September 26, 2017

Not "Tapping Out"....

Rather, I'm "leaning into" the right things.

So: grateful to see the enlightened, thorough, and well-measured discussions about the origins of "taking a knee", those discussions including historical context. Yes, I do have thoughts (would I NOT? *WINK*) - no, I'm not chiming in.

Why not, you may ask?
1. I know myself, and I know that I can definitely be a "willow tree in the wind", that being that I can bend with every little breeze or large blast.
2. I have about seventy kids who deserve the best of me, and there's no way that I can serve them with the best of myself if I allow myself to get distracted and involved in everything.
3. I am now - hopefully - finding a real, substantive way to contribute to "the work" and need my mental faculties for that. Otherwise - well, in case y'all don't remember, there was a little blog post that I fired off in December 2015 titled "Tapping Out". That can't happen right now.

Today - tremendously impressed by my kids, and even moreso by one family in particular that is currently searching for an instrument. Glad to have been able to offer them direction and advice that was echoed by another teacher before they spent a considerable amount of money on an instrument at a shop that said "We have this for rental, and this one for sale." Needless to say, this family went to a shop that specializes in stringed instruments and found what they needed - as well as found out that what the general musical instrument shop offered was not the "standard offer".

While I'm not tryin' to tell anyone what to do: should you as an educator encounter a family that is in the market for an instrument, please make sure that you send them to a STRINGED INSTRUMENT shop as opposed to a "general musical equipment store". At a stringed instrument shop, your families will be shown all of the options afforded to them, including rent-to-own options, that general music stores may not share.

Why is this? A stringed instrument shop that is dealing from student instrument rentals to SCARAMPELLA and HILL sales will not cheat a family looking for an advanced student instrument. They simply don't have to.

August 19, 2017

"There's Somethin' Happening Here...."

Gathering my thoughts and words.  

Today marks seven days since hearing Jessie Montgomery's "Records from a Vanishing City" at the Gateways Music Festival in a concert held at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance in Rochester, New York.   Incidentally, the Hochstein is housed in the repurposed church in which the funeral of Frederick Douglass took place.

This concert took place on the day before the final concert of the Gateways Festival, a concert that included a stunning "familiar work with new ears" performance of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto with Stewart Goodyear as soloist and an orchestral performance of Brahms' Second Symphony that, like in years past, I walked away from thinking "If I had to retire the violin after this, I would be okay because THIS was tremendous and I am grateful to have been a part of it."

However, that weekend also included the horrors of Charlottesville, Virginia.  

What can I say, eh?    I think it's safe to say this:   while I am gathering my thoughts and references, we have to remember a few things.    Do understand that this is NOT the time to become outraged at our current leader's statements in which he said that there were "good people" on both sides.   Screw the words - look at the laws.    THOSE are important, and THAT is where our energy needs to go from this - hell, from LAST week forward:

1.    Permits were granted.  

2.     Virginia is an open carry state.   "Open carry is generally allowed without a permit for people 18 years of age and older. The following cities and counties have exceptions that disallow the open carry of "assault weapons" (any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or is designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock) or shotguns equipped with a magazine that holds more than 7 rounds: the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach and in the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Henrico, Loudoun, and Prince William. These restrictions do not apply to valid concealed carry permit holders. Stated differently, you may open carry an assault weapon/shotgun with more than 7 rounds with a permit in the aforementioned locations, but do not need a permit to do so in any other locality in Virginia."

Notice:   Albermarle County, the county in which Charlottesville is located, is not listed here.    That means that those who came with assault weapons (which you shall clearly see in the linked video) were acting within the LETTER (as opposed to the SPIRIT) of the law.  Think about that.    If you're having a problem understanding this, talk to anyone who went to a public high school that took a course called "Civics".

3.   From what I'm hearing from the ground, the police in Charlottesville were told to "stand down" while profound intimidation took place over two days.  TWO DAYS.

Mind y'all, I think you all know that I'm hardly an advocate for this type of incendiary behavior.     HARDLY.   But think about it....we're talking about factions of people who have, for decades, been working out, storing food, purchasing guns and assault weapons, all while believing the ideology that "there will be a race war" and advocating for racial and ethnic cleansing of the United States.

The police were told to "stand down" (I shall hopefully confirm this in a few days).

"There's somethin' happenin' here....what it is..."

June 26, 2017

Lightning in a Bottle

The phrase "lightning in a bottle" means "capturing something powerful and elusive and then being able to hold it and show it to the world".

Last night's opening of Riverhouse Concerts in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was definitely one of these beautiful and memorable moments.

Located in Fort Hunter Park on the banks of the Susquehanna River, The Riverhouse is the artistic creation of Gary Lysaght, who designed and built the house in 2014 with a handful of others.    Upon stepping inside, one is met with the marvel of modernity as the house has tall ceilings, clean lines, and a wall of windows that face the Susquehanna.

It was in this space that violinist Odin Rathnam and pianist John Nauman - men who have both forged impressive and worthy reputations for their instrumental and musical prowess - performed works of Bach, Chopin and Strauss for an intimate and sold-out audience of seventy.

One particularly meaningful aspect of the evening was that both Mr. Rathnam and Mr. Nauman were featured as soloists in the first half before coming together after the intermission to share the violin sonata of Richard Strauss.   It was beautiful to witness the honoring of their "class reunion" in this way:    both John and Odin were students at the Juilliard School during what has been referred to as a "golden time" by those who were students during those years.     This experience was heightened by the fact that programming was chosen to reflect the change of scenery as early evening turned into night.

This was just the first concert of what is turning into a series, and I do hope that everyone reading this pays attention and takes a moment to attend a concert.

June 21, 2017

"Living in America"

So....I shall get to writing about music very soon, especially considering that there's a LOT about which to write.   This, considering that we have all recently been bombarded by the video of Philando Castille's assassination, is important.

I'm housesitting soon. The people for whom I'm housesitting include a woman who is the "entrepreneur's entrepreneur" and a man who is a published author and a singer. (out of respect for them, I am not revealing names). These folks are also "adopted Mom and Dad", as they hosted me after Hurricane Katrina for six months (after what was supposed to be two weeks). These people have since 2005 loved, given "tough love" talks, spoken to me as if I were one of their blood family, and continuously gone over and above. The going "over and above" is most exemplified from the 2015 action of lending me a car to move into my current apartment while they were out of town.

Flash to this week, when she calls me: "I have an idea," she said. "I have a Notary in my office. We make a document on which we photocopy my, my husband's, and your driver's licenses and share on that document that you are approved to drive the car."

I've borrowed their cars many times since 2005, including driving someone to Dulles International Airport (and that was basically when I really learned to drive!). NOW, with the climate of this country and the "risk factors" (did y'all not see the recently released dashcam video from Minneapolis/St. Paul?), this woman wants to make sure that I'm okay, even though the fact is that I could be taken out by a "law enforcement official" even WITH verification that I'm "legal"....

Think about this....I have borrowed their cars numerous times between 2005 and now. I have picked people up from Baltimore's Penn Station and taken people to Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport AND Dulles. Twelve years ago, everyone on their street knew who I was. That was before Trayvon, Philando, Tamir Rice, the Charleston Nine, Eric Garner, (forgive me) et cetera ad nauseum. NOW, in 2017, a dear friend who is more than aware is concerned for me - more than she was before - because of the wanton murder of African-American men by the police, wants to ensure that I'm covered. THINK ABOUT THAT. Think about this, folks....and I"m going to say this knowing that my favorite aunt will see this online and talk to my mother (who knows the deal): MY BLACK GAY ASS who would not hurt a goddamned FLEA is living in a situation where I have to have my PAPERS, and those papers - even though engineered by people who care about me - may not save me. Y'all know better than to say "If he obeyed the law"....And as far as "papers" go, do you all realize that you can only replace your Social Security card ten times?

May 25, 2017

"Seven Last Words": Good News

Well, as I continue gathering my thoughts and notes on the absolutely fantastic and enlightening trip to Havana, Cuba that took place a few weeks ago, I did want to share some very good news.

In February of this year, I wrote an essay titled "Seven Last Words":   Artistic Responses to Current Events, in which I shared information about four works that I heard between February 2016 and February 2017 that dealt with the issue of "brutality - whether at the hands of policemen, self-proclaimed vigilantes, or 'terrorists'."   While we still grapple with the profound horror of these events - the most recent being the murder of commissioned Army officer and Bowie State University senior Richard Collins III by white supremacist Sean Urbanski - it is simultaneously heartening to know that musical groups throughout the United States are ensuring that the works mentioned in the February essay are not disappearing from the concert stage.

On June 18, 2017, the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra will present Joel Thompson's Seven Last Words of the Unarmed at First Baptist Church Broad Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee.   More information on the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra and the numerous concert, educational and community engagement activities undertaken by the PRIZM Ensemble (including the annual PRIZM Chamber Music Festival) can be found on the organization website, and PRIZM Ensemble founder Dr. Lecolion Washington has written a beautiful statement on his Facebook page.

Later this year, Ahmed Al-Abaca's Across the Calm Waters:   A Piece for Peace will receive its west coast premiere in a concert by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra.  This concert takes place on
Sunday, October 8, 2017, and the concert also features the premieres of short works by Craig Bohmler, Jeremy Cohen, Vivian Fung, Mony Lyn Reese and Michael Touchi.

As we all know from the events of November 2016 until today, it is very easy to either become distracted or so overwhelmed by the "news" that we turn it off and try to live as best we can.   That's the easy way out.    Just as we have to use discernment yet still pay attention to what is happening in the political arena, it is vital that the issue of brutality - "whether at the hands of the police, self-proclaimed vigilantes, or 'terrorists' " - remain in the consciousness of all citizens.    We should all be grateful to both Lecolion Washington and Barbara Day Turner (founders of the PRIZM Ensemble and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, respectively) for "taking up the mantle".

February 15, 2017

"Seven Last Words": Artistic Responses to Current Events

Well, here we are.     Three days have passed since the twentieth annual Sphinx Competition for Black and Latino string players and SphinxConnect, an annual gathering held in tandem with the competition.     SphinxConnect was a tremendous time, a time including three days of discussions ranging from profound and to some "difficult" conversations about the industry to enlightening talks about working in Europe, finances, maintaining networks, navigating institutions and - yes - YOGA.    The entire list of topics can be found at, and there are links to video documentation of the sessions.

The highlight of Sphinx weekends are the competition finals, which serve as a real opportunity to hear young people of both Black and Latino descent perform at the TOP of their game as well as to hear new works commissioned by the Sphinx Organization.   This year, we were so fortunate and FLOORED both to witness the artistry of Junior Division winner Ifetayo Ali during the annual Honors Concert and to have a difficult time choosing one artist who stood above all others during the Senior Division Finals.

This year's premiere was particularly relevant and poignant as it was the world premiere of the fully orchestrated version of Joel Thompson's Seven Last Words of the Unarmed.     Originally premiered in 2016, this work contains seven statements closely aligned with Joseph Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.    The text, comprised of the last words spoken by seven unarmed men, is well known to those who have followed the news over recent years:

I.     Kenneth Chamberlain - "Officers, why do you have your guns out?"
II.    Trayvon Martin - "What are you following me for?"
III.   Amadou Diallo - "Mom, I'm going to college."
IV.   Michael Brown - "I don't have a gun!   Stop shooting!"
V.    Oscar Grant - "You shot me!   You shot me."
VI.   John Crawford - "It's not real."
VII.  Eric Garner - "I can't breathe."

On a personal note:   while listening to this work I saw many audience members crying, especially during the movement honoring the life of Oscar Grant.  I could not cry:   I sat, listening, amazed, and personally overwhelmed.   The level of both musical and topical commitment exhibited by the members of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club on that afternoon is something that I shall remember for the rest of my life.   How can anyone present in the Max Fisher Music Center forget the choir, almost a capella, during the fifth movement:   voices randomly saying "You shot me", accompanied by the slap of a hand against the chest.

Seven Last Words is one of FOUR symphonic works composed over the last four years (if I am wrong, please correct me) that deal with the issue of brutality - whether at the hands of policemen, self-proclaimed vigilantes, or "terrorists" - that I have heard within the space of twelve months.   The first one, which was premiered in Washington DC and later performed in Baltimore, was Judah Adashi's Rise which featured poetry by Tameka Cage Conley.

Months later in 2016, I had the honor of performing two works that dealt with tragedy.    In September 2016 the Morgan State University Choir and the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra premiered Mother's Lament:  So Many Names Unknown, a three-movement work by James Lee III based on poems by Vincent Dion Stringer and dedicated to all mothers who have lost children to violence.

In October 2016, those of us who performed at the Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, South Carolina had the tremendous pleasure of meeting composer Ahmed Al Abaca and performing the premiere of his Across The Calm Waters of Heaven:  A Piece for Peace.   Mr. Al Abaca is from San Bernadino and this was his response to the tragedy of the summer of 2016.     This work is particularly special as it evokes the response from performers that Ralph Vaughan Williams' Rhosymedre elicits from young string players who, while perhaps not fully understanding, continuously find themselves profoundly moved as many of us did in our early years.

So we have these, and included in this canon is the work by Mr. Henderson.   All stirring, moving, relevant works for the concert stage.    I find myself after reviewing these works left with questions for the industry.

My questions:   will these works survive?     Shall we hear them again?    Will orchestras across the United States and the world take these works and present them as they have presented Shostakovich's "Leningrad" SymphonySchwantner's New Morning for the World:   Daybreak of Freedom, Arvo Part's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber's Adagio (which has become the American "go-to" piece to express any deep emotional sentiment)?

My answer:   these works have to survive.   Specifically, they must be wholly embraced by American orchestras as our large ensembles are still viewed as the prominent exponents of concert music.

These works have to be programmed, regularly - while the conversation surrounding American orchestras still includes questions regarding "relevance", demographic diversity and inclusion, the continued programming and presentation of these works will show that those "in control" have a profound social conscience.    If our orchestras are truly "museums", then we have an obligation to treat them as such and include some "museum pieces" that are just as disturbing as the work of Willem De Kooning.

They have to - simply because the works chronicled here are as worthy of performance as any work written by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Mahler, Strauss, Schumann, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Walton and Holst.   The works mentioned here are simply programmatic, although not based on mythology as the tone poems of Jean Sibelius.    These works are MORE than worthy, well-conceived, well-written, and thoughtful works for the concert audience.  Furthermore, should these works have short stage lives and longer shelf-lives, that will say more about the industry known as American orchestral life than we are all ready to admit.

And that's all for today...

January 29, 2017

Year Zero

Please forgive me for "waxing personal", but is that not what the blogosphere is about?

I cannot sleep.    I have not been able to sleep peacefully since November, and this last week has ramped the insomnia up  about 500%.

We are now only nine days into the tenure of President Trump, and I cannot sleep.    The eighteen-year-old "me" wants to reject everything and throw myself in to the resistance just as that "me" wanted to in the early years of the AIDS crisis, but the forty-six year old me feels the weight of personal responsibility and keeping a roof over my head.

The eightteen-year-old me doesn't (excuse me) give a damn about what he says, but the "grown up" me finds himself afraid to say what he really thinks.    Unfortunately, that means that those in power are winning.

I'm sure I'm not alone.   I hope and trust that I'm not.   Furthermore, I sincerely hope that you can all share strategies that combine self-care and resistance,  because I can't right now.  

How odd to live in Baltimore, knowing that demonstrations are taking place at airports in the District of Columbia (thirty miles away), Philadelphia, and the city of New York.   How just crazy to sit in my apartment, looking at a stunning painting given as a gift by an Iranian neo-expressionist, and wonder whether or not he will be allowed back into the United States.   How crazy - and this is what they want, folks - to call a dear friend and colleague out of concern to ask her if she's an American citizen,

If I were to go so far, this is Day Nine of Year Zero in the United States of America.

In case you're wondering:

YEAR ZERO: "The term Year Zero applied to the takeover of Cambodia in April 1975, by the Khmer Rouge, is an analogy to the Year One of the French Revolutionary Calendar. During the French Revolution, after the abolition of the French monarchy (September 20, 1792), the National Convention instituted a new calendar and declared the beginning of the Year I. The Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh was rapidly followed by a series of drastic revolutionary de-industrialization policies resulting in a death toll that vastly exceeded that of the French Reign of Terror."
The idea behind Year Zero is that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch. All history of a nation or people before Year Zero is deemed largely irrelevant, as it will ideally be purged and replaced from the ground up."
In Cambodia, so-called New People—teachers, artists, and intellectuals—were especially singled out and executed during the purges accompanying Year Zero."

January 19, 2017

On Teaching - Once Again

Note:   this is being shared here via the request of a very good friend and colleague who wishes to share the post on her teaching studio wall.  This originated as a Facebook status.

So...a student came on Tuesday afternoon - a very conscientious student with both an amazing talent for drawing and a fascinating ability to understand and take on new challenges. Mind you, this is a kid who last year, after hearing a work played in another student's history presentation, found it, learned it, and played it in recital WITHOUT ANY PROMPTING FROM ME. (Of course, this guy, the one who with no outside prompting listened to all nine Vaughan Williams symphonies and the Concerto Accademico during his freshman year in college, was totally over the moon!)

As we started the lesson, this student made a confession.
Student: "I'm so sorry, I didn't practice all week."
Teacher: "...and you think that I'm going to be upset about that."
Student (somewhat embarrassed): "Yes."
Teacher: "Well, I'm not - I'm more thankful for your honesty."

*Teacher then tells story about how, when in graduate school, he never felt that he had practiced enough between lessons but was so amazed and remains grateful that his teacher (and there are QUITE a few of you who know who I'm talkin' about) taught 100% anyway*

So we talked, and that talk consisted of figuring out the student's schedule and what the student does every evening after getting home.

Teacher: "Let's try this for the next week. Immediately after dinner, practice for a minimum of fifteen minutes, with a timer, and be very specific about what you do during that time."

After that conversation, one of the most productive lessons of the school year to date.

In 1993, I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the Helen and Immanuel Olshan Texas Music Festival, a four-week summer festival held at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. During the first of those four weeks, we had the great honor of working with the late Sidney Harth.   Mr. Harth was sixty-eight at the time, and during that first week he  conducted a program that included Dvorak's Eighth Symphony and Verdi's Overture to La Forza Del Destino.    Mr. Harth showed himself to be incredibly observant during that week of orchestral rehearsals:   while I don't know if anyone else remembers, there was a moment during a rehearsal of the last movement of the Dvorak in which he spoke to the first violin section and said, quite sincerely "That is the perfect place to play an expressive glissando just like you're doing right now."

It was during that week that Mr. Harth both played a spectacular recital during that week that included a more than memorable "stand-and-deliver" reading of Richard Strauss' Violin Sonata and gave a master class.    Oh, that class:   the memories of him talking about Tchaikovsky Concerto and Lalo Symphonie Espagnole while having the ability to demonstrate - flawlessly - everything he talked about.   Oh, that recital:   he simply stood, like a Titan, and delivered.    

At the beginning of that master class, Mr. Harth said "Teaching is not subjective."    I understood then, but I understand more now.   While there are personal conversations that I could share, I shall not.   Nevertheless, this profession - be it serving as a classroom teacher or one who has one-on-one time with students, involves everything from figuring out schedules and setting goals for practicing to at times hearing stories about topics unrelated to music. It can involve, as some instructors have, leading students to yoga practice and healthy eating.    It also involves, as I have been made aware by many friends and colleagues who have become American citizens, teachers allowing students to live in the teacher's home after migrating so that the student can really get his bearings in a new nation.

No, it's not subjective.    It seems to be about service, and that service is about finding out what each student needs.   I have a feeling that many of you will agree that the most rewarding aspect of the profession is seeing that needs are met.   

January 15, 2017

Donald Trump/Steve Harvey/John Lewis/REALITY.....

Note:    this is an edited version of a Facebook post.

So....about that meeting between Donald Trump and Steve Harvey (and the President-Elect's statements against Representative John Lewis):

If I were to be petty:    let's remember that President-Elect Trump did not serve during the Vietnam War. While the President-Elect in 1968 enjoyed exemption from serving during the Vietnam War due to BONE SPURS IN HIS HEELS,   Representative John Lewis was probably still in ways recovering from having his skull bashed in more than once during the Civil Rights Movement.   After all, Representative Lewis, "who as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was one of the "Big Six" leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington, played many key roles in the Civil Rights Movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States."

Let's look at this:   After reading an article in which Representative Lewis expressed his sentiments about the "election" of President-Elect Trump and subsequent decision not to attend the Inauguration, the President-Elect went on yet another Twitter rampage during which he referred to Representative Lewis as "all talk, no action".

I need not list the arrests, the injuries, the grave injustices that Representative Lewis experienced as a young man who believed in true equity, equality, and social justice many years before the President-Elect was removed from the draft because of bone spurs.    Looking at Representative Lewis' record both from the turbulent 1960s and now, are those actions the actions of a person who is "all talk, no action?"   HARDLY.

With that, is President-Elect Trump's meeting with Steve Harvey, while simultaneously insulting a social justice warrior, an example of President-Elect Trump's desire to be "everyone's President" as his both he AND his wife shared during the Republican National Convention? HARDLY.

Unfortunately, President-Elect Trump is speaking from a very old and tired playbook, one that will resonate with anyone who is NOT paying attention.   For the record:   not every African-American lives in poverty, and this is exemplified by the FACT that hedge fund manager and Venture Capitalist Robert F. Smith was, this year, appointed the FIRST African-American Board Chairman of Carnegie Hall.   Additionally, not every inner-city looks like a battlefield, and if the discussion is truly to be had one has to balance that tired view of the "inner cities" (coded language) with the reality-based view of cities and towns that, once prosperous cities in the United States, are becoming ghost towns (there are myriad of recently published articles that support that statement, and I need not reference them because - because GOOGLE).

In the book Black Like Me - a fantastic and fascinating read, by the way - John Howard Griffin recounts a time during which he was being called across the United States by community leaders during the turbulent 1960s. Those community leaders were asking what they should do about the uprisings in African-American communities (and that's a WHOLE different discussion). When Mr. Griffin asked those leaders if they had really gone into neighborhoods and met with leaders in those neighborhoods (and he specifically referred to churches and barber shops), the response was one of dismay. The author's response: "That's why people are angry. You SAY you want to help them, yet you don't talk to them".

President-Elect Donald Trump HAS spoken to some people, yes.   However, has President-Elect Trump REALLY gone into communities and asked members of those communities what they need?

Yes, meet with Steve Harvey. That's great. Yes, Steve Harvey took a diplomatic stance on this, and that's great too.  Furthermore, it needs to be said that Steve Harvey is not just a comedian, radio host, and host of television's "Family Feud":   Mr. Harvey and his wife are the founders of the Steven and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, a foundation whose mission is "to provide outreach to fatherless children and young adults by promoting educational enrichment, one-on-one mentoring and global service initiatives that will cultivate the next generation of responsible leaders."   The Harvey Foundation's programs include both the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program for Young Men and Girls Who Rule The World:  Mentoring Girls, Creating Leaders.    Not shabby stuff, to say the least.

There are, however, scores of organizations, non-profits, and foundations that provide mentoring in the African-American community that were founded by people on the ground, one of those being Munir Bahar's COR Community, a group that focuses on keeping children both active and healthy.

It is vitally important to note the work of Mr. Bahar and COR Community:   as President-Elect Trump has in his speeches lamented the blight and crime that in his view pervades African-American life, Mr. Bahar's organization is truly special as its focus is on physical health, and the organization is in the process of refitting a group of abandoned Baltimore rowhouses into a fully-equipped fitness facility (if there is anyone reading this who knows more about COR Community, please chime in).


So - and while I am hesitant to write this as it may be interpreted that I am giving President-Elect Trump a pass - the talk with Steve Harvey was one that may have been easy.  After all, they are both famous.
If given the CHANCE, however, would President-Elect Trump have a conversation with Mr. Bahar, a man who is unapologetic regarding his love for young people and the consequent profound distress we all feel when we look at SOME urban areas?

Furthermore:  insulting a civil-rights hero who happens to be of the same hue as the man with whom you've just met shows a GRAVE lack of concern and interest in doing REAL, substantive, and on-the-ground work, the type of work that has nothing to do with "meeting the stars". The lack of sincerity evident in the President-Elect's actions and choices is at best reprehensible.

SHOULD President-Elect Trump have been truly sincere and SERIOUS about wanting to help the African-American community, he would have immediately made a statement after the horrific shootings that took place at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
*but of course not, as that would have resulted in his disavowing the KKK and the legion of White Nationalist groups existing in the United States.  Dylann Roof, recently sentenced with the death penalty, is an avowed White Supremacist.   Mind you, there has been NO commentary about that from our President-Elect.*

He should have IMMEDIATELY made a statement about police brutality in the wake of the Baltimore Uprising in April 2015 or even in the wake of Ferguson, Missouri.
*but of course not, as that goes against his stated desire to institute a national stop-and-frisk policy and would have lost his the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police*

He should have gone to Baton Rouge and Minneapolis during the summer of 2016, and he did not.

*read statement about FOP endorsement and national-stop and frisk*

Instead, during that time period he was having "Make America Great Again" rallies during which he told security to "kick out" African-Americans and protesters, and also said that "In the OLD days, we would make sure that they wouldn't protest again".

That's all for today.....make with this what you will.   It's all so Shakesperian....

December 30, 2016

Which Song do I Post: Orlando, Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas?

The last time I posted something about relations with the police was not the best of times:   that was in December 2015 when the first of the six police officers indicted in the death of Freddie Gray was cleared due to a mistrial.   Well, if you've been paying attention, you know that now we're "three for three":  since December 2015 two other officers have been acquitted.

That, however, is not why I'm here.  Why AM I here, you may ask?   Well, while it's ain't exactly clear, there's something happening here in the United States of America.

This one, by Buffalo Springfield, seems to be the most appropriate.    Why?   Well, let's look at the last forty-eight hours in our great nation.    While I COULD recap, I'll simply start by reposting (of course, posts are now edited to include information SHOULD anyone have found themselves not paying attention).

1.   July 6, 2016.
So...Baton Rouge.   As we watch the videos, let's contrast the apprehension (and execution) of Alton Sterling to that of Dylann Roof.   Remember him?   Dylann Roof, the young man who shot and confessed to shooting - murdering - nine people at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston last year.   While there are "questions" surrounding Mr. Sterling's dealings with the police (watch the videos - he was assassinated), let us not forget that Mr. Roof was apprehended alive, placed in a bulletproof vest, and taken to Burger King.

Apprehended alive.   Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge....

*that's all for today*

2.   July 7, 2016
So:    Falcon Heights, Minnesota.   Shall we discuss the fact that the deceased was obeying the officer's orders when he was shot WHILE IN HIS CAR, with both is girlfriend and a four-year-old child watching?   shall we discuss the fact that his girlfriend, a very brave woman, remained incredibly articulate as she shared footage LIVE via Facebook (if you're curious, the video in which this woman watched the love of her life BLEED OUT is still circulating)?

Shall we discuss that Louisiana is an open carry state and that the deceased in Minnesota WAS licensed to carry his firearm?  Shall we discuss that neither of the deceased at any time brandished their respective firearms at the policeman who, well...does it even need to be said atain?

I don't think we have to be reminded that Dylann Roof was apprehended alive, fitted with a bulletproof vest, and taken to Burger King - do we?

Do we need to discuss that this was the SECOND in less than twenty-four hours?
*that's all for today*

3.   So:   Dallas, Texas.
Dallas, Texas.    One of the many cities in which there was a LARGE demonstration in response to the unreasonably vicious disregard for human life evident in the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille.  THIS one, however, ended with savage attacks against the Dallas police and has (at present writing) resulted in the death of FIVE officers , the injury of six others, and a civilian injury.

How many memories of Dallas do I have?   The most present and most gruesome being when, after five days in the Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans Basketball Arena, and the basement of the Hyatt Hotel, I arrived in Dallas in a post-Katrina ten-hour bus caravan.   More on that at another time.   The second is from 2010 when I was able to attend the National Performance Network Annual Meeting.

All of that is a big WHATEVER, though, as I am deeply disturbed.    Someone - a group, perhaps? - found out about a Black Lives Matter demonstration taking place in Dallas and decided to take the law into his (or their) own hands last night.   Snipers.   Five police officers dead.   This was NOT the work of a "loose cannon":   with five policemen dead, it is more than safe to say that whoever the assailants were, they were well trained.  I shall not speculate, but I remember a poem titled "Earth" in which one of the subjects said "the fact that they did that shows that there were intelligent people living there".   I'll find the poem, but think about it.    What we just witnessed was NOT a part of the Black Lives Matter demonstration (as further evidenced by reports in the news).    This was a coordinated attack against the police by skillful, well-trained shooters whose intention was to besmirch the Black Lives Matter movement.
With that, we're WAY past gun control.   Far, far, FAR away....

While news reports are saying that three people in Dallas are in custody and a fourth suspect "neutralized", let's look at this - and let's look at it in the lens of what happened in Orlando and what COULD have happened in West Hollywood just a few weeks ago:

June 12, 2016:
Twice in less than twenty-four hours attacks against the LGBTQ community were brewing.   Fortunately, the one in Los Angeles was stopped before it could start.   Sadly, however last night's Orlando tragedy will stay in our hearts and minds.   

TWICE - in less than twenty-four hours.   Less than ONE year after the Supreme Court ruled that states must allow and recognize same-sex marriage.   It's time to revisit Larry Kramer's 2004 Cooper Union speech again (for those who are truly interested, the title of said speech is "The Tragedy of Today's Gays", and it's a darned good read.   Mr. Kramer pulls no punches, and everyone in indicted for good reason).
TWICE - think about it....and while Marco Rubio has declared the assailant in the Orlando massacre "the new face of the war on terror", shall we see an elected official call these premeditated attacks on the LGBT community exactly what they were?   Furthermore...will ANYONE step up and call these attacks exactly what they were to be - targeted mass murder of gay people?