark; West's set features a rocket ship named Jane, animatronic shooting stars, and a stage designed to resemble rocky, lunar terrain. The Afronaut has been a hip-hop trope since Afrika Bambaataa recorded "Planet Rock" in 1982, but this is the first time it's occupied such a significant spot in the pop mainstream.

Many white rockers—Pink Floyd and David Bowie, most prominently—have taken to the cosmos for inspiration, but space has played a particularly vital role in the articulation of African-American musical identity. As a worldview, Afronautics began to take form in the late 1930s with a Birmingham-born college student named Herman Poole Blount. While meditating one afternoon, Blount said, he was beamed to Saturn by friendly aliens, who explained that his purpose in life was to speak truths of the universe through music. By the late 1950s—around the same time that Sputnik went into orbit—Blount had renamed himself Sun Ra, claimed Saturn as his true birthplace, and formed an elaborately costumed jazz collective called the Arkestra, specializing in noisy jams full of chants about space ways, satellites, and, in one of Ra's most-quoted formulations, "other planes of there." In songs, poems, and interviews, Sun Ra mapped out the fuzzy contours of his philosophy, which combined mystical futurism with an interest in ancient Egyptian civilization, and found sympathetic ears among avant-gardists, psychedelia heads, and hippies.

Ra grew up an outsider twice over: once for his refusal to participate in military service during World War II, which earned him brief imprisonment and ostracism from his family, and again for the simple fact of being black in the American South. We can glimpse the psychological framework of his space obsession through the lens of his alienation. His 1972 poem "Tomorrow's Realm" mixes images of solitude, slavery, and cosmic escape:

I'll build a world of otherness …
Other-abstract-natural design
And wait for you.
In tomorrow's realm
We'll take the helm
of a new ship
Like the lash of a whip, we'll be suddenly
on the way.

The whip's appearance in this fantasy brings to mind a compelling formulation from "Black to the Future," a 1993 essay on black sci-fi by cultural critic Mark Dery: "African Americans are, in a very real sense, the descendants of alien abductees." In Ra's mythology, the future is inextricable from the past: His spaceship carries the specter of the slave ship within itself.

Another likely influence on Sun Ra—and a considerable influence on many hip-hop stars of the late '80s and early '90s—was the Nation of Islam, whose pamphleteers the jazzman associated with in '50s Chicago. Sun Ra never claimed membership in the Nation of Islam, and he disagreed with many of its teachings; still, his encounters with the group are interesting, since a racialized cosmology is central to both his and the NOI's beliefs. In Elijah Muhammad's 1965 tract Message to the Blackman in America, Muhammad writes of a massive "mother plane"—built by ancient black scientists and containing inside its metal hull "fifteen hundred bombing planes with most deadliest explosives"—that hovers above Earth, poised to rain damnation upon "the white man's evil world."

Echoes of Sun Ra and NOI are audible in the music of George Clinton, who must have had both in mind when he transformed Parliament from a doo-wop group into a mother-ship-worshipping acid-funk congregation in the 1970s. Clinton's mother ship, of course, was likelier to drop megatons of booty and cocaine than warheads, but hedonism wasn't the only goal. In the opening bars of "Mother Ship Connection," Clinton announces, "We have returned to claim the pyramids"—a nod to paleocontact theories, which hypothesize that ancient astronauts shared technological secrets with North Africans. Perceptible in this ripple of the Afronaut impulse is the yearning for and fantastical reclamation of an ennobling African history: A trip to space doubles as a return to roots.

The Afronaut universe, of course, comprises more performers than those mentioned here and extends beyond music, from the hero of Brother From Another Planet to Astronaut Jones, Tracy Morgan's ridiculous SNL creation. Where hip-hop is concerned, though, the first Afronaut to speak of is Afrika Bambaataa. A gang leader turned community activist and DJ, Bambaataa spun Parliament-Funkadelic records alongside reggae, techno, and rock vinyl and wore elaborate African-Samurai-Cherokee-cyborg costumes doubtless inspired by the Arkestra. In the burnt-out South Bronx of the early '80s, Bambaataa's Afronaut mythology—championing Zulu valor and an interstellar utopianism—offered both racial pride and an escapist-hatch out of the bleak, inner-city quotidian.

Ironically, a George Clinton fan named Dr. Dre helped push space to hip-hop's margins for the better part of a decade. In 1988, Dre co-produced Straight Outta Compton, the epochal album by ur-gangsta-rap posse N.W.A, which made the group's stone-faced "reality rap" hip-hop's dominant perspective. Cosmic journeys became fanciful departures from hip-hop's so-called "true" locus, the flesh-and-blood, asphalt-and-concrete street. In the mid-to-late-'90s, bling-era hip-hop supplanted gangsta rap, trading an exaggerated narrative of urban despair for an exaggerated narrative of upward mobility—but not the sort you get from a shuttle blastoff.

Rappers continued to construct Afronaut fantasies, of course. Underground New York MC Kool Keith fashioned himself a star-humping Marquis de Sade; Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott filled music videos with cyberpunk imagery and goofy zero-gravity effects. But Atlanta duo OutKast did more than anyone else to put the Afronaut back on the hip-hop radar. OutKast's 1996 album, ATLiens, came packaged with a comic book in which rappers Big Boi and Andre 3000, armed with holographic lions and purity of spirit, battle an alien warlord named Nosamilli. When OutKast announced that they were "extraterrestrials" in their songs, their purpose was twofold. As Southerners, they'd been excluded from hip-hop's dominant East/West axis, and they sought to turn that outsider status into a weapon. But just as important, these students of Funkadelic and Prince, bored by the conservatism of steely thugs and dollar-eyed hustlers, were arguing for the rightful place in hip-hop of that crucial figure in black postwar pop, the boa-sporting, id-unleashing, out-of-this-world freak.

So, what does space mean to Lil Wayne, the biggest Afronaut in the world right now? When he says he was born on Mars, it's a brag: He means it takes an alien system of thought to conduct his chaotic assault on sound, rhythm, and meaning. But Wayne's Afronautic vision goes beyond this. He redefines what it means to be a gun-toting gangsta, importing the anarchic values of a black spaceman: For him, space seems to signify the excesses of emotion, imagination, and appetite banging around his body and brain, dark matter the gangsta-realist idiom typically excludes. Whereas Jay-Z and 50 Cent boast about focus and composure, Wayne allows himself to sound genuinely unhinged—sobbing, spewing gibberish, breaking into fits of laughter. And whereas many rappers talk about destroying their competition, Wayne is certainly the first to fantasize so extensively about munching on his.* On "Phone Home," he raps, "I just eat them for supper, get in my spaceship, and hover." Any gangsta can level a Glock at his enemies. It takes a Martian to whip out the cutlery.

Correction, June 23, 2008: The article originally stated that Lil Wayne was the first hip-hop artist to fantasize about munching on his competition. In fact, other rappers have contemplated consuming their rivals. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Jonah Weiner is a senior editor at Blender and has written about music for the Village Voice and the New York Times.
Article URL:

Friday, June 20, 2008

One Man Beat Box Band

Gentrification in Brooklyn, One Bodega at a Time

Gentrification in Brooklyn, One Bodega at a Time
by Lisa Chow

NEW YORK, NY —Rising rents and housing prices are changing this city. Much of the discussion has focused on the residents moving out of certain neighborhoods and into others. WNYC’s Lisa Chow looks at businesses at the front edge of gentrification in Brooklyn, and sees how they’re managing the change.

REPORTER: The Papa and Sons bodega stands at the busy corner of Flatbush Avenue and Lincoln Road, an express stop on the B-Q train. On the same block, there’s a new coffee shop and restaurant. Both opened last year, replacing a Trinidadian restaurant and a hair salon catering to black women. The bodega is trying to adjust to the new customers in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

CROUSSET: White people, they like a lot of organic

REPORTER: Francesco Crousset has been running Papa and Sons for 12 years. He started stocking organic milk a few months ago.

CROUSSET: This neighborhood we have everything. We have blacks, Hispanics, Arabs, Caucasians, Jamaicans, Haitians. So when they come to us, I don’t like to say I don’t have.

REPORTER: On this afternoon, most people come in to play the lotto.

CROUSSET: They’re looking for the 177 million today.

REPORTER: Lester Johnson shops at Papa and Sons 3 times a week. He’s lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade.

JOHNSON: It has what I want. It may not have everything I want but it has basically milk. Some of the vegetables are not bad. Some of the canned foods you get is not bad.

REPORTER: It’s also a stop for Rashad Hines, who goes to school a few blocks away. He’s 13.

HINES: The store it makes great sandwiches cause like, they always melt the cheese. That tastes real good. They got real nice people in the store like if we don’t have enough money, they just let you go.

REPORTER: The manager says his top selling items are …

CROUSSET: Sugar, coffee and soup. You know, like canned soup. Like Campbell’s. That’s fast fast.

REPORTER: That, may change. Bilal Solmaz runs Pacific Green Gourmet, a corner grocery store in Brooklyn’s fully gentrified Cobble Hill.

SOLMAZ: Now we are selling fancy fancy soup. It’s called Wolfgang Puck. You know him, right?

REPORTER: Solmaz walks over to his soup section, where you can get all kinds of varieties of Wolfgang Puck soup.

SOLMAZ: Before we had this, we had Campbell’s and Progresso. I had those. And I put them away because they don’t sell. They just stay there forever. Campbell’s especially.

REPORTER: He canceled those product lines in 2002.

SOLMAZ: I put them on the shelf. I put like crazy price, 99 cents. Just get rid of them you know. And I get this Wolfgang Puck. There is organic. There is regular. And it sells great. My customers are happy. I’m happy and Mr. Wolfgang Puck is happy.

REPORTER: Solmaz says when customers suggest new products, which they do every day, he researches them, gets samples from suppliers, and watches to see if they sell in his store. He works with more than 200 suppliers. He goes to Manhattan on his days off, to see how stores there are stocking their shelves. He prefers to have stuff that nearby stores don’t have, so that he’s not competing on price. And with his limited store space, there’s a tradeoff in every decision he makes. For example, he’d rather sell Spanish-imported tuna for 20 dollars, than 99 cent-tuna.

SOLMAZ: I don’t work for 40 cents. You have limited space. You cannot waste your two line, half of your shelf for 40 cents.

REPORTER: Solmaz wouldn’t give specific sales numbers, but he did offer a minimum. He says the store brings in at least two and a half million dollars a year. The store in Prospect Lefferts Gardens has double the space but brings in a million dollars less. The manager there explains where he goes to get ideas for new products.

CROUSSET: I go to Park Slope because it’s an area where there are more white people. I see the merchandise that they have in the stores, and it’s something I’d like to have too.

REPORTER: Jennifer Sun moved to the neighborhood from the Upper West Side, eight months ago. She says she goes to Papa and Sons when she needs something quick, or when her car’s stuck in the snow and she can’t go out to Park Slope or Costco. She says with a few changes, the store could attract more business from residents like her.

SUN: The location is awesome. It’s right on the corner but the outward appearance and inside appearance of the store isn’t as clean as we go to a C-Town or we go to another grocery store in Park Slope.

REPORTER: The manager says he’s planning a full renovation of the store this fall.

CROUSSET: I want to fix the floors, fix the aisles, the shelves, and the refrigerators.

SUN: Their mix of items is so great. The fact that they have so many low end products that totally don’t appeal to us make me feel like they’re in this transition of trying to serve 2 different populations of people. You know for example, they’ll have a can of spam, which I know is very popular for some people but we would never eat that. And you know, part of me says I would not want to go to a grocery store that sells that.

REPORTER: Not stocking certain items doesn’t appear to be on this manager’s to-do list.

CROUSSET: As I add products that my white customers want, my business grows. At the same time I still have the products that my black and Hispanic customers use.

REPORTER: The neighborhood is at a crossroads. Crousset knows his rent’s going to go up and he’ll need to increase his profits, so each decision he makes right now is critical. Spending 100-thousand dollars to renovate the store may mean a loan, and more risk. Right now he works with 10 suppliers. He’ll have to build new relationships as he sells more products. Doreen Howe moved here a year ago from Park Slope and she offers her wish list.

HOWE: Definitely coffee beans, different kinds of bread products that are a little more, it doesn’t even need to be organic, but a little more varied, the cheeses, and I guess organic vegetables.

CROUSSET: Maybe she no see, the other side …

REPORTER: I told Crousset she wanted organic vegetables. Crousset walks me over to another aisle. He points to rows of canned vegetables.

CROUSSET: You see organic sweet pea, organic green bean, organic Kenney corn. You see, we start.

REPORTER: But do you have any organic fresh vegetables?

CROUSSET: This one I have to ask the person at the market. I don’t know. Do they have organic fresh vegetables?

REPORTER: He says now, he has to make those orders too.

For WNYC, I’m Lisa Chow.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hispanics suffer highest workplace death rates

Hispanics suffer highest workplace death rates

Thu Jun 5, 2008 3:23pm EDT
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hispanic workers in the United States are killed at work at a 25 percent higher rate than other U.S. workers with many deaths coming in construction, federal health officials said on Thursday.

Hispanics disproportionately take dangerous jobs like construction. Some may hesitate to speak up about safety hazards and may accept risky tasks for fear of being fired, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The most common causes of death were falls at construction sites and roadway incidents including crashes or being hit by a car while working on a road crew, the CDC said. Deaths from workplace falls increased about 370 percent from 1992 to 2006.

The report tracked Hispanic workplace fatalities of U.S. citizens, legal immigrants or illegal immigrants.

Immigration has become a potent political issue in the United States where about 12 million illegal immigrants live, many from Mexico, Central America and South America.

In 2006, the death rate for Hispanics was 5 per 100,000 workers, compared with 4 per 100,000 for all workers, 4 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites and 3.7 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic blacks, the CDC said.

Hispanics are the nation's fastest-growing minority. There were 19.6 million Hispanic workers in the United States in 2006, 56 percent of them foreign born.

They have become an increasingly important source of labor in U.S. construction.

An analysis of construction deaths found that Hispanic workers had higher rates than non-Hispanics in the same occupations such as laborers or roofers, the CDC said.

Dr. Sherry Baron of the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said inadequate training and supervision of workers, often made worse by language barriers or literacy problems, were factors behind this trend.

From 1992 to 2006, 11,303 Hispanic workers -- 95 percent of them men -- died due to workplace injuries, accounting for about 13 percent of overall such deaths in the United States.

The CDC said 67 percent of Hispanics killed in job injuries were foreign born, almost three quarters from Mexico. It said the work-related injury death rate for foreign-born Hispanic workers is about 70 percent higher than U.S.-born Hispanics.

The highest job fatality rates for Hispanics were in South Carolina (22.8 per 100,000 Hispanic workers), Oklahoma, Georgia and Tennessee, the CDC said.

(Editing by Alan Elsner and Maggie Fox)

For a link to the original article click Here

Murdoch of Fox News Admits Manipulating the News for Agenda

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dancehall and Doiley Boyz: dancehall and its rituals in Jamaican Culture

Dope exhibit, definitely worth checking out if you're in chi town.

Dancehall and Doiley Boyz
dancehall and its rituals in Jamaican culture

By Terry Glover

Ebony G. Patterson is a Jamaican artist exploring issues of gender, body and cultural identity. Her Dancehall Series, included in the Art Chicago exhibition this spring, is especially striking for its depictions of Jamaican dancehall culture and the practice of skin bleaching among its men. Holding a place very much like hiphop in the United States, dancehall has been criticized for its violent, misoginist, and homophobic stance. Patterson takes these cultural notions and addresses them in a way that allows for no response other than candid discussion. She sat down with to explain the origins and evolution of the series.

Describe your objectives in creating the Dancehall series.
The Dancehall series explores masculinity but as it relates to dancehall space within Jamaican culture -- the quintessential idea of what it is to be male, and how notions of homosexuality function there.

My explorations talking about bodies in general as objects, especially in terms of limbs, a removal of parts, more of an object, we can see the body.

For the last couple of years I’ve been exploring that notion with skin bleaching, I’ve always had an interest in discussions of beauty and the grotesque and the objectification, something more urgent to speak to. I am a huge supporter of dancehall culture and have been scrutinized by my colleagues for my support of dancehall. Colleagues would get at me for being interested in the music. Could be me becoming a little older and therefore a little wiser, but I can appreciate certain aspects. This unapologetic stance it takes – very raw, very in your face. That’s the essence of dancehall.

And your work…
Thank you. Always felt it was my responsibility to confront my audience and have them question the way they see things and the discussion that’s going on between my work and them.

Dancehall is coming under a lot of scrutiny now. But, it’s very different when you immerse yourself in the space.

I’m thinking about what happens in a lot of songs and what happens in terms of gender relationships within dancehall and how that echoes out into Jamaican society. By extension it’s quite difficult. Here in the States, Black men are expected to be aggressive, powerful, aggression is measured for what it means to be black – very very sad.

I decided to take these people who are put on a platform within that dancehall space -- worship of a don or a “shotta” -- a bad man -- and peel it down to the very feminine, beautiful men using all of the things that are within the dance hall vernacular. Particularly as it relates to the rise of skin bleaching among these guys. Such a work, I thought, would call into question what it means to be masculine.

Bleaching used to be predominantly among women – at one point men doing this was considered gay. Now, it’s far more popular among men and the women have been marginalized. Bleaching used to be for purposes of social mobility. Now people involved in illegal activities are doing it.

When did you start focusing on the practice as a subject for your work?
About two years ago. One of my friends’ family members was bleaching – a young boy – about 2 years ago, I had driven on the street to drop off my friend, and here was this tall silhouette, dark skin and I saw this yellow glow in the dark. Who is that? I was in total shock. Here was this incredibly beautiful young man with the most amazing skin who saw it necessary to bleach his face.

So I did a photo shoot and sat with them to find out why they were doing this. This was the wrong crowd, They were not bleaching skin, putting on a suit and going uptown for work. Something else was motivating it.

I wanted to discuss how beauty meets criminality. There was an article in the Jamaican Gleaner about criminals bleaching skin to elude the police -- all very interesting to me at the time. It wasn’t until going downtown to teach at the summer camps that I would see a lot more of these men with brown faces and dark necks. So, I started with the premise of just painting what I saw. Which evolved to ‘what if I took mug shots of criminals – to see wouldn’t it be interesting to see what the criminals in mug shots would look like?’ Straddling the line between criminality and beauty.

This, of course, depends on what parts of dancehall we’re talking about. Not Sean Paul, but gangsta lyrics called “gun lyrics,” a lyrical assassination. But even outside of gun lyrics, sometimes you hear DJs applauding or bigging up persons who are wanted by the police – a “shotta” essentially a shooter, a bad man.

My interest in doing this project really had a lot more to do with looking at issues of gender, ideas of beauty and how the grotesque is now sought after as beauty -- kind of the emasculation of black identity thru the skimming of pigmentation. Almost see people who bleach skin as hybrid beings.

A cultural hybrid?

In some ways, yes.

There was a show back home, “Our Voices” and during one show, they brought 2 or 3 people who had been bleaching their skin and brought on a doctor to talk about the effects and why they should stop. One guy was incredibly dark naturally, and he was pink. He had bleached his entire body, straightened his hair, and according to Jamaican constructs he was unequivocally gay. He took metrosexuality to a whole other level.

The interviewers asked about daily regimen – buying creams in cases, “If I have a dance coming up in 2 weeks, we’ll bleach intensely for the next 2 weeks because being brown has a particular cleanness to it.”

The Michael Jackson bleaching cream was a favorite of his.

These creams are loaded w/ steroids. Some are legal and fine to use on market, a lot of third world countries are dumping grounds for inferior products. Britain has a heavy crackdown on illegal, steroid based cream. The Minister of Health has had an anti-bleaching campaign going on for a while. Once you stop bleaching, you go back to your original color, but it’s a very unnatural hue.

But, even if they were to get all creams – legal and illegal – people know how to make their own concoctions. Some use bleach – household detergent. I’ve also been told about yellow curry – very popular in the Caribbean – mix a little curry in. People are incredibly creative in the way they go about creating these concoctions.

Aside from the health hazards, do the guys understand the negative implications bleaching carries?
As far as younger people are concerned, it has nothing to do with social mobility or self hatred. The guys I interviewed said its all about reinventing self, a new self image. They get tired of the same look. They will tell you, “I‘m not bleaching because I hate myself.” They are very proud.

When I was growing up, if you were a man who pierced your ear, it was frowned upon – incredibly feminine. Eventually it became accepted that piercing the right side was OK, The left side? Homosexual. Interesting that the once homosexual has now been taken up by homophobic men. One of the ironies of the Black community.

But it still doesn’t change mentality or attitudes about the way we determine what happens among genders within Black families. White families don’t relate masculinity to a particular level of aggression.

Have any of the dancehall guys seen your finished work?
No, this body of work has not seen Jamaica yet. Earlier this year I was invited to do installation at National Gallery. Photos I’d taken of two young men were used in the installation. Lot of response from art community.

But, dancehall isn’t integrated into the mainstream in the same way hiphop is here. There is no interests in visual expression of dancehall – it is strictly about the music, maybe the fashion. There has always been an incredible divide between uptown and downtown. They are poor people -- don’t need to worry about that. Bringing a piece like this that brings this problem into an “elitist” space reveals something to an audience they may not have been aware of it. It will open up their eyes a lot more, so not so much a lost cause.

What about The Doiley Boyz?
I’m expanding the series. It’s the same thing as with males but with young male boys as subjects. Skin bleaching is affecting a much younger age range now. I’m interested in the implications of how men’s experiences affect younger boys.

I’m always thinking of the repetitious nature of making something that’s incredibly delicate, beautiful. I wanted to find an object that was domestic in relation to the feminine. I started with silhouette cut-outs of boys’ portraits – all on doilies, very floral. So again, aligning with the feminine, which I thought appropriate.

What’s next?
I just worked on my first video installation in Kentucky “Another Dance” about dancehall sound clash culture (when two sound systems – many people -- “Stone Love” is one of the oldest collide) “Murder ‘Pon a Sound Boy” – the lyrics are quite violent, but people continue dancing on this very beautiful background.

I felt like there was something incredibly earnest that nobody was talking about. Not my objective to do something sensationalist, but it is my responsibility to talk about what is going on in my country. To talk about it and what do we really consider to be Jamaican and how does this contribute to the way we are constructing our identity.

I’m working on my first curatorial project, bringing in several Jamaican artists who explore identity as relates to gender, as relates to identity. Thought it would be interesting to have a visual conversation to talk about these things that aren’t articulated enough -- self and understanding who we are as a people. Eventually we start to carbon copy everything. We’ve lost a lot of things that were inherently Caribbean. The question has always been thrown out to young people about not being “Caribbean enough” by our parents. What does that mean? If it comes from us, it’s still Jamaican.

I am passionately Jamaican, even when the shit is hitting the fan. If everybody leaves, how will things get better? My work has always, in one way or another, dealt with issues of identity and notions of body politics and the way I see myself within the space I exist in – Jamaica.

I don’t know how much more Jamaican I can get.

For a slideshow click Here

Terry Glover is Senior Editor for She writes about art, culture and popular trends.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Former VP Candidate Fails to See Her Own White Privilege

June 4, 2008

Former VP Candidate Fails to See Her Own White Privilege
By Adam Mansbach

"Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama's historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you're white you can't open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment."

When former Vice Presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro made the remarks to which she refers in her May 30 Boston Globe op-ed, pundits and commentators across the ideological spectrum consistently fell all over themselves to avoid accusing her of racism. Seldom in political life has the sinner been granted so much immediate distance from her sin.

What Ferraro actually said bears little resemblance to the facile pseudo-summary she offers in her editorial. Her comments were not about "the influence of blacks" on the Obama campaign. Her exact words to a California newspaper were "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," and she defended them by arguing that she, likewise, would not have been on the 1984 Democratic ticket if not for her gender.

Ferraro appeared not to recognize the obvious difference between being appointed to a ticket, as she was, and winning a record number of primary votes across the entire nation, as Obama has. In the days following her initial remarks, she claimed, as in her Boston Globe op-ed, that "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

Ludicrous-and sad. Ferraro has officially ruined her own obituary by adding a crimson asterisk of aggressively divisive, ill-informed, race-baiting to her own trailblazing career in public service. More important than assessing the magnitude of her self-destruction, though, is examining the notion she puts forth: that whites in America have been rendered voiceless, that "you can't open your mouth without being labeled a racist," that to be black is to be 'lucky' (to paraphrase another of her comments about Obama).

I have no problem believing that people have been stopping Ferraro - although I suspect 'sidling up to' would be more accurate - to voice this 'common sentiment.' It is one that cuts to the heart of a crucial, under-examined aspect of America's problem with race: the deeply-held conviction, on the part of many whites, that they have been marginalized, treated 'unfairly,' and cannot speak honestly about it. That they, despite all appearances to the contrary, represent the new racial underclass.

Obama himself, in his landmark address on race, noted that many whites do not feel significantly advantaged because of the color of their skin. In the single greatest misstep of that speech, he put this sentiment - the resentment, fueled by a lack of opportunity, felt by the critical Democratic voting block of working-class whites - on a par with the ravaging effects of institutional racism on people of color.

Implicit in the white resentment Obama identified, of course, is whites' belief that they should be significantly advantaged because of their race. The entitlement they feel no longer squares with reality, and thus they feel cheated in a way they dare not articulate.

So, meanwhile, do their children. One of the most fascinating trends of the last thirty years is the way cultural capital and hard capital have diverged. American coolness is coded, more than ever, as American blackness, and young whites all over the country - many of them with little or no personal access to black people but with extensive cable TV packages - assume, based on the signifiers flashing on their screens, that blackness equals flashy, sexy wealth.

They feel locked out of the possibility of attaining that (imaginary) lifestyle, because of their skin color. This strikes them as oppressive, and fuels a silent resentment. They have no language with which to discuss it, and no interest in looking at the reams of evidence that would prove to them just how wrong they are - the inheritance of wealth, for instance, or the rates of home-ownership, traditional markers of prosperity that reveal just how privileged whites remain relative to blacks.

The supposed unfairness of affirmative action may be their parents' signature racial issue; the difficulty of crafting a strong cultural identity as a young white person in this country is theirs.

Both are important to examine, but we can only do so against a backdrop of understanding the far more pernicious and persistent reality of institutional racism - a cancer metastasizing through the educational system, the justice and penal systems, law enforcement, and every other aspect of American life. It is this reality that Ferraro and her nameless common-sentiment-expressers fail to see - the essence of white privilege lies in not even realizing you have it - or to address honestly.

Instead, Ferraro rails against a racial gag order even as she proves unaffected by it, citing a silent-majority of whites able to muster outrage at their own 'unfair treatment' without acknowledging anyone else's. She denies their 'racism, but acknowledges and justifies their 'racial resentment.' Which is different how, exactly?

Adam Mansbach is the author of the novels The End of the Jews (Spiegel & Grau, 2008) and Angry Black White Boy (Crown, 2005).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Complaint at UN for death of Ojeda Ríos

The Associated Press
May 31, 2008

The Puerto Rico chapter of the American Association of Jurists will present to the United Nations (U.N.) in June a complaint against the Government of the United States for what they understand to be the execution of Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

The organization, through attorneys Fermín Arraiza and Ricardo Alfonso, will also appear between June 2 and 6 before the U.N. Human Rights Council to denounce this act and obtain support from other non-governmental organizations for the complaint.

“We will go there to denounce the assassination of Filiberto Ojeda and the cover-up by governmental authorities,” said Hiram Lozada, president of the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Association of Jurists.

The U.N. investigator before whom the complaint will be submitted at the end of June will be Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

To press for profound investigation

“We will include in the denunciation the federal government’s refusal to give any type of relevant information so that an impartial and profound investigation could be conducted,” Arraiza stated.

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice resorted, with no success, all the way to the United States Supreme Court, seeking to oblige the U.S. government to offer the information under its control about the death of Ojeda Ríos at the hands of an FBI agent in an operation to arrest him in 2005 in Hormigueros.

Arraiza elaborated that the investigator may receive a complaint about the Ojeda Ríos case, even though the investigations under way in the Island have not terminated and even though all local government remedies have not been exhausted.

Once the rapporteur receives the complaint, he will notify the United States government, and the U.S. Department of State must extend to Alston a formal invitation to travel to Puerto Rico to carry out his investigation.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Si Permítame: Reggaeton Currents

So I'm a big music head & one of my favorite genres of music is Reggaeton. I've been studying Reggaeton for about 4 years now and wrote my undergraduate senior thesis on the it( Representations of ‘Blackness’ and Racial Identity in Puerto Rico: Reggaeton Shifts the Periphery… Racismo Al’Garete). I haven't really been keeping up with most new stuff because of school, but the other day I got a chance to listen to a few new tracks. Two that struck me were Tony Dize's "Permitame" and Daddy Yankee's "Pose." The two tracks are sonically very different from traditionally Reggaeton, the dembow is almost non-existant & the music is at a much faster tempo. The tracks intrigued me, especially Tony Dize's song, which reminded me of a Timberland produced Justin Timberlake track. So I decided to hit up my friend & Ethnomusicologist/Producer/MC/DJ, Wayne Marshall & ask him to lend his musical ear to the songs. Here is the follow-up:

I wrote:
So the other day I was listening to Tony Dize’s new album “La Melodia de la Calle” & one track struck me. The song “Permitame” feat. Yandel, which also happens to be the 1st single off the album is a completely different sound for Tony Dize & I would argue much of Reggaeton. The track is infused with Timbaland/Timberlake type sounds & I could envision someone like Justin Timberlake singing over this track & it being a hit.

I was wondering if you could lend your musical ear to the track & let me know what you think. I haven’t been on my Reggaeton game as much as I used to, my MA thesis is has been taking up most of my time, so maybe this track is something not out of the ordinary. Anyway, I find it musically intriguing & wonder if this American Pop style of Reggaeton (is it even Reggaeton anymore?) could possibly be a new wave of the genre? The track is getting a lot of play in PR & is making its way to the radio here in the states, I heard it the other day on “La Kalle” here in Chicago.

I also asked Wayne to check out Daddy Yankee's track "Pose"

Here's Wayne's Response:

Hey Tito,
These are some interesting examples. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. They definitely depart from recent orthodoxy in reggaeton (though perhaps suggest an emerging new orthodoxy). For one, they’re faster than a lot of reggaeton ca. 03-07; instead of around 100bpm, they’re closer to 120/130, so more like house/techno/club/dance tempo, which is — as usual — pretty consistent with contemporary hip-hop/r&b/pop. Also significantly, — perhaps in part b/c of the tempo — I don’t hear any “Dem Bow” samples; there’s still that ol’ boom-ch-boom-chick (which some might hear as a general “dembow” rhythm), but even then it’s less pronounced/consistent. And the type of synths in use on both tracks, that buzzy/tactile, mid-range wheeze — which perhaps is what suggests the work of Timbaland/lake to your ears — is pretty au courant, not just in hip-hop but all kinds of genres. I think that’s, to some extent, a matter of shared software, but it’s also an aesthetic thing: a return to “ravey” synths that may have been reinitiated, at least in the mainstream, by Lil Jon’s refitting of rave presets for crunk tracks a few years ago (

To my ears, once again, reggaeton shows itself very in touch with contemporary global/American pop trends, while maintaining a distinctive sonic profile all its own.

Wayne's analysis is on point & speaks to new trends in reggaeton. I'm curious to see how the genre develops & changes over time. The recent trend in reggaeton to break away from the dembow & to clarify, as Wayne states, "referring not to the rhythm in general but to the specific sounds associated with that dancehall break") speaks to the various influences in Reggaeton music & the global appeal it is seeking to attract.

As I listen to more, I will keep writing....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fidel Castro Responds to Barack Obama

26 May, 2008



It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23 at the Cuban American National Foundation created by Ronald Reagan. I listened to his speech, as I did McCain’s and Bush’s. I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favor. I have therefore no reservations about criticizing him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly.

What were Obama’s statements?

"Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy. (…) This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century – of elections that are anything but free or fair (…) I won't stand for this injustice, you won't stand for this injustice, and together we will

stand up for freedom in Cuba," he told annexationists, adding: "It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. (…) I will maintain the embargo."

The content of these declarations by this strong candidate to the U.S. presidency spares me the work of having to explain the reason for this reflection.

José Hernandez, one of the Cuban American National Foundation directives who Obama praises in his speech, was none other than the owner of the 50-calibre automatic rifle, equipped with telescopic and infrared sights, which was confiscated, by chance, along with other deadly weapons while being transported by sea to Venezuela, where the Foundation had planned to assassinate the writer of these lines at an international meeting held in Margarita, in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta.

Pepe Hernández’ group wanted to renegotiate a former pact with Clinton, betrayed by Mas Canosa’s clan, who secured Bush’s electoral victory in 2000 through fraud, because the latter had promised to assassinate Castro, something they all happily embraced. These are the kinds of political tricks inherent to the United States’ decadent and contradictory system.

Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand-outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it.

How does he plan to address the extremely serious problem of the food crisis? The world’s grains must be distributed among human beings, pets and fish, which become smaller every year and more scarce in the seas that have been over-exploited by the large trawlers which no international organization could get in the way of. Producing meat from gas and oil is no easy feat. Even Obama overestimates technology’s potential in the fight against climate change, though he is more conscious of the risks and the limited margin of time than Bush. He could seek the advice of Gore, who is also a democrat and is no longer a candidate, as he is aware of the accelerated pace at which global warming is advancing. His close political rival Bill Clinton, who is not running for the presidency, an expert on extra-territorial laws like the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, can advice him on an issue like the blockade, which he promised to lift and never did.

What did he say in his speech in Miami, this man who is doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency? "For two hundred years," he said, "the United States has made it clear that we won't stand for foreign intervention in our hemisphere. But every day, all across the Americas, there is a different kind of struggle --not against foreign armies, but against the deadly threat of hunger and thirst, disease and

despair. That is not a future that we have to accept --not for the child in

Port au Prince or the family in the highlands of Peru. We can do better. We

must do better. (…) We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty stomach." A magnificent description of imperialist globalization: the globalization of empty stomachs! We ought to thank him for it. But, 200 years ago, Bolivar fought for Latin American unity and, more than 100 years ago, Martí gave his life in the struggle against the annexation of Cuba by the United States. What is the difference between what Monroe proclaimed and what Obama proclaims and resuscitates in his speech two centuries later?

"I will reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in my White House who will work with my full support. But we'll also expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas. We'll expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to deepen the trust and the ties among our people," he said near the end, adding: "Together, we can choose the future over the past." A beautiful phrase, for it attests to the idea, or at least the fear, that history makes figures what they are and not all the way around.

Today, the United States have nothing of the spirit behind the Philadelphia declaration of principles formulated by the 13 colonies that rebelled against English colonialism. Today, they are a gigantic empire undreamed of by the country’s founders at the time. Nothing, however, was to change for the natives and the slaves. The former were exterminated as the nation expanded; the latter continued to be auctioned at the marketplace —men, women and children—for nearly a century, despite the fact that "all men are born free and equal", as the Declaration of Independence affirms. The world’s objective conditions favored the development of that system.

In his speech, Obama portrays the Cuban revolution as anti-democratic and lacking in respect for freedom and human rights. It is the exact same argument which, almost without exception, U.S. administrations have used again and again to justify their crimes against our country. The blockade, in and of itself, is an act of genocide. I don’t want to see U.S. children inculcated with those shameful values.

An armed revolution in our country might not have been needed without the military interventions, Platt Amendment and economic colonialism visited upon Cuba.

The revolution was the result of imperial domination. We cannot be accused of having imposed it upon the country. The true changes could have and ought to have been brought about in the United States. Its own workers, more than a century ago, voiced the demand for an eight-hour work shift, which stemmed from the development of productive forces.

The first thing the leaders of the Cuban revolution learned from Martí was to believe in and act on behalf of an organization founded for the purposes of bringing about a revolution. We were always bound by previous forms of power and, following the institutionalization of this organization, we were elected by more than 90 percent of voters, as has become customary in Cuba, a process which does not in the least resemble the ridiculous levels of electoral participation which, many a time, as in the case of the United States, stay short of 50 percent of the voters. No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbor has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people.

I am not questioning Obama’s great intelligence, his debate skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator and is ahead of his rivals in the electoral race. I feel sympathy for his wife and little girls, who accompany him and give him encouragement every Tuesday. It is indeed a touching human spectacle. Nevertheless, I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions. I do not expect answers; I wish only to raise them for the record.

1) Is it right for the president of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?

2) Is it ethical for the president of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?

3) Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?

4) Is an Adjustment Act, applied as punishment on only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilize it, good and honorable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives?

If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans, and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn’t the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?

5) Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for U.S. citizens? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?

6) Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?

7) Are the brain-drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?

8) You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, aerial and spatial forces distributed across the planet. I ask: is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?

9) Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on sixty or more dark corners of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?

10) Is it honorable and sound to invest millions and millions of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over?

Before judging our country, you should know that Cuba, with its education, health, sports, culture and sciences programs, implemented not only in its own territory but also in other poor countries around the world, and the blood that has been shed in acts of solidarity towards other peoples, in spite of the economic and financial blockade and the aggression of your powerful country, is proof that much can be done with very little. Not even our closest ally, the Soviet Union, was able to achieve what we have.

The only form of cooperation the United States can offer other nations consist in the sending of military professionals to those countries. It cannot offer anything else, for it lacks a sufficient number of people willing to sacrifice themselves for others and offer substantial aid to a country in need (though Cuba has known and relied on the cooperation of excellent U.S. doctors). They are not to blame for this, for society does not inculcate such values in them on a massive scale.

We have never subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements. We offered the United States our help when hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New Orleans. Our internationalist medical brigade bears the glorious name of Henry Reeve, a young man, born in the United States, who fought and died for Cuba’s sovereignty in our first war of independence.

Our revolution can mobilize tens of thousands of doctors and health technicians. It can mobilize an equally vast number of teachers and citizens, who are willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfill any noble purpose, not to usurp people’s rights or take possession of raw materials.

The good will and determination of people constitute limitless resources that cannot be kept and would not fit in a bank’s vault. They cannot spring from the hypocritical politics of an empire.

Fidel Castro Ruz

May 25, 2008

Obama en Puerto Rico

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Barack Obama at Wesleyan

Barack Obama commencement speech today at Wesleyan University's 176th commencement ceremony.

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Also, Peep 6th Sense's "Ignite the People (Like Obama)" Video

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower

Found this article very interesting, but also disturbing. Quite frankly I find the Professor to be elitist and think the piece reveals more about the instructor than about the students or the kind of academic system in place in the United States. More thoughts on this article to come.

The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.


I work part-time in the evenings as an adjunct instructor of English. I teach two courses, Introduction to College Writing (English 101) and Introduction to College Literature (English 102), at a small private college and at a community college. The campuses are physically lovely—quiet havens of ornate stonework and columns, Gothic Revival archways, sweeping quads, and tidy Victorian scalloping. Students chat or examine their cell phones or study languidly under spreading trees. Balls click faintly against »

bats on the athletic fields. Inside the arts and humanities building, my students and I discuss Shakespeare, Dubliners, poetic rhythms, and Edward Said. We might seem, at first glance, to be enacting some sort of college idyll. We could be at Harvard. But this is not Harvard, and our classes are no idyll. Beneath the surface of this serene and scholarly mise-en-scène roil waters of frustration and bad feeling, for these colleges teem with students who are in over their heads.

I work at colleges of last resort. For many of my students, college was not a goal they spent years preparing for, but a place they landed in. Those I teach don’t come up in the debates about adolescent overachievers and cutthroat college admissions. Mine are the students whose applications show indifferent grades and have blank spaces where the extracurricular activities would go. They chose their college based not on the U.S. News & World Report rankings but on MapQuest; in their ideal academic geometry, college is located at a convenient spot between work and home. I can relate, for it was exactly this line of thinking that dictated where I sent my teaching résumé.

Some of their high-school transcripts are newly minted, others decades old. Many of my students have returned to college after some manner of life interregnum: a year or two of post-high-school dissolution, or a large swath of simple middle-class existence, 20 years of the demands of home and family. They work during the day and come to class in the evenings. I teach young men who must amass a certain number of credits before they can become police officers or state troopers, lower-echelon health-care workers who need credits to qualify for raises, and municipal employees who require college-level certification to advance at work.

My students take English 101 and English 102 not because they want to but because they must. Both colleges I teach at require that all students, no matter what their majors or career objectives, pass these two courses. For many of my students, this is difficult. Some of the young guys, the police-officers-to-be, have wonderfully open faces across which play their every passing emotion, and when we start reading “Araby” or “Barn Burning,” their boredom quickly becomes apparent. They fidget; they prop their heads on their arms; they yawn and sometimes appear to grimace in pain, as though they had been tasered. Their eyes implore: How could you do this to me?

The goal of English 101 is to instruct students in the sort of expository writing that theoretically will be required across the curriculum. My students must venture the compare-and-contrast paper, the argument paper, the process-analysis paper (which explains how some action is performed—as a lab report might), and the dreaded research paper, complete with parenthetical citations and a listing of works cited, all in Modern Language Association format. In 102, we read short stories, poetry, and Hamlet, and we take several stabs at the only writing more dreaded than the research paper: the absolutely despised Writing About Literature.

Class time passes in a flash—for me, anyway, if not always for my students. I love trying to convey to a class my passion for literature, or the immense satisfaction a writer can feel when he or she nails a point. When I am at my best, and the students are in an attentive mood—generally, early in the semester—the room crackles with positive energy. Even the cops-to-be feel driven to succeed in the class, to read and love the great books, to explore potent themes, to write well.

The bursting of our collective bubble comes quickly. A few weeks into the semester, the students must start actually writing papers, and I must start grading them. Despite my enthusiasm, despite their thoughtful nods of agreement and what I have interpreted as moments of clarity, it turns out that in many cases it has all come to naught.

Remarkably few of my students can do well in these classes. Students routinely fail; some fail multiple times, and some will never pass, because they cannot write a coherent sentence.

In each of my courses, we discuss thesis statements and topic sentences, the need for precision in vocabulary, why economy of language is desirable, what constitutes a compelling subject. I explain, I give examples, I cheerlead, I cajole, but each evening, when the class is over and I come down from my teaching high, I inevitably lose faith in the task, as I’m sure my students do. I envision the lot of us driving home, solitary scholars in our cars, growing sadder by the mile.

Our textbook boils effective writing down to a series of steps. It devotes pages and pages to the composition of a compare-and-contrast essay, with lots of examples and tips and checklists. “Develop a plan of organization and stick to it,” the text chirrups not so helpfully. Of course any student who can, does, and does so automatically, without the textbook’s directive. For others, this seems an impossible task. Over the course of 15 weeks, some of my best writers improve a little. Sometimes my worst writers improve too, though they rarely, if ever, approach base-level competence.

How I envy professors in other disciplines! How appealing seems the straightforwardness of their task! These are the properties of a cell membrane, kid. Memorize ’em, and be ready to spit ’em back at me. The biology teacher also enjoys the psychic ease of grading multiple-choice tests. Answers are right or wrong. The grades cannot be questioned. Quantifying the value of a piece of writing, however, is intensely subjective, and English teachers are burdened with discretion. (My students seem to believe that my discretion is limitless. Some of them come to me at the conclusion of a course and matter-of-factly ask that I change a failing grade because they need to graduate this semester or because they worked really hard in the class or because they need to pass in order to receive tuition reimbursement from their employer.)

I wonder, sometimes, at the conclusion of a course, when I fail nine out of 15 students, whether the college will send me a note either (1) informing me of a serious bottleneck in the march toward commencement and demanding that I pass more students, or (2) commending me on my fiscal ingenuity—my high failure rate forces students to pay for classes two or three times over.

What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.

Recently, I gave a student a failing grade on her research paper. She was a woman in her 40s; I will call her Ms. L. She looked at her paper, and my comments, and the grade. “I can’t believe it,” she said softly. “I was so proud of myself for having written a college paper.”

From the beginning of our association vis-à-vis the research paper, I knew that there would be trouble with Ms. L.

When I give out this assignment, I usually bring the class to the college library for a lesson on Internet-based research. I ask them about their computer skills, and some say they have none, fessing up to being computer illiterate and saying, timorously, how hopeless they are at that sort of thing. It often turns out, though, that many of them have at least sent and received e-mail and Googled their neighbors, and it doesn’t take me long to demonstrate how to search for journal articles in such databases as Academic Search Premier and JSTOR.

Ms. L., it was clear to me, had never been on the Internet. She quite possibly had never sat in front of a computer. The concept of a link was news to her. She didn’t know that if something was blue and underlined, you could click on it. She was preserved in the amber of 1990, struggling with the basic syntax of the World Wide Web. She peered intently at the screen and chewed a fingernail. She was flummoxed.

I had responsibilities to the rest of my students, so only when the class ended could I sit with her and work on some of the basics. It didn’t go well. She wasn’t absorbing anything. The wall had gone up, the wall known to every teacher at every level: the wall of defeat and hopelessness and humiliation, the wall that is an impenetrable barrier to learning. She wasn’t hearing a word I said.

“You might want to get some extra help,” I told her. “You can schedule a private session with the librarian.”

“I’ll get it,” she said. “I just need a little time.”

“You have some computer-skills deficits,” I told her. “You should address them as soon as you can.” I don’t have cause to use much educational jargon, but deficits has often come in handy. It conveys the seriousness of the situation, the student’s jaw-dropping lack of ability, without being judgmental. I tried to jostle her along. “You should schedule that appointment right now. The librarian is at the desk. ”

“I realize I have a lot of work to do,” she said.

Our dialogue had turned oblique, as though we now inhabited a Pinter play.

The research-paper assignment is meant to teach the fundamental mechanics of the thing: how to find sources, summarize or quote them, and cite them, all the while not plagiarizing. Students must develop a strong thesis, not just write what is called a “passive report,” the sort of thing one knocks out in fifth grade on Thomas Edison. This time around, the students were to elucidate the positions of scholars on two sides of a historical controversy. Why did Truman remove MacArthur? Did the United States covertly support the construction of the Berlin Wall? What really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin? Their job in the paper, as I explained it, was to take my arm and introduce me as a stranger to scholars A, B, and C, who stood on one side of the issue, and to scholars D, E, and F, who were firmly on the other—as though they were hosting a party.

A future state trooper snorted. “That’s some dull party,” he said.

At our next meeting after class in the library, Ms. L. asked me whether she could do her paper on abortion. What exactly, I asked, was the historical controversy? Well, she replied, whether it should be allowed. She was stuck, I realized, in the well-worn groove of assignments she had done in high school. I told her that I thought the abortion question was more of an ethical dilemma than a historical controversy.

“I’ll have to figure it all out,” she said.

She switched her topic a half-dozen times; perhaps it would be fairer to say that she never really came up with one. I wondered whether I should just give her one, then decided against it. Devising a topic was part of the assignment.

“What about gun control?” she asked.

I sighed. You could write, I told her, about a particular piece of firearms-related legislation. Historians might disagree, I said, about certain aspects of the bill’s drafting. Remember, though, the paper must be grounded in history. It could not be a discussion of the pros and cons of gun control.

“All right,” she said softly.

Needless to say, the paper she turned in was a discussion of the pros and cons of gun control. At least, I think that was the subject. There was no real thesis. The paper often lapsed into incoherence. Sentences broke off in the middle of a line and resumed on the next one, with the first word inappropriately capitalized. There was some wavering between single- and double-spacing. She did quote articles, but cited only databases—where were the journals themselves? The paper was also too short: a bad job, and such small portions.

“I can’t believe it,” she said when she received her F. “I was so proud of myself for having written a college paper.”

She most certainly hadn’t written a college paper, and she was a long way from doing so. Yet there she was in college, paying lots of tuition for the privilege of pursuing a degree, which she very likely needed to advance at work. Her deficits don’t make her a bad person or even unintelligent or unusual. Many people cannot write a research paper, and few have to do so in their workaday life. But let’s be frank: she wasn’t working at anything resembling a college level.

I gave Ms. L. the F and slept poorly that night. Some of the failing grades I issue gnaw at me more than others. In my ears rang her plaintive words, so emblematic of the tough spot in which we both now found ourselves. Ms. L. had done everything that American culture asked of her. She had gone back to school to better herself, and she expected to be rewarded for it, not slapped down. She had failed not, as some students do, by being absent too often or by blowing off assignments. She simply was not qualified for college. What exactly, I wondered, was I grading? I thought briefly of passing Ms. L., of slipping her the old gentlewoman’s C-minus. But I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair to the other students. By passing Ms. L., I would be eroding the standards of the school for which I worked. Besides, I nurse a healthy ration of paranoia. What if she were a plant from The New York Times doing a story on the declining standards of the nation’s colleges? In my mind’s eye, the front page of a newspaper spun madly, as in old movies, coming to rest to reveal a damning headline:


Illiterate Mess Garners ‘Average’ Grade

Adjunct Says Student ‘Needed’ to Pass, ‘Tried Hard’
No, I would adhere to academic standards, and keep myself off the front page.

We think of college professors as being profoundly indifferent to the grades they hand out. My own professors were fairly haughty and aloof, showing little concern for the petty worries, grades in particular, of their students. There was an enormous distance between students and professors. The full-time, tenured professors at the colleges where I teach may likewise feel comfortably separated from those whom they instruct. Their students, the ones who attend class during daylight hours, tend to be younger than mine. Many of them are in school on their parents’ dime. Professors can fail these young people with emotional impunity because many such failures are the students’ own fault: too much time spent texting, too little time with the textbooks.

But my students and I are of a piece. I could not be aloof, even if I wanted to be. Our presence together in these evening classes is evidence that we all have screwed up. I’m working a second job; they’re trying desperately to get to a place where they don’t have to. All any of us wants is a free evening. Many of my students are in the vicinity of my own age. Whatever our chronological ages, we are all adults, by which I mean thoroughly saddled with children and mortgages and sputtering careers. We all show up for class exhausted from working our full-time jobs. We carry knapsacks and briefcases overspilling with the contents of our hectic lives. We smell of the food we have eaten that day, and of the food we carry with us for the evening. We reek of coffee and tuna oil. The rooms in which we study have been used all day, and are filthy. Candy wrappers litter the aisles. We pile our trash daintily atop filled garbage cans.

During breaks, my students scatter to various corners and niches of the building, whip out their cell phones, and try to maintain a home life. Burdened with their own assignments, they gamely try to stay on top of their children’s. Which problems do you have to do? … That’s not too many. Finish that and then do the spelling … No, you can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Adult education, nontraditional education, education for returning students—whatever you want to call it—is a substantial profit center for many colleges. Like factory owners, school administrators are delighted with this idea of mounting a second shift of learning in their classrooms, in the evenings, when the full-time students are busy with such regular extracurricular pursuits of higher education as reading Facebook and playing beer pong. If colleges could find a way to mount a third, graveyard shift, as Henry Ford’s Willow Run did at the height of the Second World War, I believe that they would.

There is a sense that the American workforce needs to be more professional at every level. Many jobs that never before required college now call for at least some post-secondary course work. School custodians, those who run the boilers and spread synthetic sawdust on vomit, may not need college—but the people who supervise them, who decide which brand of synthetic sawdust to procure, probably do. There is a sense that our bank tellers should be college educated, and so should our medical-billing techs, and our child-welfare officers, and our sheriffs and federal marshals. We want the police officer who stops the car with the broken taillight to have a nodding acquaintance with great literature. And when all is said and done, my personal economic interest in booming college enrollments aside, I don’t think that’s such a boneheaded idea. Reading literature at the college level is a route to spacious thinking, to an acquaintance with certain profound ideas, that is of value to anyone. Will having read Invisible Man make a police officer less likely to indulge in racial profiling? Will a familiarity with Steinbeck make him more sympathetic to the plight of the poor, so that he might understand the lives of those who simply cannot get their taillights fixed? Will it benefit the correctional officer to have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X? The health-care worker Arrowsmith? Should the child-welfare officer read Plath’s “Daddy”? Such one-to-one correspondences probably don’t hold. But although I may be biased, being an English instructor and all, I can’t shake the sense that reading literature is informative and broadening and ultimately good for you. If I should fall ill, I suppose I would rather the hospital billing staff had read The Pickwick Papers, particularly the parts set in debtors’ prison.

America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.

Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. Academia is all for it, naturally. Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs. Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid. The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn’t been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway between my shoulder blades.

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.

I am the man who has to lower the hammer.

We may look mild-mannered, we adjunct instructors, but we are academic button men. I roam the halls of academe like a modern Coriolanus bearing sword and grade book, “a thing of blood, whose every motion / Was timed with dying cries.”

I knew that Ms. L.’s paper would fail. I knew it that first night in the library. But I couldn’t tell her that she wasn’t ready for an introductory English class. I wouldn’t be saving her from the humiliation of defeat by a class she simply couldn’t handle. I’d be a sexist, ageist, intellectual snob.

In her own mind, Ms. L. had triumphed over adversity. In her own mind, she was a feel-good segment on Oprah. Everyone wants to triumph. But not everyone can—in fact, most can’t. If they could, it wouldn’t be any kind of a triumph at all. Never would I want to cheapen the accomplishments of those who really have conquered college, who were able to get past their deficits and earn a diploma, maybe even climbing onto the college honor roll. That is truly something.

One of the things I try to do on the first night of English 102 is relate the literary techniques we will study to novels that the students have already read. I try to find books familiar to everyone. This has so far proven impossible. My students don’t read much, as a rule, and though I think of them monolithically, they don’t really share a culture. To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope. (And I thought everyone had read that!) Animal Farm? No. If they have read it, they don’t remember it. The Outsiders? The Chocolate War? No and no. Charlotte’s Web? You’d think so, but no. So then I expand the exercise to general works of narrative art, meaning movies, but that doesn’t work much better. Oddly, there are no movies that they all have seen—well, except for one. They’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz. Some have caught it multiple times. So we work with the old warhorse of a quest narrative. The farmhands’ early conversation illustrates foreshadowing. The witch melts at the climax. Theme? Hands fly up. Everybody knows that one—perhaps all too well. Dorothy learns that she can do anything she puts her mind to and that all the tools she needs to succeed are already within her. I skip the denouement: the intellectually ambitious scarecrow proudly mangles the Pythagorean theorem and is awarded a questionable diploma in a dreamland far removed from reality. That’s art holding up a mirror all too closely to our own poignant scholarly endeavors.

Professor X teaches at a private college and at a community college in the northeastern United States.

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