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Archive for May, 2010


Tuesday, May 11th, 2010


margaret atwood

Margaret Atwood | Photo © John MacDonald

amitav ghosh

Amitav Singh | Photo © Dayanita Singh

It is a bit incongruous to expect writers to spurn awards on political grounds when the business of publishing itself has become a political game. Several groups have appealed to authors Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh to reject the Dan David Prize jointly being given to them by Tel Aviv University on May 9 …

Click here to read this story in its entirety at


LENA HORNE | June 30, 1917-May 9, 2010 | In Memoriam

Monday, May 10th, 2010
38px-Speaker_Icon.svg Listen

Lena: A Sound Portrait of a Multifaceted Lady — her impassioned interview with Gene Dealessi at Pacifica Radio in 1966 — perfectly demonstrates the scope and conviction of this extraordinary artist and global citizen.

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CabCalloway LenaHorne Courtesy photo

Cab Calloway and Lena Horne, circa 1943, in a 20th Century-Fox publicity still for the musical Stormy Weather.

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Courtesy of the Noel Parrish Collection/Library of Congress

Lena Horne with the Tuskegee Airmen and Gen. Noel F. Parrish, their white commander, 1944


“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
— Lena Horne


Lena Horne 1941 Photo: Carl Van Vechten

Lena Horne in 1941

Lena AP Photo 1995
© Associated Press

Lena Horne in 1995


And when it came down to Negro nights,
those Colored Only slices in time,
you took the cake, Lena, & ran
& danced with it, O! You were so gorgeous
they didn’t know what to do with you,
those not so gentle men at MGM & elsewhere.
Where else but in the USA’s of the world
would it go on record that you & Ava
used to knock back a few
in the palmy hours, laughing over how
the studio would darken her up from head
to toe to lip-synch & mouth the sound
of your voice for Showboat. Hurray
for Hollywood! The jewel blue you
will never be seen, only heard in the role
of Miss Julie, the octoroon swooning
under the June-jazzed Dixiemental moon.

You can laugh about it now & soften the sting.
You can smile & even do a step or two & sing
& I suppose you haven’t done bad, given
your class & origins & given the almighty odds
& the gods of showbiz heaven who own, control
& chart the color of beauty & its stars.
Tell me again about the time your numbers
banker daddy told Samuel Goldwyn he’d be happy
to pay for your maids & upkeep since
you didn’t have sense enough to understand
the movies didn’t have much use for people
of your hue. They stashed you in some doozies
too—Panama Hattie, As Thousands Cheer,
I Dood It, Swing Fever, Two Girls & a Sailor,
but the trick was to tailor you for the South.
How did they do it? Well, wasn’t much to it.
They’d log you in, then chop you out (like
lumber) for the slumbering southern houses.

I knew your son Ted, a fledgling writer, dead
to you these many years. You outlived him,
your husband and your dad who all moved out
in the very same year. I can almost hear—
sometimes when you sing—the strong & lasting
side of you that once told Billie Holiday
she had to learn to be tough, that these hucksters
didn’t mean no man no good, let alone womanhood.

You’re still lovely, Lena. Moms Mabley was wrong.
The rubberbands she said were holding your face up
are never going to snap. You are the song.

— Al Young

from SOMETHING ABOUT THE BLUES: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry

© 1992 and  2007 by Al Young


Dennis McLellan: Lena Horne dies at 92; singer and civil rights activist who broke barriers | L.A. Times ~ May 10, 2010

Aljean Harmetz: Lena Horne, Singer and Actress, Dies at 92 | New York Times ~ May 9, 2010

Lena Horne ~ R.I.P. | A Picture Tribute | Black

Amy Goodman: Singing Lena Horne’s Praises | truthdig ~ May 11, 2010

Singer and Civil Rights Activist Lena Horne Remembered: Amy Goodman interviews Horne biographer James Gavin | Democracy Now, May 11, 2010

Joseph McNair: Stormy Weather (Lena Horne. 1917-2010) | Asili: The Journal of Multicultural Heartspeak ~ June-September 2010


20th Century Fox Stormy Weather ATT00001

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Lena Horne sings “Stormy Weather”

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Lena lays down the ABC’s with the Muppets at Sesame Street

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Lena Horne biographer James Gavin on News Hour in  conversation with Jeffrey Brown


LenaHornelabel RCA B&W LP cvr


lenahorne60 Courtesy photo

Lena Horne the Lady, the Grand Diva | Jazz Roots Rhythms (Celebrating Jazz & Global Music)

Lena Horne biography in timeline format at

Lena & Sammy

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Lena Horne & Sammy Davis, Jr sing “I Wish I’d Met You”
— from the Lena Horne album, The Men in My Life



Saturday, May 1st, 2010

“Dear me. Think of it! Niggers speaking French.”
William Jennings Bryan,
U.S. Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson

Caribbean culture this and Caribbean Studies that –
you lecture on these from notes so yellow with yesses
and yesterdays, who couldn’t help wondering
if your history hasn’t been ripped from the pages
of some other book? Maybe the double-book account
Columbus kept: one for the crew, one for himself,
the freighted version more truth than myth.

“What, My Lai?” the joke went after Lt. William Calley
and his GI marauders murdered most of a village
in a Vietnam your students still can’t locate.
Can they point out Port-au-Prince? Can they
unearth Haiti from a sea of island nations
set up as plantations to grow cash and more cash
and more cash? Unlike her Kerouacs, the Arawak
Indians stood little chance in mappable America.

Spaniards gave up and seeded the eastern half
of Hispaniola. Deft and slick, the French moved in
with African slaves to colonize the isle’s western
Left Bank. Tobacco, cacao, coffee, sugar, sugar
(azúcar up the kazoo) – all the dope your belly
can stomach, and all the cotton Europa needed.
This business of cheapness, this business of woe.

That nature is “niggardly” in her provisions
isn’t what Adam Smith intended to say or convey
in The Wealth of Nations. All Smith meant was:
To make a profit, you need a nigger. To make big
profits, you need a whole lot of niggers speaking
English or Dutch, speaking Spanish, speaking
Portuguese, German, Danish, Norwegian, Italian,
until inch by inch, you reached your French,
your Martinique, your Sénégal, your Ivory Coast,
your Equatorial, your Montréal, blesséd Québec,
La Nouvelle-Orléans
, Louisiane. Toussaint L’Ouverture
— a  slave, self-taught and black as Miles at midnight;
blue-black, fearless, smart, an anti-body for a bruise:
it was stealth versus wealth. It was ancestral starlight
guiding a ship; it was paycheck loan time for Napoléon.
“We’ll give you $7 million dollars for all the Louisiana
you can pony up.” “I’ll take it,” said Napoléon, “in cash.”
Those Negroes in Haiti were kicking his ass. But how?

Word reached George Washington, who all but said:
France helped us joog and jam King George, so
we’ll send spare troops to beat back your insurgents,
only don’t let word of this get out to our slaves.
Hell could break loose! LibertĂ©, ÉgalitĂ©, FraternitĂ© —
inspire us some more. Ayiti, Hayti, Haiti blossomed
step by step in living, lifelong color. Port-au-Prince
could never hold a candle to Paris and Washington:
slash-and burn croppers of dreaming human cargo.

You know all this, you teach and earn your keep
with such detail. You know the Arawak would not
sit back and wait for such an earth attack to build
and seethe. The French and Spaniards didn’t care.
The king and queen were going to get their cut
no matter what: one-third of all the booty, all the loot.
With greed and pride now supersized — colonize!

— Al Young
© 2010 Al Young