Posts made in August 2018

Saying Goodbye To The Queen Of Soul The Wakanda Way

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

If you happen to be in Detroit today for The Queen of Soul’s Homegoing ceremony you’re getting the real life version of Wakanda culture or African American tribalism. The celebration of black cultural pride and unity is on full display for Aretha Franklin. And how deserving, considering what she gave to all of us. To describe the week long ceremony as moving would be a disservice. Watching the memorial service was powerful. Especially in the era of Black Lives Matter, Color of Change and all the other social justice movements dedicated to improving the lives of black people and other minorities in America.

The Queen of Soul is going home. She’s leaving behind a country still in turmoil with itself and being led astray by the most incompetent administration this country has ever seen. Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, wants to “Make America Great Again” when it’s impossible to find a time when our country and all her people felt that greatness he’s fooling the willing with. I prefer Stevie Wonder’s message at the funeral service when he said, “Let’s make America love again.”

The outpouring of grief and celebration for the passing and life of Aretha Franklin is a moving tribute to a life well lived. A life lived under the brutality of the most powerful government black people helped create. We must never forget that America owes its power to black slaves forced to construct her under cracks of whips and some of the worse treatment ever inflicted on a people. And yet, Aretha Franklin overcame the America Trump wants to revive by turning her inherited unjust circumstances into magic. Magic that will carry on from generation to generation like the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that her death overshadows one of the most powerful, and to some, heroic men in America that for years influenced, wrote and help enact laws that have negatively impacted people of color; keeping blacks and other minorities from gaining the equal footing that has long eluded them despite their contributions to this country even before her birth in 1776. Senator John McCain, according to congressional record, voted in line with Trump’s position 83 percent of the time. He even voted to confirm Kristjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland Security. And yes, the same Homeland Security that carried out Trump’s disastrous family separation policy at our southern border. However, considering McCain’s softening it’s fitting for the bona fide war hero to go home with a queen.

The journey has been a long and hard one and yet Aretha Franklin got to be. Through her music and civil rights work, she made America great for all her people. Unlike this administration, she brought us together, helping a nation of diverse people overcome their struggles. It’s also a testament to our resolve and strength as a people—black people—that makes Franklin’s funeral service comparable to a real life version of the Wakanda tribes. Detroit belongs to Aretha today and Wakandans would agree.

Black people have a unique way of celebrating the departed and Franklin’s homecoming is nothing short of all that beautiful blackness and culture. New Orleanians are known for their festive and unique funeral rituals that celebrate the lives of the departed. This rite of passage or ceremony is not foreign in other black communities in America or in other parts of the world, making our unity as a people even more significant. We’ve been broken but we’re still standing strong, and for the most part, united. That’s why we dance and sing at funerals. It’s our strength as a people that inspired us to sing in fields during forced labor and torture during slavery, or sing directions to escape the bondage of slavery for freedom. Aretha Franklin took our people’s singing to another level. In addition to her incredible talent as one of the greatest singers the world has ever known and her audacity to demand respect when she grew up in a world that told her she didn’t deserve it … it is her spirit of unity, love for her family and community that we’re left to build upon. And that’s more than enough.  Wakanda forever.

 

Donald Trump Goes To Utica

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, (yes, you read that correctly, it’s still true) received a typical welcome from the American people in Utica, NY. Over 2,000 protesters showed up to voice their opposition to arguably the most hated man in the world. Roughly 200 of those gathered came to support the president. Even the Trump chicken made an appearance in front of 207 Genesee Street!

 

It’s no secret Trump is the least popular president in recent memory and yet it’s because of him so many New Yorkers joined forces to protest his visit. Thanks Trump! The President was in town to stump for Claudia Tenney, another unpopular republican incumbent, at a pricey fundraiser at the Hotel Utica. Tenney, (NY-22) is facing Anthony Brindisi, (D) in November. For details on this and other House and Senate races click here.

For local details on Trumps visit click here.

 

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Losing Earth: NYT Magazine Panel Discussion On Climate Change

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

From 1979 to 1989 scientists, activists and the government came close to solving global warming. Unfortunately, they didn’t act on the established science that showed climate change is not a hoax. New York Times Magazine Special Climate Issue lays out the narrative in two parts in their new issue.

Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change. A strategy in two acts.

Science, industry, government, the international community — everyone was on board and ready to act. How we got there, and why we ultimately failed, is the subject of a major new project from The New York Times Magazine published in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

On August 5, the entire magazine will be dedicated to a single story by Nathaniel Rich, a writer at large for the magazine, that tells the story of this critical decade in the planet’s history, and the individuals who tried to warn us. Rich’s narrative is accompanied by a series of stunning photos from around the world by George Steinmetz that show the profound effects of mankind’s inability to effectively address this slow-moving catastrophe. This story will change the way you think about climate change.

Jake Silverstein, editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine, will be in conversation with Nathaniel Rich and two of the primary subjects of his story, the former NASA geophysicist James Hansen and the environmental activist Rafe Pomerance.

Below is a short discussion on climate change during the NYT Magazine launch event at New York Times Center.

 

 

The Arts And Humanities In Trumps World

Editors Note: This piece was also featured in DCReports

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

When it comes to the state of the Arts and the Humanities under Donald Trump’s administration, not much has changed other than his lack of action, his proposals to eliminate all funding for the independent federal funding agencies and his refusal to attend major cultural events.

The four new board members Trump said he would appoint to the National Council on the Arts were finally announced earlier this month. They are; Charles Wickser Banta of New York, Michelle Itczak of Indiana, Barbara Coleen Long of Missouri and Carleton Varney of Massachusetts. If these nominees are in line with Trump’s personal palate for art, Americans for the arts and humanities should prepare for the Scott Pruitt’s and Betsy DeVos’s of the art world. Funding for the arts hasn’t changed by much, but that’s only because Congress voted to restore money for the programs in the 2018 spending bill.  Trump’s proposed budget would have phased out all arts and humanities funding.

Victoria Hutter, spokesperson for National Endowment for the Arts, said “all of the NEA’s major funding programs have remained the same or seen slight increases.”  That’s true for now for the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Trump shows no interest in arts and culture. He skipped the Kennedy Center Honors, hasn’t given out any NEA or NEH awards, and became the first American president to suggest eliminating NEA and NEH all together. Lady Bird Johnson probably said it best, “Art is the window to man’s soul…” never mind. That may not be the best quote to use when it comes to Trump and the arts considering his attempt to undermine its importance in American society. Lady Bird’s quote, though poignant, clearly doesn’t cover Trump’s “soul window” because his window is covered with gold colored tin foil.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) joined the National Council for the Arts earlier this year. In addition to set functions and advisory roles, members are tasked with recommending individuals and organizations to receive the National Medal of Arts, a prestigious Presidential award. She said, “It’s clear from his repeated proposals to eliminate funding for both agencies that President Trump doesn’t appreciate the important work of the NEA and NEH or understand the incredible value they bring to our communities. That’s disheartening to see, especially because funding for these two agencies is such a miniscule part of the federal budget. But the loss of funding would be felt hard throughout the country. That said, I think the Trump era has shown that the arts and humanities do have allies in Congress—Democrats as well as Republicans. Twice he has proposed eliminating funding and twice it has been denied. This year, Congress actually gave NEA and NEH funding a $3 million increase. And for next year, the House has approved an additional $2 million increase on top of that.”

Bipartisan Congressional support for continued arts and humanities spending was on display just last week in amendments to the Interior Appropriations bill, which funds both agencies. A member introduced an amendment to reduce the two budgets by 15 percent—or $23 million each. The proposed budget cuts failed by a vote of 297-114.

Trump’s lack of interest or value of the Arts and Humanities isn’t a surprise considering his character and boorish behavior. But his attempts to destroy the national endowments for the arts and humanities should be of concern to anyone who considers the arts and culture valuable parts of our American identity.