Showing posts with label L'ville news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label L'ville news. Show all posts

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

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?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Remembering Rev. Coleman

In this week's LEO I wrote about the death of Rev. Louis Coleman, which has been hard for many -- friend and foe -- back in Louisville to digest. He was one of the city's most familar faces, charismatic personalities and divisive subjects. He committed his life to struggle which some in our sleepy town will be eternally grateful. With all of the last minute memorials and comments of appreciation from public officials one may begin to believe he was loved across the Derby City.

Eck! Wrong.

Let's make it plain, there are people who are glad he's dead. And much like anyone who actually said aloud what they believe he had to wait until death to be embraced by those who usually kept him at arms length. Unless deep in the bosom of West Louisville, expect a nasty fight over any official rememberance such as renaming a city thoroughfare, Rev. Louis Coleman Boulevard.

Peace & Blessing Rev. Coleman.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gonzo, a son of Louisville

Whether we know it, like it or embrace it or not, my hometown of Louisville, KY has exported two of the greatest rebels in American history -- Muhammad Ali and Hunter S. Thompson. The boxer who was a poet and the writer who was a fighter. Two men who revolutionized not only their respective genres but challenged the orthodoxy of atheletics and journalism and the world at large. In Louisville we've finally come to our senses and embraced Ali by building a downtown shrine -- mainly becuase he's a shell of his former self and much easier to digest.

The Ali Center is the glitter, giggles and gum of Ali. We ignore the work of the Ali Institute at the University of Louisville, which though under funded is the meat and bones Ali's legacy.

Even though he's been dead for nearly three years after offing himself, Thompson is still harder to swallow and a bit unnerving to a lot of folks from his hometown. There's certainly an underground following in an attempt to "Keep Louisville Weird" but there's not even one of those obnoxious giant posters that say, "(Person's Name) Louisville" in the city. Questions such as, 'Why doesn't Louisville have an institute of journalism with at least his named attached?' may provide answers that are more sad than puzzling. That would be a project I'd love to join.

Anyhow, tomorrow is the debut of a new documentary film about Thompson, entitled GONZO: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, which is written and directed by Alex Gibney. I hope it is showing in his city of birth, regardless I'm going to see it at Landmark's Century Centre. Go check it out, if you can. But first, read this article on the film.

From the Chicago Reader:

As Gonzo makes clear, the pitfalls of augmenting journalism with the techniques of fiction emerged when Rolling Stone assigned Thompson to cover George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972. In a panel discussion taped years later, Thompson chuckles as McGovern campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz calls Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 “the most accurate and least factual account of that campaign.” But Thompson’s mischief had real consequences when he speculated that Democratic candidate Edmund Muskie, whom he despised, was being treated with the obscure hallucinogenic drug Ibogaine by a shadowy Brazilian doctor. After Rolling Stone published his statement, thinking it too ridiculous for anyone to take seriously, it was picked up by the news wires as a legitimate story. “People really believed that Muskie was eating Ibogaine,” Thompson tells a TV interviewer. “I never said he was—said there was a rumor in Milwaukee that he was. Which was true, and I started the rumor in Milwaukee...

I’m a very accurate journalist.”
If you're interested in knowing more about Hunter S. Thompson and you happen to be one of those strange people who still reads books, there's a new biography, Outlaw Journalist: The Life & Times of Hunter S. Thompson by William McKeen.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The inadequate and unprepared black man named Barack

Was Louisville Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh's comments on WHAS-11, yesterday, wrong? The debate was all the rage locally @ The 'Ville Voice and PageOne. It even broke national coverage on DailyKos. Maybe it was a bit of a pile by the bloggers due to a bad paraphrase chosen by reporter Joe Arnold.

You be the judge.

From WHAS-11:

Metro Council member Tina Ward-Pugh says she’s not convinced that Obama has what it takes to be president…Ward-Pugh says she wonders what the nine weeks between now and the convention will reveal about Obama.

Overall Ward-Pugh's comments sound and look like that of a sore loser. Hillary's farewell lettermakes Ward-Pugh look stubbornly bitter. Maybe Hillary supporters are on different schedules or time zones. In the end, Ward-Pugh's comments are mild compared to truculent Hillary supporters like Harriet Christian, who said that Barack's nomination represented the Democrats choosing an "inadequate black male" -- whatever that means

Hillary supporters angry over Barack clinching the nomination are a mixed bag, some legitimately disappointed that their candidate lost and others unwilling to respect, fathom or acknowledge that a black person won. Yes, even among progressive white limousine liberals there's resistance to admitting a black person is at the head of the table in the Democratic Party.

I predicted sour grapes. It was bound to happen in a historic race between the two biggest identity politics movements in American history. No matter who won, the prospect of either the first black or first female president was going to end.

For the second time in American history white women have been passed by with black men going first. Before you applaud, hold on, ladies. When black men were given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870, we had a few barriers between us and the ballot box such as the literacy test, grandfather clause, poll tax, Jim Crow and Klu Klux Klan to name a few. Don't say we got the right to vote before you as an accomplishment or proof that sexism is worse than racism when up until 1965, all black people couldn't vote without the fear of American terrorism visiting their doorstep the next day. Do not leave out the context of history.

I do wonder, however, when white women bemoan Barack's victory as somehow borrowing from the power of sexism, do black women figure in their equation at all? For whatever reason I never see, hear or read their point of view on the matter.

The best debate on the subject is still from a January broadcast on Democracy Now! between Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Gloria Steinem. Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My ¢2 on the changes @ LEO

No one better than Stephen George could have written about the rumblings, changes and new ownership at LEO. His editorial in this week's edition about the torturous "low trade" known as journalism that is a "habit worse than heroin", summarizes and addresses it best. For those of you who don't know what in the blue blazes I'm talking about go here, here, and finally here to catch up.

Being a rookie to Louisville's journalism means that my opinion on the subject ought not matter as much or register on the local media radar. Stephen in many ways was Cary Stemle's mentee at LEO. He's the best authority on the matter. Still, there's a bit of survival's guilt. Also, I haven't seen Cary since last Wednesday, before his ouster. My last memory was him at his desk going over a story yet chatting cheerfully. It's a bit unnerving that I haven't seen him since.

There've been plenty of people who I have felt have been mentors, advisors and allies to my writing. The first group of people are obviously the founders of The SOULution, who gave me my first platform as an undergrade at the University of Louisville. My 'big brothers' are to blame if you've been upset at anything I've written. Of course, I cannot say enough about my mentor, Dr. Ricky L. Jones.

Since then I've met a handful of people in this town I respect without question -- Cary Stemle was among them. His ideas were inspiring, his writing was superb and his leadership was motivating. Plus, he was a funny guy to match. It was Cary who suggested last year that I enter my name in the Academy for Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University. I remember thanking him when I was accepted in this year's class. Those spitting fire over him demonstrate the public's investment in not just LEO, but its character. I hope readers who are righteously indignant will at least give the post-Stemle era a chance to pass or fail before claiming hyperbolically 'LEO is dead'.

Whether in dress, speaking or thought, I have never been a shark in the free-market waters. I picked up a pen because I love writing. I suck at business. I hate capitalism. Even though it's great at making toys -- my Palm Centro cell phone and 2004 Volkswagen Passat especially. I'm naive, I don't believe in putting dollars and cents before conscience, principle, or people.


I just couldn't let this moment pass without saying Thank You to a great writer and a helluva friend.

Peace & Blessings Cary.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

R.I.P. Alice Wade

One of Louisville's most dependable and committed voices in the civil-rights movement died yesterday. Alice Wade, 69, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer passed yesterday morning. According to an e-mail sent out by the KY Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Wade was given less than two weeks to live by doctors last week at Jewish Hospital. Though lesser-known to the public, Wade was a committed organizer to the struggle for equality in Louisville.

From the Courier-Journal:

A native of Jeffersonville, Ind., Wade had lived in the Louisville area all her life. Her daughter, Ursula Wade, said her mother worked at the old Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, at various other jobs and in nursing.

Of her involvement in civil rights, her daughter said: "I think she just wanted to make sure that she made a difference."

Alice Wade's family is planning a memorial service, but arrangements were incomplete yesterday. Memorial gifts may be made to The Braden Center, 3208 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY 40211.

"I saw her yesterday," said Rev. Louis Coleman, director of the Justice Resource Center and longtime friend and ally of Wade. When I called him about Wade's passing, Rev. Coleman kept repeating, "It's a tragic loss."

Raoul Cunningham, President of Louisville NAACP said Wade was one of the most dedicated individuals in community activism and her dedication will be severely missed.

"She was always dependable," Cunningham told me. "Always ready to make whatever contributions were necessary."

"We're almost gone," Rev. Coleman commented somberly, speaking about the dwindling number of his peers who marched, petitioned and spoke out for civil rights at the movement's genesis in the 1960s. "We're just about gone, either that or tired or worn out. Some of us hit a wall and cancer is a rough trial."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hillary wins Klantucky -- Louisville needs to secede

UPDATE: Halfway across the globe Al Jazeerah reported on how race played a factor in the Democratic presidential primary. Pay attention to the first woman.

Watch, she almost says it.
"I just don't want to vote for a--"

It's a bit disheartening watching Hillary Clinton declare her Klantucky victory in Louisville considering she lost the Derby City to Barack, 52% to 44% by 12,000 votes. Growing up in Louisville, you get a lopsided perception of the Bluegrass. We forget that outside our metro oasis outlined by the Watterson Expressway is an entirely different world. A world where minstrel black-face figurines still adorn kitchen cabinets.

Especially if you're from the neighborhoods within West Louisville, which is the most densely black populated area in the entire state, you tend to forget you're in Kentucky. We're reminded about that face when the contrasts between Louisville & Kentucky are drawn after elections where exit polls illustrate a lucid difference. Using a rubric of education, age and race means that overall Kentucky is uneducated, old and white. By themselves those demographics are harmless, but combined it's a lethal equation (Barack got wiped out by 35%.)

When African-American Kentuckians travel they often hear, "They got black people in Kentucky?!?" Watching Hillary's victory speech on MSNBC and analyzing the results, I see why.

As Howard Fineman noted on MSNBC:

"There's a huge resentment between Louisville and the rest of the state and Obama became the downtown Louisville candidate"

Ironically, Hillary declared victory at the new Marriott in downtown Louisville. As my former editor at The Cardinal, Dylan Lightfoot commented:

"Just proves what we all know: The Ville is a nucleus of progressivism surrounded by a protoplasmic ooze of assbackwardsness."

After today's results where 21% of Kentucky voters openly said they voted based on race we cannot deny the writing on the wall.

I want to make something abundantly clear to outsiders. I'm from Louisville, home of Muhammad Ali and Hunter S. Thompson, and damn proud of it. The basketball team I cheer for is U of L (NOT UK). My congressman is John Yarmuth.

I love my city, but Louisville needs to secede.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

'Cruising the Divide' @ 8pm today

Today is the first scheduled performance for “Cruising the Divide: From West Broadway to Churchill Downs”, a community-based play by the Apprentice Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

I covered it in LEO here.

Today's performance will be at Actors Theatre as will another on Saturday, May 17, 8:00 pm, which will also be followed by a community dialogue. On Friday, May 16, 5:30 pm, a special performance will be held in the backyard of The Braden Center located on 3208 W. Broadway.

Admission is free but a ticket is required, so call 502-584-1205 or stop by the box office at Third and Main Street. I hope to see you there

Monday, May 12, 2008

Urban decay in West Louisville

Since the city-county merger of 2003, Louisville has been eager to join the fraternity of medium sized American cities. Key to that has been the redevelopment of vital downtown locations. Creating Waterfront Park and 4th Street Live!, demolishing the Clarksdale housing projects being demolished to create Liberty Green, has all been a movement to attract suburbanites and urban professionals back into the heart of the city.

The new Louisville we're trying to become is a city incomplete, still under construction. But one where there's an ongoing debate about what to do with I-64 and a future downtown stadium. And let's not forget the 'Possibility City' campaign.

There's another story, however. It's a part of the Louisville-Jefferson County merger either forgotten by city fathers and mothers or something that was never included in the original plan.

And freelance photographer Abdul Sharif, is committed to telling that side of the story.

"For many people, the scenes of boarded up houses and vacant graffiti ridden businesses in the West End have become a norm," Sharif said in an interview with The SOULution. "I believe that when something so detrimental starts to become so normal, people start to become desensitized to it." Introduced to photography by his 9th grade Spanish teacher when he attended Shawnee High School, Sharif believes accentuating the problem of decay with visual documents will re-awaken the entire city to what some of Louisville’s urban areas truly look like.

"I only hope that my photos can bring about awareness to some of the social, and economic issues that are facing certain urban areas in the city of Louisville."

Sharif's photo essay @ JPG Magazine:

These photos represent a community in need. A community that is headed on a downward spiral. True, not all homes in West Louisville are boarded-up. But to ignore the areas of West Louisville that are decaying, would be like a teacher turning his back on one of his student that cannot read because he or she has nine other students that can.

Check out Abdul Sharif's work here, here and here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The real Afri-Am connection to the KY Derby

Jimmy Winkfield atop Alan-A-Dale in the 1902 KY Derby victory

On Derby Eve, like everything else in America, we've forgotten the African-American origins of this 130 plus year racing tradition. Blame it on decades of racial discrimination that eventually excluded blacks from a sport in which they were commonplace. Call it a lazy reading of history by us all. For whatever reason, black folks have seemingly relinquished what goes on at Churchill Downs as a de facto "whites only" affair.

Not so!

Visit the KY Derby website here to learn more. Or read 'The Great Black Jockeys' by Edward Hotaling. Or order the KET episode, 'Black Jockeys: A Forgotten Legacy'.

My rant from LEO's "Run From the Roses: The Perfect Derby Issue":

"Being a child of the 1980s, born and raised in West Louisville, you might expect that my sole memories of the Kentucky Derby come from cruising on Broadway. And it’s true; I can’t recall anything noteworthy about the Chow Wagon or Churchill Downs.

Sadly, cruising — that now-defunct accumulation of spruced-up cars, family oriented vendors and wandering pedestrians that once filled Broadway — has voided an entire generation’s historical viewpoint of the Kentucky Derby’s relationship to African-Americans. Before black jockeys became a symbol of dehumanizing minstrelsy for the front lawn of many sophisticated rednecks, they were the premiere athletes of the late 19th century.

Shamefully, Oliver Lewis, who rode Aristides to victory in the inaugural Derby in 1875, is all but forgotten. Fewer still know about the 15-year-old phenomenon Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, who rode Azra to victory in 1892 — the youngest jockey to win a Kentucky Derby. If you’re lucky, Isaac Murphy, the greatest jockey of all time, who won three straight Derbys, makes the pop culture lexicon. Give credit to historians and the Kentucky Derby Museum for keeping them alive for posterity.

Fast forward more than 100 years.

Most of my peers’ anecdotes about this annual equine sprint are anchored to the good, bad and ugly happenings of cruising years past. Broadway is our Derby history archive.

Today, Lonnie Clayton is a 13-year-old kid dancing suggestively with a woman twice his age atop a car, her clothing suggesting she is an exotic dancer. His Aristides is a lime green candy-painted Impala.

I’m not particularly upset that cruising was aborted. Frankly, the arguments against it were better than the ones for keeping it. What I am bitter about is unimaginative city leaders and pigheaded hip-hoppers who have zero understanding of how the Kentucky Derby is related to the African-American community. That history is deep, rich and worth more than the embarrassing image of West Broadway abandoned on days designed to overflow the city with people."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thunder Under Louisville

At 5:37am tremors from 5.2 earthquake hit Louisville. Originating in West Salem, IL, reports are that it was felt as far as Indianapolis. On a scale from insignificant to extraordinary a 5.2 is between intermediary and moderate. No injuries reported thus far.

My first thoughts when it awoke me this morning.

  1. My cell phone is vibrating way too hard.
  2. Being from West Louisville, Who is playing their music this loud, this early?
  3. Thunder? Wind? The soil is sinking?
Besides that I was calm. I didn't jump out of bed to dial 911 or open the Book of Revelations. After the earthquake hit I called a few friends and turned on my television.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Follow up to Ali Center brothel by Frankfort's Finest

Give kudos to The 'Ville Voice and Joe Gerth at the C-J. They're sticking with the story about KY Senate President David Williams and other state’s legislators having a big pimpin' Thunder party at the Ali Center last Saturday, which was paid for by lobbyists.

From Gerth's blog The List:

"Williams, on WHAS Radio, said the event on the top floor of the Muhammad Ali Center was meant to provide transparency since members of the Senate were being invited to parties all over town with little or no oversight by the Legislative Ethics Commission.

'You know, all this information will be out there for the public and they'll be able to decide how they feel about it. And if they don't like the activities of their particular legislator, they have the opportunity at the polls to take some action,' he said on WHAS.

The problem is that while lobbyists have to report what they spend on senators at the event, they don't have to report which members of the Senate attended. And neither do the senators.

Since Williams said the event wasn't open to reporters (we offered to forgo food and drink and even avert our eyes when planes passed by and fireworks exploded), we weren't quite sure how voters would know upon whom to take out their anger."

Gerth goes on to say that Williams said he will comply with an open-records request by the C-J (all deliberate speed Davey) to see who RSVP'd the event. Still, we may never know who actually attended. However, cnce the RSVP list it out it'll be nice to see who chickened out once the party became newsworthy.

Today's editorial in the C-J lists the tangible results of Frankfort's failure, which gives this story a slimier context. We're facing a grave economic crisis in the Bluegrass.

From 'Ville Voice:
"For those who did go, let’s hope they have political opposition at the polls, since Williams arrogantly told WHAS Radio last week that if voters don’t like it, they could “have the opportunity at the polls to take some action."
Here. Here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Frankfort's Finest to turn Ali Center into political brothel for Thunder

Here's exactly what I meant when I wrote in LEO this week that with dull regularity the local media covers the customary sideshows leading up to the equine gallop. In the frenzy of Derby we neglect the important news for the entertainment bullshit.

This Saturday when 700,000 plus converge downtown to watch Thunder Over Louisville in a giant cluster &#*@, some of Frankfort's finest will turn the Ali Center into a whorehouse, a political brothel filled with lobbyists and state officials in the aftermath of one of the worst legislative sessions in recent memory.

hat tip to The 'Ville Voice:

"If you’re really planning to brave the chills downtown for Thunder, you’ll be pleased to know that the same state government officials who are slashing budgets in education and social services will be warm and cozy inside the Ali Center, noshing on top-of-the-line food and drink bought and paid for by lobbyists. You know, the folks who pressure politicians to make unpopular moves, like blocking cigarette taxes and a gaming proposal, despite overwhelming public support.

Members of the State Senate, led by President David Williams, are all lining up to get in for the expensive party as guests of lobbying firms, who will bend their ears over shrimp and martinis, peering out the Ali Center’s giant windows at the poor suckers fighting for a patch of damp grass on the Great Lawn, all the while watching the action on big-screen TVs...

It’s hard to find anything in local media not related to the big Thunder show Saturday...But through all the Thunder news, I caught a significant political story by WLKY’s Andy Alcock, in which he questioned the idea of lawmakers, fresh on the heels of a dismal performance in Frankfort, hobnobbing with lobbyists in the posh indoor climate of the Ali Center."
From the budget cuts in education to the failure of the steam bill to the abortion of the cigarette tax, this is rather shameful. Sadly, you probably won't hear much of it underneath the avalanche of Derby coverage.

For the rest go here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What's Wrong With Obamamania?

On Louisville Live, my mentor, Dr. Ricky L. Jones appeared as a guest to talk about his new book, "What's Wrong With Obama-mania?: Black America, Black Leadership and the Death of Political Imagination". As always his analysis cuts through the fog of even the BarackSTAR movement.

Although I disagree with certain assessments -- such as the suggestion that the black electorate is voting for Barack mainly on the basis of race -- I will not reject or denounce him!

However, Dr. Jones is right about one thing. Most American voters know little about their candidates voting record (i.e. Hillary voted for the War in Iraq!) or campaign contributors. A bit of political maturity is necessary in democracy. So don't dumb it down, smarten it up.

The book drops June 15th, 2008. Pre-order your copy here. Maybe he'll let us preview an excerpt on the ol' SOULution.

Watch Dr. Jones on Louisville Live at the bottom.

But first, from The 'Ville Voice:

"[Dr.] Jones, who writes a column on race for LEO, believes African-Americans jumping on the bandwagon for Obama may be harboring unrealistic expectations — that many aren’t even looking at his policies and are voting for him just because he’s black. They’re buying into the charisma, he says, rather than public policy.

And he says that Obama’s campaign is viewed by some as evidence that racial problems are being wiped out in America, which is far from the truth.

“They’re getting better, but some people are saying that race problems are over with,” he told me. “That’s a dangerous idea.”

Don’t get the idea, from the book’s title, than Jones in any way opposes Obama’s candidacy. He says he’ll support the Democratic candidate, no matter who it is. But he warns that Obama is “not what a lot of people think he is. Change isn’t going to happen just because of him.”

Jones said he started working on the book last summer, expecting that Obama might be out of the race by February. Now that it looks like the race will go down to the wire, he’s hopeful the book will be a big seller. It will be distributed nationally and is published by SUNY Press..."

'Cruising the Divide' in LEO

About two weeks ago I posted a story about 'Cruising the Divide', a theatrical play based on interviews with Louisvillians by the Apprentice Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville about our decade-long debate over cruising on W. Broadway.

In LEO this week, I wrote about the play and its message. Check me out. I'm also pulling double duty as a photographer for the piece, what do you think?

For more info on "Cruising the Divide: From West Broadway to Churchill Downs" go here.

One of the interesting people I interviewed for the piece was University of Kentucky doctoral student Benjamin Brandford, who is writing his dissertation on cruising entitled "From Celebration to Confrontation to Condemnation: The short life of ‘Derby cruising’." Branford, who studies geography at UK, was gracious enough to let me see a summary of his paper. With his permission I wanted to share an excerpt that peels off the layers:

"It is important to recognize the role of the ‘streets’ in both the symbolic significance of Derby cruising and the strongly oppositional stance taken by cruising opponents. In the U.S., the streets have been used traditionally to assert a group’s ‘right’ to the city and/or lay claim symbolically to a specific place or neighborhood within the city.

For African Americans in the largely segregated and stigmatized West End of Louisville, Derby cruising also offered an opportunity for participants to engage communally and promote cultural creativity...

The location of the festivities in the ‘streets’ also played a significant role in framing the opposition. Over the last several decades, the availability of public space in the U.S. has undergone a dramatic decline as municipalities increasingly direct communal activities to within private spaces...

The increasing usage of surveillance, such as security cameras, in public spaces, such as the streets and public parks, has signaled an increased regulation of what types of activities are considered allowable in public, as is demonstrated through the criminalization of homelessness. Because Derby cruising took place in the streets, critics framed the event as one that was ‘uncontrollable’ and ‘lawless’. These sentiments gained traction because of the public location of the festivities, not only in the streets, but in the streets of the stigmatized and racialized West End of Louisville."

Righteous. Lucid.

Branford's a Louisville-raised, Bluegrass public intellectual in the state's flagship university. Why again are we cutting funds for higher education?

Monday, April 7, 2008

U of L Task Force Calls for 9% tuition hike

From The 'Ville Voice:

"A recommendation made Monday by a University of Louisville task force on tuition recommends a 9 percent increase in tuition, which would be the sixth straight year the cost of a U of L education has gone up by at least that amount.

During an on-campus walkout organized by students last week, demonstrators called for no more than a 5 percent increase in tuition next year.

The Task Force filed its report prior to the release of the state legislature’s budget, which calls for a 3 percent cut in university funding and slashed the Bucks for Brains initiative by $55 million.

The six-page document, written by Michael J. Curtin, Chair of the Task Force on Tuition and Fee Setting, makes 11 recommendations based on its work from last November through March.

Among its “observations” is that the school can’t “sustain many more years of high tuition increases above the overall level of inflation…”

No kidding.

Its rationale for the 9 percent recommendation seems to be from the conclusion that a double-digit increase would be unacceptable, and that at 9 it would be considered “reasonable.”

The letter was addressed to Provost Dr. Shirley C. Willinghanz, and requests that they be adopted by the University’s Board of Trustees.

Undergraduate tuition for residents of Kentucky would rise from $3,470 per semester to $3,782 if the University adopts the Task Force’s recommendations."

Another yellow brick in the long road to nowhere on higher education in KY.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Who is the Flute Man?

This is why I got into (alternative) journalism.

If you've ever walked around downtown Louisville near what is now 4th street Live you've seen him, 'Flute Man', standing in front of The Seelbach hotel, with a shiny flute, playing for any passerby whether they're willing to spare change or not. Though he appears as a rustic LEO's cover story by Shawn Hudson this week profiles 'Flute Man', "a 63-year-old flutist who may be the only street musician in downtown Louisville" with an incredible journey.

From 'The love song of Kamaal 'Flute Man' Ibn-Duriyah Tilford':

Flute Man has other, less-mythic names, but the people who traffic his playground typically don’t know them. For each person who drops a spare quarter into his plastic gas station cup, another 30 lengthen their strides and avert their eyes. It is embarrassing to see.

He is allowed to continue busking outside the hotel’s Starbucks because, urban detachment and indifference of some passersby notwithstanding, Flute Man is a passive entertainer. Mark Butcher, food services manager of The Seelbach — a man who could shut down Flute Man’s shop if he wanted — says he has received only one complaint, “from someone who tried to steal from his cup.” Katie Dunn, employed there a year and a half, agrees.

“The only time he’s had altercations is when he felt threatened or insulted,” she says. “She (the woman who tried to steal money from his cup) must have pissed him off. Supposedly, he tried to smack her with his flute.”

Asked about this, Flute Man nods, though he won’t verify the claim: “One day, I had to knock a cat out in the street,” he says, leaving it there.

Butcher says Flute Man usually keeps an eye out for troublemakers, and that he keeps them away from the hotel and his “place of business.” Besides, he admires the music and the man’s determination, though he knows little about him.

And remember, losers read LEO.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cruising the Divide

With Derby 2008 right around the corner the monotony of news coverage is bound to highlight what's become a decade-long debate over cruising on Broadway.

I covered the madness of Derby cruising in LEO a few years ago. Since then the topic has become a radioactive waste dump, a toxic mix of thoughtlessness cruisers and unimaginative policymakers. In 2006 the mayor ended it, which basically closed all of West Broadway for cruisers...and vendors, and families, and foot traffic, and local businesses.

As usual, when politicians can't fix something artists fill the vacuum with illuminating satire. So next Tuesday, at 7:30 pm at the Braden Center (3208 W. Broadway), Actor's Theater is inviting the public to hear a community reading of Cruising the Divide: From West Broadway to Churchill Downs, an interview-based play created by Actors Theater of Louisville's Apprentice Company.

Written by Will MacAdams, director of the apprentice/intern company, the script was developed from interviews conducted by the apprentices last winter and fall with over 60 Louisvillians from across the city discussing their views on Derby cruising.

"Our goal is to build dialogue and bring together people are not talking to each other," said MacAdams, who believes theatre is a communal way of putting people together in a room who would otherwise never meet to discuss divisive issues. He encourages the public to attend the reading and share their thoughts.

Although the final draft is not finished, the play is scheduled to be performed at Actors Theatre of Louisville on May 15th and 17th at 8pm. On May 16th, portions of the play will be performed in the backyard of the Braden Center.

All performances are free of charge.

To RSVP for the April 1st reading, call (502) 584-1265, ext. 3083 or e-mail MacAdams

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

pro Castro v. anti Castro in the C-J

hat tip to John's Doemain for bringing this to my attention.

On Sunday the C-J published a lengthy op-ed piece, ''Castro's enduring revolution', by filmmaker, writer and activist Sonja Wallace extolling to virtues of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

As expected the majority of letters responding to Wallace's editorial are eviscerating. Read them all here.

Both sides get high marks for reciting ideological orthodoxy. However, they wear the same blinders of old. Wallace describes Cuba as utopia. Castro is a teddy bear and every Cuban loves him. If so, I must ask humbly, what exactly were the thousands of Cubans seeking political asylum in the U.S. fleeing from? Plenty of Americans think the U.S. government stinks with corruption. No mass exodus to Canada or Sweden.

Her conservative respondents highlight the political repression. Would they prefer Batista? No seriously, American interference in Cuban affairs goes back to a time when Castro was in diapers. Any leader that sought a gnat of independence for the tiny island 90 miles off Florida probably had to put the screws to dissidents and tell the U.S. government where to stick the sugarcane.