Who is the Best Reciever in the NFL?

Posted in On Sports! with tags on September 17, 2019 by playthell

Julio Bogarting the Ball Up Top

Stating The Case For Julio

At the end of the day an argument could be made for several of today’s top wideouts. Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Deandre Hopkins, Michael Thomas are all great. Yet If I were the General Manager of an NFL team, I would run not walk past all these names to sign who I believe to be the best receiver in the NFL, Julio Jones!

As a physical specimen Julio is a freak of nature. Like the Six Million Dollar Man he is “Bigger, Stronger, Faster.” At 6’4” 220 lbs. he dwarfs the competition. Antonio Brown 5’10” 185lbs.; Odell Beckham Jr. 5’11” 198; Michael Thomas 6’1” 212lbs. DeAndre Hopkins 6’1” 212lbs. What’s even more amazing is that Julio is actually the fastest of the group running the 40 yd. dash at 4.31 while Brown runs a 4.47, Odell a 4.41, Thomas a 4.58 and Hopkins a 4.41.

Julio Jones reached the 10,000 receiving yards milestone in just in just 107 games; faster than any receiver in the history of the game. But since each of our contenders vary in the number of years they have been in the league, it would be more useful to compare their per game averages. Julio leads the pack in both number of receptions per game and receiving yards per game. With respect to touchdowns per game Julio averaging .5 per game does lag behind both Odell with .7 per game and Antonio with .6 per game, but Julio has a greater percentage of catches per target both in and out of the end zone. Julio has more 250+ yard games than any of his contemporaries and is the only one them that has ever gone for over 300 yards (vs. .he Panthers on just 12 receptions).

Beyond his statistical dominance Julio is the perfect teammate. The only stories you ever hear about Julio have to do with his dominance on the field. While Antonio Brown has been making headlines from “helmet-gate”, to altercations with his G.M. resulting in his release from Oakland, and now rape allegations which are taking away from his new team – the World Champion Patriots – early dominance; Julio Jones, during a contract re-negotiation, quietly went about his business at camp, preparing for the new season. When asked he said he never considered a holdout as he felt it was important to be in in camp so he could continue to mentor his young University of Alabama protégé Calvin Ridley – which displays both maturity and generosity of spirit. On the field he brings it every game. If the defense double teams him, creating opportunities for his teammates and the team wins, he feels he’s done his part and praises his teammates accomplishments.

A Real Mellow Fellow

He is all about the team!

I began by saying there could be a case could be made for a number of other wide receivers in the league, but as I consider my arguments for Julio Jones, it’s simply not true. Julio Jones is the best wide receiver in the game period! And by the end of his career might just be the best ever.

“That’s what I do, I run away from people.”
Julio Jones

 

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Watch Julio In Action

 

By: Leon Kwaku Saunders
Atlanta, Georgia
September 17, 2019

Palestinians and the Conspiracy of Silence

Posted in Palestinians, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on September 17, 2019 by playthell

Democratic CongresswomenTalib and Omar

On Treasonous Trump, the Congress and the Israel Lobby

Alas, just when we think Dirty Donald’s perfidies have peaked, he commits some other dastardly deed. Unfazed by the charges of treason leveled by some Americans due to his curious subservience to Vladimir Putin, Trump is again engaging in behavior that many Americans, this writer first among them, view as treasonous.

Among his many transgressions are: taking Putin’s word about his interfering in our presidential election over the unanimous conclusions of America’s 17 intelligence agencies; obstructing efforts to investigate the extent of his campaign’s cooperation in the Russian subversion; meeting privately with Putin for over an hour with no Americans present and emerging to confirm that he still believed Putin over American intelligence. Added to these is Trump’s refusal to task US intelligence agencies to devise a plan to prevent Russian interference in our electoral process, although US intelligence and Robert Mueller say it is ongoing as I write.

It has been an article of faith among Democrats and Republicans, that all domestic political disagreements “end at the water’s edge:” Which is to say that when our political leaders deal with foreign governments, friend or foe, they present a United Front. Not only has Dastardly Don waged war against his own intelligence agencies – who are tasked with defining the nation’s friends and enemies for US presidents – Trump has now joined forces with the corrupt leader of a foreign government in an attack on members of the US Congress!

In a shocking scurrilous sinister action, Trump called upon Israel’s embattled Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and gave him a green light to block a visit to Israel by Democratic Congresswomen Ilan Omar and Rahshida Talib to investigate the condition of Palestinians who are forced to live under the illegal Israeli military occupation on the West Bank. the twitterting twit in the White House isued the following statement to the Israeli Government regarding his fellow American members of Congress:

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
9:57 AM – Aug 15, 2019

Again during his brief venture into presidential politics Treasonous Trump sought the aid of a foreign government to achieve his agenda! Crooked Bibi, at the invitation of his partner in crime Dirty Donald, has the unmitigated gall to pull this dreck – which would be scandalous in any case – even though Congresswoman Talib, a Palestinian American, has family still living under the Israeli occupation.

This is yet another count in the growing Bill of Impeachment against Don tha Con. However within 24 hours and a hail of criticism, the Israeli government reversed it’s ruling on Ms. Talib, agreeing to allow her to enter the country on “humanitarian grounds.” But, after the Congresswoman studied the terms set by the Israeli’s she cancelled her visit, saying she was being treated like “a criminal.”

Even more potent was the critique issued by Ms. Talib’s family, in which they made it clear that they did not want her to accept the humiliating terms imposed by the Israeli government. Ironically, by banning the Congresswoman in a brazen attempt to muzzle her, this statement is being given much more ink and air time than it would ever have gotten had the Israeli’s treated the visit of Talib and Omar – who remained banned – as a routine affair. Instead they have focused world attention squarely on the plight of the beleagured and dispossessed Palestinian people; it is a scurrilous scene that cannot stand light of objective impartial scrutiny.

The actions of the accidental American President, who behaves like Putin’s pussy, are so outrageous in this instance that it not only offends Democrats and the renegade Republican intellectuals, but has even sparked a disavowal of Donnie Dimwit’s decision from AIPAC – one of the most influential political PACs in the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

In a grudging mealy mouth statement issued only hours after Donnie’s admonition to Bibi, and the Israeli Prime Minister quickly acting to ban the Congresswomen because of their “boycott activities against Israel,” AIPAC announced: “We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution… We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Many other Jewish organizations and elected officials denounced the Israeli government’s decision to bar entry to the Congresswomen. The full range of their response is beyond the scope of this commentary; hence a broader examination of that response will have to await a future commentary.

Perhaps, unlike Dizzy Donnie, these political pros recognize the inconvenient fact that the Democrats control the House and the annual Israeli entitlement of several billion dollars must pass the House before it can even get to the Republican controlled Senate, let alone the president’s desk. Hence while Dumb Donald may disparage the power of the US House of Representatives, professional lobbyists understand they are a co-equal branch of government; which is the first to be mentioned in the US Constitution, because the House is the most democratic branch due to the proportional method by which it’s members are selected and they must stand for reelection every two years. Whereas the President is elected for a four year term, the Senators for six, and Federal Judges for life!

In this time of great uncertainty, there is on thing that I am absolutely sure of: even if Devious Donald Trump were forced to leave office tomorrow, he will have thrown the American democratic system in disarray and greatly diminished the US presidency in the eyes of Americans and the world. Such has been the transgressions of this amoral, ignorant, incompetent, lying, buffoon whose unorthodox journey to the Oval Office was greatly aided and abetted by 156 million propaganda messages beamed into the brains of Americans by agents of Russian military intelligence.

Putin hated Hillary because of her anti-Russian perspective forged in the fires of Cold War, and needed a puppet to do his bidding. Alas, the Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report has documented many instances where Trump and his charges welcomed Russian help. Now here we go again, as Don tha Con colludes with his buddy Bibi and shamelessly panders to the fanatical, anti-Jewish, “Christian Zionist” Evangelical vote that comprise his base!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York

Mr. Muller Finally Spoke!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on July 26, 2019 by playthell

Droppin Truth without fear or favor

And Told Us Everything We Need to Know

Listening to the reactions of my fellow citizens to the testimony of Robert Mueller, a life-long public servant and genuine America hero who recently served as a Special Prosecutor, I am by turns elated, frustrated, amused, angered, and disgusted. Having completed an investigation into Russian interference into our presidential election with the objective of helping Donald Trump get elected over Hillary Clinton, sow discord among the American populace, and finding out the extent to which the Trump campaign engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” with the Russians to secure a Trump victory and efforts by the Trump administration to illegally cover up their deeds from the Special Prosecutor, people all over the world were anxious to hear what Mueller had to say. His testimony was greeted with hostility, disappointment and some delight.

After much resistance Mr. Mueller finally appeared before the Judicial Committee of the House of Representatives to give an account of the product produced by his multi-million dollar investigation. Although he had warned the Committee “My testimony is in the written report,” and cautioned that he would not venture beyond the boundaries of the report, the Committee insisted that he appear anyway. Mueller’s appearance before Congress to be interrogated by skilled politicians, many of them lawyers, conjured an air of great expectations from pundits and the public. Alas, in an age rife with political ignorance and apathy, where the people are content with bread and circuses, pigged out on reality television shows that are often cheaply produced over the top melo-dramas masquerading as real life, the calm deliberative style of Mr. Mueller went over like a leas balloon.

The disappointment of MSNBC host Ari Melber, a bright and progressive lawyer and notorious hip hop head, was palpable. At one point he looked like he was about to cry. Other reactions among the media crowd ranged from quiet desperation and resignation in liberal/left circles, to jubilation among the FOX crowd on the right. Even declaring “Impeachment is dead!” I think both sides has misread what actually happened, for they viewed the hearing as though they were television critics evaluating a prime time show. Viewed from this perspective, production values become paramount and symbols are privileged over substance, entertainment over enlightenment. They wanted a good show, but when there were no fireworks many spectators were sadly disappointed.

However, while they were whining over the absence of fireworks, they overlooked the revelatory bombs Mueller was quietly dropping. The strategy of the Democrats was perfectly crafted for the type of presentation Mueller gave. Since he had made it clear that he did not wish to opine on the issues beyond the contents of the text, the democratic congressman read damming dramatic passages from the text and simply solicited a yes or no answer from the former prosecutor. Despite the absence of drama, Mr. Mueller delivered a devastating indictment of Trump.

Among the things he quietly confirmed were: Russian intelligence forces massively intervened in the US presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump; they viciously attacked Hillary Clinton in the more than 100 million dis-information messages they posted online; the Trump campaign led by the candidate enthusiastically welcomed it; once elected president Trump did nothing to retaliate for the intrusion or take any steps to prevent it in the future. In fact, Trump rejected the unanimous advice of US intelligence agencies in favor of former KGB intelligence officer Vladimir Putin’s version of events. In Trump’s attempts to cover up their cooperation with the Russians Trump committed ten acts that could qualify as “Obstruction of Justice,” including ordering his subordinates to lie and falsify documents. A thousand former federal prosecutors that Mueller confirmed were honorable professionals – some of whom he had worked with – signed a statement saying they would issue criminal indictments against anyone who had committed these acts. However Mr. Mueller admitted that he could not even consider indicting Trump because Department of Justice regulations forbid indicting a sitting president.

In reality this regulation amounts to a special dispensation for US Presidents that inoculates them against indictment, and in the view of many attorneys practically places the president above the law. This explains why Mueller did not indict or recommend indictment despite the fact that Mueller said Trump lied under oath and committed a crime when he encouraged Wiki-Leaks to hack the Democrats computers and used the stolen information gained to boost his campaign! As the hearing got underway we could see why Mr. Mueller had vigorously resisted testifying before the Judiciary Committee: he is not in the best of health. At times he looked befuddled, as if he was not sure what was going on. That, no doubt, is why he insisted to responding only to what was written in the report.

Faithfully rendering the written text was of little interest to the Republican obscurantists. Their sole objective was to assault the character of Mr. Mueller and cast aspersions on his motives as well as the veracity of his report, in the vain hope of vindicating Dirty Donnie in the eyes of the public; even if they personally consider him a slime ball! Hence they attacked Mr. Mueller with brutal verbal assaults, unrestrained by the fact that he is a venerable Republican public servant that has honorably served this country as a member of the US Marine Corps, where he was wounded in combat and received battle decorations, volunteering for duty while Devious Donald was a draft dodging coward who faked an injury to escape serving.

Despite his elite education Mueller constantly spurned a cushy career in a private law firm to prosecute criminals and terrorists instead, heading the FBI after the Muslim Jihadists attack on 9/11. But this made no difference to the depraved Republican charlatans in Congress, who tried to trash Mueller’s reputation while defending the white trash in the White House. It was a shameful charade that will be condemned by future historians who will view their dirty deeds far removed from the political passions of this moment.

To the untutored, morally deformed, wretched mob bewitched by the devilish seductions of Devious Donald, these shameless charlatans are heroes. But to thinking Americans of principle who are paying attention, these spineless amoral buffoons are the archenemies of our constitutional democracy; which grows more fragile so long as Trump remains in the Oval Office! The fact that Dirty Donald has publicly admitted he would accept damaging information about a political opponent from the Russians again, offers compelling evidence for this claim. In fact, when Mueller was asked if Trump’s behavior was setting an ethical standard that is becoming the “new normal,” Mr. Mueller said he hoped not: “but I fear it is.”

Based upon the facts of the Mueller Report, and the Republican response to it; which includes labeling it “un-American,” and Mr. Mueller “Un-American.” too, we cannot escape the conclusion that the Grand Opportunist Party doesn’t give a damn if the Russians interfere in our elections so long as they help Republicans win! This realizes George Washington’s fears about the development of political parties in the US. In an uncannily prophetic statement in his Farewell Address to the nation, America’s first president warned about the pitfalls of party politics in a federal democracy:

“The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty…the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Alas, is this not precisely where we find ourselves at this critical moment in the history of the American republic?

When the Republicans callously made fun of Mr. Mueller’s physical infirmities due to his age – which caused him to appear bumbling and somewhat disoriented at times, despite the fact that he always clear in his answers – we see a prime example of what President Washington meant when he warned that partisan politics “kindles the animosity of one part against another.” Alas, the Republican congressional caucus is exactly the kind of crowd Devious Donald had in mind when he shocked the world by proclaiming that his followers were so committed to him:”I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue in broad open daylight and get away with it.” Hence there is no reasoning with this cowardly immoral pack; they only respond to raw power.

That’s why the obvious antidote to this metastasizing cancer in the breast of our nation is to begin Impeachment proceedings against Donald J. Trump, the Moscow candidate, immediately! And Mr. Mueller, in yet another benefaction to the nation, has given us the weapons we need to take Treasonous Trump down. In one instance, he even lured Jim Sensenbrenner, a passionately pro-Trump Republican from Wisconsin, into virtually calling for the impeachment of Dirty Donald. In a fit of pique Sensenbrenner says to Mueller: “Well, if you’re not going to indict the president, then you just continue fishing. And that’s — you know, that’s my observation.”

However, rather than helping the president’s case, his “observation” leads us to Mueller’s conclusion in the report. Barbara McQuade, a Former federal prosecutor and law professor, summed the matter up this way: “Rep. Sensenbrenner’s question is answered in the report – even if President can’t be indicted, he can be investigated to ‘preserve evidence’ because he can be charged later or impeached.”

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Chicago, July 25, 2019

The Great Pavarotti!

Posted in Cultural Matters, Movie Reviews with tags , on June 27, 2019 by playthell

The Porcine Lothario of Grand Opera 

A Cinematic Homage to the Maestro

On father’s day my twin children, Samori and Makeda, took me out to the movies to see “Pavarotti,” a documentary on the great Italian tenor who dominated the Grand Opera stage for the second half of the 20th century, brilliantly directed by Ron Howard. I had chosen the movie when they asked what I wanted to do on my special day. It provided an opportunity for me to resume my efforts to tutor them in the complexities of fine art music; the two greatest examples of which are Jazz – a uniquely American classical music invented by Afro-American musicians – and European Classical concert music. Although I privilege instrumental music, the great singers in all genres often have the widest appeal to audiences. And in European music the highest form of vocal artistry is the Grand Opera, where the great composers collaborate with librettist in creating musical dramas that tell wonderful stories in song.

In a career that spanned two centuries – the 20th and 21st – Luciano Pavarotti dominated the Grand Opera stages of the world, and the movie captures his amazing career marvelously. One of the reasons for the success of the film is that we learn as much about the man as his music; which is to say that the film transcends the Opera stage. The artistic choices of the film makers does much to capture and hold the attention of an audience, who may not be opera buffs, by the way they jump-cut from the stage to real life in a seamless narrative.  And most of the music centers around  arias from Pavarotti’s most moving performances.

This is a wise choice because the non-opera fan who would become bored with large segments of an opera, are enthralled listing to the arias. The reason for this was explained by Robert Merrill, venerable baritone with the world renowned Metropolitan Opera. An avid baseball fan who sang the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium countless times, Merrill saw the game of baseball as a metaphor for the opera. He pointed out that baseball is often considered boring for the non-fan until there is a home run, or triple play, or spectacular catch in the outfield, Or acrobatic fielding by the short stop, or a strike out by the pitcher. For Merrill, these magic moments on the baseball diamond were the equivalent of the aria on the Grand Opera stage.

In the Italian opera, an art they invented, it is the tenor who most often sings the great arias with the soprano, and for those who know the score the most dramatic moment comes when the tenor is required to hit the high C. For fans with sadistic sensibilities, or are pissed because their woman has a crush on the tenor who is professing his love in heroic song, their fervent wish is that he will miss…. or at least crack the note. The movie reveals that Pavarotti was well aware of the possibility of disaster, and always took to the stage with great anxiety; announcing in the wings before taking the stage: “Now I go out to die!”

His fears proved fruitless, for The Maestro never missed a high C in performance. Two of the arias that present the greatest chance of failure is the challenging Ah! mes amis” from Daughter of the Regiment,” by Gaetano Donizetti, which contains nine high Cs!  And the hauntingly beautiful Nessum Dorma, from Puccini’s Turandot, in which the challenge is the high B, and Pavarotti is featured in flawless performances of both. In discussing the ever present possibility of a spectacular failure in attempting to perform these operatic masterpieces with the Maestro, who says he is never confident he will succeed singing the great arias, the audience is provided with deep insights into the difficult art of classical singing.

We learn that all great singing is produced in the diaphragm not the throat, and that this is an art where few will succeed, even after many years of rigorous training. And we can count on one hand those who have reached the heights traversed by the great Pavarotti, whose sudden rise to international stardom in 1963 was serendipitous. He was hired to fill in for Guiseppe de Stefano in the role of Rudolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme, at London’s renowned Covent Garden, and overnight a star was born.

Finally, there is the arresting and insightful portrait of Pavarotti the man that emerges from this film. Through footage of the Maestro, supplemented by 53 interviews with those who knew and worked with him in a variety of capacities, we see a man who possessed a zest for life that few among us will ever know. He was a loving devoted father that found real joy in the role; he was an admiring son who honored his father by following in his footsteps as a tenor voice and winning the acclaim that was denied to his father; who made his living as a baker and sang on the side. We see his gluttonous love for wine, food and women – which showed in his generous girth – and his mutual adoration with his audiences reveal a generosity of spirit as abundant as his physique. But we also see his unpalatable side alas.

With multitudes of finely clad voluptuous beauties flashing ‘come hither” smiles and “fuck me” body language, responding as if their ears were connected to the clits, it would require an impotent pooty pop or a righteous Saint with a greater will than David, Samson and Solomon to have resisted such temptations. And although a miraculous singer with a heavenly voice, Pavarotti was no Saint. Indeed, from all appearances he was a potent stud. Given the amount of time spent on the road performing around the world, he was bound to stray. This eventually led to the break-up of his family when his wife had had enough of his prolific philandering. But he would be married again to a beautiful younger woman; although she had no talent or interest in music, she was smitten by Pavarotti and proved to be an excellent business partner and soulmate.

Perhaps the thing that best revealed The Maestro’s expansive love of music is the series of concerts he performed billed as Pavarotti and Friends, and his stint with The Three Tenors, in which he shared the stage with the great Spanish tenors Placido Domingo, who could also credibly claim to be “the greatest tenor in the Grand Opera, and Jose Carreas.” This act was so wildly popular that a documentary was made on them and all three stars set records for earnings with Jose Carreras amassing a net worth of 250, million dollars, Pavarotti 275 million and Placido Domingo – who is also a conductor, 300 million!

This is big time Rock Star and Hip Hop mogul money, and the fact that they could accumulate these sums singing Classical Music is a testament to their unique appeal.  Although Opera, especially the magnificent Italian tenor of the early 20th century Enrico Caruso, was once quite popular.  For instance, the first record to sell a million copies was Caruso’s performance of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” in 1907.  Pavarotti’s  performances in the Pavarotti and Friends concerts, which were dedicated to raising money for charity, put Pavarotti on stage with the world’s biggest stars of popular music. He performed with Rock megastars like Sting and Bono, plus Rhythm&Blues icons such as Barry White and James Brown.

White, a singer/songwriter who was an overweight sex symbol with a girth comparable to Pavarotti’s, sold 100 million records, including 106 gold albums, with 41 becoming platinum. He also had 20 gold and 10 platinum singles. Which makes him one of the most beloved singers of all times worldwide; yet at 20 million dollars White’s net worth is a fraction of Pavarotti’s, who at one point was the most popular singer in the world. This wonderful film captures the complexity and presents an unvarnished narrative of the Maestro’s life, with all his vices and virtues, that’s more than worth the price of the ticket!  

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Watch Pavarotti Perform Nessum Dorma at the MET

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMsqjXv9aJk

Hear Pavarotti sing “Ah! mes amis”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASXYB_TQjpc&list=RDASXYB_TQjpc&index=1

Watch: The Three Tenors Sing “O Sole Mio”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvLZSgP0QMY

Watch The Overweight Lovers: Pavarotti and Barry White

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5z02F9Bbbw

Watch Pavarotti and James Brown Sing “It’s A Man’s World

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb-B3lsgEfA

The Last Black Man in San Francisco!

Posted in Film Criticism, Movie Reviews on June 15, 2019 by playthell

Artist/Poet Renaldo Ricketts Dancing the Mambo on the Trocaderro

Blues for Frisco….When a Movie Captures Real Life

I just saw “The Last Black Man in San Francisco:” a beautiful, tragic, surreal, joyous, magical, heart breaking, cinematic commentary on the plight of Afro-Americans in one of America’s most beautiful affluent cities. The creation of this movie is unique and the resulting product is a work of serious art that by any objective measure is Sui Generis; we have never seen it’s like before. I suppose we could loosely categorize it as a docu-drama, but the fact that the subject of the film both wrote the story and played himself sets this work apart.

Through the trials and tribulations of Jimmy Fails and his cut buddy Mont in their attempt to secure affordable housing in the beautiful “City by the Bay,” we are provided an insiders view of the consequences for several communities that are being driven from the city due to the rise of the new class of rich technocrats spawned by the expansion of Silicon Valley firms that are changing the world economy through digitalization. This movie puts faces on and examines the life stories of the economic casualties that we usually experience only as faceless statistics.

The main classes that are affected are those that gave the city it’s soul, especially Afro-Americans and artists, who are increasingly homeless, living in groups in cramped make shift spaces, couch surfing at friends pads, living in shelters and SRO hotel rooms and cars, or being forced to leave the city altogether. What makes this movie so important is that it is a harbinger of what is to come in other cities; it is well under way in New York for instance.

As I write there is a tenant revolt underway in an attempt to force the government to restore rent protections which are scheduled to expire. My own daughter went off to college and could not afford to move back into the building where she grew up in Harlem, because of the dramatic rise in rents. Hence she finds it cheaper to live in Chicago – where she has a lovely spacious apartment in a beautiful leafy neighborhood a block from the beach – and visit New York, a city she dearly loves, a few times a month!

I have lived among the exiled artist who have been forced to flee San Francisco and resettle in across the Bay in Oakland, and I have personally witnessed their persistent feeling of insecurity as rents skyrocket in their new hometown due to the growing population pressures created by the great trek of refugees seeking shelter. And these are highly educated white folks of which I speak.

But, alas, their degrees are in the humanities; which although the life’s blood of civilization, have been devalued in a predatory capitalist marketplace that increasingly privileges the technocrat. Sadly for American society, although a technical education will equip you to make a living, it provides insufficient guidance in making a good and meaningful life.  And since it remains as true as ever that when white folks catch a cold blacks get the flu, it is fitting that the central characters in this film are Afro-American artists.

One of the things that distinguish art from mere reportage, tragic drama from agitprop, is how the story is told. Here the use of image, language, characterization and outstanding acting raises this film to the level of fine art, which is why it is playing mostly at art house theaters like the Angelica, and multi-plex theaters like The Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side – an affluent community with many well educated residents – that offers a variety of film genres ranging from action flicks to art films. I saw the movie at Lincoln Square and, sadly, there were mostly gray haired white patrons watching; very few black viewers were in the audience. And they are the one’s who need to see this movie the most.

In a way this compounds the tragedy, because what happened to the black community of Fillmore in San Francisco is happening to Harlem as I write. In fact, during it’s hey day in the Post World War II period of the mid 20th century, Fillmore was popularly known as “The Harlem of the West.” When I visited there in 2009, I was so struck by the tragedy of the vanishing Afro-American community I wrote an essay on it titled “A Visit to the Fillmore District: The Strange Case of Fillmore, A Cautionary Tale for Harlem and Black Urban Communities Everywhere!” *(see link at the bottom of this essay)

Employing the insights of historical perspective, this essay takes a close look at the plight of the Afro-American community in San Francisco that was being completely displaced, and it’s grand cultural legacy erased, by the ruthless activities of real estate speculators in an unregulated capitalist economy fueled by techno-dollars. In a moment of recognition and empathy I had a revelation and wrote:

”It seems that every time I look around there is a new white neighbor in my building. Some of them speak and try to be friendly, others act as if they have encountered a man from Mars. Longtime black residents all over Harlem are encountering the same experience, and there is a feeling that we are “losing Harlem.” However, in spite of this visible trend I found it impossible to imagine Harlem as a “post black” community…until I visited Fillmore.”

Escorted by a Black resident of the city Renaldo Ricketts – a poet. Painter, and bon vivant man about town – I met the real black community in San Francisco. A hail fellow well met, every body had love for “Rennie” as he was known to the folk. Watching him move about the city charming wise men and fools, high lifes and low lifes, white folk and black, I dubbed him “El Grand Renaldo!”

El Grande Renaldo at the Shrine of John The Prophet
Paying Homage to Saint John Coltrane!

His photograph kneeling before the Shrine of John Coltrane aka “John the Prophet” decorates the cover of that essay, and was shot during our sojourn into Fillmore. From the brothers in the barbershop to the people going bout their business on the streets, I found an acute consciousness that their community was dying, being appropriated by those with more money and the power that confers. And without fail they expressed a powerful sense of tragedy and loss. However, since I have explored this in some detail in “A Trip to the Fillmore District” I shan’t relitigate it here.

The Last Black Man in San Fancisco tells this tragic tale of dispossession, alienation and desperation very effectively in two hours. The story of the attempt by an essentially homeless black man, with the help of a close friend, trying to regain the fine Victorian house he grew up in – a house he claims his grandfather “built with his own hands in 1946,” and his father lost a half century later – take on bizarre twists and turns, and is told using the kind of modernist techniques one generally associates with live theater. In fact, the narrative structure reminds me of Ishmael Reed’s innovative dramaturgy; employing erudite poetic monologues, flash backs, symbolic imagery or visual metaphors, and a sense of the absurd that can wrest bathos from pathos and find the humor in tragedy.

The array of characters are fascinating and underscore the oft made claim that “truth is stranger than fiction/” The set design, along with panning camera explorations of the grand old house, amount to a visual love song to a bygone era of black style and elegance that lives on in Jimmy Fails memories of his boyhood. Danny Glover, who like Fails is a native San Franciscan, plays Mont’s blind grandfather with the sensitivity and emotional depth that a great actor who knows and deeply identifies with his subject can bring to a role.

The film also greatly benefits from the film makers intimate knowledge of their city in the locations that chose to shoot; emphasizing it’s marvelous hills, the centrality of the Bay, and the dream like fog that rolls over the city. The cinematography is Fabulous! There are breathtaking shots of fails riding his skateboard down steep hills, with the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge in the background, and the camera angels are such that we experience the danger and the thrill of it.

This insiders view of the city is also apparent in the way they weave in scenes of exotic colorful street people, such as the down and out opera singer with a voice that sounded like it was forged on the smithy of the Gods. Although some of the eccentric characters who flash on the screen leaves the audience wondering if they are real or actors. Which is part of the exotic charm and spiritual power of this poetic, Tragi-comic, 21st century tale of two cities.

A City of Spectacular Vistas!

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And, finally, there is the deeply moving musical score which adds emotional gravitas to the visual images on the screen. As I write, I can hear the haunting refrains of that anthem from the halcyon Hippy days, when San Francisco was symbolized to young seekers of wisdom and truth as the birthplace of The Summer of Love. “If you come to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair,” sang a solo black male singer whose decadent surroundings suggested the death of an era….and the communities that produced it.

It is difficult to conjure the words to describe the poignant memories this film evoked in me. For I first visited San Francisco during the Summer of Love, over 50 years ago; I drove up from LA, where I had traveled from Philadelphia to visit a beautiful young lady. We were madly in love and San Francisco seemed a magical city out of a fairy tale with it’s white buildings perched on hilltops, quaint cable cars, surrounded by the beautiful waters of the San Francisco Bay, from which arose the famous fogs that enhance it’s fantasy-like ambiance. Alas, when I visit San Francisco today, I still find it breathtakingly beautiful, but the city has no soul and the magic is gone. This, alas, is what the film captures.

Still Beautiful….But The Thrill is Gone

Once his was a Mecca for Artists

 

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Watch a Trailer From the film

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

June 13, 2019

*”A visit to the Fillmore District” @ https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2009/09/21/a-visit-to-the-fillmore-district/

Jester and Queen!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2019 by playthell
Queen Elizabeth and The Great Pretender

Donnie Dimwit and Melanie Mannequin Visit Buckingham Palace!

It was amusing to witness the mobbed up New York real estate hustler and Moscow Candidate Donald Trump, who accidentally became US President, interacting with the Queen of England in the hallowed Halls of her palace, where the artifacts of an empire on which “the sun never set” are everywhere on display. Trump, who lived in his own version of a castle in the sky with his air head side piece Melania the Manequin, before taking up residence in the White House, harbors an imperial view of his presidency which more closely resembles the absolute rule of Nicholas II, the last of the Russian Romanov’s, than the Constitutional monarchy presided over by Queen Elizabeth II.

For the Queen reigns but dose not rule over the realm, the executive power of government resides in the hands of Theresa May, the Prime Minister. Despotic Donald, on the other hand, wishes to reign and rule over the American people without opposition, when in fact he is our servant. In our democratic republic the Constitution invests all power in the citizenry, we the people, and those who govern can do so only with our consent; as was so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, a foundational document composed by Thomas Jefferson -arguably the most enlightened of the “Founders” – that precedes the Constitution and lays out the philosophical ideals upon which the American republic is founded. Trump, an incompetent ignoramus whose training and temperament totally unsuits him for the US presidency, constantly attacks the very pillars of American democracy. He has attacked the Courts, the opposition party in Congress, and denounced the free press as “the enemy of the people!”

Hatred of the press is a normal reaction for a shameless charlatan and compulsive liar, whom fact checkers at the Washington Post and Toronto Star have cataloged more than 10, 000 lies which have issued from his lips. His lies and self-aggrandizing rhetoric so alarmed the psychiatric community they felt a “duty to warn” the nation that our president, the most powerful man in the world who possess the launch codes to America’s Doomsday nuclear arsenal, is mentally ill and poses a grave danger to the fate of the world!

An astonishing 70, 000 psychiatrists and psychologist have signed a diagnosis of “Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia” based on his behavior in the public arena. Alas, the symptoms of these illnesses are everywhere apparent in Devious Donald’s grandiose claims for his questionable achievements as a businessman and President, his hyper-sensitivity to any criticism, and his constant claims that phantom conspirators in “the Deep State” are out to get him.

Given the diligence of British intelligence services it is a sure bet that the Queen was thoroughly briefed on every aspect of “The Donald’s” character flaws. After all, she has the highest confidence in her intelligence agencies and is not plagued by paranoid delusions that they are engaged in an effort to “sabotage” and “bring her down.” Hence the queen devised a strategy of schooling the American president without triggering his insecurities.

In a fascinating display of the diplomatic skill for which the British are world famous she used the occasion of her formal speech, and a gift of the historic “Atlantic Charter,” a joint declaration issued by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt from the deck of a battleship out in the Atlantic Ocean 1n 1941, amid the chaos of World War II, which set forth a vision for the Post War world that would serve to prevent a repeat of the tragic global conflagrations that had devastated the lives of millions twice within a generation.

Churchill and Roosevelt Issue Atlantic Charter

Putting Forth a Racist Vision of the Post War World

In her Banquet speech the Queen reminded Donnie Dimwit that defeating the German Nazi’s and their fascist allies in Italy and Japan required close cooperation between the nations who opposed them. Speaking of British US cooperation in the complex operation on D-Day, directed by the American general Dwight David Eisenhower, which would be celebrated in a couple of days, she recalled:

“As Supreme Allied Commander, he had ultimate responsibility for the execution of the Normandy landings. In his headquarters in St James’s Square – not far from Buckingham Palace – British and American officers worked closely together to plan the freedom of a continent, and it would be no exaggeration to say that millions of lives depended on their common endeavour.”

Then she turned her attention to the importance of the international institutions that were established in the post World War II period to prevent another World War issuing from Europe, an arrangement that has prevented a global war for 70 years:

“As we face the new challenges of the Twenty First Century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us of all that our countries have achieved together. After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace.”

To reinforce the theme of Anglo-American cooperation the Queen emphasized the familial ties between Brits and Americans:
“Of course, it is not only our security which unites us; but our strong cultural links and shared heritage. Every year, there are almost four million visits by Americans to the United Kingdom, with a great number claiming British descent. And with your own Scottish ancestry, Mr President, you too have a particular connection to this country.”
Then she gave The Donald a copy of the Atlantic Charter to study.

The Queen Schools The Donald

Droppin Science  at Buckingham Palace

However, after pondering the Queen’s emphasis on their blood ties, and perusing the document, I am struck by how Eurocentric it’s perspective is, which is another way of saying the world as white folks in the West saw it. Viewed from a Third World perspective – Africa, Asia and Latin America – much of Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s declaration’s grand gluttonous phrases are hypocritical blather!

This underscores the extent to which even many highly educated white folks have failed to come to grips with their actual history, and thus have a distorted view of reality. Indeed, much of the conflict in the world today derives from a failure of white folks to learn the lessons of their history, despite all the time, effort and money they have expended on writing and teaching it. There is a simple explanation for this failure: In order to learn from history you must tell the truth!

Alas, the Atlantic Charter is pregnant with absurdities based upon racist assumptions. A telling case in point is the following assertion. Article three of the declaration says of the British and American leaders: “they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.” Given the fact that virtually all the countries in Africa and Asia, the majority of mankind, was living under the colonial domination of the very European nations that made up “the grand western alliance” that had helped to defeat the Nazi’s.

Not only is the role of the Western Alliance in the victory over fascist Germany greatly exaggerated, as Soviet Russia played the major role in the victory over German fascism with the US suffering 400,000 deaths and the Russians 27 million, but millions of non-white peoples in their colonies were denied by force of arms the very rights and freedoms celebrated in the Atlantic Charter. This inconvenient fact makes their claims prima faice absurd! This hypocrisy was heightened by the fact that the British were the largest colonial oppressors on earth, and the United States of America was born in a bloody anti-colonial revolt against the British imperialist!

Furthermore, by his own admission, Adolph Hitler had adopted his master race theories from the American Eugenicist Madison Grant, Devious Donald’s fellow New Yorker and Columbia University graduate, after reading Grant’s influential racist tome “The Passing of the Great Race.” And Hitler patterned his racist immigration policies on the US National Origins Act, which was largely inspired by the Eugenicists arguments of Grant and created the border patrol on the Mexican border; allotted 86.5% of the slots to immigrants from western and northern Europe; 2.5% from all of Africa, the Middle East and Pacific islands; Chinese and Japanese were excluded, and the rest came from the Americas.

Hitler roundly praised this racist policy in his personal manifesto Mein Kemp. And Afro-Americans were still living under laws based on the Master Race thesis that served as the blueprint for Nazi laws governing the treatment of German Jews. Only in a world where white supremacy was viewed as the norm could the pious preachments of the Atlantic Charter make sense. Yet it is a pretty sure bet that even if Dumb Donald actually read the Charter, he would never arrive at this understanding of it. He is far too ignorant of history and world politics to recognize the contradictions. If most of the enlightened thought leaders in the western world fail to recognize this paradox, there is no chance that Donnie Dimwit will get it.

In any case Dumb Donald’s delusions of grandeur prevented him from from recognizing some things that should be obvious. For instance his misconception of the Trump family as American royalty led him to the pretentious suggestion that his children, who were not even invited to the ball but crashed it at American taxpayer’s expense, formally meet with the Children of the British royals for a “Next Generation” palaver, presumably to plot the future world order. However the royals – who were forced by political circumstance to be nice to the Trumps – probably share my view of them as white American trash with money; the vulgar “noveau riche.”

One need only study the body language and facial expression in a photo of Prince Harry escorting Princess wannabe Ivanka, to recognize that he resembles a carnival performer who was forced to hold his nose while he kissed a pig because it was part of the act. And the fact that the Trump family portrait from Buckingham Palace was posed in front of a sign that conspicuously prohibited “taking pictures” represents the acme of clueless absurdities.

Prince Harry and Ivanka

An Unpleasant Function of State
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Trump’s Children Posing in No Photo Zone

Bumbling in Buckingham

However, we may be thankful that the scripts provided Donald the Clown were written on a level that he could comfortably handle, and he managed to muster up sufficient self-discipline to stay on script and not go off on an embarrassing ab lib. Yet it is hard to imagine that given his churlish remarks about the Mayor of London, and his impromptu rants about the American singer/actress Bett Midler, that punctuated The Donald’s sojourn on her Sceptered Isle, the Queen could see this jester as anything but a pretentious fool, a doophus dickhead who possessed none of the earthy wisdom exhibited by Court Jesters of yore.

Suffering a Pretentious Fool Gladly

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Watch the Queen’s Speech

***************

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 7, 2019

A Priest of Ifa has Joined the Ancestors!

Posted in On the Passing of Stan Kinard with tags , , , , , on April 28, 2019 by playthell

Baba Olabase aka Stan Kinard with Son Alade at Sista’s Place

A Mighty Tree Has Fallen In Brooklyn
Let Every Head Bow…and Every Tongue Sing Praises
HAIL AND FAREWELL!

Baba Olabase has Danced Yet His Spirit Dwells

Stan was the man to go to if you needed a hand up the ladder to grasp your dreams, for he was a dream weaver, a vendor of miracles, who helped seekers to identify their dreams and then live them. I know this by virtue of the many outstanding Afro-Americans who have publicly testified to it with heart rending, soul stirring, stories. In a public Tribute to his good works held at Sista’s place last summer, I witnessed a galaxy of stars turn out and testify to the critical role “Mr. Kinard” played in their becoming who they are: Preachers, teachers, politicians, musicians, businessmen, artists and even ex-thugs who used to terrify the community. Indeed, Baba’s life was a benefaction and his wisdom a REVELATION.

The good he has done will live on…but, alas, the enumeration Stan’s good works requires a space far beyond the limits of this remembrance. For he was my student and I have observed his development and good works for 51 years! From my earliest encounters with Stan I knew he had exceptional leadership qualities and vision; he was unusually confident and self-directed for a teenager. I figured he would go far in life, and that confidence proved justified as he went on to exceed everything I had hoped for our graduates.

When we set up the WEB DuBois Department of Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst our objectives exceeded the normal aspirations of academic departments. While other departments were quite content to produce students who were equipped to pursue their individual goals to get ahead and contribute to the advancement of society as a by-product of their efforts, our goal was to produce students whose main objective was the uplift of their people, who had been long oppressed by a racial caste system that amounted to a monstrous crime against humanity centuries old.

Hence we wanted them to go back to the communities from whence they came and apply the skills they had acquired at the great white university to the task of community development. For us, this was the true measure of success. It was, by the standard measure of academic achievement, an extraordinary expectation. Several of our students would fulfill our aspirations for them, but none more so than Stan Kinard, who was one of the tallest trees in the forest we cultivated. He was living proof that the experiment we began in the fall of 1969 had the right stuff to produce the kind of result we envisioned.

Our objectives were shaped by the philosophy that guided the development of the DuBois Department. Unlike the other departments in the university, whose courses were designed by traditional academics, our project and course offerings were designed by movement intellectuals in collaboration with the traditional academics. The former shaped the philosophy and objectives, and the latter organized them to meet traditional university standards. In order to achieve our paramount objective, which was to produce an intellectual vanguard that would reshape the racist humanities curriculum that supplied the intellectual underpinnings for the system of white supremacy; a racial caste system which limited the life’s chances of Afro-Americans. And then organize the Afro-American community to achieve political power and economic parity; to realize the slogan “Black Power.”

Hence in our view the founding of the DuBois Department was an extension of the black liberation movement into the academy; this determined the courses we offered and the professors chosen to teach them. For instance, the first three professors hired by the department was Ivanhoe Donaldson, Cherif Guellal and this writer. Ivanhoe was a political scientist who had played a major role in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the organization most responsible for building black political power in the South by organizing Afro-Americans to vote, particularly after the passage of the Voting rights Act of 1965. He had lectured on political movements all over the US and Africa. But as an activist deeply interested in radical progressive change as a vehicle for black liberation, Ivanhoe was not content to just talk about politics in the classroom, he took a group of his students down to Atlanta, and successfully ran Andrew Young’s successful campaign for the US Congress.

Cherif Guellal, a colleague of Ivanhoe’s at the Center for Policy Studies in Washington DC, was an Algerian who had served on the central committee of the National Liberation Front, NFL, which successfully waged a bloody seven year revolutionary war against the French colonialists, costing the Algerian people a million and a half lives! Among Cherif’s duties was to serve as aide de camp to Dr. Franz Fanon, the brilliant black psychiatrist from the French Caribbean colony of Martinique who became the principal theorist of the Algerian Revolution.

Through his books such as The Wretched of the Earth – his magnum Opus – Studies in a Dying Colonialism, and “Toward the African Revolution, we were provided a first hand analysis of the dynamics of a revolution in progress. And the activists seeking radical change around the world were inspired. Cherif, who came to the US as the Ambassador to the Kennedy administration from the revolutionary government of Algeria, taught courses on the life and writings of Dr. Fanon, and the process of organizing a revolutionary movement.

I came to the department having spent the last decade as a movement activist, which began at the birth of the black student sit-ins in the spring of 1960, when I was a freshman at Florida A&M, and I evolved into a revolutionary; co-founding the Revolutionary Action Movement with Max Stanford aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, in Philadelphia, two years later in 1962. In that same year I came on the airways billed as a “Radio Historian” on WDAS, a commercial radio station broadcasting to the black communities in three states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

A serious autodidact who camped out in the famous Schomburg Collection,* The great Philadelphia Public Library, the Van Pelt Library, at the University of Pennsylvania, and two book stores that specialized in books on the history of the black world and revolution: Hakim’s Book Mart and the New World Book Fair, both owned by black men devoted to liberating and uplifting the race, I delved into the archives of ancient prudence and interrogated the texts deposited there.

The book fair was located on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania and I began to meet U Penn history professors, one of whom Dr. Ted Hershberg had heard my weekly lectures on the radio – which were three hour sessions consisting of an hour lecture and two hours of open phone discussions where the listeners could ask questions or offer their own insights derived from their research on the subject – invited me to attend departmental discussions on the ongoing researches of his colleagues.

Although I had been under the tutelage of Dr. Lawrence D. Reddick, a conventionally trained Afro-American historian. these sessions at Penn provided me a front row seat to witness the development of a new method of writing history: quantitative and social science history as it was being created by scholars like Dr. Hirshberg and Dr. Lee Benson. It was a priceless graduate education that equipped me with knowledge on the cutting edge of the historical profession, which would serve me well when I would later be challenged by professors in the U-Mass history department, who were intent upon proving Black Studies was a fraud!

Between the U-Penn Professors, and other scholars I would meet after I was hired by the Reverend Doctor Leon Sullivan, an activist Baptist preacher, who first hired me to teach a black history course in the basement of his church the venerable Mt. Zion, when I was 21, after listening to me on the radio, then commissioned me to develop a “Minority History” course for the Opportunities Industrialization Centers, a skills training program that began in an abandoned jailhouse in North Philly but spread to 120 cities and five African countries after it was mass.

I not only taught African and Afro-American/Caribbean history at the “proto-type” program in Philadelphia, but was soon in demand for lectures at other OIC programs around the nation. This led to invitations to conduct seminars for public school teachers and eventually university lectures, which increasingly centered around rationales for inclusion of Black Studies in their academic programs. As I traveled around the country I was also developing underground cells for the Revolutionary Action Movement. Among the radical organizations spawned by RAM was the Black Panther Party of Oakland, when we recruited two students at Merritt Junior College in Oakland: Bobby Seales and Huey P. Newton. I became so busy that I severed ties with OIC and became an Independent Public Intellectual.

After the armed revolutionary movement was devastated by the FBI Co-In-Tel-Pro offensive, and the disillusionment I felt with the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I was undecided about my next move. The revolutionary writings of Mao Tse Tung was our bible, and I had begun to suspect that he might be wrong alas. It was during this period of uncertainty that I met Professor Mike Thelwell at a conference on how to develop Black Studies in elite white private schools; to which Afro-American students were being recruited by the ABC – A Better Chance – program.

The objective of ABC was to identify talented black youngsters in black communities and pay for them to attend the nation’s elite private prep schools, then funnel them into Ivy League universities, after which they would take their rightful place among the American elite. The Result was a mixture of triumph and tragedy. For instance they plucked Duval Patrick from the inner city of Chicago, who graduated from Harvard Law and went on to become the first black Governor of Massachusetts. But ABC also produced Jake Lamar, whom they recruited from the “Boogey Down” South Bronx, which produced Hip Hop. However Lamar’s experience in elite white institutions was different, he graduated from Harvard and wrote a book “Bourgeois Blues” detailing the horrors of his experience, and went into exile in Paris, the way black writers had done earlier in the 20th century. He has seldom been heard from since.

Professor Mike Thelwell- a radical Jamaican immigrant intellectual who had attended Howard University in Washington DC, a campus that boasted a gaggle of outstanding black scholars – was an adviser to the ABC program. And he had insisted that the black community didn’t need any “imitation white folks runnin round tha place confusin the people” as he colorfully put in his Jamaican idiom, a language he often resorted to when dismissing what he regarded as “damned foolishness and fuckrie!”

So, Thelwell argued, if they were going to recruit black students with the aim of advancing our community then they must include courses in Black Studies. We were the key note speakers at the opening session of the conference, which was held at Suffield Academy, an upper class prep school that boasted such graduates as Jackie Kennedy. Thelwell spoke on literature and I spoke on history. Our admiration was mutual, and as he was tasked with finding faculty to develop the new department they were planning, he explained that they wanted to name what would be the first full fledged Black Studies Department, after our greatest scholar/activist, Dr. William Edward Burghardt DuBois, whom he had deduced was my intellectual hero by the number of times I had cited and quoted him in my lecture.

Mike was well qualified to lead this struggle, having been a founder of SNCC, and a top flight organizer who helped build the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and then ran the challenge from SNCC’s Washington office that nearly unseated the regular all white Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mike insisted that we should be about the business of building a full fledged department and not settle for a mere patchwork program, in which several professors offered elective courses on black subjects but could neither hire faculty, nor grant degrees. I thought it a great idea, since I had seen these hastily constructed “Black Studies Programs” in my travels around the country. Once we agreed on the objective, he offered me a job. That is how I came to Amherst, and Stan Kinard was the student representative on the committee that interrogated and hired me.*

As the DuBois Department grew, we added more scholars who held traditional credentials; especially the PhD. However the Department added yet another innovation by appointing a contingent of radical black artists to the faculty such as the painter Nelson Stevens, the Sculptor Ed Love, Playwright and Director Paul Carter Harrison. We were also the first to give professorships to Jazz musicians when saxophonist/composer Archie Shepp, and the seminal modern percussionist Max Roach, pater-familias to the most influential school of Jazz drummers in the post-bop era.

After the take over of a campus building, renaming it New Africa House, and establishing a Black Cultural Center, other talented black people were attracted to the campus including a Karate Master and the brilliant iconoclastic poet Amus Moore, an important figure from the Black Arts Movement in Chicago. Eventually James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe – two of the 20th centuries greatest novelist of the Black World in Africa and America – joined the faculty. Thus Amherst become home to one of the most fascinating and influential Pan-African congregation of artist and intellectuals ever assembled anywhere.

Stan Kinard played a major role in all of these developments, and he took full advantage of all that they had to offer. This is where he developed his knowledge of Jazz and the other arts, as well as his historical erudition and political acumen. One of the most moving tributes payed to Stan came from his classmate, political comrade, business partner and life long friend, Leon “Kwaku” Saunders. He opined with a palpable passion and pain:

Stan Kinard was a great man and he was my friend. Unlike family, which you are born into, friendship is a choice. And it was a choice that Stan Kinard and I made over 50 years ago and one which we honored until the end of his life….We might have met on the basketball court where Stan brought a defensive intensity the likes of which I’d never seen before nor since…Stan was a sophomore and as one of the few black students on campus he, Cheryl Evans and others made themselves available to help the new class adjust to life at a major white university. We were less than 150 students on a campus of over 18,000. It was 1968, when the civil rights movement and the anti Vietnam war movement was in full bloom. And we as black college students sought to do our part in changing the socio-political landscape of the country. We wanted to make a difference, and we did!

Stan was a pragmatist and a political animal who understood “the art of the possible” as the black student body took a stronghold and changed the face of the University of Massachusetts forever. We took over a dorm and renamed it New Afrika House, We helped to create the W.E.B. Dubois Black History Department which brought together perhaps the greatest group of black intellectuals and cultural icons anywhere in the nation, we brought soul food on campus, and took over 35% of radio programming on the campus station, we helped to influence policy to increase the black student population by more than ten fold, we helped to create an environment where Randolph Bromery became the first black Chancellor of a major university. We were a force and Stan Kinard was a quiet leader. And he was my friend!”

 In the course of organizing students to exercise their power, and negotiating with the university administration, Stan gained the skills that he would later apply to his work organizing previously powerless people to seize control of education and politics in their Brooklyn communities. Barack Obama took a similar path to the White House.

I have gone to such length in describing the intellectual environment that nurtured Stan’s development because in the voluminous tributes paid to him by a succession of impressive speakers at his “going home ceremony,” they often spoke as if this inspirational teacher/organizer came into the world full blown like the Goddess Athena from the forehead of Zeus. But Stan, like the many people whom he inspired and taught, was also the product of an educational process. And it is critical for those who must now carry on his work to understand that he was no historical accident.

There is no mystery about how he became the visionary leader and dedicated public servant that he was. It is essential to understand that revolutionaries are made not born. This understanding will make it possible to carry on Stan’s work; to keep his legacy alive as several speakers called for. Removing the mystique around him will make that task lighter. To be sure, Stan possessed some of the virtues that would lead to greatness when we first met him: Good character, natural intelligence, abundant courage and an insatiable curiosity about about the origins, history and contributions of African peoples. So we had good stock to work with, after all, it remains true that one cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear no matter how hard you try.

As I watched and listened to the torrent of tributes to a purposeful life well lived, my mind hastened back to the bedside of Kwame Ture aka Stokely Carmichael, one of the most indefatigable Pan African warriors of the 20th century, as he lay dying from cancer. It was the night before he was to fly back to his beloved Africa, to revolutionary Guinea, from whence he would dance and meet the Ancestors.

As the room buzzed with activity from the many comrades who had come to bid him farewell -which included a contingent of five beautiful black lady doctors monitoring his every heart beat, and seeing what more they could do to make him comfortable, while the brothers offered libations of Wisdom Weed and wine- he still answered the phone with the stalwart greeting: Ready for Revolution!” He looked around the room and said “If you dedicate your life to serving the people…they will stand by your side til the end.”

That’s the same thing I witnessed both at Stan’s bedside and at the farewell ceremony, as a seemingly endless procession of people whose lives he had enriched, came forth and testified with the passion of holy rollers bearing witness to what the lord had done for them. They spoke most often about his stewardship of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Cultural Literacy Program, which he had created. When Stan was devising his plan, he spoke to me about it, after all, I was the first teacher to introduce him to the history of the Black World, in Africa and the Black Atlantic diaspora.

He seemed to know that this would be his great contribution, passing on the things he had learned in Amherst in word and deed. In Amherst we had chosed the name of Dr. DuBois to adorn our edifice to black enlightenment because Dubois was the true Father of Black Studies due to his multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the Black world. And he chose Dr. Woodson as the patron saint of his High school program program centered at Boys and Girls High because Woodson had been inspired to create the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History due to his belief that black people were in danger of destruction just like the American Indian, the Australian Aborigines, the native Tasmanians, etc because of our distorted representation in the history texts written by white racist “scholars.”

Woodson was an amazing man who had worked the coal mines in West Virginia and did not begin high school until he was 21, yet earned a Harvard PhD in history, well understood that the objective of white historians was not to set the record straight on human achievement, but to construct an intellectual foundation for the claims of white supremacy, and offer up apololgia for white genocide against peoples of color. Looking about him Stan also recognized that our youth were in danger of destruction, self-destruction from ignorance, self-hatred, and negative nihilistic role models. The life enhancing vision of the Carter G. Woodson Cultural Literacy Program, constructed upon the remarkable life and work of Dr. Woodson, was Stan’s antidote to this decadent cultural poison. The heartfelt testimony of those who were fortunate enough to study in the program offers irrefutable evidence that Stan’s vision was prescient.

Knowing him these five decades has been a highlight of my life. When I visited Stan at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center the night before he danced, I could see his life in this realm slipping away; Yet while his body was ravaged by cancer his spirit was undaunted.

As he lay there barely able to move or speak, he bade me to come to his bedside, struggling to hold back tears I whispered into his ear “Old soldiers never die, your many victories will live on in the lives you enhanced and the institutions you have built. Among them the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in the world!” Hence everybody presently holding a university professorship in Black Studies owes a debt of gratitude to Stan Kinard, and the fact that they may not know it is besides the point, ignorance of the facts cannot negate the truth!

With a sly smile Stan asked: “What was the date of the first Pan-African Conference, where was it held, and who organized it?” I thought it a curious question at the time, but I readily answered it. He smiled again and bade me put my ear closer to his mouth, and he whispered “You the only one who got it right.”

Then his sister told me he had asked everybody who came to visit that question. Hence we parted as we had met: With Stan raising questions about the Black Liberation struggle. He was a Pan-African soldier to the end. So I say of him what Shakespeare said of his noble warrior Moor Othello: “The elements so blended in him…all the world could see…here was a man!”

Now Stan has danced, and if the Ifa Oracle proves true, Baba has journeyed to that mysterious realm where Oludamare, the Orishas and the Ancestors will welcome him into paradise; claiming him as one of their own. Fot there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain: When the Saints come marching in Stan Kinard, Baba Olabese will be in their number.

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The going Home ceremony for Baba Olabese was not the traditional Christian funeral, even tho the final rites  were conducted in the beautiful sanctuary of Bethany Baptist Church.  It was, in fact, an Afro-American enactment of the ancient Yoruba Ancestor Veneration Ritual, where those who knew and loved him, and those whom he had touched with his generous spirit and good grace, sang praises unto his name.  Those who promenaded from Stan’s beloved Boys and Girls High, and later rose to offer glorious panegyrics to his memory and sang of his myriad deeds, hailed from every sector of society.  It was a farewell worthy of a heroic servant of the people and a high priest of Ifa.  Here are some images from that halcyon moment in time.  And they will last forever…ACHE!!!

The Procession

Baba’s Children Lead the Walk on Streets where his Spirit Dwells

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The Strode to the Church to Pay Homage

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As The Procession Entered the Church

Stan’s Sister Led the Way, Followed by his Wife and Children

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The Veneration

Beating the Sacred Batas for Baba

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The Ceremony was Ecumenical

Christians Of the Cloth
Shared the Pulpit

With Pagan Priests of Ifa

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Baba’s Children: Sukeena and Aladay

Recounted his Life Sang Praises to his Glorious Legacy

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While Their Queen Mother Tulani

Warmly Welcomed the Mourners

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From Their Front Row Seats the Family…..

………Proudly Bore Witness to the Praise Poems for Baba

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Mother’s and Daughters Sang Praises

Celebrating Baba’s Devotion to Our Children

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The High and the Mighty Came Forth!

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams  gave Props

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And Battle Tested Warriors Wept…

Venerable Political Leader and Community Activist Charles Barron

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Women Openly Wept Too

Sukeena Comforting a Grief Stricken Sister

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And Tulani Comforted Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Text and Cover Photo by: Playthell Benjamin

Photographs of the ceremony inside Betheny: Hakim Mutlaq

Photos of the Procession on the Streets: Photographer is unknow at