Friday, September 22, 2006

Babies In Womb Exposed To 'Gender-Bending' Chemicals

Last updated at 22:58pm on 10th September 2006
Courtesy of the Daily Mail, London

Babies are being exposed to "gender-bending" chemical pesticides
before they are even born, disturbing new evidence has showed.

Tests on blood taken from the placentas of pregnant women revealed up
to fifteen different types of pesticide, the research found.

Worryingly, the chemicals were found in every single one of the 308
women tested.

The findings will fuel concern about the chemicals, known as hormone
disruptors or EDCs - endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

High levels of exposure have been linked to reproductive
abnormalities - so-called gender-bending - because they upset the
hormonal development of the embryo.

The effects are already being seen in nature where some species of
fish and animals with deformed sex organs have been found.

Scientists blame agricultural pesticides and other hazardous
chemicals such as those found in flame retardants which have leaked
into the environment.

Last year a similar report by WWF-UK and Greenpeace found that babies
are being exposed to a whole array of chemicals at the most
vulnerable point in their development.

Tests on the blood of 30 newborn babies found the presence of eight
different groups of chemicals, ranging from cleaning products to
chemicals used to make plastics and non-stick waterproof coatings.

A study led by scientists at the University of Rochester in New York
also found that common chemicals found in thousands of household
products such as soaps and make-up can harm the development of unborn
baby boys.

The results reinforce calls for pregnant women to be especially
careful about their diet and for the reduction of chemicals in food

The latest findings were made by the Department of Radiology and
Physical Medicine at the University of Granada in Spain.

Analysis of the placentas revealed the "presence of seventeen
endocrine disruptive organochlorine pesticides" - the so-called
gender benders.

Some patients' placentas contained 15 of the 17 pesticides tested

Maria Jose Lopez Espinosa, who headed the research, feared that the
chemicals could cause health problems for children who suffered
exposure in the womb.

She said: "The results are alarming: 100 per cent of these pregnant
women had at least one pesticide in their placenta but the average
rate amounts to eight different kinds of chemical substances."

She warned, "We do not really know the consequences of exposure to
pesticides in children but we can predict that they may have serious
effects since this placenta exposure occurs at key moments on the
embryo's development."

The modern, chemical-laden environment can be especially harmful to
pregnant women. During the gestation period, contaminants which
accumulate in fatty tissues, access the unborn child via the blood
supply and the placenta.

The Spanish research was carried out at San Cecilio University
Hospital among 308 women who had given birth between 2000 and 2002.
Tests were performed on 668 samples.

The study also found a higher presence of pesticides in older mothers
and those who had a higher Body Mass Index.

Miss Espinosa believed that a healthy lifestyle with plenty of
exercise, good food and no smoking would help combat the effect
of "inadvertent exposure" to the chemicals.

She added, "It is possible to control pesticide ingestion by means of
a proper diet, which should be healthy and balanced, through
consumption of food whose chemical content is low.

"Moreover, daily exercise and the avoidance of tobacco, which could
also be a source of inadvertent exposure, are very important habits
which help to control the presence of pesticides in our bodies".

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ann Richards 1933-2006

Like many Texans I was saddened to hear that my former governor lost her battle with cancer.

When election time rolls around I usually take politicians promises to inclde my community if we help them get elected to office with a grain of salt.

Well, this silver haired lady with big hair wasn't kidding about that. After she won a bruising Democratic primary versus Mark White and beat multimillionaire Republican nominee Clayton Williams that November to become Texas governor in 1990, she made good on that promise.

Her 'New Texas' administration reflected the diversity of the state by appointing more minorites and women to state agencies than all her previous gubenatorial predecessors combined. The legendary Texas Rangers inducted their first women and African-American officers into their ranks. The Universities of Texas and Texas A&M saw the first African-Americans added to their Boards of Regents during her tenure. She also erased a $6 billion debt piled up by the previous GOP governor Bill Clements and turned it into a $2.5 billion dollar surplus. She got several major companies to relocate their corporate headquarters to Texas cities and did it with her trademark humor and sense of style.

Usually that kind of success gets you a second term. Unfortunately her 1994 reelection bid was against a revenge-minded George W. Bush, the son of the man that Ann had lampooned at the 1988 Democratic Convention with her famous 'silver foot in his mouth' remark. With Karl Rove running the campaign it was negative and nasty and she lost despite having an approval rating in the 70's.

Goodbye, Ann. We'll definitely miss you. Texas hasn't had that kind of leadership since you left office. We were also better people for having you there at a difficult time in our state's history.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

September 2006 TransGriot Column

New Greeks On The Block
Copyright 2006, THE LETTER

One hundred years ago on December 4, 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha, the first African-American intercollegiate fraternity was born on the Ithaca, NY campus of Cornell University. In 1908 the Howard University campus witnessed the birth of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African-American sorority. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in 1911, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in 1913 and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity in 1914 would soon join AKA on the Howard U campus in addition to Phi Beta Sigma’s sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority in 1920.

The state of Indiana can claim two orgs that were founded within its borders. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity on the IU campus in 1911 and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority at Butler University in 1922. Several decades later came the 1963 founding of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity on the Morgan State University campus.

These organizations have been responsible for much of the progress that our people have made over the last century. If there’s an African-American making history or breaking new ground in society you can bet that nine times out of ten they are members of one of those organizations. Their membership ranks include people such as current Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, Dr. Mae Jemison, Aretha Franklin, Spencer Christian, George Washington Carver, Nelson Mandela and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Divine Nine have always had members past and present who are GLBT such as Harlem Renaissance poet and Alpha Phi Alpha member Countee Cullen and Zeta Phi Beta’s Zora Neale Hurston. Unfortunately the historical significance, cultural importance and power of these organizations has created a climate in which these organizations have yet to openly embrace their past and present GLBT members despite their intimate
involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice issues. They are also grappling with homophobia within their ranks.

Possibly in reaction to this reticence and the homophobia, the late 20th and early 21st century has witnessed the formation of a cluster of Greek organizations that are openly GLBT. Like the Divine Nine orgs, they seek brotherhood and sisterhood with each other and wish to continue the historic Black Greek mission of uplifting our race. There is even a governing body similar to the National Pan Hellenic Council called the International Alternative Greek Council.

The formation of Delta Phi Upsilon on the Florida State University campus was the beginning of the GLBT Greek movement. Trevor Charles, Ronald D. Powell, Kenneth LeGrone, Victor M. Cohen and Hamilton Barnes had a vision for gay men of color to have their own bond of brotherhood on college campuses everywhere.

They fittingly got together on Dr. King’s birthday (January 15, 1985) and started the Alpha Chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon. Black gay men, tired of being rejected in their attempts to join the Divine Nine fraternities eagerly embraced the new organization. It rapidly grew to include chapters in other Florida cities, New York, Boston and Houston. The Delts celebrated their 20th anniversary last year.

Fifteen years later Lakisha Goss, Janiece Smith, Michelle McCallum and Stefany Richards decided to form a sorority for lesbian women of color. On February 7, 2000 Iota Lambda Pi Sorority was born. During the planning process they realized that an organization that catered to dominant lesbian women was desperately needed. They renamed Iota Lambda Pi as a fraternity and gave it the mission to change the negative stereotypes placed upon butch/stud women and establish a safe haven for them. Lakisha and Janiece subsequently formed Omicron Epsilon Pi Sorority for feminine lesbians.

Other organizations such as Sigma Kappa Tau, Kappa Xi Omega, and Alpha Psi Kappa Fraternity have followed the trail blazed by these pioneering organizations.

These new Greeks on the block may be small in number now, but their founders have big plans for them. They are taking a page out of our history books and are following the road map that the Divine Nine organizations used in the early 20th century to build themselves up to become the African-American icons they are today.

Here’s hoping that these GLBT Greek organizations exceed their wildest dreams in terms of not only uplifting the African-American GLBT community, but all Africn-Americans and the GLBT community as well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Delusion of Color Blindness

Blacks and whites don't see racism the same way, which is why we can't solve America's racial woes

Thursday, September 7, 2006

When the Supreme Court reconvenes next month, the justices will take on the case against integration policies in Louisville and Seattle. Both cities, in an effort to overcome residential self-segregation, use race as a factor in assigning students to public schools. Parents of white students have complained that these practices discriminate against their children.

Predictably, the Bush Administration agrees. In a friend of the court brief supporting the Kentucky petitioners, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement wrote, "The United States remains deeply committed to [the] objective [of Brown vs. Board of Education]. But once the effects of past de jure segregation have been remedied, the path forward does not involve new instances of de jure discrimination."

I laughed out loud when I read this.

The effects of legalized segregation have been remedied? Recent studies indicate that schools in many communities are growing more segregated. Just 50% of blacks earn a regular high school diploma, compared with 74% of whites, according to research by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Urban Institute. Brown was decided more than 50 years ago, but cities like Louisville and Boston were still rioting over busing plans in the 1970s. And is two generations really long enough to counteract 300 prior years of institutionalized inequity?

I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised. It's long been assumed that blacks and whites don't experience race or recall racism in America in the same way. Now there's proof. In a fascinating new study, sociologists at the University of Minnesota asked whites, blacks and Hispanics what caused whites in the U.S. to have an advantage and blacks to have a disadvantage, and how much they adhered to "color-blind" ideals.

Among the findings (which I summarized in another article) were these telling nuggets: First, most whites believe that prejudice and discrimination put blacks at a disadvantage — 75% agreed with that statement, compared with 88% of blacks and Hispanics. But fewer whites say those factors gave white people an advantage (62%, versus 79% of the non-whites). Second, whites are only about half as likely as blacks or Hispanics to attribute white advantage and black disadvantage to laws and institutions. White Republicans in the survey specifically resisted crediting the legal system as important to white advantage.

One of the major questions the researchers were trying to answer, according to Douglas Hartmann, a co-author of the study, was "whether whites see the problem of race as one of white privilege as opposed to African-American disadvantage." And this is no small distinction.

"If one looks at the response patterns for African-American disadvantage, one might conclude that most white Americans would be supportive of policies designed to equalize opportunities for African Americans," the authors write. "It is not until looking at the response patterns for white advantage that we can see that white Americans may not be overtly racist but may, in fact, have very different (if not naïve and simplistic) visions of the social system of race. This is an important finding with implications... for how we understand the policies Americans adopt (or fail to adopt) to challenge [racial] inequities."

That is to say, taken together, these stats shed light on why so many white Americans have a tough time getting onboard with affirmative action. In a Pew poll, 54% of whites said programs to increase the number of minorities in college are a good thing, compared with 87% of blacks.

"That to me is a reflection of how ahistorical and individualist so many Americans are," Hartmann told me. "We understand that history matters but don't want to see how it pervades our culture. It's kind of surprising but also really typical of how Americans can't reconcile race problems. To support affirmative action, you have to have a historical understanding of where these problems come from."

These days, Americans prefer to talk about "color blindness." I hate the term. For one, it's an impossibility. Color is immutable and unavoidable; it's the first thing you notice about someone, whether you register it consciously or not. For another, it's offensive. "It blurs the real problems of jobs and education that communities of color are struggling with," Hartmann says. And just as your race affects how you experience the world, it also determines the perspective that you bring to any group dynamic — and we should value those different perspectives.

Diverse classrooms enhance learning for all students, as the Seattle school officials argue. Perhaps more important, exposure to diversity, racial and otherwise, is in itself a form of education that remains today in too short supply.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Role of a Lifetime

Black gay men and lesbians navigate gender roles in often contentious environments
Friday, September 02, 2005
From the Southern Voice

Growing up in a small rural town in northeast Ohio, Jay Williams knew he couldn’t be a “faggot.”

He realized he was attracted to other boys, but also understood that such feelings were widely rebuked by his family and neighbors, who, like many African Americans, viewed homosexuality as sickness, sin or both.

“My family, we were raised that being gay was a no-no,” says Williams, a 22-year-old who moved to Decatur five months ago. “It was based on religion — that, and the things my family had seen on TV, or the things they heard, or the things they knew about gay people.

“Their image of gays was just men running around, prancing around, being a lady,” he adds.

Heeding these warning signals from his cultural environment, Williams forged a masculine persona and asserted his manhood. He also developed a cadre of female friends who unwittingly provided a cover for Williams because his family assumed they were his girlfriends.

As he settled into being a black gay man, Williams says it was important for him to maintain a masculine identity.

And just as important as it is for him to “act like I have a dick between my legs,” Williams says it’s essential that his sexual partners are masculine as well.

“Feminine guys, I’ve got nothing against them, but as far as relationships, it’s just not for me because I would much rather just date a girl if I’m going to date a dude who acts just like a girl,” Williams says.

Since arriving in metro Atlanta in March, Williams admits that he feels more flexible to explore other sides of his sexuality, mainly because of the distance from his family. But he says his “masculinity still stands on the same level as it did back home,” noting his reluctance to join a fraternity of black gay men in Atlanta who in his view maintain a masculine façade while evolving into “ladies,” or effeminate gay men.

“Folks pose all the time,” he adds. “But it’s things like ‘Girl,’ and ‘Sista’ — that right there, I don’t care how masculine you are, but if you call your boy your ‘sista,’ then being masculine isn’t who you really are.”

‘120 percent woman’
After first coming out as a lesbian following a seven-year marriage to a man, Ebonee Bradford found herself playing the masculine role in intimate relationships, an uncomfortable departure from the womanly ways she always incorporated into her identity.

Raised by a family of devout Baptists in Alabama, Bradford was steered away from her early tomboy tendencies into what was considered more gender-appropriate behavior, which Bradford continues to this day.

“I try to be 120 percent woman all the time,” says Bradford, 39. “Not because I have something against [masculine lesbians], but because I was brought up to be a lady, and that’s what I am.”

Appreciative of feminine beauty and attempting to avoid the masculinity that came with her seven-year marriage, Bradford says she was always attracted to other feminine lesbians, which forced her into the more aggressive role in her early relationships with women.

But Bradford struggled adjusting to the heightened levels of power and dominance she experienced while playing the masculine role in relationships, leading to disputes that resulted in domestic violence.

Now Bradford mostly avoids masculinity in herself and her partners, a choice she says limits her dating opportunities with other black lesbians.

“There’s not many occasions when you’ll see femme-femme or stud-stud couples,” she says. “It will almost always be opposite roles.”

Gender role wars
Joel Gori, a filmmaker who created the touring dramatic dialogues “Keepin’ It Real: Sexual Orientation and Gender Roles in African-American Communities,” says being black means being subject to each other’s expectations.

“The African-American community is not as tolerant of the diversity in gender roles that exists within its own ranks,” Gori states in his introduction to his vignettes. “[The community] sets limits on the kinds of behaviors that are acceptably ‘black.’”

One of the most integral parts of black gender roles is how cultural images of what it means to be a black gay woman or man impact sexual negotiations and acceptance of sexual variance, he says.

“Is there a certain way to be a black man or a black woman? Gender role expectations affect how black gay men and women communicate with each other about sexuality,” Gori asserts. “Pressure exists to conform when blacks pair up.

“Homosexuality is part of the black community, but certain members don’t want to see it,” he continues. “Some people think you can’t be black and be gay. Black gays face these pressures every day.”

In clubs and in Internet chat rooms, and in most other venues in which black gay men, lesbians and transgendered people meet to socialize and date, gender roles are powerful —determinative enough to start or end relationships, and strong enough to marginalize entire segments of the population.

“It’s so hard for a guy like me to get somebody because everybody is so stuck on this masculine thing when half of the guys who are like that are more femme than I am behind closed doors,” says Pierre Dease, a 23-year-old Atlanta resident, who describes himself as someone who “oozes out femininity.”

“I know a lot of guys say they want boys they can hang with outdoors, but somebody they can chill with in bed, but I want someone I can hang with outdoors who isn’t ashamed of being gay,” Dease says.

Chris Waller, a 25-year-old Decatur resident, agrees that many black men who have sex with men adopt a masculine demeanor in order to avoid being labeled gay.

“I think that the femme bashing is somewhat of a fad, because in reality, when most people think of gays, it’s a flamer,” Waller says. “Some parts of our psyches won’t allow that stereotype to attach to us; we’re embarrassed by it, and some of us even hate it.”

Bernard Bradshaw used to feel obligated to defy stereotypes as a 20-something black gay man, but he says his gender identity became “highly contextual.”

“There’s sometimes I’m definitely a little more butch, and there’s times when I’m with my best friend and we’re ki-ki-ing and having a good time,” says Bradshaw, who lives in Chicago and operates, a Web log about his sexual exploits.

But despite his fluidity when it comes to gender roles, Bradshaw says it’s difficult to admit that he’s part of the anti-femme problem among black gay men.

“When I hear guys on the chat line or on the Internet say ‘no fats, no femmes,’ there’s a part of that that disgusts me because I hate the way fem guys are dogged out,” Bradford says. “But the crazy thing is that what I and most people want is a masculine guy, and so sometimes I fear I’m sort of reinforcing the denigration of fem guys.”

Behind closed doors
Leslie Martin, a self-described “soft-stud” from Lithonia, Ga., says more black lesbians seem to embrace their femininity, the same way some black gay men are posing as masculine men, almost as if they were on the down low.

“I think being fem is more in because I think a lot of people that don’t want it known, or don’t want to be out there like that as far as the workplace and stuff, I think it’s just like the DL thing,” Martin says.

But Maressa Pendermon of Atlanta says it seems as though a younger generation of lesbians is gravitating to a butch identity “because they believe it gives them the power in a relationships.”

A feminine lesbian, Pendermon says some have accused her of selling out, which makes her even more determined to openly assert and affirm her sexual orientation.

“I’ve gotten some angry reactions from people who may be more butch or masculine, and they see me as someone who can pass, so I may have more privilege than they have,” Pendermon says. “I feel a responsibility to be out because it’s not as easily detectable, and so I am out sort of to be in solidarity with other people.”

Many black lesbians religiously adhere to their preferred gender role, especially in the bedroom, according to Martin and Bradford.

“If they carry themselves like a stud, that’s basically what you’re going to get in the bedroom,” Bradford says.

But among black gay males, masculine façades often melt away at the bedroom door, according to Williams.

“It’s a different story from what they show the outside world almost every time,” Williams says.

Black trans resented
Natasha Russell wants to be treated “like a woman,” and she usually gets her wish granted by studly men, some of whom claim to be straight.

A biological male, Russell says her female gender identity transformed over the years from a source of rejection to a delicious advantage when it came to attracting “thuggish” men.

“They say it’s more like being with a woman,” Russell says of her masculine suitors. “They want to fuck a guy, but they also want to think they’re fucking a woman.”

Black transgender folks often face relentless discrimination and even the threat of violence in some black areas, and are sometimes looked down upon by black gay men and lesbians because they violate gender norms to the extreme, Russell says.

Pendermon agrees.

“Among black gay people, there is a sense that [transgender people] make a mockery out of who we are,” Pendermon says. “I think they challenge all of us to look at our prejudices and biases.”

For the first time, In The Life Atlanta officially incorporated transgender panel discussions into the Black Gay Pride line-up this weekend, including transgender wellness conference and a “Trans 101” information session.

Many black gay men and lesbians remain uninformed about transgender issues, which fuels the hostility sometimes directed at transgender individuals, Martin says.

“Once everybody understands and knows more about them, they’ll get to the point where they’re more accepted,” Martin says.

For Russell, acceptance is immaterial.

“Everybody has their femme ways, just like everybody can act masculine,” Russell says. “The only thing that matters is when you look in the mirror do you see yourself, or do you see some image or character you think you’re supposed to be?”

Friday, September 08, 2006

US Women Ballers International Streak Over

If the US mens basketball team fails to win gold, the pattern lately has been for the US womens team to uphold national basketball pride and win whatever international tounament the men failed at.

Since 1996 the US women have been ruthlessly consistent. In addition to the Olympic gold medals they won in 1996, 2000 and 2004, they've added a pair of FIBA women's championships in 1998 and 2002.

When Team USA fell short in Japan in their efforts to bring the FIBA World Championship trophy back to the USA, US basketball pride once again fell upon the shoulders of the US women.

The mens ballers did give it their best shot. Team USA's winning streak came to a screeching halt in the semis against Greece. The loss sent the US men to the bronze medal game versus Argentina and Manu Ginobili. Team USA won 96-81 thanks to 32 points from Dwyane Wade and 22 from LeBron James. They will have to wait until 2010 for the next shot at the FIBA trophy in Turkey. They will have a shot at redemption before then at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The US women traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil heavily favored to take the championship back home to the USA. Unfortunately Lisa Leslie had to withdraw due to a family emergency and the team struggled with their shooting.

Team USA won their first seven tournament games before the shooting woes caught up with them against the Russians. They upset Team USA 75-68 and ended a pair of winning streaks for the US women. Since 1994 they'd won 26 straight games in FIBA competition and a combined 50 games in Olympic and FIBA Worlds competition.

That loss sent them to the bronze medal game against Janeth Arcain and the homestanding Brazilians while the Russians moved on to the championship game against Lauren Jackson and the Australians. Team USA took out their frustrations on their Brazilian hosts by spanking them 99-59. The Aussies beat down the Russians 91-74 to claim their first ever FIBA world championship and the berth in the 2008 Beijing Games.

The USA women will now have to win the FIBA Americas Tournament in Chile next summer in order to qualify for Beijing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Legacy of Slavery Echoes Beyond Jamestown Founding

TransGriot Note: From the Washington Post

By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

"There came . . . a Dutch man-of-warre that sold us 20 negars."

-- from the diary of John Rolfe, a tobacco farmer
in Jamestown, Va., in 1619

And so began slavery in America -- with the first 20 Africans being
referred to with a word that retains its sting some 400 years and 30
million African Americans later.

As Jamestown begins a commemoration of its founding in 1607, this
less-than-cheery subject poses a special challenge for party
planners. Jamestown is distinguished as the first permanent English
settlement in what would become the United States; but it was also
the first to achieve what historian Paul Johnson called "self-
sufficiency through the sweat and pain of an enslaved race."

Can such an epic injustice ever be part of a celebration?

On Oct. 14, the Virginia African American Forum will be among the
first to try with an anniversary gala at the Jamestown Settlement
museum. Guests will be treated to a jazz ensemble and a preview of a
new collection of African artifacts. They will also be given a choice
of dress: "After 5 or African attire," allowing them to identify
symbolically with the painful past. Or not.

The museum exhibit, on the other hand, may not offer such an easy
out. A group of transatlantic researchers has finally put a face on
those anonymous 20. And as more is learned about how their stories
began, there will be no escaping the pain of their tragic end. The
slaves were from Angola, in Southwest Africa. Their homelands were
the kingdoms of Ndongo and Kongo, regions of modern-day Angola and
coastal areas of Congo. They were entrepreneurs, a literate and
morally upright people who held family in the highest regard. They
were renowned for preparing their children for adulthood -- and the
tradition persisted even after the slave ships began to arrive.

Thanks to the researchers, what had been a central feature of
slavery -- the dehumanization of the black slave -- has finally been
personalized for the first of the millions who would follow.

Nevertheless, by what appears to be the mutual consent of blacks and
whites, the horrors of slavery are rarely confronted head-on in
public settings. In fact, the effects of this "peculiar institution"
are more likely to be minimized. It is often noted, for instance,
that those first Africans were actually indentured servants, not free
but not slaves, and, theoretically, as eligible as white servants to
work themselves out of servitude. But if black sharecroppers could
not work off a perpetual debt in the 20th-century version of
indentured servitude, what chances did Africans forcibly brought here
in the 17th century have?

At a recent fundraiser for the U.S. National Slavery Museum planned
for Fredericksburg, organizers made sure that talk of this most
unsavory practice did not leave a bad taste. "This museum will not
have bad karma," Bill Cosby said at the event, which drew about 1,350
people. L. Douglas Wilder, mayor of Richmond, former Virginia
governor and a driving force behind the museum, told The Post: "We
are not interested in pointing a finger of blame."

But the psychological effects of slavery are not so easily dismissed.
The generational echoes of oppression reverberate even today in the
social crisis affecting many black families. And the same term of
disrespect that Rolfe used to describe the slaves has never been more
popular among black youth. The problem, of course, is not so much the
use of the word as the internalization of its meaning: to eschew the
freedom that comes with education and volunteer instead to enslave
oneself with a minstrel-show mentality.

Slavery, if not the slavery museum, most certainly has bad karma.

Johnson, the historian, asks: "Can a nation rise above the injustices
of its origins and, by its moral purpose and performance, atone for
them? In the judgmental scales of history, such grievous wrongs must
be balanced by the erection of a society dedicated to justice and
fairness. Has the United States done this? Has it expiated its
organic sins?"

America lost its soul in Jamestown. It's time to go searching again.

Is It November 7 Yet?

Only two months to go until the congressional midterm election are held and the GOP is nervous.

They should be.

They should recognize the political climate. It's the same mood in the country for change that they rode to take control of the House and Senate in 1994. It took the GOP only ten years to surpass the level of hubris and excess of power that cost the Democrats their 40 year control of the House.

It's a lot of things. The Iraq War. The hyperpartisan Congressional gridlock. One congressional ethics scandal after another resulting in convictions for several GOP legislators. The naked hypocrisy. Using 9-11 as an excuse to gut our constitutional freedoms. The cover ups.

They are hopefully cruising to an election day disaster.

Condi's Trippin'

What is wrong with Condoleezza Rice? Where's the DROP Squad when you need them?

In a recent interview with Essence magazine, Rice said that Blacks
folks might have been enslaved much longer than they were if the
North decided to end the American Civil War earlier than it did.
"I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the
Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves
would hold," she told the magazine.

"I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this
now, make peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'"
A fuming Rice went on to say that she wasn't too pleased about how
people attacked President Bush's administration in the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina, saying that his slow response was because the
majority of the victims were Black.

"I resented the notion that the president of the United States, this
President of the United States, would somehow decide to let people
suffer because they were Black," she told Essence.
"I found that to be the most corrosive and outrageous claim that
anybody could have made, and it was wholly and totally
irresponsible," Rice said, adding that the government did it's best.

"People aren't perfect, and this response was not perfect. You know,
I do foreign policy, I don't run Homeland Security. I don't run FEMA.
I do foreign policy," Rice said. "I did what I could to coordinate
the international response."

I have not liked Condoleezza Rice ever since I read her comments in a 1999 Time Magazaine article that quotes her as calling President Jimmy Carter (a man she worked for by the way before she swiched parties and joined the dark side of the force) 'a stupid man unfit to be president.'

I found it quite odd that someone who grew up in 1963 Birmingham and claims to have been friends with Denise McNair (one of the girls killed in the 16th Street church bombing) could have NO respect for the civil rights movement and its brave warriors, especially when some of the major events in that struggle happened in your hometown and home state.

Too bad she didn't grow up with the social conscience of her cousin
Constance Rice or the activism of fellow Birmingham resident Dr. Angela

How DARE she equate Americans who oppose Iraqinam with being pro-slavery.
I'm sick of negro conservatives trotting out the slavery references to bash their critics with. Whether its Clarence Thomas complaining about 'high-tech lynchings' or negro conservatives comparing the Democratic Party to a plantation, this crap is getting old.

Miss Thang can get pissed all she wants about the criticism being leveled at her boss over the glacial Katrina response. She has no room to talk. She was in New York hunting for a good deal on Ferragamos while New Orleans was drowning.

So yeah this may be news to you Condi, but your beloved GOP has carried out an anti-Black agenda for 40 years. You have earned the skewering you're getting for that jacked up Katrina response. You're upset about Kanye West's 'George Bush doesn't care about Black people' statement? Too bad.

It's glaringly obvious when four hurricanes hit a GOP controlled state during the 2004 election season and gets a swift response but a year later it takes a week for supplies to get to an area that is majority Black, voted 3-1 for Kerry in the 2004 election and has a Democratic mayor and governor. It's even more exasperating when a few months later lavish levels of relief supplies get sent halfway around the planet for the Asian tsunami victims in a time frame measured in hours.

I'm beginning to wonder if Kanye West's comment also applies to you, Condi.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's Finally Football Season!

One of the things that I love as much as Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream is football. Whether it's high school, college or pro I don't care.

I once wrote that loving football is part of a Texan's DNA and I'm not kidding about that. When August rolls around on the calendar and I start seeing the preview magazines on the bookstore racks like Dave Campbell's Texas Football, I get happy knowing that two-a-days and the games aren't too far behind.

One of the things that I miss about Houston is the smorgasbord of high quality high school football games that are available on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.
When some of the players that I got to see were future NFL stars or Hall of Famers such as Darrell Green (Jones), Mike Singletary (Worthing), Dexter Manley (Yates), Santana Dotson (Yates) Thurman Thomas (Willowridge) and Rodney Hampton (Kashmere) you get spoiled. I saw Vince Young play for Madison High before moving on to UT and the Tennessee Traitors.

Then I get to shift my attention to the two Division I colleges in the city limits, Rice University and the University of Houston. The Texas Southern University Tigers are our Division I-AA program and proud SWAC member. Several family members are alumni of that school and I got to see Ken Burrough, Doug Williams, Sam Adams and the late Walter Payton play for and against the Tigers. I can't forget the other HBCU in the area, Prairie View A&M.

Much of the fun of attending TSU games is watching halftime and the 'Ocean of Soul' battling the other SWAC bands. If I felt like it driving within a two hour drive was Texas A&M, Texas, Sam Houston State and Baylor

I would be remiss as a proud Cougar fan and alum if I didn't mention our 31-30 victory over the Rice Owls Saturday night. Eat 'em up Coogs!

Then there's Sunday. Until they moved and became the Tennessee Traitors (oops, Titans) I was a die hard, Luv Ya Blue Oilers fans. Now my loyalties have shifted to the Texans. I still hate the Irving Cowchips with a passion (that's Dallas Cowboys to the rest of y'all).

The NFL season kicks off this Thursday, and I'm anxious to see how the Texans are going to fare this season. We have Houston homeboy and Aggie Gary Kubiak coming back from Denver to coach. I'm old enough (darn it) to remember when Gary was the quarterback at St. Pius High School. I'm also proud that we have a African-American GM running thangs now in Rick Smith. I know these guys play in a tough division in the AFC South so my expectations on how well they do are tempered by that. I'll consider it a good year if they make a serious run at a playoff spot and sweep the Traitors.

Hmm, by the time the Texans play them Vince Young may be starting at QB. Damn, they're making it hard for me to hate 'em. Nahh, not as long as Kenneth Stanley 'Bud' Adams owns them.

Oh well, let me check out the Courier and see who U of L is playing this week.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Stonewall to Shutter?

from the New York Observer
September 5. 2006

Queen Bees Stinging Glad!
by John Koblin

For several days now, a conspicuous “For Rent” sign has hung over the door of a gay bar on Christopher Street.

It would hardly be news: Bars open and close every day—and this one isn’t even the oldest one on the block. But because of its name—the Stonewall—the bar has assumed for itself a certain inevitability.

Seventy-six years after the first bar of the same name was opened at 53 Christopher Street, the prospect looms that the historic site of the 1969 riot widely credited as the birth of the gay-rights movement might disappear.

And the neighborhood surrounding the block of Christopher Street just east of Sheridan Square (which has been ceremonially named Stonewall Place) is raising a glass to the Stonewall’s demise.

Born in infamy on a sultry summer night when a ragtag group of drag queens and gay hipsters started hurling bottles at the police who were raiding the bar, the Stonewall, neighbors say, remains riotous—at least for the now ultra-gentrified Greenwich Village.

“They promote these urban youth parties,” said Bill Morgan, the owner of the Duplex, a popular gay nightspot at the end of the block where Stonewall is situated. “They pushed out the regular gay clientele in favor of this new, urban, hip-hop, gangster clientele. Then you bring a bunch of 18-to-20-year-olds in the area who have no place to go and start goofing off and being loud. It’s disruptive to the neighborhood and brings in the wrong element in the neighborhood.”

“Stonewall over the last few years has been a blight on the community and an embarrassment to the gay community,” said Rick Panson, a member of Community Board 2. “The gay community is not looking for a strip-club-mentality lifestyle.”

And what are the gay patrons of the Stonewall looking for in the West Village?

On “Touch” Monday, the Stonewall’s hip-hop party was in full swing when Dorian Smith, a dancer wearing a sleeveless shirt and skull cap who has been visiting the bar for three years, answered.

“It’s home for me,” he said. When asked for his age, he said “twent—32”). “All the black clubs have been closing down, so I come here. It’s so comfortable here.”

“I come here because you don’t have to be too much of a queen,” said El Williams, 25. “I’m into white guys, don’t get me wrong, I like going to Crowbar and Roxy. But this place gives me a different feel. It’s more authentic to me. It’s a hip-hop crowd and I can just be myself here.”

“I’m really comfortable here,” said Myke Melendez, a 22-year-old who lives in Harlem. “If I’m on the street holding a guy’s hand, it’s like whatever. Or if I’m trying to pick a guy up, it’s like whatever. I like it here.”

Dominick Desimone took over the lease on the historic location, which hadn’t been a bar for nearly 20 years, in 1989, amid promises to return the bar to its former glory and create a fitting commemoration of its original character.

Many were dubious.

David Carter, the author of Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, told the story of how he pointed out to the owner that the original flagstones of the bar’s most popular dance floor remained intact even 20 years after the bar had closed. The next time he walked by, the flagstones had been covered in what he described as “bathroom tile.”

“They were interested in exploiting the Stonewall name to make money,” Mr. Carter said. “They had no appreciation for the site itself. I think it was a purely money-making venture done under the guise of preserving and honoring history. This was a total fraud from the beginning.”

But if DeSimone was expected to capitalize profitably on the Stonewall name, records show the plot didn’t work. According to documents filed with the New York Secretary of State, the bar has been in ruins for months: It was sued earlier this year by its liquor vendors (the bar lost) and now virtually all its possessions are up for collateral to lenders, everything down to the barstools.
“He’s getting evicted,” said Bob Gurecki, who owns a portion of the bar with Mr. DeSimone. “I knew something was happening, but I didn’t know it was this bad.”

Mr. DeSimone, who is straight and was interviewed from a hotel in St. Lucia on Monday, defended himself and said that tight finances are just a reality.

“Think how many $6 drinks you have to sell to make up for $20,000 a month in rent,” he said.

But ask anyone at the bar, and they point fingers directly his way.

“There’s been terrible mismanagement,” said a bartender who goes only by “Tree” and who also served at the original Stonewall in the 60’s. “Dominick doesn’t know how to run a gay bar.”

Now Mr. DeSimone is being pushed out by the owners, Duell Management, after falling $150,000 behind in rent payments this year, Mr. DeSimone and Gregg Kennelly of Duell said.

As of Sept. 1, Duell Management will offer the space to new tenants for $100,000 up-front and $22,500 a month thereafter.

Mr. Kennelly said Duell is looking for a “responsible” owner. When asked if the company would look to keep it a gay bar, he said, “We’re keeping our options open.”

But, to be sure, Stonewall’s problems today have not been entirely internal.

The bar has had numerous altercations with neighbors about noise and late hours. But lying just beneath the surface of many complaints recorded by The Observer was the crowd that Mr. DeSimone had attracted to the place.

“We have a desire to bring back the neighborhood to its heyday,” Mr. Kennelly said, the director of business development at Duell. “Business owners in the area have expressed to me that the neighborhood has changed, and not in a positive way, over the last few years due to a changing demographic.”

“I’ve heard it’s a younger, urban crowd that is gang-related,” he added.

But when was the Village’s heyday? Was it when E.E. Cummings and Djuna Barnes prowled the White Horse tavern by night? Was it the heyday of 1969, when the Stonewall was mob-run and one of the biggest back-hole dives in the city? There are accounts of no running water and patrons handing off unwashed glasses. With its dark walls, it was a place that invited everyone, “from German Shepherds on up.”

“In Stonewall’s heyday you had underage hustlers, people selling drugs, and it was really a seedy place,” said Mr. Carter. “Out of a fluke of fate, the Stonewall is probably closer now to what it was in 1969 than the super-gentrified, yuppified Village is to the bohemian Village of 1969.”

“Everything (even the tenements) have been tarted up and the West Village is the most expensive and desirable real estate in Manhattan,” wrote Edmund White, the gay writer, in an e-mail to The Observer. “Before gay liberation, blacks and Hispanics were accepted …. Now white middle-class gays have become as snobbish as their straight counterparts—I guess that’s the price of assimilation, but unfortunately it’s a price that others must pay.”

If the Stonewall grew up in the Village, it could be easily said the two grew up together.

“For one thing, everything was so much cheaper back then,” said Charles Kaiser, author of The Gay Metropolis, a history of gay life in New York City. “Brownstones were broken up into apartments and a 21-year-old kid could move into even if he didn’t have a trust fund. It was much more economically diverse back then.”

Even then the bar was a hangout for blacks and Hispanics. And Christopher Street is a drag that has for decades attracted black gay men in particular, from neighborhoods where they felt less safe being open about their sexuality.

But with the real-estate boom in New York, and the Giuliani era, the rough edges of Greenwich Village were smoothed out to the consistency of a granite countertop.

The change also may have led, not coincidentally, to Stonewall’s reopening. The bar closed for two decades shortly after the riot and reopened in 1990, but seemed briefly to be an authentic way for the neighborhood to cash in on its historical cachet.

But that is just the problem: An authentic Stonewall belonged in the authentic Greenwich Village of 1969, neighbors say. Not in the Greenwich Village of today.

Because of noise ordinances enforced by local residents, at night, no one can enter through the Christopher Street entrance, but instead through a depressingly ordinary entrance on Seventh Avenue. On Monday night, patrons were directed to enter via a side door, following a yellow sheet of bulletin-board paper with black-painted letters that read “Stonewall.”

What nobody believes is that the new Stonewall—if it is even a gay bar, or even a bar, and if that is even what it’s called—will be the same again, either as it was in 1969 or as it is today. And if the new management decides to turn gay patrons away all together, then the final nail will be driven through the casket. Don’t, however, expect a Save Stonewall campaign to be organized to save Mr. DeSimone’s neck.

“People don’t really care,” said Bob Gurecki, one of the co-owners. “We’re famous all over the world, but no one in New York cares. The younger community doesn’t even know what it is. The older community doesn’t go out or care.”

“I never saw this Stonewall as having to do with the original or keeping the name alive,” said Mr. Kaiser. “It had no connection to the real place, which hadn’t existed for 20 years when this one opened. It exploited the name.”

“We’re hoping, really hoping they keep this a gay bar,” said Tree, the bartender. “I want to make sure we keep the history of Stonewall here. I’m really going to miss the loyalty of the customers and the loyalty of the tourists.”

Last Saturday, Tree scrubbed the bar’s surface clean in anticipation of the evening rush.

“We could have done more,” he said of the Stonewall. “We failed its history.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

Willi Ninja Passes Away

Godfather of Voguing Dies
Willi Ninja Starred in ‘Paris Is Burning’ documentary
Monday, September 11, 2006
from the New York Blade

NEW YORK (AP) — Dancer Willi Ninja, a star of the documentary "Paris Is Burning" who was considered the godfather of the dance art form voguing and who inspired Madonna’s "Vogue" music video, has died at age 45, friends and relatives said last Tuesday.

Ninja died last Saturday of AIDS-related illnesses at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, they said.

Madonna, speaking through a spokeswoman last Tuesday, said she was sorry to hear of Ninja’s death.

"He was a great cultural influence to me and hundreds of thousands of other people," she said.

Voguing, which dates to gay Harlem ballrooms in the first half of the 20th century, consists of a combination of model-like poses and creative arm, leg and body movements.

Ninja, inspired by Fred Astaire, "Great Performances" on PBS, Asian culture and Olympic gymnasts, was a self-taught performer who stitched together a patchwork of a career that covered the worlds of dance, fashion and music.

He performed with dance companies, worked under renowned choreographers and instructed models and socialites how to walk and pose for the paparazzi with frisson.

But it was for the magic Ninja worked on the ballroom floor and his appearance in the 1990 documentary "Paris Is Burning" that he was probably best known.

The documentary chronicles the elaborate ball competitions in which participants walk in various categories or themes and are judged on the realness of their drag impersonations. On a deeper level, the balls are spins on issues of gender, class and race expressed through performance, observers say.

Ball participants are known as children of houses, improvised families that often serve as havens from hardships such as homophobia, poverty and racism many members face.

"Paris Is Burning" director Jennie Livingston said that Ninja was a "supremely gifted dancer" who was extremely focused and dedicated to his craft and that he was "one of the main reasons" she made the film.

The filmmaker also noted Ninja’s warmth and ability to guide, nurture and love those around him, particularly the children in the House of Ninja, which he founded in the mid-1980s.

She recalled walking through Washington Square Park one summer day and spotting young men voguing beneath a tree. She approached them to learn about this dance, which was new to her.

"’If you really want to talk about voguing you should meet Willi Ninja,"’ Livingston said the young men told her. "That’s where I first heard his name.

"Whenever you talk about vogue or voguing, Willi’s name is there," Livingston said in an interview last Tuesday. "Willi refined voguing. He really brought it to an amazing level."

Eventually Ninja vogued for audiences in Paris and Tokyo, Livingston and others said.

Ninja, whose real name was William Leake, was born April 12, 1961, in New York and grew up in Queens. He graduated from Bayside High School and studied for a year at Queens College, according to a copy of the program for his funeral, which was scheduled for last Friday.

Ninja’s mother, Esther Leake, of Queens, said: "He was my best friend. I loved him to death. Nobody else is going to be like him. He was one of a kind. He loved people, and he’d do anything for anybody."

Archie Burnett was best friends with Ninja. He said Ninja was influenced and fascinated by Asian culture growing up in Queens, which has a large Asian population, and during a stay in Japan.

"His style of voguing was a combination of martial arts, East Indian and Asian influences, ballet, gymnastics, contortionism and pantomime," Burnett said. "That’s what made him different. He really wanted voguing to be respected."

Burnett said a cable channel recently approached Ninja about doing a fashion-related show. But the channel wanted him to offer catty, mean-spirited commentary. Ninja declined, Burnett said.

"Willi was not into being a stereotype, and if it meant he wouldn’t have the opportunity to put on a show and have international access by way of television he would not do it," Burnett said. "He was a man of principle. He fought for his integrity."

Ninja did, however, do commentary for the "Paris" DVD, which was released last year.

More recently, he had met with a theater director about choreographing a Broadway or off-Broadway version of "Paris is Burning," Livingston said.

"It could’ve been beautiful," the director said.

A viewing was held last Friday at Roy L. Gilmore’s Funeral Home in Queens, followed by a funeral. Ninja’s remains were cremated the following day.