Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New School to Be Named for Sandra Cisneros

One day I blog about comics, the next about poetry. That's just the way it is around here ('cause I'm a cultured MFer).

Anyway, this is quite possibly the coolest news I have heard all year: There is a new school opening up...and it's going to be named after popular Chicana poet, Sandra Cisneros! The L.A. Times, through its book blog, reported today that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will be opening the doors to the brand new Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy in Echo Park this Fall. From the article:

Parents and administrators involved in the Camino Nuevo charter school, which is part of the L.A. school district, put forward her name for the new K-8 academy slated to open in September. This month, the LAUSD Board of Education decided to change the name of Central Region Elementary School No. 14 to Sandra Cisneros Learning Academy.

The article also notes that there are other schools in LAUSD named after authors, they are not that common. I personally can't wait until they open more schools after poets: Wanda Coleman Middle School, or even Charles Bukowski High School!

I wonder what the mascot will be for this school? How about, The Hollering Creeks!?!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

David Hine on 'Nightrunner'

Those of you that do not follow/read Batman comics, will probably not be aware that, in the comic books, Batman has gone on a sort of world tour to recruit vigilantes to be part of his Batman Inc. franchise. (A sort of war-on-crime-army that are allied with--and get funding/resources from--the Batman).

If this is news to you, then even more surprising to know will be that there was a small controversy when it was revealed that the person Batman choose to be his representative in France, Nightrunner, was a Muslim immigrant. One right-wing blogger said things like: “The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at gymnastic sport Parkour. Apparently Batman couldn't find any actual Frenchman to be the ‘French savior’.”

Most comic-book fans saw this reaction by right-wing bloggers as silly--especially because in the DC comics universe, the greatest champion is Superman, a guy who wasn't even born on the planet Earth! Comic Book Resources had a very good article about this when this broke out, back in December 2010, and there were some very good comments to that article, the majority supporting the new character.

The character/controversy came up again today when CBR, highlighting an upcoming story in "Batman & Robin," written by one of the creator's of Nightrunner, David Hine, was asked if he was "surprised by the vehemence of reactions to him in America." Below is the response he gave:

I had no intention of creating a controversial character and as far as I'm concerned there is nothing intrinsically provocative about having a character from an Algerian Muslim background, any more than from any other ethnic, national, racial or religious background. The polarization you're talking about is between a tiny but vocal minority whose views I find deeply repulsive and a massive reaction from reasonable intelligent people who were as surprised as me by the so-called controversy. I don't really want to play into that at all. As I've said elsewhere, the fact that Nightrunner is not White Anglo Saxon Protestant is simply a reflection of the diversity of French society, and incidentally of DC's readership in America and globally through all its foreign editions. Kyle Higgins' scripts for the Nightrunner stories were sensitive and built an intriguing character. That's it. Nothing partisan, or endorsing any particular creed or political stance except perhaps a degree of tolerance that is notably lacking in some quarters.

Hine's response was OK, as it shows that there shouldn't be anything controversial about the character, and that the people who think there is something wrong with that have backward views. But he is wrong in thinking that there is a "tiny" of people who think like this. Of course, in the comic-book world, the vocal minority who complained about this was small, but there are larger right-wing forces out there that are just plain racist. And there are also "Culture Wars" going on in society, (of which mainstream popular culture is a part of), where right-wing forces are trying to get victories.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From the Back Issue Bin: Black Panther

The following scene takes place on page 18 of the 2005 trade paperback of Black Panther, (which collects issues #1-#6), written by Reginald Hudlin, and with art by John Romita Jr.

* * *

"They can't do that," someone yells from inside a room in the White House.

Inside the room, the Secretary of State, Dondi Reese, is pointing out some changes on a memo to her secretary, while a group of military officials and others in business suits continue on with a discussion at a table not far from where she is standing.

"We're the #$%#$ United States of %#$%#$ America," a general says. "Where do a bunch of Jungle bunnies get off telling us they've got a 'No Fly' zone over their thatched hut?"

Dondi, an African-American woman with dark red lipstick and a head full of silver hair, turns around as she hears the general's words.

The room grows silent. "Did I say something wrong," the general asks, unaware that Dondi Reese is standing right behind him. He turns around and quickly opens his mouth to say, "Oh god, Dondi--I'm sorry! You know I don't mean you when I say--"

"Shut up, Wallace," says Dondi.

"--I mean, they're nothing like you--"

"Shut-up," she repeats.

This time the general keeps his mouth shut as his cheeks turn red.

* * *

When Hudlin, (previously known for writing and directing films), took on the task of revamping the Black Panther, he used a mix of action, injected with politics, to create a fantastic first arc. As the scene above illustrates, no matter how high they climb the capitalist ladder, Black people cannot escape National Oppression. This was shown here at the highest level of power; inside the White House.

The story revolves around an imaginary country located in the center of Africa called, Wakanda, which the book describes as being notable for "never having being conquered in its entire history." In the book you learn that the Wakandans have all battled and beat different forces who have tried, through force, to get on their land. Other African tribes, Christian and Islamic invaders in its early history. Followed by French, English and Belgium forces that were lured by stories of Wakanda's gold and riches.

The drama starts because forces inside the White House are thirsting for Wakanda's advanced technology and large oil deposits and have secretly (economically) backed a Super-villain named Klaw, who organizes a group of powerful villains to invade the country. This is where our hero comes in, as he has just recently earned the mantle/title of the Black Panther and is tested, not only with an invasion by a team of super-powered villains, but a team lead by the man who killed his father!

This trade should be easy to find at any local comic book store, or on the Internet. Highly recommended!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Commie Smurfs?

If you have a group of friends who are somewhat political and that grew up watching cartoons in the late 80's/early 90's, you will most certainly, one day, have a conversation, (possibly high or drunk), with the main question being, "Where the Smurfs a communist society?"

According to a recent post on The Atlantic Wire, people in France really like to talk about this a lot, (even when they are not drunk on le wine). And things there have heated up because of the publication of Antoine Buéno's "The Little Blue Book: A critical and political analysis of the Smurf society." The book, supposedly, claims that the Smurfs are Communists--and other horrible things. All this, however, is quickly dispelled by a quote from Thierry Culliford, (the son of The Smurfs creator, Pierre Culliford), who said: "My father absolutely wasn't interested in politics. When there were elections, he asked my mother: 'What should I vote?'"

Still, if you do a quick analysis of Smurf society, there isn't much to brag about. At best: they are an example of a primitive communist society. At worst: they are just cartoons.

But, is there anything good we can take away from the Smurfs? I did enjoy how worked cooperatively, happily, and in harmony, on big projects, like building dams and what not. And they all seemed pretty cool--except for Brainy Smurf, who was annoying.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To be a poet is to be an advocate...

Wanted to share one last thing from the Harriet blog this week. This is also from back in April, and it's from Barbara Jane Reyes: a blog post titled, "Some Thoughts on Martín Espada’s The Lover of a Subversive is Also a Subversive." I'm just going to post my two favorite paragraphs from this essay, in which she is talking about a book by another of my favorite poets, Martin Espada. (By the way, isn't the title to that book awesome!?!):

To be a poet, Espada asserts throughout this series of essays, is to be an advocate, to advocate for those who have been silenced, and for places that are unspoken. I want to be clear on the difference between this advocacy, versus being a voice for the voiceless. Our work as poets can empower the silenced to speak. Our work as poets can be transformative such that we all prioritize resisting systems and institutions which engage in silencing others. Some examples of poets negating silence: Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass. Jack Agüeros, Sonnets from the Puerto Rican. Pablo Neruda, The Heights of Macchu Picchu. Diana García, When Living Was a Labor Camp.

The language of the official story, the master narrative, if you will, is not the truth of the people. The role of the poet is to write the truth of the people, to document, to tell the truth of the people; hence, Espada’s assertion in “Blessed Be the Truth-Tellers: In Praise of Jack Agüeros,” that “if Public Enemy is ‘the CNN of the ghetto,’ then Jack Agüeros is the PBS of the barrio.” In this essay, in addition to discussing the poetry’s necessary political themes, the telling of the people’s truths, Espada engages Agüeros’s use and manipulation of poetic form.

(Lines in bold, stressed by me: To read the entire piece, go HERE).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Does a Black Poem Look Like?

Back in April, during National Poetry Month, Harriet, (which is the blog for the Poetry foundation) invited some poets to post on different topics--related to poetry--on their blog. On of those persons invited was Wanda Coleman, one of my favorite poets. Among her many blog posts was a short essay, (if you can call it that), that I want to post here in its entirety because of how powerful it felt to me when I read it. Dig that last line:

What Does a Black Poem Look Like?

By Wanda Coleman

The speculations of contemporary thinkers on the future of humankind tend to fail and often seem silly in retrospect. Only those with the power, position and money to design that future (on hugely political, scientific and economic scales) can predict it, because they control and influence the change in and the passage of the four governmental levels of laws and regulations that dictate the future for those living and for those yet to be born. They are in control of the criminal justice system. They are affecting who and who does not become a criminal of the most beastly kind. They are affecting who and who does not become a leader in one’s society. In the interval of Now, the poet and writer affects what will come in terms of the emotional, social and aesthetic values/landscapes of the culture, and does this best when being as representative, as much as possible, of one’s time, having mastered one’s craft as well as one is able. Poets and writers determine what is important in the present, with the hope that what is encapsulated will have increasing value over the passage of time. Some poets write to inspire social change. Some write to document a way of life. Some write for the sheer love of writing, and more. Whatever drives the poet and writer, we represent our Now to those future beings. In Y3K, I hope that the readers of my poetry will look back and find it dreadfully passé and that the emotional, social and oft political issues I confront are things of the savage past and God bless ’em. That a significant portion of the work of Langston Hughes, or Mark Twain, remains relevant; or, that Ai’s complaint, repeated by Kwame Dawes, still evokes argument and dismay, speaks volumes about what little progress has been made on those emotional, social and aesthetic fronts when it comes to discussions on race relations. Electing a Black president has not uprooted or effectively mitigated the racism that continues to dominate American discourse even when couched or unspoken. Celebrating MLK Day or Black History month ain’t bloody gettin’ it. Neither did the Bush Administration apology for slavery without attaching one effing cent in reparations to the parchment. To Hell and Damnation with timelessness. I want my poems to go out of date as fast as possible.


(Lines in bold by me; See the orginal HERE).
UPDATE: If you're in southern California, make sure to catch Wanda Coleman at the Leimert Park Book Fair doing a tribute to Langston Hughes on tha Main Stage @ 4 PM.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If you don't have a poetic spirit...

One of my favorite quotes by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It can be found in his latest publication, BAsics: From the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian, which you can order HERE.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Obituary for Gil Scott-Heron

This is a little late, but I had to post. It's a Revolution Newspaper tribute article by Michael Slate on Gil Scott-Heron, who died on May 27. In a way, it reads as a Greatest-Hits-kind-of-article, as the writer names a number of songs and why each was so important. This was great for me as I mostly know him for his very-well known classic, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Here is a small sample of the article:

"One element of jazz that Gil incorporated into his music and poetry was improvisation—he could take off on a verbal riff that rivaled any mind-bending improvisational solo found in jazz or freestyle rhyming cipher in hip-hop. His music has been sampled by many hip-hop artists over the years, and Gil felt a certain responsibility to counsel rappers, speaking to a new generation of youth. In 1994's Message to the Messengers, Gil put his arm around the shoulders of the rappers who came behind him and wrestled with them about the content and outlook of their art, challenging them to rise up against the system and the culture it produced rather than go along with it."

To check out the rest of the article, click HERE. (The tribute cartoon at the top was drawn by cartoonist Keith Knight).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lupe Fiasco: "I don't vote"

Just saw a YouTube news show called, "What's Trending," which highlights trending topics, "from global revolutions to entertainment and viral memes." Lupe Fiasco, who has over 626,000 followers on his Twitter account, @lupefiasco, was interviewed in this week's short segment.

In this very short interview, Lupe says some really cool stuff. First, he gets into the protest that occurred when his fans demanded that Lupe's label, Atlantic Records, set a release-date for his album. (Which is now out and pretty good).

He also, will no doubt, make people angry when they find out what he says about the president, "To me, the biggest terrorist is Obama, in the United States of America." He explains this statement by getting into why he thinks the Obama controlled government is the root cause of terrorism. But, Lupe has been critical of Obama for a long time, so this wasn't a surprise to me.

I was more impressed when he was asked by the interviewer, (Shira Lazar), who he was going to vote for in the next election and he said, "I don't vote." She seemed shocked at this statement and Lupe went as far as calling the process meaningless and he talked about why he takes that position. But my favorite part during that exchange was when Lazar asked him, "So, what if no one voted? What would happen?" His answer, "Who knows? Let's try it out and see what happens?" Great!

See the interview here:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thoughts on Coldplay & Palestine

So, last week I noticed a flurry of tweets on my Twitter timeline about the band Coldplay and Palestine. I don't know much about Coldplay, but I do know that they are a very popular band. Turns out they posted a link on their Facebook page to a video/song called "Freedom for Palestine," which I thought was pretty righteous of them. A lot of other people thought it was awesome too, but there were also a lot of other people (i.e. Zionists) who didn't think it was cool. All in all, there were about 7,000 comments/responses to that post. (See pic of post below).

Well, today, there are some news sources reporting that the band has removed the post from their Facebook page without explanation. I was getting ready to think they were really wack for retreating on that stance, but a fellow Twitter friend reminded me that, although the band did remove the post, they have not apologized for it. (For all we know, they might have taken it down because people were getting too vulgar with their comments). She also suggested that people go on Coldplay's facebook page and support them by letting them know they did a good thing by posting that link.

To check out the "Freedom for Palestine" video, go here:

UPDATE: It's being reported that the link was actually removed by Facebook because it had been reported as offensive (probably by Zionists).