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

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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

The Afro/Modernist Art of Ademola

Posted in Ademola at Gallery, Uncategorized with tags , on April 25, 2019 by playthell

Ademola: The Master with his Creation

Neo-African Aesthetic Alchemy from the Black Atlantic World

Ademola Olugbefola is a major Afro-American artist who was a leading figure in the evolution of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, which means that he has been about the business of defining a black aesthetic in the visual arts for the past half century. The BAM grew out of the black liberation struggle that blossomed during the mid-twentieth century, just as the African liberation movements began to triumph, overthrowing the system of European colonialism on the continent.

The Afro-American freedom Movement was inspired by events in Africa, which we supported. It was a revelation to see brilliant Africans on television speaking at the United nations, after having been programmed for generations by a racist white supremacist education system and mass communication apparatus, especially the Tarzan movies, to loathe Africans as an embarrassment. By virtue of the emergence of independent African nations on the world stage, courted by the US government in order to persuade them to join the western capitalist bloc in the cold war against the communist nations, Africa had now become a source of great pride.

While the great Civil rights movement was solely focused on gaining full equality for Afro-Americans under constitutional law, a fundamental requirement for blacks to have any chance of dramatic progress after centuries of forced inequality by government policies, others branched out and tackled complex cultural questions regarding literature, music and the visual arts. The paramount concerns of these cultural warriors was who are we? Where did we come from? What were we before we were forced to become Americans by capture and enslavement? And how can we recapture some of what we once were?

The result of these explorations led to an explosion of Afrocentric dress and hair styles among “culturally conscious” Afro-Americans and inspired a tsunami of activity on the part of intellectuals and artists. Black poets sang panegyrics to the beauty of blackness, black Jazz musicians wrote compositions such as Art Blakey’s “Message From Kenya,” and John Coltrane’s “Africa Brass.” And we heard Dizzy Gellespie’s “Night in Tunisia” through different ears. The great drummer and composer Max Roach, along with his beautiful Afro crowned wife Abbey Lincoln – a singer/actress – had joined with Ronnie and Cecil Braithwaite to organize the African Jazz Art Society, which launched the Black Arts Movement in 1958 that came to full bloom during the 1960’s.

Max and Abby, the first family of the “Black Cultural Revolution” were everywhere, making politically conscious music like the album:”We Insist! Freedom Now,”which became, for radical political activists, the sound track of “The Revolution.” The idea of a real armed revolution in the US may sound far out to contemporary readers, but back then in the fires of struggle, it seemed all too real. It was real enough for some people to give up their freedom and others their lives. Hence it was in this turbulent cauldron of struggle and hope, that the art of Ademola was born. A quintessential New Yorker, he was right in the midst of this cultural and political turmoil.

Having a deep interest in fashion and theater set design, Ademola was among the first of the visual artists to heed the call to create a modern art based on a Black aesthetic philosophy derived from their study of traditional African art.  Thus they were mining the same tradition that  had inspired the major creative figures in the rise of modern western art: Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, et al.  (for a deeper discussion of this see the discussion with Ademola and this writer on the video below this essay)   It was this deep and abiding interest that led him to join with a band of fellow black artists and create the Weusi Academy.

Among these artistic visionaries was the Master Sculptor Painter Otto Neals, Thomas “Taiwo” Duval, a painter and master African drummer; Abdul Aiziz, Master Print Maker and painter; Abdul Rachman, an innovative painter who produced works of such original conception, complexity of design and bold use of colors that Ademola coined a term for it: “Epic Symbolism.” Recently Otto Neals had a retrospective exhibition of his sculpture mounted in the beautiful galleries of Kenkelba House. It was a sensation! It set new standards of achievement for future sculptors to strive for. There were other gifted artists who joined, or were greatly influenced by the innovative works of the Weusi Academy artist, that are too numerous to account for here.

On Saturday April 14th, Ademola opened a solo show at the X Gallery in Harlem titled “Past and Present Mixed Media.” Located on Malcolm X Boulevard at 118th Street, and named in his honor, the gallery has presented a series of unique exhibitions under the able direction of its Founder and Curator Lisa DuBois. An outstanding photographic artist in her own right – many of her works are fine art – Lisa’s camera lens is an all-seeing eye that has captured some of the most poignant images of our time in the US and abroad. Hence she is an excellent person to curate a show such as this, for a great part of her mission is the bring the works of under-represented artist of talent to the public.

Lisa DuBois

Artist, Visionary and Curator Of  X Gallery

However, this concern does not include the present artist, as Ademola’s oeuvre has been reviewed, celebrated and critiqued in a wide variety of books, catalogs, periodicals, videos, and broadcast media. The pieces in the Gallery’s exhibit were selected from Ademola’s many works over more than half a century. They include objects de art that have appeared in many museums and galleries across the US and abroad, as well as a new selection of minature abstract landscapes.

A great fan of dance, the exhibition also includes some of Ademola’s abstract renderings of dance movements, which one viewer who identified herself as a professor of dance said inspired her to dance! The Exhibition will remain on display until April 28.

Ademola Receives an Award from X Gallery

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The Alchemist In His Studio

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Mask of the Poro Society

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Confrontation!

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In the Realm of Ancestral Spirits

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Musicians Making the Harvest Grow

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Cosmic Graffiti

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Ile Ife!  Home of the Gods

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The Mystery of Ifa 

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra

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Astral Travelling

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Spirit Dance

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Ocha! The Evidence of Things Unseen

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The Grand Opening at X Galleries

Lisa Directing the Show

Artist and Curator a Fine collaboration

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It Was A Diverse New York Artsy Crowd

Like this Dancer/Artist

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It Was a Lively Crowd!

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Freedom Day!

Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln

 

To watch Ademola discuss his Art with Playthell Click on Link

This is a multi-part discourse follow the lables

 

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Text and Photographs by: Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 25, 2019

The Soul Of The Senate!

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Senator Elizabeth Warren, Playthell on politics with tags on April 23, 2019 by playthell
Senator Warren Standing With Reverend Barber and Activist Preachers Of Social Gospel

On Placing Principle Over Politics

Although I was pretty much leaning in her direction before, after listening to Senator Warren’s argument for the impeachment of Donald Trump upon completing the Mueller Report, she definitely gets my vote! While the “deplorables” who support Dirty Donald – a pathological liar, swindler and con man who accidentally became U.S. President with loads of Russian help – will attack her with the most scurrilous rhetoric in an attempt to assassinate her character and impugn her motives, Senator Warren’s argument for the impeachment of the orange ogre is unimpeachable!

Unlike House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, a game political animal who puts politics first, Senator Warren argues that in this matter we must put politics aside. Normally I would agree with Speaker Pelosi, because I understand that effective politics is the surest road to power, and politics is the art of the possible. However there comes a time when fundamental ideas must be defended at all cost, indeed many Americans have died in defense of these principles. Yet honorable and intelligent people can disagree on how to best defend these ideas in the poltical arena.

Some will argue that the best way to get Dastardly Don out of office is to kick his ass at the polls in 2020. They will argue that we should follow the dictum of the African political philosopher/president Kwame Kkrumah: “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else will be added there unto.” While this argument is sage advice for people seeking to gain power, sometime one must risk political defeat in defense of fundamental principles. For it speaks to the question of who we are and what we stand for.
Although speaking in a different context, Benjamin Franklin, one of the most compelling revolutionary personalities of the American Enlightenment, and a Founding Father of the Republic, spoke to the importance of principle. The burning question of that moment was whether English settlers in the British Colonies of North America should seek some adjustment in their colonial relationship with their mother country, “Great Britian,” or opt for total independence, which was tantamount to a declaration of war against the British Empire. For Franklin the answer was clear and unequivocal: “Any people who would choose temporary security over basic liberty deserves neither!”

For our time, the pressing question is whether our actions will be governed by political expedience or fundamental principle; whether the Congress shall choose sides on the issue of checking the clear abuses of executive power to obstruct the pursuit of justice based on how it will affect their electoral prospects in 2020, or will the heed the mandates of the Constitution. As I write the Democrats, who alone hold the power to open impeachment proceedings, are deeply divided on the question.

Elizabeth Warren is the first member of the Senate to call for impeachment hearings but her fellow Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has already said there will be no impeachment because of all the civil strife that would result and “He is not worth it” So we have a problem in the Democratic party that could become a source of serious division; which will put the Democrats at a disadvantage because I see no similar concern about presidential abuse of power within the Republican ranks. And from all appearances Senator Warren is on a serious mission to restore the balance between the executive and legislative branches of the US government by checking executive power; the Constitution mandates it and the survival of our democratic republic demands it.

Hence Senator Warren is right as rain when she argues the proper remedy for Dirty Donald’s scurvy behavior is impeachment! While Donnie Dimwit is an intellectual light-weight who is clueless about the Constitution, Senator Warren is a super-heavy weight, if she and trump were pugilists rather than politicians any fight between them would be a crime! But, alas, since the qualifications for jumping into the political arena are far less stringent that the rules of the boxing ring, you can end up with a super-light-weight going up against a super-heavyweight…a mismatch. In view of this realization, lets take a closer look at Senator Warren’s argument.

Taking a page from Devious Donald’s playbook, Senator Warren turned to Twitter to express her views on the Muller Report directly to the American people:

“The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack. Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment. To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways. The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

Of course, we can expect the Republican Trumpanzees to launch scurrilous attacks on Senator Warren designed to traduce her character and impugn her motives – it has already begun on Twitter – but thoughtful people will consider the source and dismiss them. Yet, alas, there remain millions of airheads who live in a web of confusion; unable to distinguish real news from fake news, convinced that Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones are more reliable news sources than CNN, CBS the Washington Post and the New York Times. These impassioned and increasingly militant ignoramuses are heavily armed and pose a grave danger to the life and limb of prominent Trump opponents and critics in Congress and the media.

The danger of civil violence in the US is encouraged by Dirty Donald, which is cause enough for impeachment. Hence anyone who is interested in preserving democracy in the US should support Senator Warren, who alone is standing tall and speaking frankly, restrained by neither fear nor favor. However, Senator Warren’s view on impeachment has found an unlikely supporter among the Republican Punditariat. In a commentary on the Mueller Report published in The Intelligencer titled: “There Was No Russia Conspiracy. But Trump is More Dangerous then Ever,” Andrew Sullivan argues the case for impeachment:

“What are the consequences of not impeaching? They are, it seems to me, real and immediate. Trump now has a Justice Department run by a loyalist who believes in total executive supremacy, and who has just revealed himself as a man willing to lie and deceive and distort to please his master. Every official who might have restrained this president is gone. There are almost no heads of agencies, and no dissent in the Cabinet. The country is effectively being ruled by a monarch and his court. Foreign policy has been given to family members. The Fed is being rigged to remove professionals and install loyal toadies. The judiciary is being filled with judges who defer to presidential power in every circumstance. We have a president who only last week told his new acting DHS secretary, Kevin McAleenan, to break the law if necessary to stop asylum seekers from entering the country, and that he’d have his back and pardon him if he got into trouble. In any other time, that alone would demand impeachment. We know now, however, that this is just one instance of a clear pattern of lawlessness.”

What Sullivan describes here is a succinct but compelling argument for impeaching Dirty Devious Donald. However Sullivan will garner no support from his fellow Republicans in the Senate, who are led by vulgar amoral opportunists. Low Life Lindsay Graham, who vigorously prosecuted Bill Clinton for an offense that is a picayune matter compared to the treacherous treasonous transgressions of Trump, has revealed himself to be a serpentine charlatan. And, alas, that turkey necked Kentucky cracker Mitch McConnell, has diminished the dignity and power of his office as Majority Leader of the Senate with his duplicitous monkey shines. They do not seem to understand, or give a fuck, what is really at stake here.

If Lord Acton was right that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,”and I believe he was, the Congress must check the power of Trump or we will soon have some form of authoritarianism. It will be uniquely American but no less disastrous. For in the final analysis we are confronted with the same question Abraham Lincoln posed during the great Civil War, when surveying the battle field at Gettysburg, a cow pasture in Pennsylvania where over twice as many men had been slaughtered in an afternoon as has been killed in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. In his famous “Gettysburg Address” of November 19, 1863, a time when it was not certain that Union forces would prevail in the struggle between barbarism and civilization, Lincoln was clear in his conviction that the paramount objective of the bloodiest war in history at the time, was to insure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” I believe, as imperfect as the exercise of this ideal has been, this is what is at stake at this moment in the life of the American Republic.

However, unlike the Nervous Nellies who worry that an impeachment of Donald Trump in the Democrat controlled House of Representatives will backfire politically if the Republican controlled Senate refuses to convict him, and they are convinced that we could never get the 67 votes that would be required to pass the Senate.  Should that happen, they argue, the impeachment will be seen as merely a partisan attack on a President we hate.  But as Senator Warren rightly points out, the evidence provided by the Mueller Report overwhelmingly supports impeachment!

What the Democrats must do now is dramatize the evidence in the Report by holding public hearings and call forth all of the key witnesses; let the public see and hear them for themselves.  I think the public can not only be convinced of Trump’s guilt, but the Democrats can also make the Senate Republicans look like co-conspirators with Trump to Obstruct Justice!  I am convinced this would be much easier to pull off than the doubters and haters think.  And I am even more convinced that to let Trump walk away scott free when compelling evidence of his guilt is right before our eyes for the entire world to see, will be devastating for faith in the rule of law!

While on the House side Democrats have proffered a Bill of Impeachment, as I write Senator Warren is the only member of the august United States Senate – which bills itself as “the greatest deliberative body in the world” – to have forthrightly advocated impeachment. In her courage, brilliance, and deep commitment to progressive humanistic values and the policies they promote, Elizabeth is the rightful heir to the legacy of Edward, the long time Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, who enjoyed the honorific “Lion of the Senate.” Which makes her the “Lioness of the Senate.” And, methinks, Dirty Despicable Donald has met his match!

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To Watch Senator Warren Explain her Call for Impeachment

Click on This link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=50&v=gwQ5ltdO8gA
Playthell G.Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 22, 2019

Release The Damn Report!

Posted in The Mueller Investigation with tags , , , on March 29, 2019 by playthell

Attorney General William Barr aka Fred Flintstone

The Investigation Is Over…But the Mystery Lingers On

While Donnie and the acolytes do a doophus pootbutt victory shuffle in the end zone, with Dirty Donald repeatedly spiking the ball celebrating his “exoneration” of suspicions that he or his surrogates among campaign workers engaged in a treasonous conspiracy with Russian intelligence agents to fix the presidential election in his favor, and then engaged in nefarious efforts to obstruct justice by trying to hamper the investigation into the matter, it ain’t over yet.

For one thing, neither the Congress, the press, nor the public has seen the actual report produced by Special Prosecutor Robert Muller following the most most massive investigation of a President in American history. As former FBI Director James Comey says, “So many questions” remain unanswered. And they will remain so until Mr. Mueller’s full unabridged report is made public.

At present all we have is a terse summation of what the report says composed by Attorney General William Barr, which does not begin to tell us what inquiring minds with a material interests in the issues at hand need to know. The most obvious question is after a 22 month investigation which issued 500 search warrants, 2, 800 subpoenas, and conducted five hundred witness interviews, how could Barr reduce this to a four page letter of explanation composed 48 hours after its release? The next most compelling question that begs a deeper look is how did Barr arrive at the conclusion that Devious Donald was not culpable of obstructing justice.

In his brief letter summarizing the “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Barr tells us “Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.” The Attorney General then gives an accounting of the size of Special Counsel Mueller’s team, telling us he “employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff.”

Yet, despite this sweeping investigation Barr tells us that Mueller wrote in his summation, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” The fact that it took Barr only 48 hours to resolve a question that Mueller was unable to resolve after 22 months, compels the thoughtful observer to wonder if this is a case of charlatans rushing in where angels fear to tread.

Like this writer, Fortune magazine, a journalistic pillar of the establishment, also remains unconvinced and raises 16 questions that demand answers before the Trump/Russia mess can be fianally put to rest. They are wide ranging questions that go to the heart of the matter, such as: Why did Mueller let Trump submit written answers to his questions instead of insisting that he be interrogated face to face? And how was it possible to arrive at a decision about obstruction of justice without personally interviewing the President? Whom did Mueller interview? How wide ranging was the scope of his investigation? What was Mueller’s standard of proof? What about the infamous Trump tower Meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary? Did he attempt to determine to what extent Russian interference swayed the election in Trump’s favor?

Obviously the scope these questions are beyond the boundary of this commentary. However it is of critical importance to find out if Mr. Mueller’s report addresses the question of why Trump never specifically tasked the FBI with developing an assessment of what effect Russian interventions had on the outcome of the presidential election, and whether he ordered them to develop a plan to counter Russian efforts to interfere in future elections.  Everything I have heard suggest that the intelligence community has received no orders to undertake this task which is so critical to the survival our democracy.

Added to these probing questions I would like to also ask why we should trust Barr’s judgment on obstruction of Justice? Everybody who cares to know is aware of the fact that Devious Donnie appointed him because of a 17 page legal opinion he authored in June 2018 and voluntarily submitted to the Department of Justice, in which he argued that Mueller’s investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice was “fatally conceived” and made an argument that was simpatico with the arguments of Trump’s lawyers that a president cannot be investigated for actions that the constitution permits him to take such as firing a subordinate who works at his pleasure, like the Attorney General. Based on this opinion it is very nearly impossible for a sitting president to commit obstruction of justice in this case. And many observers who are learned in the law believe that’s precisely why Trump appointed him….and why Barr should have recused himself.

Barr’s view of presidential powers so alarmed Neil Kinkopft, Professor of Law at Georgia State University, he wrote a critical treatise on Barr’s views. Titled The Bar Memo and the Imperial Presidency, Professor Kinkoptf warned that under Barr’s expansive view of presidential powers “(1) Trump can take over, manipulate, or terminate the investigation, and (2) don’t hold your breath waiting to see a Mueller report).” To emphasize just how radical and dangerous Barr’s views are he selects “the memo’s most jaw-dropping passage:  “Constitutionally, it is wrong to conceive of the President as simply the highest officer within the Executive branch hierarchy. He alone is the Executive branch.”

Professor Kinkopft goes on to tell us, “The conception of presidential power embraced in the Barr Memo goes well beyond the ordinary unitary executive claims.” This is both enlightening and frightening because we are witnessing Barr’s theory of presidential power being played out before our eyes, as he exonerates Trump for Obstruction of Justice, and has thus far has not released the original Mueller Report, but is futzing around with it so that it reflects his views on the law. This is unacceptable!

Hence, until we are provided an opportunity to review the entire unedited report from the Mueller investigation, and find the answers to these and myriad other pressing questions therein, this matter is not finished, the case remains open. But alas, even it Trump should prove innocent of all charges in the Russian affair, it still does not explain his curious behavior toward the Russians. For instance, his decision to take the word of Vladimir Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, over all of his own intelligence agencies who were unanimously agreed that the Russians had interfered in our presidential election – a fact which is now incontestable – and then announce that decision on the world stage at Helsinki.

Nor does innocence in the Russian affair magically make Trump fit to be president of the United States. For he remains the same lying, boorish, ignorant, vulgar, shameless unreconstructed charlatan and bullshit artist he was before the investigation began. Don the Con has debased the language of presidential discourse; trashed the morals and manners the world expects of the president of the United States; repeatedly assaulted the First Amendment which he swore to uphold. by branding our free press an “enemy of the people!” Devious Donald has lied so promiscuously and prolifically – 7,000 and counting according to fact checkers at the Washington Post and Toronto Star – that his presidency has been branded:”The Post Truth Era.” And his lies are most dangerous when he is freewheeling on the stump. The perfect demagogue, his rhetoric is often so reckless it threatens to provoke internecine violence across the nation!

Alas, Trump remains a man whose character is innocent of honor and devoid of empathy; so much so that House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said nothing “associated with manhood” could apply to him. That’s why he can so easily scorn the military service of Senator John McCain, when he is a cowardly draft dodger. Some people refused to serve because they were principally opposed to the war. But Trump was a chicken hawk who was for the war so long as he was not called forth to fight it. His crooked daddy even bribed a doctor in order to get a phony diagnosis of bone spurs to keep punky Donald out of the draft. Trump’s cheap shot attacks on McCain outraged Bob Kerry, a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran, who challenged Trump to “show us your bone spurs!” Kerry says it is obvious that Devious Donald looks at all those who served in Vietnam as “suckers” because their arents didn’t have the means to get them out! A thoughtless motor mouth, Trump’s snide remarks about McCain has raised the question as to whether he lied to escape conscription, and I predict the call to show the x-rays of his bone spurs will grow louder.

By any objective measure one would stand a far better chance of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear than manufacturing a fitting president from Dirty Donald. He is a man totally devoid of any moral sense, or even any notion of fair play. That’s why he has the unmitigated gall to demand an apology from those who investigated him when it is he who should apologize to others. First he should apologize to Bob Mueller – a decorated marine veteran and life long public servant – for having impugned his motives, traduced his honor, and labeled his investigation a “treasonous” ploy of the “Deep State” – a malignant fiction conjured in the paranoid fantasies of the lunatic right.

When Mr. Mueller’s conclusions broke in his favor however, the Special Counsel suddenly became “an honorable man!” Yet Devious Donald has offered no apology for the months of vicious slander of the man, and his mission. He has also offered no apology to former President Obama for conducting a protracted campaign of racist smears and lies against him in an attempt to de-legitimize his presidency, and DD continues to call his presidential opponent “crooked Hillary” despite the fact that after extensive investigations by Republicans – which she withstood with far more grace and decorum than him – Hillary has never been indicted, let alone found guilty, of anything! Such behavior provides irrefutable evidence that Trump is a man with the morals of a pathological blaggard and has a hole in his soul. Hence James Comey is right on when he concludes: “Trump is Morally unfit to be president.’

Of one thing I am certain; If there is a just God presiding over the universe, and Dr. King was right when he declared “The arc of the universe is wide but it bends toward justice,” then somewhere out there in the 16 ongoing investigations into the affairs of that mobbed up Big Apple bunko artist who bamboolzed the bigoted boobs in the boonies and accidentally became President, Dastardly Don will get his just deserts. He shall be cast in the pit of miseries where he will dwell in an orange jump suit to match his complexion for the rest of his days. Otherwise there is no justice in this world, God is dead, or at best she has lost the battle for the souls of man to the Devil!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 28, 2019

Trump’s Tweets are Toxic!

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on March 29, 2019 by playthell
Mourners Outside the New Zealand Mosque

President’s Rhetoric Unleashes Dogs of Chaos Globally

In response to the last horrendous mass shooting, which occurred in Christ Church New Zealand, where 50 innocent souls were slaughtered in their Mosque by yet another white supremacist fanatic while offering up prayers to God, Christian Picciolini, a former star in the US “White Nationalist” movement during the 1970’s and 80’s observed: “For the first time in modern history our president’s words are actually causing people to murder each other.”

Trump does have a historical precedent however.  Andrew Jackson, Trump’s favorite president, ordered genocide against Native American “Indians” creating the infamous “Trail of Tears.” Mr. Picciolini knows the awesome power of hate speech first hand. He tells us how hate filled lyrics he wrote 30 years previously ended up inspiring Dylan Roof, the murderous young white whacko who murdered nine Afro-American worshipers in their church; slaughtered them like hogs after they extended the hand of brotherhood to him and invited him to join their prayer circle.

Picciolini painfully recalled this incident in order to point out that things President Trump says not only resonate with white nationalist around the world, but will affect young people who are growing up in the toxic environment that Dirty Donald has created for many years to come. Trump has normalized far right rhetoric that used to be confined to the far edges of the US political spectrum; hence words and ideas that were believed outrageous or unacceptable have become common fare.

This shift of the Oval Office from a place of relative sanity to a political loony bin started with the installment of the far right-wing activist and conspiracy theorist, Steve Bannon, in the white House as a senior political strategist. Fortunately for the American nation and the world their relationship feel apart after people began to refer to Bannon as “Trump’s Brain.” This was too much for a megalomaniacal churl like Trump to bear, so he christened Bannon “Sloppy Steve” and banished him.

Nevertheless, Dirty Donald has remained the hero of the far right at home and abroad, whether it is government leaders or fascist white nationalists. It is no accident that Trump has been praised by home made white supremacist activists David Duke, Nigel Farrage in Britian and now the New Zealand mass murderer. Although Trump’s flack catchers in the Republican Party vehemently deny and connection between their man in Washington and the shooter on the other side of the world, the facts tell a different tale. And facts are stubborn things that will not be denied. First of all, this is not the first murderous right-wing fanatic inspired by Trump, he is just the most competent at his grisly business.

Mass Murder in the Mosque

Super Trumpanzee Caesar Sayok aka “The MAGA Bomber,” so named because he was fond of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps, mailed pipe bombs to key members of both houses of Congress and the press. It does not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the bombers hit list corresponded precisely to Trump’s enemies list. Since it is a safe assumption that Trump did not provide Caesar his list, he constructed the list of intended victims from listening to Trump’s hostile rhetoric directed at these people and assumed he was doing Doing Dirty a solid. For had he succeeded “The Donald’s” most vocal and fearless critics would have been silenced. Yet, despite the fact pattern regarding the MAGA bombers motivation, the Republican flak catchers assumed their routine lips to posterior posture with Dirty Donnie and quickly denied any connection between Trump’s verbal arson and the mad bomber!

The atmosphere Trump has brought to the Oval office has undoubtedly given license to a gaggle of ordinary white dopes, who are seeking salvation by a Great White Leader. And these people, “Silly Sally and Simple Simon,” think they have found this Mighty Whitey in Devious Donnie. Like the followers of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the 20th century, the Trumpanees are true believers. And some of these star struck acolytes would commit murder and mayhem if they believed that’s what their savior desired. The Naval Reserve Officer was about to carry out an operation targeting prominent Democrats and journalists who oppose Trump for assassination, but luckily the FBI arrested him before he could strike. Had these guys been more efficient there would be some very important Americans taken off the scene.

Even when Trump is not mentioned, the effects of his rancid rhetoric are evident in the dastardly deeds of his admirers in the white supremacy movement. Just look at the massive march of torch bearing Neo-Nazi’s in Charlottesville Virginia. Chanting “Blood and Soil” a concept fundamental to the Nazi argument that Jews were not real Germans, they transitioned to “Jews will not replace us!” This was some for real Nazi shit, and considering they were marching in support of a Confederate hero, the demonstration highlights the similarity between the beliefs of the Confederacy and Nazi Germany.

This Neo-Nazi uprising resulted in injury and even death to those who peacefully opposed them, but the President could not bring himself to unequivocally denounce them, while denouncing violence in general he observed that there were also “some fine people” among the torch bearers. When we consider the fact that Trump was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, and it’s former leader David Duke, a Neo-Nazi ideologue whose intense hatred of Jews inspired him to earn a PhD in Jewish Studies to better defame them, we know that the White Supremacist movement considers Trump their true leader.

While I respect New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s choice not to mention the shooter’s name because we will become complicit in assuring him the publicity he seeks in perpetrating his horrendous act, as a reporter I am conflicted about it because I believe his name should go down in infamy for all times. However more important than the killer’s name is the fact that the mass mosque murderer mentions Donald Trump’s name as an inspirational figure, a personal hero of whom he calls “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Although he claims to have policy differences with Trump, which he doesn’t spell out but we can surmise based on his actions – and his 74 page tirade will likely offer further clarity when it is available for study – he would like to see Muslims and Jews in gas chambers. A fate he would probably also wish to befall all non-white people.

Although Trump issued a general statement condemning the mass slaughter, he dose not reach out to the beleaguered Muslim community, specifically reject the ideology of white Supremacy, nor make any attempt to disassociate himself from the global white nationalist movement. Since it is abundantly clear that he is viewed as the de-facto leader of this movement by many of its activists, this was the perfect opportunity for Dirty Donald to disassociate himself from them; to clarify his views and denounce theirs. But he chose to do neither. So what are we to surmise about Trump’s true beliefs on white nationalism?

When Congresswoman Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, criticized the treatment of Palestinians and pointed out that the Congress was silent on these atrocities because of the financial power of the American Israel Political Action Committee, “AIPAC, Trump was quick to denounce her as an “anti-Semite,” something he has refused to do with the real anti-Semites in the White Nationalist Movement, even the torch bearing Neo-Nazis in Virginia. But when Judge Janine Pirro, and outspoken Islamphobe, viciously attacked Omar because she is a Muslim woman that voluntarily wears a Hejab, saying she should be denied her seat in Congress, Trump rushed to her defense when Fox News suspended her in response to the outcry! There is no shame in the White Nationalist’s game.

Yet, beyond Trump’s providing inspiration for murderous white racists, there is abundant reason to believe that Donald Trump’s open hostility to our constitutionally mandated free press provided license to the Saudi government headed by Prince Salman, to murder the Washington Post columnist Jamal Kahshoggi in their Trukish Embassy. When we consider the fact that Saudi Arabia is an American client state, that would be little more than another oil rich Arab desert shiekdom with out the backing of the USA, one does not have to be a great strategic thinker to conclude the prince wouldn’t have done it he thought it wasn’t cool the president. After all, the prince had heard the president call the US press “the enemy of the people” ad nauseum.

These are only a partial listing of the toxic effects of the tweeting troll in the White house, but it is more than enough to assess it’s murderous results. Alas, the news that the Mueller investigation has absolved Trump of the suspicion of treason has given his presidency a big boost, and grand bullshit artist artist that he is Devious Donnie is certain to make the most of it, spinning a web of lies about his victimization by agents of the “Deep State” who are out to get him. And although it is obvious if that were true he would not have been exonerated by the investigation, it makes no difference in Trump’s narrative of events.

Although these are poignant symptoms of his mental illness – Malignant Narcissism and Paranoia – the refusal by the press to consistently point this sickness to explain much of Trump’s behavior before, will render them suspect and ineffective should they try it now. Hence from all appearances, we are stuck with this toxic wanna-be tyrant – who threatened that if Mueller’s report had been unfavorable to him the military, police and Bikers would come to his rescue – for the foreseeable future. But, since there are 16 other investigations underway…one never knows…do one.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 25, 2019