Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fire Phil Bailey!

My article in LEO last week ruffled a few feathers back home. So much that there's buzzing talk about boycotting the paper and protesting out in front of LEO Weekly's offices in the near future. Others are making it much more plain about what should be done with me in LEO's Inbox (see: 'Phillip Bailey should be fired').

I don't want to blow this out of proportion for you super-serious types. We're talking about only a handful of people in a very vocal minority who are just plain upset with the coverage. So before I join the fire Phil Bailey movement let me post my follow-up piece to what started all this talk of protests, boycotts and firings. It's called 'Uncivil rights activist' and is in this week's edition of LEO. And remember, you're nobody until somebody wants you axed.

From LEO Weekly:

The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has suspended longtime member Gracie Lewis for three months following an altercation with a fellow activist and the woman’s 13-year-old son.

...In response to these aggressive encounters, the leadership of the Kentucky Alliance has decided Lewis should take what they are calling a “three-month sabbatical,” according to K.A. Owens, co-chairman of the organization. The difficult decision was made after taking into account both the gravity of the accusations and Lewis’ long history in the civil rights movement.

“We hope the people in the community have confidence that we will deal with these internal matters in a fair and just manner,” Owens says. Although he refuses to provide details about the incident in question or the suspension, Owens acknowledges that the Alliance issued a formal apology to Attica Scott, the woman who Lewis allegedly accosted.

Meanwhile, Lewis publicly maintains she has done nothing wrong, despite the fact that she, too, sent a letter of apology to Scott last week. Scott provided LEO Weekly with copies of both letters.

“I did not intend to offend you or your son,” the letter from Lewis reads. “Moreover it was wrong for me to call you and leave messages you may have considered offensive or threatening.”

The letter is referring to an irate message left on Scott’s office answering machine the day after Lewis reportedly screamed at her son. The recorded message says: “This is Gracie Lewis you black bitch. You better not never bring your skinny, narrow ass and get in my face again because I will kick your black ass. Peace.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dub-ya, the movie

One of my favorite snapshots in American history will be the time between the upcoming election (Nov. 4th, 2008) and next year's inauguration (Jan. 20th, 2009).

No, not because of Mr. Hope. I'm interested to see what will happen when the country receives a totally unfettered W. presidency. In the meantime fiction will have to do.

Set to debut Oct.17th, Oliver Stone's new film is about our current commander-in-chief, Dubya, and unlike his other two presidential bio-pics, Stone says this is not a slap at the man or a conspiracy theory flick.

"I want a fair, true portrait of the man," Stone told Variety. "How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?"

We'll see. Cindy Adams of the NY Post saw a few excerpts of the script and wrote, "Pro-Bushies will hate it, antis will love it." I don't at this juncture think anyone can produce an un-bias movie on such a divisive and disastrous presidency.

The film stars Josh Brolin as W., James Cromwell as George H. W. Bush, Elizabeth Banks as Laura, Thandie Newton as Condi, and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell to name a few.

Here's the trailer:

Attack of the Activist

What happens when a veteran of the civil rights struggle goes off the rails? When does the next generation tell the previous one to step aside? That's been a question on a lot of minds, particularly after Jesse's comments on B-Rock. It has always been a sticky area and taboo subject back home in Louisville.

Rapper Nas made it plain about Jesse.

"I think Jesse Jackson, he's the biggest player hater," he said. "His time is up. All you old niggas, time is up. We heard your voice, we saw your marching, we heard your sermons. We don't wanna hear that shit no more. It's a new day. It's a new voice."

Check me out in LEO Weekly, 'Attack of the activist'. Underneath the juicy quotes are several pertinent questions about grassroots organizations, 'damaged goods' members, iconic veterans and the generational divide.

From LEO Weekly:

For years Gracie Lewis has worked to fight racism, but the feisty advocate’s longtime tenure with the Kentucky Alliance now is in jeopardy after she reportedly got into an altercation with a child, then berated the boy’s mother.“Gracie had an inappropriate and totally out-of-line confrontation with my 13-year-old son and I approached her about it,” says Attica Scott, a fellow activist and coordinator at Kentucky Jobs with Justice. On July 21, she says Lewis verbally abused her son, Advocate, who was participating in the Arts and Activism Summer Institute at the Kentucky Alliance.

Specifically, the 13-year-old claims Lewis accosted him for getting in her way, then waved her finger in his face and told him not to speak unless spoken to.

The boy’s mother says she approached Lewis about mistreating her son, and that she received the following threatening message on her answering machine the next day: “This is Gracie Lewis you black bitch. You better not never bring your skinny, narrow ass and get in my face again because I will kick your black ass. Peace.”...

Looking the other way might be the accepted way of doing things it can potentially endanger the reputation and work of social justice these groups claim to hold dear. Of course it'll upset some people that I wrote this piece, but accountability matters -- does it not?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The Republican National Committee launched a website, BarackBook, which copies the format of Facebook and parodies the junior Senator from Illinois about his controversial friendships and moonwalking positions. It's a 21st century facelift on classic GOP attack ads, but it's a lot better than throwing the easy punch at Barack (he's a Muslim). Give the RNC credit, it's a pretty creative attack.

From ABC News:

The Republican National Committee has launched a fake Facebook page attacking Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, highlighting some of the more controversial "friends" in his "network." "BarackBook" includes info on Tony Rezko, former Weather Underground member William Ayers, Marilyn Katz, Nadhmi Auchi, and others.

Copying the format of Facebook, the page includes information along the lines of: "Alexi Giannoulias and Eric Holder have updated their profiles."

Young Republicans ought to love it. Users of the real Facebook can install an application on their personal page with links to BarackBook. This looks like an attempt by the GOP to shave at B-Rock's growing lead over McCain among younger voters.

Good luck! According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, voters age 18-34 favor Obma 55% to 31% over McCain. It's doubtful a faux Facebook will close the gap. The BarackBook idea is a good one, but unfornatuely the Republicans picked the oldest man alive as their nominee. Does McCain even know what Facebook is?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Maher's 'Religulous' trailer

Teaming up with 'Borat' director Larry Charles, comedian Bill Maher has a new documentary set to hit theatres on October 3rd. It's about religion and is called 'Religulous', because well, believing in unicorns, centaurs, demons, gods, angels and pixies in the 21st Century is ridiculous!

Watch the trailer, here.

Maher's statement on the film:

It has been my pleasure over the last decade and a half to make organized religion one of my favorite targets. I often explained to people, "I don't need to make fun of religion, it makes fun of itself." And, then I go ahead and make fun of it too, just for laughs.

With religious fanatics like George Bush and Osama bin Laden now taking over the world, it seemed to me in recent years that this issue -- this cause of debunking the man behind the curtain -- needed to have a larger, more insistent and focused forum than late night television. I wanted to make a documentary, and I wanted it to be funny. In fact, since there is nothing more ridiculous than the ancient mythological stories that live on as today's religions, this movie would try to be a real knee slapper. Unless, of course, you're religious, then you might not like it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'Obama is my slave'

Boy oh boy, this is going to be a very interesting presidential election. Everywhere from Georgia to Utah, we're seeing some of the most racist caricatures since the 1920s being veiled as 'presidential criticism'.

Joining the club of rednecks is an unlikely candidate, an Israeli-born New York fashion designer named Apollo Braun, who is considered the new Andy Warhol according to one documentary film on YouTube.

One of Braun's customers, a 25-year-old NYC gradudate student, bought a $69 t-shirt that reads, 'Obama is my slave'. Well she got her ass kicked by four black teenage girls, who shoved her and spit in her face for wearing it. She then threatened to sue Braun.

From Livesteez:

The woman bought a $69 shirt from Apollo Braun's Manhattan boutique that bore the words, "Obama is my slave." When she wore the shirt on Tuesday, four teenage girls accosted her - shoving her, pulling out her earphones, and spitting in her face, according to the New York edition of Metro News.

The unnamed woman is reportedly seeking solace by suing Braun - born Doron Braunshtein - for "all he's got," the designer claims. He, of course, is shirking any responsibility for the incident and says that the shirt reflects the views of "ordinary WASPs."

"For a lot of people, when they see Obama, they see a slave. People think America is not ready for a black president,” the Israeli-born designer said.

"I can’t stand Obama," Braun says.

Braun says he hates Barack, thinks he's a Muslim and "He reminds me of Adolf Hitler." Strong words, which probably explains why he's decided to sell a line of anti-Obama t-shirts in NYC that include, 'Jews Against Obama,', 'Obama = Hitler' and 'Who Killed Obama?'.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blitt's cover eclipses Lizza's story

Barack is a Muslim terrorist, Michele is a Black Panther, bin Laden's their hero and old Glory is burning -- scared enough, America?

Maybe the readership of The New Yorker is so sophisticated that Barry Blitt's illustration, called 'The Politics of Fear', is understood as satire. The troubling thing about satire is this: if it ain't funny you're screwed. And it appears the rest of the country didn't get it. Go here, here and here.

Now New Yorker editor David Remnick is moonwalking, arguing that no one should truly believe that The New Yorker (a stereotype itself of liberal elitism) would deliberately put gasoline on the flames of these ugly rumors and stereotypes.

Unfortunately the controversial cover eclipses Ryan Lizza's article, 'Making It', which is one of the best written pieces about B-Rock's Chicago past. We know about the interracial odyssey of Barry's childhood and the rise of Mr. Hope after his election to the U.S. Senate, but who exactly was that community activist in Windy? Lizza puts the puzzle together by capturing the history of Chicago politics with my new neighborhood, Hyde Park, as the centerpiece.

One of my favorite touchstones deals with exactly why Barack joined Trinity. We all know why these suit and tie black professionals join these mega-churches . It ain't got nothing to do with theology. It has less than nothing to do with the charismatic clergy. It's called status.

From The New Yorker:

On issue after issue, [alderwoman Toni] Preckwinkle presented Obama as someone who thrived in the world of Chicago politics. She suggested that Obama joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for political reasons. “It’s a church that would provide you with lots of social connections and prominent parishioners,” she said. “It’s a good place for a politician to be a member.”

Where else can an ambitious newcomer meet a network of Negroes other than a church? Maybe the barbershop (too leisure) or the club (too unorganized).

Let the secular truth say, Amen!

Fact checking w/ Patti Wolter

Described as a copious enterprise, fact-checking was our latest lesson at the Academy of Alternative Journalism. It was facilitated by Patti Wolter, an assistant professor at Medill, who was once a managing editor at Mother Jones magazine.

Wolter showed us just how important and tedious a process it can be, even to the smallest fact it can have serious repercussions at a major weekly or monthly publication. Is his name spelled correctly, was it raining that day, are the lights bright or dimmed, did he shoot the gun with his right or left hand?

These questions and a whole lot more should dominate the mind of any species of journalist whether you're an op-ed columnist, daily reporter, television anchor or magazine writer. We're the ones who should be prudent with the story in our hands enough to be as accurate as possible. Especially in an age of bloggers and citizen journalists, fact-checking means from spelling of names to government documents you have someone who certifies what the reporter wrote was factual.

Just to show us how important fact-checking is to the craft of journalism Wolter showed up as clip of Shattered Glass, which is based on the true story of Stephen Glass, a fraudulent reporter who worked for The New Republic in the late 1990s. Basically Glass exploited the holes in the fact-checking system and wrote at least 27 stories where he made up sources, quotes and people. And we all know about the infamous Jayson Blair.

To learn more guidelines, tenets and tips go here

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

B-Rock caves on Wiretap Bill

Look mommy, Mr. Hope is melting.

From NY Times:

After long opposing the idea of immunity for the phone companies in the wiretapping operation, [Senator Barack Obama of Illinois] voted for the plan on Wednesday. His reversal last month angered many of his most ardent supporters, who organized an unsuccessful drive to get him to reverse his position once again. And it came to symbolize what civil liberties advocates saw as “capitulation” by Democratic leaders to political pressure from the White House in an election year.

And so begins the sad, long, hard and yet predictable fall from grace of Mr. Hope. What will Obamaniacs do now -- increase their zealotry or admit their candidate is like every politician before him? I threw him a light jab on Iraq. We'll see if this continues.