Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Something In The Way of Things": The Profound Clarity, Beauty, Knowledge and Insight of Amiri Baraka

ABOVE: Live Reading Performance recorded February 21, 2009 at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY.

Poetic icon and revolutionary political activist Amiri Baraka performs with Rob Brown, an eloquent and versatile saxophonist with a deep knowledge of jazz, in a reading from his book Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems. The recital of the provocative poem Somebody Blew Up America engaged the poet warrior in a battle royal with the governor of New Jersey, who demanded his resignation as the states Poet Laureate. With influences on Baraka's work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, he is renowned as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetic.

This production is part of "Free Jazz at the Sanctuary," a 13-part series of jazz performance videos featuring some of the world's most talented improvisers performing a wide spectrum of music in the genre broadly known as free jazz. Each hour-long show is available on DVD directly from Downtown Music Gallery ( For more information on this series visit

ABOVE: A visual adaptation of Baraka's scathing and foreboding social commentary with music by The Roots. Shot on three different types of film and two different types of video over three months with at least fifty actors/extras in about twenty-five locations in the West Philly area by one guy, Bryan Green, 22, senior film & video major at Drexel University


The eternal wisdom, beauty, and awesome/awe-full lucidity of Amiri Baraka...Enjoy...


Amiri Baraka (formerly Leroi Jones, b. 1934) is one of the major and most important writers of the past half century in the United States, as well as a longtime political and cultural activist and teacher since the early 1960s. Highly gifted and creatively proficient in many different genres of literature--poetry, playwriting, cultural criticism, the essay, fiction, music and literary theory, history, and criticism, as well as journalism --Baraka is also a consummate community organizer, and revolutionary activist, theoretician, and strategist who has founded and/or been an integral part of many different social, cultural, and political organizations and is widely considered the leading force behind the legendary Black Arts Movement (BAM), a national cultural phenomenon that revolutionized American writing and cultural expression in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Amiri is the legendary and prolific author of over 30 books (!), an esteemed member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a past winner of the American Book Award, the Langston Hughes Award, and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. Baraka also taught literature, music history, cultural history, politics, and African American Studies for over 30 years at SUNY--Stony Brook, Columbia, Yale, and Georgetown universities.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

University of Connecticut Huskies Sets New Record in Consecutive Games Won in U.S. College Basketball by Winning Its 89th Straight Game!

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Huskies’ Moore, a senior, is one of only two players on the team to have experienced a defeat while at Connecticut, which last lost on April 6, 2008, to Stanford, in the national semifinals.

Suzy Allman for The New York Times
UConn forward Maya Moore, who had 41 points, boxed out against Florida State on Tuesday night.

Suzy Allman for The New York Times

Maya Moore in the final seconds of Connecticut’s record-breaking 89th straight victory. Moore played in every game of the streak.


This is a phenomenal achievement and a revolutionary breakthrough for women's sports in the United States. WHAT A GREAT TEAM AND AN AMAZING RECORD!!


UConn Women Own the Longest Streak

December 21, 2010
New York Times

HARTFORDFor decades, U.C.L.A.’s winning streak seemed as round and fundamental and permanent as the shape of the ball itself.

And yet, it is the Connecticut women, not the U.C.L.A. men, who now hold the major-college basketball record for invincibility. The Huskies won their 89th consecutive game Tuesday with a 93-62 throttling of Florida State before a sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center, surpassing the 88 straight won by the U.C.L.A. men, coached by John Wooden, from 1971 to 1974.

The top-ranked Huskies (11-0) were bolstered Tuesday by career-high scoring from the senior forward Maya Moore (41 points) and the freshman point guard Bria Hartley (21). UConn has been so dominant during its run that the average victory margin has been 33.3 points. Only four teams have come within 10 points of UConn and only one has shot at least 50 percent from the field. By halftime against Florida State, Moore’s 26 points were one fewer than the Seminoles had scored as a team.

UConn’s last defeat came by 82-73 to Stanford on April 6, 2008, in the national semifinals. Many predict the eighth-ranked Cardinal will bookend the Huskies’ streak when it hosts UConn on Dec. 30. Otherwise, the Huskies may go undefeated through the regular season as momentum snowballs toward a third consecutive national championship.

The overall college record is held by the women’s team at Wayland Baptist University of Plainview, Tex., which won 131 consecutive games from 1953 to 1958. But that was decades before the N.C.A.A. began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982. It was a different game, played under different rules, at a different speed and a different level of athleticism. And it probably did not involve congratulations from the president of the United States.

During UConn’s postgame news conference on Tuesday, Coach Geno Auriemma received a call from President Obama, an inveterate basketball fan. According to Auriemma, Obama told him, “It’s a great thing for sports; it’s an accomplishment to be celebrated.”

To which Auriemma replied: “We have not lost since you were inaugurated. How about we keep that streak going for a couple more years, huh?”

Greg Wooden, a grandson of the legendary U.C.L.A. coach, who died in June, attended Tuesday’s game and said his grandfather would have been “absolutely thrilled” to see the Bruins’ streak broken by a women’s team, especially one as unselfish as UConn.

Late in his life, Wooden said, his grandfather “thought the best basketball was played at the collegiate level and it wasn’t by the men.”

This UConn team is hardly the best that Auriemma has coached while winning seven national titles since 1995. But the younger UConn players are growing more assured, more deeply initiated into a culture that fosters confidence and unselfish play and demands unwavering effort. In the first half Tuesday, Auriemma grew so elated with Hartley’s performance that he gave her a kiss.

Speaking about the Huskies, Bill Walton, the all-American center on those U.C.L.A. teams of the early 1970s, told The Associated Press: “They play with a great sense of team, great purpose, phenomenal execution of fundamentals, relentless attack. It is what every team should aspire to, regardless of the sport.”

Few players in women’s college basketball have been so reliable in pressured moments as the 6-foot Moore, who has played every game of the streak. She moves elegantly and stealthily without the ball, pogo-sticks for jump shots, swoops in on the fast break, right arm extended with the ball.

“She just reminds me of Kobe Bryant,” said Florida State Coach Sue Semrau. “What player in our game stops and pops like she does?”

This season, Moore has also nurtured her younger teammates to set the proper screens, to make the proper passes. And though she does not possess the same swagger as the former UConn star Diana Taurasi, she does possess the same resolve to perform at her best in the biggest games.

“One thing John Wooden used to say about what competitive greatness is, is having the ability to be your absolute best when your best is absolutely needed,” Auriemma said. “That’s Maya Moore.”

At various times during this torrid streak, UConn has fielded the nation’s top point guard in Renee Montgomery, the top center in Tina Charles and the top forward in Moore. There are two kinds of coaches, Auriemma is fond of saying: “Those who coach great players. And ex-coaches.”

But his own imprint on UConn’s success, his demand for an unyielding commitment to greatness, cannot be overestimated. The Huskies force opponents to submit with a doggedness that is unyielding on both offense and defense, no matter the time, no matter the score.

And Auriemma has had little patience from those — mostly male writers and commentators — who dismiss the UConn streak as somehow unworthy, because women are supposedly less skilled than men, because the competition is supposedly insufficient.

He has called these critics “miserable” and said they were angry because they “don’t want us to break the record.”

Tuesday, Auriemma said, “We’re not going to change their minds and I don’t care.” He added, “Like it or not, we made you pay attention.”

He has not asked for more attention for his team, Auriemma said: “I just asked for everybody to admire what these kids do and how they do and how hard it is to do it.”

What will it take to break UConn’s stranglehold? A concerted effort, Auriemma said the other day, not just one or two or three universities but a collective attempt to elevate the women’s game, just as big-time football universities decided to challenge U.C.L.A. in men’s basketball once administrators saw the possibility of victory and profit.

“Again, it’s women’s sports, so people aren’t going to give it the respect it’s due,” Auriemma said.

He has a gut feeling, Auriemma said, that at some point this season, UConn’s streak will end. That would not be a bad thing for a young team, he said. The most important goal is winning a national championship.

“Then they can start on their own thing,” Auriemma said in a recent interview about the streak’s inevitable end. “Until then, they’re living on someone else’s accomplishment. They’re going to have to live up to that. That’s not why you play basketball. You want to create your own stuff. We want to create something that belongs to this team.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

White Supremacy Thinks It Has Defeated the Rise and Triumph of Brown Power in America--But It Is Mistaken!

Drew Angerer/The New York Times

Supporters of the "Dream Act" measure consoled each other Saturday after senators blocked it


Just how relentlessly cruel, racist, stupid, and oppressive is the Republican Party? As always it is clearly a rhetorical question. There are obviously no limits to their vicious demagogic attacks on the human and civil rights of immigrants-of-color in the United States. And with 63 new Republican representatives in the House and 6 new Republican senators due to take their seats in Congress in January, 2011 this reactionary rightwing opposition to millions of Latino American citizens will not only continue but increase in intensity. The only good news in this entire rotten and outlandishly unjust outcome is that this criminal action by the Senate is certain to further ignite an already dynamic and rapidly growing national civil rights movement of Latino youth and adults across the country in support of genuine immigration reform and political, economic, and cultural justice, freedom, and equality for the unconscionably marginalized 45 million Latinos in this country (an exploding demographic in which 60% of its national population is now under the age of 30!). So look out America, Brown Power is coming to a community near you VERY SOON and like its very determined African American counterpart of the 1960s and '70s NOTHING is gonna stop it (especially not a bunch of clueless old racist white male politicians with delusions of the maintenance of white supremacy tottering in their decaying brains). When I saw and heard Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat from New Jersey and one of the leading supporters of the defeated bill) say on C-Span tonight after the vote that not only "Latinos would remember in the national elections in 2012 how senators had voted" but that "This is a vote that will not soon be forgotten by a community that is growing not just in size, but also in power and political awareness” I knew in my bones the fight had escalated to a whole new level and that the national Latino American population was more than ready to take their enemies on and defeat them come what way. What really cinched my conviction that this new emerging movement would not be turned around at this point in history is when Senator Menendez then quoted the following lines from a famous poem ("Harlem") by the legendary black poet and former revolutionary activist Langston Hughes (1902-1967):

What happens to a dream deferred?
does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
...Maybe it sags like a heavy load

or does it explode?

So despite what the reactionary white senators may ignorantly think, they haven't stopped a damn thing; they've only ensured that the struggle will continue with even more energy, power, and determination than ever before and that they, the senators, will lose and the human subjects of their hatred and indifference will win. As history (and Bob Marley) always reminds us: "None of them can stop the time." Watch and see in the days, months, and years to come...


Immigration Vote Leaves Obama’s Policy in Disarray
December 18, 2010
New York Times

The vote by the Senate on Saturday to block a bill to grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students was a painful setback to an emerging movement of immigrants and also appeared to leave the immigration policy of the Obama administration, which has supported the bill and the movement, in disarray.

The bill, known as the Dream Act, gained 55 votes in favor with 41 against, a tally short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for debate. Five Democrats broke ranks to vote against the bill, while only three Republicans voted for it. The defeat in the Senate came after the House of Representatives passed the bill last week.

The result, although not unexpected, was still a rebuff to President Obama by newly empowered Republicans in Congress on an issue he has called one of his priorities. Supporters believed that the bill — tailored to benefit only immigrants who were brought here illegally when they were children and hoped to attend college or enlist in the military — was the easiest piece to pass out of a larger overhaul of immigration laws that Mr. Obama supports.

His administration has pursued a two-sided policy, coupling tough enforcement — producing a record number of about 390,000 deportations this year — with an effort to pass the overhaul, which would open a path to legal status for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. Now, with less hope for any legalization measures once Republicans take over the House in January, the administration is left with just the stick.

Part of the administration’s strategy has been to ramp up border and workplace enforcement to attract Republican votes for the overhaul. The vote on Saturday made it clear that strategy has not succeeded so far.

Mr. Obama will now face growing pressure from immigrant and Latino groups to temper the crackdown and perhaps find ways to use executive powers to bring some illegal immigrants out of the shadows. Latino voters turned out in strength for the Democrats in the midterm elections, arguably saving their majority in the Senate.

The Republicans in the new Congress are especially keen on tough enforcement. The presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration is Representative Steve King of Iowa, a vigorous opponent of legalization measures, which he rejects as amnesty for lawbreakers. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is also an outspoken and well-versed opponent of such proposals.

Groups favoring reduced immigration cheered Saturday’s vote as a watershed victory marking the end of a period when they have been on the defensive. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which lobbied hard against the bill, said the new Congress “has the strongest pro-enforcement membership” in at least 15 years.

“Now, we look forward to moving aggressively to offense,” Mr. Beck said.

During the last year, administration officials considered proposals to allow immigration authorities to use administrative powers to halt deportations of illegal immigrants who might have been eligible for legal status under the student bill. They also sought ways to ease deportations for other illegal immigrants with no criminal record.

Republican lawmakers criticized those proposals as “backdoor amnesty” and pledged to stop the administration from carrying them out.

The administration’s efforts to manage its policy dilemma played out this week. Speaking on Friday before the vote, John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency would continue the brisk pace of deportations, focusing on immigrants convicted of crimes. On the same day, the agency released from detention an 18-year-old Guatemalan student from Ohio, Bernard Pastor, granting him a one-year reprieve from deportation to continue his education.

Despite the defeat, Democrats who supported the bill said they would continue to push for it. “As long as these young people are determined to be part of this great nation, I am determined to fight for them to call America home,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the bill’s main champion.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, another sponsor, said Latinos would remember in the elections in 2012 how senators had voted.

“This is a vote that will not soon be forgotten by a community that is growing not just in size, but also in power and political awareness,” Mr. Menendez said.

Yet much pressure on the administration may come from immigrant organizations. Despite their illegal status, several hundred immigrant students watched the vote in the Senate gallery. Afterward, they held a somber prayer vigil in the basement of the Capitol, but moved on to a news conference that turned into a pep rally.

“They did not defeat us, they ignited our fire,” said Alina Cortes, a 19-year-old Mexican-born immigrant from Texas who lacks legal status. A self-described conservative Republican, she campaigned for the student bill, saying she hoped to join the Marine Corps.

The movement has been driven by thousands of students who “came out” to reveal that they did not have legal status, and to recount their academic achievements and the barriers they faced. Now that their status is public, they have nowhere to hide. Meanwhile, an estimated 65,000 illegal immigrants are graduating from high school each year.

“We have woken up,” said Carlos Saavedra, national coordinator of the United We Dream Network, a student group. “We are going to go around the country letting everybody know who stands with us and who stood against us.”

Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants
December 18, 2010
New York Timea

The Senate on Saturday blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, including passing a criminal background check.

The vote by 55-41 in favor of the bill, which is known as the Dream Act, effectively kills it for this year, and its fate is uncertain. The measure needed the support of 60 senators to cut off a filibuster and bring it to the floor.

Supporters said they were heartened that the measure won the backing of a majority of the Senate. They said they would continue to press for it, either on its own or as part of a wide immigration overhaul that some Democrats hope to undertake next year and believe could be an area of cooperation with Republicans, who will control a majority in the House.

Most immediately, the measure would have helped grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students and recent graduates whose lives are severely restricted, though many have lived in the United States for nearly their entire lives.

Young Hispanic men and women filled the spectator galleries of the Senate, many of them wearing graduation caps and tassels in a symbol of their support for the bill. They held hands in a prayerful gesture as the clerk called the roll and many looked stricken as its defeat was announced.

President Obama had personally lobbied lawmakers in support the bill. But Democrats were not able to hold ranks.

Five Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill. They were Senators Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jon Tester of Montana.

And three Republicans joined the balance of Democrats in favor of it: Robert Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Mr. Obama, in a statement, called the outcome “incredibly disappointing” and said that he would continue fighting to win approval of the bill.

“It is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts.”

“The Dream Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts,” he said, adding, “It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today but my administration will not give up.”

In a floor speech, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, a main champion of the Dream act, urged a yes vote. “I want to make it clear to my colleagues, you won’t get many chances in the United States Senate, in the course of your career, to face clear votes on the issue of justice,” he said.

“Thousands of children in America who live in the shadows and dream of greatness,” he said. “They are children who have been raised in this country. They stand in the classrooms and pledge allegiance to our flag. They sing our ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as our national anthem. They believe in their heart of hearts this is home. This is the only country they have ever known.”

At a news conference after the vote, Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado and a former superintendent of the Denver school system, said he was thinking about all the students he knew there as he cast his vote in favor of the bill.

“Please don’t give up,” Mr. Bennet said. “Don’t be disappointed because we couldn’t get our act together.”

But opponents of the measure said it was too broad and would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“As part of this legislative session there has been no serious movement to do anything that would improve the grievous situation of illegality at our border,” said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who led the opposition to the bill as the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “Leaders in Washington have not only tolerated lawlessness but, in fact, our policies have encouraged it.”

Mr. Sessions added, “This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.”

Ms. Murkowski, in a statement, chastised Democrats for bringing the bill to the floor when it was “doomed to fail” but said that she broke with most Republicans because the legislation was important.

“I support the goal of the Dream Act which is to enable children who were brought to the United States by their parents to earn citizenship through service in the armed forces or pursuit of higher education,” Ms. Murkowski said. “ I do not believe that children are to blame for the decision of their parents to enter or remain in the United States unlawfully. The reality is that many of these children regard America as the only country they ever knew. Some were not even told that they were unlawfully in the United States until it came time for them to apply for college. America should provide these young people with the opportunity to pursue the American dream. They have much to offer America if given the chance.”

Ms. Murkowski also expressed an openness to dealing with the wider immigration issue. “ I firmly believe that Congress needs to embrace the wider immigration question, starting with securing our borders, and I plan to work with my colleagues on this issue in the new Congress,” she said.