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Archive for July, 2013

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKED: The U.S. v. Trayvon Martin (CounterPunch | July 15, 2013)

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
WeAreAllTrayvonMartin Video

Columnist Clarence Blow’s NY Times op-ed on how he’ll talk to his sons about the George Zimmerman verdict.


Courtesy Lou Tell  Courtesy Lou Tell


Only in America Syreeta McFadden  magnifying_glass_icon


PiersMorgan RachelJeantel clip

Rachel Jeantel remembers Trayvon Martin on Piers Morgan Live


Trayvon Martin Clickable

Trayvon Martin (February 5, 1995-February 25, 2012)

JULY 15, 2013
How the System Worked
The US v. Trayvon Martin
© 2013 Robin D.G. Kelley and CounterPunch

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today. Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points. The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute. Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot. Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man. Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin. This is a fact. Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back. The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists. Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Where was the NRA on Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground?  What happened to their principled position?  Let’s be clear: the Trayvon Martin’s of the world never had that right because the “ground” was never considered theirs to stand on.  Unless black people could magically produce some official documentation proving that they are not burglars, rapists, drug dealers, pimps or prostitutes, intruders, they are assumed to be “up to no good.”  (In the antebellum period, such documentation was called “freedom papers.”) As Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president, succinctly explained their position, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”   Trayvon Martin was a bad guy or at least looked and acted like one. In our allegedly postracial moment, where simply talking about racism openly is considered an impolitic, if not racist, thing to do, we constantly learn and re-learn racial codes. The world knows black men are criminal, that they populate our jails and prisons, that they kill each other over trinkets, that even the celebrities among us are up to no good.  Zimmerman’s racial profiling was therefore justified, and the defense consistently employed racial stereotypes and played on racial knowledge to turn the victim into the predator and the predator into the victim. In short, it was Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman, who was put on trial.  He was tried for the crimes he may have committed and the ones he would have committed had he lived past 17. He was tried for using lethal force against Zimmerman in the form of a sidewalk and his natural athleticism.

The successful transformation of Zimmerman into the victim of black predatory violence was evident not only in the verdict but in the stunning Orwellian language defense lawyers Mark O’Mara and Don West employed in the post-verdict interview. West was incensed that anyone would have the audacity to even bring the case to trial—suggesting that no one needs to be held accountable for the killing of an unarmed teenager. When O’Mara was asked if he thought the verdict might have been different if his client had been black, he replied: “Things would have been different for George Zimmerman if he was black for this reason: he would never have been charged with a crime.”  In other words, black men can go around killing indiscriminately with no fear of prosecution because there are no Civil Rights organizations pressing to hold them accountable …

To read Robin D.G. Kelley’s op-ed in its entirety, go to the original at CounterPunch

Robin D. G. Kelley, who teaches at UCLA, is the author of the remarkable biography Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009) and most recently Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (2012).


Patricia Williams:
(The Nation, July 15, 2013)


LOST BABY BLUES | A Poem by Colleen J. McElroy

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013


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| Author and poet Colleen J. McElroy is professor emeritus at the University of Washington.
© Ingrid Pape-Sheldon | Seattle Times
Author and poet Colleen J. McElroy is professor emeritus at the University of Washington


In the family I am neither daughter nor granddaughter
I am what was placed in my mother’s arms one night
I call my grandmother: Mama
My family speaks of me in the third person
I am what was placed in my mother’s arms one night
Her sisters tell her to take care since I will take care
When she is old but I don’t know if she listens
She speaks of me in the third person
Scolds me by my full name
Even when she knows I am not listening
Grandma tells me she is not my mother
Every day my mother scolds me
Calls me out of my name so I’ll listen
Her sisters tell her I will take care of her later
My mother is not listening
She is scolding me for every breath I take
I was put in her arms during twilight sleep
She boasts: I didn’t feel a thing
I am the thing she did not feel
She tells me I should feel grateful
I am grateful she has only one brother
His arms grow tired when he hits me
All these girls and one boy: grandma complains
My mother’s complaints are louder
I am not her daughter not granddaughter
I am only what was placed in her arms one night

— Colleen J. McElroy

© 2013 Colleen J. McElroy
(from Paint Me Visible, a work in-progress)



Here I Throw Down My Heart cvr

HERE I THROW DOWN MY HEART  |  Poems by Colleen J. McElroy
Pitt Poetry Series (University of Pittsburgh Press)


Poetry by Colleen J. McElroy at the Poetry Foundation


 ColleenJMcElroy @ City of Asylum
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Colleen J. McElroy reads at City of Asylum on Cave Canem night


Watch video of PBS NewsHour and ‘Exiled Voices’
(featuring poet Liao Yiwu)


POETRY UNBOUND: a new East Bay reading series | hosted by Clive Matson, Karla Brundage & Richard Loranger

Saturday, July 6th, 2013



Berkeley Art House Gallery & Cultural Center | Map

art house gallery cultural ctr mike somavilla sfexaminer
Photo: Mike Somavilla / SF Examiner

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poetry unbound



John Curl’s latest poetry collection is Revolutionary Alchemy (2012), with a foreword by Jack Hirschman, San Francisco poet laureate emeritus, who writes, “Revolutionary Alchemy is a book of major importance. John Curl has earned a place—with this book of poems—among the foremost revolutionary American poets since the end of WW2.” John Curl is the author of eleven books of poetry, a memoir, and several volumes of history. His book Ancient American Poets (2007) contains his translations and biographies of Inca, Yucatec Maya and Aztec poets with the originals in Quechua, Maya, and Nahuatl. He represented the USA at the World Poetry Festival of 2010 in Caracas, Venezuela. He is vice president of PEN Oakland and a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.

Since moving to San Francisco in 2005, Clara Hsu has organized numerous free poetry activities and hosted a monthly salon for seven years. She is the co-host of the “San Francisco Poetry Open Mike Podcast TV Show” with John Rhodes. Her first book of poems, Mystique, received honorable mention at the 2010 San Francisco Book Festival. In 2012, Clara received special recognition for her innovative and original poetry and an offer to be the featured poet by the Erbacce Prize in the UK. Clara’s most recent project is establishing Poetry Hotel Press with Jack Foley.

Eanlai Cronin is a memoirist, retired teacher, survivor of chronic illness and advocate for a broader social understanding of disability. An Irish national, Eanlai writes about the epidemic of abuse and PTSD among the Irish people and women and girls in particular. Her work has appeared in Sinister Wisdom, Sonoma Women’s Voices and The Courage to Heal. Her recently completed memoir Girl In Irish chronicles the early years of her life in rural southwest Ireland.



HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TED JOANS (July 4, 1928 – April 25, 2003)

Thursday, July 4th, 2013


Ted Joans Empty Mirror Books Empty Mirror Books

Theodore “Ted” Joans (July 4, 1928 – April 25, 2003) was an American jazz poet, surrealist, trumpeter, and painter. His work stands at the intersection of several avant-garde streams and some have seen in it a precursor to the orality of the spoken-word movement. However he criticized the competitive aspect of “slam” poetry. Joans is known for his motto: “Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view.” Wikipedia

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Wow! Ted Joans Lives! Full Movie’


© 2013 Laura Corsiglia  |||  magnifying_glass_icon Click to enlarge


Ted Joans‘ declaration of independence: Happy Birthday
ink, pencil, color pencil, acrylic medium on paper, 8.5″ x 8.5″
| Laura Corsiglia |  july 4  2013



Ted Joans and Laura Corsiglia, circa 2000



DUKE RENUKED | A Poem by Al Young

Monday, July 1st, 2013


Cotton Club WB  © Warner Brothers



In celebration of Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, (1899-1974)

Sundown, breakfast, do the show,
all the calls for now, somehow
you know you’ll never make
things right, so finish the chart
and hope your ink dries thrice
before the band gets up on it, at it.

Who are you that you came to lead
this existence, conducting orchestras
in an orchid life far more tulip
than turnip, Mr. Franz Liszt,
you of a century so horrific even
its demons still run for cover?

Truly you did love us madly,
blowing continuous kisses in song
form, something for every voice
you’ve chosen and picked clean
for inspiration, ideas that flow
as bluely as history unredacted.

In mind you’ve acted it all out,
all of it, leaving just enough room
for one stray
horn to wander in and
the world you staged.
after the program, the signings,
the chit-chat, slow dinner, wee hours,
you’re back at the keyboard, fast
at home, writing and writing and
writing and writing (playing and playing
and listening and listening) until
long songs float out of your heart.

You, who hired an iron-private train
to haul the band from South to North and
back again, you always knew the score.

— Al Young

© 2013 by Al Young
Duke Orchestra Onstage
Courtesy photo

The Duke Ellington Orchestra, circa 1939