I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film about the African American Experience in America. It is based on the James Baldwin unfinished novel, Remember This House, which was a manuscript which contained the personal recollections of Baldwin on civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Now this should be a film that everyone goes out and watch or it should be added to like high school history classes. It could help kids figure out how broken the world still is even though “we solved racism” by electing President Obama. Racism will exist for awhile longer, but I believe that Rodgers and Hammerstein were right in their song You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught “that it’s not born in you, it happens after you’re born.”

The film itself was rather interesting as in most history classes that I’ve taken you hardly get to the Civil Rights era or they gloss over it talking about Martin Luther King and Civil Rights Act of 1964 in like the final weeks of class. So it was nice to learn a bit more about these figures Evers, Malcolm X and MLK. It is available to watch on PBS until the end of the month so make some time to watch it.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

With that James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro in theaters now or just out of theaters and it being Black History month.  I’ve read, his short story, Sonny’s Blues many times and Go Tell It on the Mountain is one of those highly rated books on those list of best books of the 20th century, so I decided to read it.

Go Tell It on the Mountain was written in the 1950s and is a semi-autobiographical novel about an African American family living in Harlem in the 1930s and the role that the Pentecostal Church plays in their lives, specifically the lives of John Grimes, a 14 year old and his mother (Elizabeth), father (Gabriel) and aunt (Florence). The main conflict in the novel is between John and his father who hates him for unknown reasons according to John. We learn more about Florence, Elizabeth and Gabriel in flashbacks to how they got here. There is the constant struggle of what make a good person and can a person really change just by saying so. Florence seems to think that Gabriel is still the same person he was growing up even though he has become born again and a deacon in the Church. We get some racial issue sneaking in which seem to express the same concerns today as Black Lives Matter does but Baldwin only acknowledges it as racism existed then and still does today. Sure some progress has been made but not much and it still remains that all of us are held to the same standards by the same God.

The book doesn’t take any sides or point out flaws it just offers that we all are capable at doing good or bad but most of the time we live in between hoping that we do good.  It was a nice book to read and should be put on more high school reading lists.

Luke Cage

The latest of the Marvel/Netflix Comic Book television programs is a change of pace for the whole superhero genre. First of all it is about African Americans and for once it’s not about white people. Sure Iron Man and Captain America have black friends (War Machine and Falcon) but that’s about all we know about these two characters. Yes, we do have a Black Panther movie coming in 2018 but that just seems too long to wait for someone who isn’t a white person to be the Superhero in a movie as Wonder Woman comes out in 2017. Then we have the whole notion that seems to be in all first seasons of the Netflix MCU shows the “Should I be a hero? and if so how can I be a hero?”

Now, I didn’t know much about Luke Cage when I began watching but like the other shows I feel like I know him a bit better. Luke Cage is a story of Harlem and Black Lives Matter which is something that needs to be told.  The show is a wonderful blend of the Blacksploitation films which originally inspired Luke Cage, Hero for Hire as well as the Hood films of today. It leans on the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance but it seems that’s where most of us think African American culture comes from and remains to this day but a lot has changed since then. It’s a fun show and I am sure that if you have watched any of the Marvel movies you are bound to have some passing interest in this new show.

In Summer

As we enter this final week of Summer here is a great poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

In Summer

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air’s soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer’s boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another’s ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art;
‘T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.

The Boondocks

This comic strip/television series has a special place the strip began when I started high school and the show started while I was in college. Now a decade after the strip ended and two years since the end of the show. It focused on The Freeman Family; Robert (a Tuskegee Airman and Civil Rights activist), and his grandchildren Huey(a 10 year old revolutionary) and Riley(an 8 year old enthralled with gangsta culture); as they adjust to living in the suburbs after moving from Chicago.  I wonder how they would be facing the environment that we currently live in with so many innocent young blacks getting killed by police officers and the whole Black Lives Matter movement as well as the descent of the political system to a point we haven’t seen in years. If you never watched the show or read the strip give it a look and perhaps change your preconceived notions about who Black people are and what they can do. This goes both ways the White American as well as Black American need to realize that they need to be more than a stereotype of their culture.

Papal Address to Congress

Yesterday, Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a join session of Congress. It began with Francis addressing not only those in Congress but all citizens in the United States and we all have a mission of personal and social responsibility.  The Pope then reminded the politicians that they are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.  The biggest thing that Pope Francis wants to emerge from his visit is a dialogue with all of us  the working class American, the Elderly, the young. He starts this by looking through the lives of four great American, three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Abraham Lincoln: The famed Republican from Illinois, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Pope Francis tells us that building this future requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity. Francis then says that the only response to all the violence and hatred in the world is not through more violence and hatred but our response should be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. This can be done by working to move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. As good old Shepard Smith from Fox News pointed out the care for the common good of all shouldn’t be a political issue.

Martin Luther King: The dreamer from Atlanta, who longed for full civil and political right for African Americas. Francis notes that America is still a place where people have dreams. The Pope reminds us that most of us  are all immigrants and notes of the tremendous violations of the rights of those natives was not always. It wasn’t the best way forward and it is in this section that Francis  quotes the Golden Rule “Do unto others and we would like to be done unto us” and says that this is how we should be when greeting our neighbors where ever they come from. Since all life is sacred all life should be treated the same, it is a simple idea and Francis goes so far as to say that we should get rid of the Death Penalty.

Dorothy Day: The social activist from New York who, founded the Catholic Worker Movement. This section starts by talking about wealth and  move into the care of creation. It’s not that money is necessarily bad but the fact that extreme poverty and hunger still exist in the world. Francis here quotes his Encyclical Laudato Si about how we should care for all creation.

Thomas Merton: The mystic from Kentucky, who is a source of spiritual inspiration was  a man of dialogue between religions and people. Francis take Merton’s dialogues and mentions about the relationship between Cuba and the United States is being thawed and it should create new opportunities for all people. The Pope says that  it is his duty to build bridges and to help all people, in any way possible, to do the same.  This section ends with talking about the end of all armed conflicts around the world.

Pope Francis talks a little about the World Meeting of the Family and how the family is an essential aspect in the building of this nation. Francis especially wants us to look at the young who have many options set before them but that culture isn’t really orientated for family life. The Pope finally concluded the address by saying that “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.” Let us follow the lead of these great American and uses them as examples of how to make America great again.

Father Dan Horan OFM has a brief reflection on the mentioning of Merton and Day over on his YouTube page. Horan gives a little background on Merton and Day and their roles in the Catholic Church.

News Roundup

August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle the ten plays which covers the black experience in 20th Century written by August Wilson will be coming to HBO in the near future. At a USC event last week Denzel Washington announced that he would produce and direct every play at the pace of one a year for HBO. This sounds like a really cool event because Wilson is one of the biggest African American name in the  world of theater, Wilson even has a theater on Broadway named for him.

Stupid Kills: Selfies have caused more deaths this year than sharks. As more and more people are taking selfies and generally ignoring the world around them this figure might increase as time goes on. These deaths are once again a reminder that dumb kills.

Pope: With the Pope currently in the United States I happen to really like The Onion’s article which takes the media’s obsession on all things Pope to the next level. There was also a good article over on Eye of the Tiber.

As for the actual events. Today Pope Francis will meet with President Obama at the White House at 9am for the Official Welcome and they will both give a speech and maybe chat a little bit as well. At 11:30 Francis will be joined by some bishops from across the US for midday prayer, then he will bide his time do some sightseeing before the big event of the day the Canonization Mass of Juniper Serra at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Tomorrow,  Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress, this will be an interesting event as I really wonder if Congress will listen to the Pope and do something about what he says.  After this he joins Catholic Charities for an event before heading up the NYC which will begin with Vespers at 6:45 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On Friday he will address the UN,  visit the 9/11 memorial tour central park and then celebrate Mass at MSG.  Saturday Pope Francis will make his way to Philly and the World Meeting of Families. Francis will still be there on Sunday and he will close the meeting with Mass that afternoon.


Lesser Known…

We begin this week by commemorating two horrible thing today is The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition as well as Black Ribbon Day (European Day of Remembrance  for Stalinism and Nazism), these were the horrible faults of the past two centuries and we should remember then more than we do. In the United States you can still see some of the problems that have long simmered in regards with slavery in the culture today look at the recent uproar about the Confederate Battle Flag and the whole “Black Lives Matter” movement.  The horrors of Communist and Nazi regimes are languishing in congress It had 48 cosponsors and still got no where. it was originally introduced in 2013 but it didn’t go anywhere so it was reintroduced and it basically hasn’t  moved since, this is a shame that they can’t get this to move forward since although American were not directly impacted by the Communists or Nazis, however with American being the melting pot or salad as it is there are people from all over who might have been.

Later on in the week we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, sure this is a purely American event as it remembers the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the vote in the United States. It would be wonderful if there was more equality for women in the world today as we are currently in the third wave of feminism where the focus has shifted to include the problems of non-white and queer women.

Monica of Hippo (331 – 387)
Monica is the mother of Augustine and is a reminder of the role of the mother on the spiritual development of their children.

Moses the Black (330–405)
I was introduced to Moses the Black through Jason Bach Cartoons. Moses was one of the Desert Fathers. He started life as a robber but by chance he came to the monastery at Sketes and was enthralled by the monks life. From what I’ve read about him Moses was the muscles of the monastery as one time robbers came and Moses fought back and then brought them to the praying monks since it wouldn’t be Christians to hurt these individuals. The robbers repented and joined the monks.  Moses is one saint to read up on.

Mariam Baouardy, OCD, or Mary of Jesus Crucified,  (5 January 1846 – 26 August 1878)
Mariam is one of the latest canonized Saints in the Church. She was a discalced Carmelite who was a Melkite Greek Catholic, an Eastern Catholic  and is only the second Greek Catholic to be canonized. She is another interesting saint that you should read up on as she is known for her service to the poor while refusing forced conversion to Islam, she also had stigmata.


Lesser Known…

There are several observances this week that I’ve never heard of before.

In only Berkley, California Malcolm X Day is celebrated on May 19, there are other places where this is a proposed holiday but nothing official ever happened with it. In fact Charlie Rangel even brought the idea before the House and nothing has come of it since it’s introduction over 20 years ago. It is a shame that Martin Luther King Jr. is the individual who we claim had a lasting influence on America, but Malcolm X still plays a huge role in society today. I feel that today with all the killings of young black men and subsequent riots the words of Malcolm X still ring  “you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t even call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence. ” Perhaps one day we will have a Malcolm X Day and a Medgar Evers Day to go along with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

World Turtle Day is also this week on World Turtle Day is celebrated according to the Wikipedia entry “to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.” So I hope on the 23rd we all can take some time and reflect on the role of turtles in our lives.

Franz Jaegerstaetter, OFS (20 May 1907 — 9 August 1943)

I’m sure I brought Franz Jagerstatter up before but I think that he is a role model for all of us today as he took his faith seriously. It wasn’t just a thing he did once a week but it was how he lived his life. Whispers in the Loggia has a piece about the beatification from back in 2007.

Selma marches

This past weekend we remembered the “Bloody Sunday” from the march from Selma to Montgomery took place 50 years ago on March 7th. The march was for voting rights for African Americans as in the South there was a general sense that they didn’t deserve the right to vote since they (the blacks) were inferior. One of the causes of the march was the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by an Alabama state trooper. This was the big moment which James Bevel, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)’s Selma voting right movement, decided that a march should take place where they would go to the Capital of Alabama and talk with the governor about the murder of Jackson. This would be a non violent outlet for the anger that people had with the murder.  The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had some reservation about the event but allowed John Lewis even though Martin Luther King Jr was not going to be at the march.

The march got off to a great start lead by John Lewis (SNCC) and Reverend Hosea Williams (SCLC) however as soon as they left Selma crossing over the Edmund Pettus Bridge the peaceful marchers were met by state troopers and a country posse as all white males over 21 in Dallas Country were deputized that morning. The troopers began shoving and they pulled out nightstick and beat people, tear gas was used as well. It was a horrific moment in our Nation’s history and images were televised across the world that show the aftermath and images of Amelia Boynton and other left for dead on the bridge graced front pages of newspapers world wide as well.

The film Selma is about the events leading up to the march and the aftermath. There is also a graphic novel called March which features this event as well from the point of view of John Lewis. If you have time tonight Lewis will be the guest on The Daily Show to talk about the anniversary of Selma.

Has history been kind to us it seems to many that we may be exactly where we were in 1965 on the whole race relations thing. Sure there is a black man in the White House but over the past several months there has been it seems an increase of police officers shooting unarmed black youths. We’ve had some problems recently but it’s a whole lot better now then it was 50 years ago. President Obama was in Selma to mark the occasion and he gave a speech where he said that progress has been made but there is still a lot of work to do, as this struggle for harmony is ongoing and now the women, Latinos, and homosexuals have picked up this fight for equality themselves.