Monday, October 27, 2014

Jerry Green and the "Race" Card

ARTICLE III. SECTION 3. It shall be the obligation of the members and the officers of this Committee and Democratic elected and appointed officials to support the purposes for which the Party exists, and to work for the proper fulfillment of same and to support those Democratic candidates for election to public office duly nominated in a Primary Election. --Constitution & By-Laws Governing the Union County Democratic Committee

Many of us in Plainfield are familiar with Jerry Green's use of the "race" card to try and divide Plainfielders. He panders to what he views as an African American constituency for whom he has done NOTHING these past 30 years, and whom he doesn't respect. I noted this several months ago when, after his debacle in trying to prevent the Liberty Village PILOT project from being extended, he ranted in front of my Liberty Village constituents about how I didn't "care" about them--presumably because I didn't live in Liberty Village. The insinuation was that I wasn't representing the interests of black people--highly insulting to me as a black woman. Jerry was playing the "race" card.*

"I run this M%@$*&#&$@r!", you don't!
Well, as the Liberty Village folks discovered, Jerry Green doesn't live there, either--he lives in a leafy Second Ward neighborhood in the Hillside District, right near Sleepy Hollow. Jerry also like calling Democrats who have the temerity to want to run for office as "Republicans"--yet, when Frank Lautenberg (a Democrat) ran for Senator a few years back, Jerry Green supported Rob Andrews (who resigned under an ethics cloud). 

When Barack Obama (a Democrat) ran for President, Jerry Green supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Jerry Green attempted, during this recent primary, to paint me (a progressive Democrat) as some sort of "tea partier," even getting Steve Sweeney involved in trying to assassinate my character. Everyone knows that Jerry Green will do or say anything to get rid of me--he tried it again, and it didn't work. He ended up looking like a statewide fool. Now, with what he and his cohorts are doing in Linden, we see that Jerry Green really doesn't "run" anything--he is simply a "tool" of his "handlers."

Now, let's talk about the "race" card.

This looks familiar, doesn't it?
I posted on my other blog (click here) what Jerry Green is doing in Linden, New Jersey. That blog post is titled: "Jerry Green - Fake Democrat - is Not Supporting Democrat Derek Armstead of Linden." Derek Armstead, an African American Councilman who won the Democratic Primary for Mayor, is running in Column A with Cory Booker, et al (just as I am in Column A, having won my primary). I pasted at the top of my post the By-Laws of the UCDC--which Jerry Green, Chris Hudak, and others seem to be violating. Derek Armstead is poised to become the first African American mayor of the city of Linden, thus making history. In this same year, Bonnie Watson Coleman also stands on the threshold of becoming the first African American woman to represent New Jersey in Congress. Many of you are aware of the "tepid" support Watson Coleman received from Green during the primary--well, here, you see Green OPENLY IGNORING Derek Armstead. Look at the mailer which covers Derek's line position--OUTRAGEOUS. How is it possible that the Democratic Chairman of Union County is NOT supporting the Democratic standard bearer?

Armstead's LINE 8A ballot position is covered up here.
Linden Chairman Chris Hudak is also ignoring Armstead--what kind of "Democrats" are these people? What role does RACE play in what is happening in Linden? I have shared my questions via social media with Linda Carter, our Plainfield-based Democratic Freeholder. The word is that the county party and the local party are not supporting Armstead. I am not speaking about the merits of Armstead as a candidate here--I am talking about hypocrisy--the hypocrisy of an individual who WON the Democratic line--FAIR and SQUARE--and yet who seems to be a victim of race politics played at the expense of what is right. I would urge folks to contact our freeholders, State Chairman John Currie, and other prominent Democrats to find out what they think of this outright betrayal by Jerry Green and the Linden Democratic Party.

I am anticipating the usual nonsense from Jerry Green's blind supporters about me being critical of a "powerful" black man (we have already seen the LACK of "power" by this capitulator); that Jerry Green is the best "we've" got (no, he's not--there are many positive and progressive African American voices--Bonnie Watson-Coleman is one); why I am publicly criticizing Jerry Green (he impedes the power of the people, he has betrayed the values that the party is SUPPOSED to stand for, and he is a statewide embarrassment--need I say more?).

For those who have read what I showed above--how Jerry Green is deliberately obstructing the possibility of history being made in Linden by a black man--I ask you: why isn't Jerry Green supporting this black man?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

6th Annual "State of Black Writers" Symposium at Essex County College

On Thursday and Friday, October 23-24, Essex County College’s Africana Institute, in partnership with the Akoma Newark Sister Circle, the Frances E.W. Harper Literary Society at the Newark Public Library, and the Humanities Division ,with support from Student Life and Activities, will host the Sixth Annual State of Black Writers Symposium at the main campus of Essex County College in Newark, NJ. The entire schedule is listed below. All events will be held in Smith Hall.

I will be moderating the Humanities Panel on Thursday, October 23, at 10:00 am. Our panel is titled "Site of Spectacle: Representing the Black Body." The black body has been the site of Humanities discourse (literature, theater, music, fine arts, media) for centuries—as spectacle, as commodity, and as symbol of resistance. Our panel seeks a fresh exploration of how the black body has been presented (and represented) in literature, media, and fine arts in the ongoing critical conversations of the 21st century, how cultural institutions shape the perceptions of the black body, and how these representations can be read as directly responding to the cultural climate in which they are produced.

Thursday, October 23:
10:00 – Humanities Division – “Site of Spectacle: Representing the Black Body” A Panel
11:30 – Dr. Randal Pinkett – “Black Faces in White Places” Feature Presentation
1:00 – Dr. Thomas Page – “Body Image and Spirituality” amongst African American males”
2:30 – Kofi Ayim – “Reflections on Jack Cudjo”
3:30 –Akoma Newark Sister Circle – “Women's Sexuality Sensuality and Power in Black Public Presentation – A Panel Discussion

Friday, October 24:
10:00am – Oloye I Karade – Writing Fantasy & Sci-Fi from the African perspective Workshop
11:30am – Willie Cooper – Forgotten Black Soldiers and Sailors, who fought in the Civil War
1:00 – Nashid Al-Amin – “The Black Vikings of the Middle Ages”
6:00pm – Sharpe James – “Political Prisoner”
8:30pm – Akoma Newark Sister Circle – “DJEMBE – A conversation on Wellness for men of color” Workshop

The symposium is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and will convene in Smith Hall of the A. Zachary Yamba Building (Main Campus at 303 University Avenue) in the heart of Newark's University Heights.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Welcome, Fall!

On an autumn stroll/
Children gather on sidewalks/
To plan their next move. 

Harlem street, photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1940.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

African Americans on Film

As a professor whose main focus of critical inquiry is African/American literature, history, and culture, some of my research is geared toward investigating and writing about black Americans were portrayed in the early days of cinema in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As more material becomes digitized, researchers and other scholars have access to a number of films to enhance their studies. Below are two early films of black people on film, shot by the Edison Manufacturing Company in the 1890s.
The first clip, titled "Dancing Darkey Boy," was shot in 1897. The epithet, "darkey," is used here as a commonplace description of blacks--it was used by whites to describe African Americans in advertising, music, literature, and in everyday life. The actual film, though, offers a strong counterpoint to the offensive word, simply by the charm and clear talent of the little boy, along with the obvious delight he elicits from the crowd as he dances.
The second film, titled "A Morning Bath," was shot in 1896, the year of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (click here), which codified "separate but equal" as the law of the land. This film was shot for comedic value (of which I find none), as the woman is being directed to smile as she pours the suds over the hapless child for the amusement of the filmmakers and their presumed audience. The Library of Congress caption has replaced some of the original language used by Edison to describe the scene. 

 Dancing Darkey Boy

Original caption from Edison films catalog: 
 "Scene is in a stable, where a crowd of horsemen, jockeys and stable hands are watching a little darkey boy dance on a table."

A Morning Bath

Original caption from Edison films catalog:  
"Mammy is washing her little pickaninny. She thrusts him, kicking and struggling, into a tub of foaming suds."


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

William Greaves, Pioneer of Modern Black Film

Bill Greaves, the great African American filmmaker, died on Monday, August 25, a the age of 87. Click below to read the New York Times obituary on Mr. Greaves's life and career.

Back in January of 2013, I wrote a blog post on a film entitled Souls of Sin, which starred Mr. Greaves. I am revising that post and placing it here.--Rebecca

I first saw the luridly-titled Souls of Sin (1949) over 20 years ago, when BET used to show low-budget "race" films made in the 1930s and '40s. I always remembered it because the storyline was unique--a writer named (Roberts), a gambler who gets involved in a heist (Dollar Bill), and a singer (Alabama, played by Bill Greaves) room together in a basement apartment as they dream of artistic success (in the case of the two artists) and making a big score (Dollar Bill). Other characters also have colorful names, such as Cool Breeze, and another (played by the film's director, Powell Lindsay) named Bad Boy George. A young woman named Etta* follows behind Bill, even though he treats her poorly and attempts to rape her (he is stopped by Roberts). I won't go into more detail--watch for yourself!

William (Bill) Greaves, who played the young singer, Alabama, went on to have an outstanding career as an Emmy-award winning producer/writer/director (AND he attended my alma mater, City College!). My own connection to Mr. Greaves is that he called me one day about 11 years ago (right after I stopped working as a sound recordist) to hire me for a project--I had to turn it down, but it was thrilling nonetheless to speak to a living legend of African American cinema--he chuckled when I told him how much I enjoyed Souls of Sin. Click on William Greaves Productions to go to to his website to learn more about his life and career. 

The film is not "well-made," meaning, the acting is quite uneven (and at times amateurish), the sets are cheap (during one of the poorly-staged fight scenes, the actors nearly fall through the flimsy walls of the set), and there are many incongruities in the story and breaks in the plot, including a stop to the action so that a character can dance in all his scenes (he also dances with the male bartender). The film also contains a number of time-worn comedic routines. One character (Cool Breeze)  exists solely as comic relief--he enters the bars scenes to shuffle speedily in and out of the men's room.

l. to r. Bill Greaves, Billie Allen, and Emory Richardson
However, I think what appealed to me about Souls of Sin was the character of Roberts, the writer. I don't know of any other race film of this era that featured blacks engaging in artistic endeavors outside of music and dance and, although Roberts is an unpublished and struggling writer, he has integrity, and his work is taken seriously, respected, and validated by his cohorts. The film also has a happy (sort-of) ending. I have pasted the link to view the film below--just click on the title--it is well worth seeing.

*The character of Etta was played by a very young Billie Allen (click here for a brief biography), who also went on to have a successful theater career as an actress and director. I met her when I was a college sophomore, working as a production assistant on Losing Ground, an independent feature film by the late Kathleen Collins Prettyman, my mentor. This past October, I glimpsed Ms. Allen (now aged 88) in the audience at a performance of playwright Eric Lockley's Blacken the Bubble at the HSA Theater in New York.