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The Last Poets Block Party Commemorating Malcolm X’s Birthday

By JEANETTE LENOIR

Dwayne Lawson-Brown, Co-Host of the longest running speakeasy in Washington, DC – Spit Dat – will be part of the great line up at tomorrow’s The Last Poets Block Party at Busboys and Poets in Anacostia in Washington, DC.  The event is to commemorate black revolutionary Malcolm X’s birthday, (May 19, 1968) and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Last Poets inception as a group. The lineup will include Talib Kweli, Smif n Wessun, Black Alley and many more influential artist who continue to impact and shape our American culture.

Tickets are only $25. All the details can be found HERE.

Lawson-Brown has more details below:

Uncovering A Prestigious Black Cemetery Beneath A Strip Mall

By JEANETTE LENOIR

The Laurel Cemetery is a significant burial location for African Americans and yet, it sits unrecognized beneath a strip mall on Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore. Frederick Douglas spoke there during the funeral of a friend, 270 black Civil War soldiers are buried there, and it’s the final resting place for some of the movers and shakers in the African American community who called Baltimore home in the early 19th century. One would never know the sacredness of this cemetery at face value today because it’s easily walked over and used as a short cut to get to and from the strip mall that sits above it.

Thankfully, there’s good news to report on the cemetery that stood the test of time from 1852 – 1957.  A symposium to commemorate the historic cemetery will take place on June 15, 2019 at Coppin State University from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM in the Talon Center, located at 2500 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216. Click HERE for all the details.

My conversation with local Artist and Baltimore native, Terrell Brown, dives into this sad state of affairs of a once prominent resting place for Baltimore’s black elites.

Clifton Park Mansion: Keeper Of American History And Culture

 

By JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Charm City is a historic place and keeper of endless stories of American culture. Baltimore, one of America’s long standing and vital seaports, is worthy of exploration beyond the headlines of political strives, the widening gap between the haves and have not, and endless reports of government and police corruption. There’s a lot happening in Baltimore that rarely make headline news. From the artists who call the area home to the movers and shakers who take pride in reshaping the city to reflect its buried American roots and true charm. The history of The Clifton Park Mansion provides a glimpse into what this great city holds and perhaps, what many overlook.

Gwen Kokes with Real Food Farms – Civic Works takes us on a tour of the historic mansion undergoing a face lift she now offices in:

 

Healing Mother Earth Through Composting

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Looking for ways to be more environmentally conscience? Here’s an idea: start a compost and get your co-workers involved. This easy compost idea is great for class room projects, your home and anywhere else you think this great idea will work.  It’s a simple way to reduce our carbon footprint and show Mother Earth that we’re not all callous, uncaring and glutenous earthlings determined to destroy her.

Jackie Goulet, Education Coordinator with Real Food Farm in Baltimore takes us through the easy step-by-step process in the video below:

April Is Jazz Appreciation Month

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Jazz Appreciation Month, also known as JAM, was born at The National Museum of American History in 2001 to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz for the month of April.

JAM is intended to stimulate and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz, study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio programs and recordings, read books about jazz, and to explore all the avenues where Jazz can be found.

This year, JAM celebrates jazz beyond borders by looking at the dynamic ways jazz can unite people across the culture and geography. The theme is to celebrate the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra’s next tour, which will visit cities in North America, Europe, and Asia. This tour will ignite the Smithsonian’s goal of “convening conversations,” in which we will use the power of music as a springboard into important discussions around diversity, identity, diplomacy, and innovation.

This year’s featured artist will be Nat King Cole and his work as an innovative artist, world influencer, and dynamic performer. An international performer, Nat King Cole gained wide support from around the globe. He pushed racial boundaries that sought to prevent him from success. He was the first African American to host his own television series, Nat King Cole Show.

See the 2019 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert streamed live on the National Museum of American History website, April 15 at 8 p.m. This year’s honorees are Stanley Crouch, Bob Dorough, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Maria Schneider. Learn more.

List of Jazz venues worth a visit:

Editor’s Note: Additional information on JAM can be found at: www.si.edu 

Women’s History Month 2019: Shaping The World, Still

From The National Women’s History Museum 

Every year March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history.

Did You Know? Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Week

Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.

In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians—led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women’s History Alliance)—successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

Subsequent Presidents continued to proclaim a National Women’s History Week in March until 1987 when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme. The 2019 Women’s History Month theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.”  The theme honors “women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society.”

 

Ethel Ennis: A Beautiful Voice And Accomplished Jazz Singer Who Kept It Real

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Listening to Ethel Ennis sing songs like Have You Forgotten? and My Foolish Heart brings back nostalgia and memories of days long gone. These days one would be hard pressed to find musicians without twerking background dancers or some other gimmick. However, they do exist. And, Ennis’s life is a wonderful example of an accomplished artist who was able to share her talent with the world without the pressures of fame and “making it” in Hollywood. And, Ennis didn’t just “make it” … she made it proudly and successfully in her native home of Baltimore. Granted, the city isn’t called “Charm City” or “The Greatest City in America” for nothing. B’More is a mecca for Jazz musicians and singers like Ennis, still. Ennis passed away on February 17, 2019. She was 86.

It’s well worth it to take a stroll through YouTube and listen to her beautiful voice serenade you.  Start with Have you forgotten?

Biography from Wayback Machine:
Baltimore native Ethel Ennis is a national treasure. Critics have hailed her as “the most accomplished singer performing today.” That stature was earned by her magnificent voice, her brilliant compositions, her joyful performances and her collaboration with the finest musicians. Ethel Ennis first won national recognition for her recording “Lullaby for Losers” in 1955. In 1958, she was selected by Benny Goodman as the female vocalist for his all-star band. Later, she was chosen as a featured singer on the Arthur Godfrey Show. After performing at the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival with Billy Taylor, Cozy Cole, and Slam Stewart, she appeared with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra on television’s “Bell Telephone Hour.” She followed those amazing achievements by wowing them at the Monterey Jazz Festival in duets with Joe Williams. She returned to her hometown to perform in concerts with the Count Basie Band and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. During that same period, she shared the bill with Cab Calloway at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and played supper clubs and concert halls all over the country.

In the seventies, she founded the practice of singing the National Anthem a capella at Richard Nixon’s 1973 presidential inauguration. She performed at the White House for Jimmy Carter as well. During the period, she became Baltimore’s cultural ambassador, singing Chinese folk songs in Baltimore’s sister city of Xiamen, China as well as performing in Rotterdam, Germany. In the 1980’s, Ethel opened her own music club, Ethel’s Place with her husband, writer Earl Arnett. They presented the world’s greatest jazz musicians and broadcast live concerts to national audiences. They sold the club in 1988, each returning full-time to their artistic pursuits. Frank Sinatra once described her as, “my kind of singer.” A Downbeat reviewer once said of Ethel, “her voice runs deep, exuding the personality of a sage who has lived many lives.” She is the great sage of jazz and if you can find any one of her two dozen records and singles, you will have added a national treasure to your collection.

In her own words on her interracial marriage…

If True, Jussie Smollett Only Proves The Thirst Is Real

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

I have to admit, when news broke of the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett, I had to Google the name first. I haven’t seen the popular show Empire; however, I am familiar with the series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. Mainly because I love reading about Taraji P. Henson and her character Cookie that has taken a life of its own. Now I know Smollett plays Cookie’s middle son Jamal, who is gay.  Here’s my other confession; I was suspicious from the start. Organic skepticism aside, the story just didn’t sound believable to me considering time and setting. It sounded like a lie. Not a white, black, blue or pink lie but a big fat lie like the ones our dear leader Donald Trump buoys on to con the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump sniffed it out of Smollett’s lie hole like a terrier after a rat, automatically prompting him to chime in on the controversy. It’s true folks, the 45th president of the United States is not just the best liar on earth; Smollett proves he’s also the best lie magnet…allegedly.

Each day, following the alleged homophobic and racist attack and the outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians, my skepticism grew, along with many others who voiced their opinions on social media. The incident reported by Smollett even birthed a new media campaign addressing the real issues facing the LGBTQ community. The NowThis video, (It’s been taken down) supporting Jussie and condemning the homophobic attack is unfortunately relevant in today’s society, with or without Smollett making up a hate crime. And, if it’s proven to be a hoax concocted by Smollett to remain relevant as an Empire character or gay black hero among people of color and the gay community, he’s done irreversible harm to the larger struggle for human rights. Smollett, chasing the predictable outcome lure that promises fame, more fortune, more likes and followers, more time under the glare of flashing lights, red carpet events and awards shows, is crashing like a shooting star. And, Smollett is a star, don’t you know. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and now he’s paying a heavy price for his Hollywood moment. It’s hard to comprehend but Smollett should only remind us that Hollywood is a hoax, too.  And, despite how tantalizing it is to use this cheap trick to further or discredit the arguments around the many social movements of our time, Smollett’s alleged behavior has nothing to do with US but everything to do with HIM. He’s the product of our new digital world…the era of social media and a real thirst or desperation for attention; good or bad. They say the thirst is real. Well, Smollett proves he’s not just thirsty; he’s parched. The man needs a Big Gulp and a dose of reality, not our sympathy.

A lot of people are disappointed and point to Black History Month as a symbol of the alleged incident being a deeper pain, like a gut punch to the black community. Others have maintained their support for the actor and raise the other real issue of a fractured relationship between Chicago police and the community they serve.  All of these are valid points and worthy of deeper analysis. However, in legal terms and in the court of public opinion; it’s like coming to court with dirty hands or committing a wrong to shine light on what’s right. It doesn’t work. It’s clear; Smollett’s alleged hoax carries real consequences. And if his aim was to sip from the “Thirst Cup,” he’s finding out the hard way that bad behavior still comes with punishment, despite what Trump is doing. We’ve been here before with the likes of Smollett. Milli Vanilli blamed it on the rain. What will Smollett blame this nonsense on? Although dated, the wisdom here is still to Be Like Mike … not like Trump.

The Rating Game: The Unintended Consequences of the Conservative Revolution

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this essay are those of French Philosopher, Michel Feher and do not reflect the views and opinions of ePa. Feher is founding editor and publisher of Zone Books

 

BY MICHEL FEHER

 

Elected on the promise to make the “free world” vibrant again, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan claimed a mandate to impose market discipline on everyone. The Iron Lady and her Great Communicator friend faulted their predecessors for responding to the restive 1960s with inordinate minimum wage and social benefits raises – thereby causing inflation to soar. They also blamed the CEOs of large corporations for balancing the wishes of shareholders with the demands of labor unions and consumers’ advocates – thereby causing profits to wane. Finally, they lamented that the propensity of politicians and employers to placate “special interests” groups enticed wage earners to rely more on wealth redistribution and collective bargaining than on their own hard work and initiative.

The architects of the “conservative revolution” argued that harnessing the power of the state to help markets do their job was not only good for business: more importantly, it was about encouraging the entire population to think and behave like self-reliant entrepreneurs. In their view, awakening the entrepreneurial spirit of every citizen required the creation of an environment where private companies, public administrations and individual consumers in need of resources would have to compete for private funding. To that end, they proceeded to lift the constraints that had hitherto limited the transnational circulation of capital, kept the various branches of the financial industry separate and checked the creativity of financial engineering.

Deregulations certainly enabled financial institutions to act as the arbiters of valuable endeavors. However, the order of priorities that resulted from the ascendency of finance turned out to be quite different than what its political facilitators had envisioned. For financial markets, as John Maynard Keynes warned, do not operate like other markets. More than coordinating transactions, pooling predictions is their specific function: thus the signals they produce are not prices representing the outcome of negotiations between buyers and sellers but ratings expressing the speculations of investors on the value of a project. Moreover, Keynes added, what investors speculate upon is not the eventual yield of an initiative but its immediate impact on the attention of their peers. Corporations were the first type of economic agents to internalize the guessing game of their potential backers. For almost four decades, CEOs have been less intent on maximizing commercial profits – conceived as the difference between sales revenues and production costs – than on bolstering their company’s financial credit – measured by the market value of its stock. Unrealized capital gain, rather than operating cash flow, is the metrics of success – which explains why firms use their resources to “buy back” their own shares.

The primacy of ratings is not confined to the private sector. Keen on improving the attractiveness of the companies based on their territory, 1980s governments catered to investors’ preferences for business-friendly tax codes and flexible labor markets. As the subsequent loss of fiscal revenues forced them to borrow the funds they could no longer collect, elected officials have become increasingly dependent on the value of their sovereign debt in the bond market. Maintaining the trust of bondholders is arguably the main concern of policy makers, over and above economic growth or the welfare of their fellow citizens. In time, the sway of shareholders and bondholders’ valuations has extended to households and individuals. Employers and political leaders who vie for investors’ attention can no longer provide lifelong careers and a sturdy safety net. It is now up to job applicants to make themselves valuable, either by advertising highly prized skills and an appealing address book or, failing that, by displaying unlimited availability and flexibility.

Furthermore, once faced with precarious jobs and receding social benefits, large swaths of the population have been forced to borrow, whether to access housing, study, or simply survive. Yet anyone hoping to obtain a loan must offer guarantees. In the absence of sizeable possessions, aspiring borrowers rely both on the estimated worth of what they want to acquire and the reputation for reliability that they have earned by repaying previous loans. There again, being deemed creditworthy is what enables people to navigate our brave new world. Altogether, the conduct fashioned by the speculations of investors scarcely fit the entrepreneurial type that the conservative revolution was supposed to mold. Pro-market reforms purported to create a world where capital owners, wage earners and even the unemployed would envision their lives as a profit-seeking business, calculating the cost and eventual benefit of every decision. In contrast, financialized capitalism breeds credit-seeking portfolio managers primarily attentive to the appraisal of the assets composing their material and human capital.

In the last fifteen years, the purchase of speculative ratings has spread beyond the economic sphere. Resorting to the same technologies as global finance, social media have also adopted its unique mode of valuation: online friends, followers and reviews attest to the advent of a culture predicated on the relentless pursuit of credit. Far from setting us free to pursue our self-interest, as the conservative revolution had pledged, the proliferation of platforms where people are invited to “share” their experiences, opinions, competences and needs compels us to catch and retain the interest of others – to generate bullish speculations about what we own, who we know and how we are. As ratings inform the various realms of our lives, creditworthiness gains political prominence as well. In China, the government already assigns an aggregate social credit score to its citizens – and denies them access to public utilities and programs when they rate poorly. In the US, Donald Trump has earned the undying support of his core voters by vowing to valorize some key components of their portfolio. Under his administration, being or standing by a nationalist, gun-carrying white male is, once again, a truly valuable asset.

Allocating credit is not the uncontested privilege of authoritarian and populist leaders, however. Some of the most vibrant exponents of the resistance to Trump’s agenda, from Black Lives Matter and #MeToo to the March for Our Lives, are equally focused on producing and circulating their own rating system. Their purpose is not only to discredit behaviors protected by institutional prerogatives, gender norms, and powerful lobbies but also to reappraise the lives that these behaviors depreciate. Though hardly indifferent to specific reforms regarding police practices, workplace environment and gun control, these budding movements understand that deciding who and what deserve credit has become the decisive stake of political struggles. For them, pervasive ratings are not a curse to reverse but a challenge to meet. Speculation is far too important to be left to professionals.

 

Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?

Editor’s Note: This historical account of Sojourner Truth, (1797 -1883) by National Women’s History Museum was edited by Debra Michals, PhD. 

 

A former slave, Sojourner Truth became an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women’s rights in the nineteenth century. Her Civil War work earned her an invitation to meet President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Truth was born Isabella Bomfree, a slave in Dutch-speaking Ulster County, New York in 1797. She was bought and sold four times, and subjected to harsh physical labor and violent punishments. In her teens, she was united with another slave with whom she had five children, beginning in 1815. In 1827—a year before New York’s law freeing slaves was to take effect—Truth ran away with her infant Sophia to a nearby abolitionist family, the Van Wageners. The family bought her freedom for twenty dollars and helped Truth successfully sue for the return of her five-year-old-son Peter, who was illegally sold into slavery in Alabama.

Truth moved to New York City in 1828, where she worked for a local minister. By the early 1830s, she participated in the religious revivals that were sweeping the state and became a charismatic speaker. In 1843, she declared that the Spirit called on her to preach the truth, renaming herself Sojourner Truth.

As an itinerant preacher, Truth met abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. Garrison’s anti-slavery organization encouraged Truth to give speeches about the evils of slavery. She never learned to read or write. In 1850, she dictated what would become her autobiography—The Narrative of Sojourner Truth—to Olive Gilbert, who assisted in its publication. Truth survived on sales of the book, which also brought her national recognition. She met women’s rights activists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, as well as temperance advocates—both causes she quickly championed.

In 1851, Truth began a lecture tour that included a women’s rights conference in Akron, Ohio, where she delivered her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. In it, she challenged prevailing notions of racial and gender inferiority and inequality by reminding listeners of her combined strength (Truth was nearly six feet tall) and female status. Truth ultimately split with Douglass, who believed suffrage for formerly enslaved men should come before women’s suffrage; she thought both should occur simultaneously.

During the 1850’s, Truth settled in Battle Creek, Michigan, where three of her daughters lived. She continued speaking nationally and helped slaves escape to freedom. When the Civil War started, Truth urged young men to join the Union cause and organized supplies for black troops. After the war, she was honored with an invitation to the White House and became involved with the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping freed slaves find jobs and build new lives. While in Washington, DC, she lobbied against segregation, and in the mid 1860s, when a streetcar conductor tried to violently block her from riding, she ensured his arrest and won her subsequent case. In the late 1860s, she collected thousands of signatures on a petition to provide former slaves with land, though Congress never took action. Nearly blind and deaf towards the end of her life, Truth spent her final years in Michigan.

Women have been making history since the beginning of time. Learn more by visiting: www.womenshistory.org.