All of humanity continues to be irreversibly uplifted by the indefatigable leadership and irrepressible spirit of Nelson Mandela. South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), as well as all people throughout the world should pause with the greatest of respect while “Madiba” is still alive to express the highest tribute to him for a lifetime of achievement and commitment to worldwide freedom, justice, equality, empowerment and human dignity.
African Americans and all African people in particular are so inspired by the perseverance and bold courageous example of Nelson Mandela who not only helped to lead the dismantlement of apartheid in South Africa, but also he continues today to stand at the age of 93 as a global role model and force for progressive change, moral integrity and equal justice for all. In short, Mandela represents the best wisdom-consciousness for the affirmation of the oneness of humanity. Even after spending 27 years imprisoned unjustly by a brutally vicious apartheid regime, Mandela came out of prison with the strength and insight to lead South Africa nonviolently into a multiracial democracy and a growing emerging world economy.
While we live in a world where millions of people on each continent are crying out louder and louder by the hour for an end to poverty, injustice and inequality, the Mandela leadership example of social transformation that transcends race, ethnicity, tribe, religion and political ideology needs to be highlighted and better understood. In fact, the ANC continues to have a long tradition and legacy of leadership icons who first and foremost strive to represent the interests of the masses of African people who struggle for a better quality of life. It is so sad today that in many other places in the international community some rulers use violence and war to suppress the cries of the masses of the people for freedom, democracy and justice.
The recent news that Mandela was hospitalized should engender our prayers of support and concern for his health, as well as our meditation and reflections on his outstanding legacy of leadership. We are pleased that Mandela was just released from the hospital and is now recovering at home from hernia surgery. South African President Zuma reported that Mandela was stable and resting. Again, our prayers are with him and his family.
Here in the United States, the 2012 national election season appears to be focused on who has the most money in politics over against the best leadership to offer the nation and global community progress on the critical issues. Of course America is not South Africa. That is not the point. The point is that while billions of dollars are being spent to hijack the democratic process in the United States, we should learn valuable lessons from how Mandela and the ANC were guided successfully by principles of inclusive, participatory democracy versus the voter-suppressive moves and exclusivist views of those who want a backwardly divided and regressive future America.
Those of us in Occupy the Dream embrace both the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and the democratic wisdom of Nelson Mandela. We will soon be in the South to recognize the anniversary of the voting rights struggle in Selma, Ala. with the annual retracing of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for the march to Montgomery, Ala. that witnessed the horrible consequence of those who would go to any extent to deny the voting rights of Blacks and others. We have come a long way since the original Selma voting rights march in 1965. But we must renew our vigor and commitment to achieve more progress toward making our democracy more equal and just. Income inequality is increasing the ranks of those in poverty. We need a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics in America.
We should work to build a global movement for economic justice and equality. Thank God for Mandela. When we last had the opportunity to meet with him in person in Maputo several years ago, Mandela encouraged us to help increase worldwide awareness that Africa needs empowerment through education, training, employment and economic development. We salute Nelson Mandela for all that he continues to do to make Africa and the world a better place. Let’s also work harder now in America to further transform our society and to make our democracy representative of all of the people. — (NNPA)
COZI TV, which replaced NBC-Nonstop on digital channel 10.2 in Philadelphia last month, recently announced that “Being Mandela,” a new reality show starring Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s granddaughters, will premiere on February 10 at 9 p.m.
This 30-minute weekly show exclusively on COZI TV will follow the next generation of this unique South African family through the experience of sisters Zaziwe Diamini-Manaway and Swati Diamini, giving viewers a window into their daily lives, close-knit family and personal aspirations.
“We are excited to welcome Zaziwe and Swati to the COZI TV lineup,” said Meredith McGinn, vice president of Multi-Station Local Programming for NBC Owned Television Stations. “Along with our iconic TV series and hit movies, we know that our original programming like “Being Mandela” will inspire viewers to try out COZI TV and keep them coming back for more.”
“This show is about us and our lives — both as individuals and a member of the Mandela family,” said Zaziwe Diamini-Manaway and Swati Diamini. “It offers a window on how far we have come to re-establish our lives. We are excited to share our story and hopefully viewers will be able to appreciate how universal the human story is.”
According to the network, “Being Mandela” principally features the “engaging sisterly duo” of Zaziwe and Swati, who are the daughters of Zenani Mandela Diamini, Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s daughter, and Prince Thumbumuzi Diamini, Prince of Swaziland. Both women were born in South Africa, but spent much of their youth in exile in the United States while their grandfather was imprisoned. They returned to South Africa as teenagers upon their grandfather’s release from prison in 1991.
As sisters, daughters, granddaughters, mothers and businesswomen running their own clothing line called “Long Walk to Freedom,” their personal and professional lives are on full display throughout the 13-episode season.
Highlights include their first ever visit to Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. While there, the sisters see the jail cell where their grandfather lived, tour the limestone quarry where he worked, which caused him permanent eye and lung damage, and meet the former warden who remembers helping to smuggle Zaziwe into the prison as a new baby so Mandela could meet her.
While in Cape Town, the women also go shark cage diving with Great White Sharks, which leads to one frightening encounter. In addition, they venture to nearby Swaziland (one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, with a king that has multiple wives), where they are the nieces of the current king (granddaughters of the former, now deceased king) and thereby full-fledged African princesses.
One of the latest in an onslaught of networks featuring “classic programs,” COZI TV, which made its debut last month, offers vintage viewer favorites such as “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Six Million Dollar Man,” “Bionic Woman,” “Magnum PI” and “Charlie’s Angels.”
Boxing great Muhammad Ali, known for his unabashed self-confidence inside and outside the ring as well as his outspokenness on social and humanitarian causes, is the recipient of the 2012 Liberty Medal.
Ali, 70, will receive the medal in a ceremony on Sept. 13 in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. The three-time world heavyweight champion was not in attendance for Thursday's announcement.
Previous recipients of the Liberty Medal, which was established in 1988 to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, include rock singer and human rights activist Bono, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President Jimmy Carter. Six winners have subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution — freedom, self-governance, equality and empowerment — and helping to spread them across the globe," said former President Bill Clinton, chairman of the National Constitution Center, an institution dedicated to increasing public understanding of the Constitution and the ideas and values it represents.
Liberty Medal sponsors and partners said Ali's lifelong courage and conviction exemplify the qualities that the award was established to honor, from his outspoken advocacy for civil and religious freedom to his philanthropy, social activism and humanitarian efforts.
"Muhammad Ali symbolizes all that makes America great, while pushing us as a people and as a nation to be better," said National Constitution Center president and chief executive officer David Eisner. "Each big fight of his life has inspired a new chapter of civic action."
The fast-talking, boisterous fighter who referred to himself as "the greatest" was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942. He took up boxing at age 12 and flourished in the ring, becoming a top amateur and Olympic gold medalist.
Ali won the heavyweight title in 1964, defeating the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Soon after, Ali — who was raised in a Baptist family — announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name.
While in his prime, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967 for refusing to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs. The decision resulted in a draft-evasion conviction and spurred a long legal fight that ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
Three years after his retirement from boxing in 1981, Ali announced he had Parkinson's disease, a degenerative brain condition that some researchers believe may be brought on by repeated blows to the head. Despite the diagnosis, he devoted himself to traveling the world on humanitarian missions bringing food and medical supplies to developing nations throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America and Asia. He also continues to work at home in the U.S. to raise funds for organizations including the Special Olympics and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center in Phoenix.
In 2005, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. -- (AP)
Willis Edwards was a civil rights icon and NAACP leader.
He died July 13, 2012, of cancer. He was 66.
In 1982, Edwards was elected president of the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch. More recently, he served as first vice president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch. Edwards is credited with by many helping to build the coalition of producers and funders that led to the first NAACP Image Awards live on national television in 1986.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock said Edwards embodied the spirit of the organization.
“Willis attended his duties with great humility and greater passion. His accomplishments in the civil rights arena speak to a career that defies narrow definition. Willis promoted and protected the image of African Americans in the arts; he shaped and expanded the vision of the NAACP National Board of Directors; and he tore down barriers to honest conversation about HIV/AIDS in communities of color. He will be greatly missed.”
Edwards served on the National Board of the NAACP for 12 years in many different capacities. His roles included vice chair of the Image Awards, member of the NAACP Crisis Magazine Committee; member of the executive committee and the budget and finance committee; member of the national health committee and chair of the sub-committee on HIV/AIDS. He recently stepped down from the board of directors and joined the NAACP board of trustees.
“Willis Edwards was a towering figure in the NAACP, and his legacy will be remembered for generations to come,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
“As a civil rights crusader, he continued in the tradition of those who came before him but also created new avenues to pursue justice in a changing world. His ingenuity made him a strong leader and a trusted advisor to so many freedom fighters across the country.”
Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS late in life, Edwards developed a reputation as a strident spokesman for HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. He was instrumental in guiding the NAACP’s work with HIV/AIDS. He also worked with the Minority AIDS Project. His final project was the development of the NAACP manual, “The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” a handbook to help congregations stem the spread of the virus.
“Willis Edwards was a national leader for the NAACP and a partner with the City of Los Angeles in the struggle for equality and justice for all people,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said in a statement.
“I was proud to call him a personal friend for over 20 years in the struggle for civil liberties.”
Edwards was born in Carthage, Texas, on Jan. 1, 1946. He was raised in Palm Springs, Calif.
He later attended California State University, Los Angeles, where he became active in politics.
Edwards began his life in activism as a staffer on the Robert F. Kennedy presidential campaign and earned a Bronze Star in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
He worked with Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, arranging for Parks to sit with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the 1999 State of the Union Address. He served as vice president of development and planning for the Rosa Parks Museum and Library in Montgomery, Ala.
JOHANNESBURG — A nation divided between Black and white, rich and poor, came together Wednesday to honor Nelson Mandela, the deeply loved statesman who helped bring freedom to South Africa. The good deeds done on Mandela's 94th birthday ranged from building houses to performing free eye cataract operations.
Education officials estimated nearly 12 million children kicked off celebrations at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) with resounding "Happy Birthday" choruses in schools from well-funded private institutions to barely furnished rooms in villages. Millions more South Africans joined in from offices, buses, train stations and Mandela Square, set amid the plush skyscrapers and exclusive boutiques of Johannesburg's Sandton City.
Mandela spent the day quietly with family and friends in southeastern Qunu village, according to Sello Hatang, a spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation. An AP Television cameraman caught the venerated leader with a champagne flute in his hand, flanked by his wife, Graca Machel, and former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, before a ribboned two-tiered birthday cake.
Well-wishers placed flowers outside the Mandela homestead and local villagers sang, danced and shared birthday cake. Convicts from the district prison joined in the spirit, volunteering to spruce up the village school by painting and cutting grass.
Communities in South Africa dedicated 67 minutes of the day to volunteer work and projects for the needy — one minute to mark each of Mandela's 67 years in public service.
South Africa came to a virtual standstill early in the day as strangers greeted each other in the streets and even infants at one pre-school waved at passersby and sang: "We love you, Tata," or "great father," a supreme term of endearment.
But the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness that Mandela epitomizes has lost its luster in the country as the fruits of political liberation have failed to bring most South Africans a better life. Control of Africa's biggest economy remains firmly in the hands of the minority whites. The education system to uplift poor South Africans is a shambles. Violent crime is rampant. A small percentage of Blacks have become millionaires, some through corruption and ties to Mandela's governing African National Congress.
The Rev. Frank Chikane, a veteran of the governing African National Congress and former director general in the South African presidency, berated the country's leaders as falling far short of Mandela and his principles, compromising themselves with greed and corruption instead of serving the people.
In a speech marking the U.N.-designated International Mandela Day, Chikane said Mandela and his contemporaries were never "for sale ... There were no tenders, no houses, no fancy cars."
He said a woman veteran of the struggle for democratic rule had called him crying, to say "It pains me to think that this is what my husband died for."
Mandela became South Africa's first Black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his fight against racist apartheid rule, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. He immediately made it clear that he would not lead his people in seeking retribution for the centuries of injustice and pain.
Tributes to Mandela poured in Wednesday, with U.S. President Barack Obama saying Mandela "has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, the continent and the world."
Ahmed Kathrada, one of Mandela's oldest friends, said Madiba, as he is affectionately known by his Xhosa clan name, championed the dignity of all.
"You can be rich but if you don't have dignity you are a second-class citizen," Kathrada said in a public lecture marking the birthday celebrations.
Tokyo Sexwale, a longtime friend and head of Mandela's foundation, coined a new word: "Mandela-ism: the spirit of selflessness, sacrifice ..."
At one Johannesburg elementary school Wednesday, children watched a film documenting Mandela's life and his years of service and sacrifice along with a photographic display of him meeting visiting celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jackson and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Nelson Mandela set an example to show us that reconciliation is possible," said 10-year-old Thakgalo Ditabe. She said she wanted Mandela to know how much he meant to her.
Ntando Ntuli, 12, said with pride: "He is my hero because he fought for us. He is an icon, the king of Africa."
In the eastern port city of Durban Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of England's Manchester United football team that is widely followed in Africa, sang Happy Birthday over a cake iced with the image of the team's yellow and red badge.
Ferguson, who met Mandela on previous visits, said "his presence and personality exudes all around."
Manchester United plays the first game of its South African tour later Wednesday.
South African churchmen and politicians urged people across the country "to make every day a Mandela Day."
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton got the celebrations off to an early start Tuesday. He and daughter Chelsea met with Mandela in Qunu and planted avocado pear trees.
Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said the greatest gift the nation could give Mandela on Wednesday would be "to emulate his magnanimity and grace."
"Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country," Tutu said.
South African artist Collen Maswanganyi unveiled a sculpture entitled Fruits of Freedom. He said a banana, an orange, a pear and an apple symbolize his question about whether Mandela's "long walk to freedom" has borne fruit in his still-troubled homeland. -- (AP)
Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers make their spring Philadelphia appearance at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater on Friday and Saturday.
The program, “One: Gifts from Afar,” features the world premiere of “One,” an exploration of humankind’s rituals surrounding the drive to win. Offering contemporary Zen-inspired works of poetic sensibility, the dance troupe will pair “One” with the return of its critically acclaimed work “Mandela Project,” which serves as a complementary piece for the new work.
Said Lin, choreographer and artistic director of the group, “Just as chess includes, and is not limited to, the pieces, the chessboard and the way the pieces are moved on the board, so, too, dance is not confined merely to the shapes, the forms, the space and the bodies that make them.
“The totality of each of them is much more than that,” Lin continued. “It includes the stories communicated or explored on the board, in the space, the personal processes of the players/dancers.”
Duane Lee Holland Jr., a dancer with the group, agreed, adding that Lin’s company is a modern company that is influenced by Asian culture. And just as he has been heavily involved in hip-hop, he’s now enjoying this Asian-inspired dancing.
“And just as Asian culture is very much about giving back to the Earth and being part of it, while being very spiritually based and grounded, that’s a familiar concept to me because African dance, too, is very much the same, so it is easy for me to find the association between the two cultures,” said Holland. “So at this point, the only difference is geographical for me.” Holland began his career as a gymnast. Originally from Devon, he began training for the Olympics before an injury sidelined his dreams. Around the same time, he began his professional dance career at the age of 17, dancing for the first hip-hop theater company, Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM).
While performing with RHPM, Holland also taught at MIT, Stanford University, Jacobs Pillow, UCLA, Pennsylvania Ballet Company and Philadanco. He was also assistant dance captain of Maurice Hines’ Broadway production of “Hot Feet.” He is currently conducting community outreach programs in the suburban Philadelphia area as well as in conjunction with select universities across the nation.
Recently accepted into the graduate program at the University of Iowa, where he hopes to earn his MFA in dance, Holland feels education is an important part of a career. “I feel dance is the gateway to becoming a full-fledged artist, so it’s important to always stay true to the craft of dance,” he said. “And in that regard I am a huge advocate of arts an education going hand-in-hand.”
He added that by gong back to school he will have completed the “last piece of the puzzle so that I will have all the tools I need to build my own brand, which is what I’m looking forward to. I want to give back to the African-American community.”
Just as the Asian culture knows it is important to get in touch with their roots, so, too, Holland concludes, “is it vitally important for African Americans to be able to do the same. I feel that everyone should know where they came from in order to move forward as an artist and as a person.”
His journey toward understanding — expressed in his music and now in his roles in film and television — is rooted in his relationship with his mother, Mahalia Ann Hines.
When Common entered the scene in 1992 with his album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?,” the new, mostly underground artist found himself thrust into a music environment where game-changing albums such as Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic,” Ice Cube’s “The Predator” and Eric B. & Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat The Technique” blazed trails in hip hop.
It would have been easy for Common to disappear into the history books of hip-hop like may other artists of that time (and he admits that he almost quit rapping after his debut).
After all, the competition was stiff.
Yet, Common still stands today, not only as an accomplished and award-winning recording artist, but also as a leading man who has also co-starred alongside thespians as Denzel Washington (“American Gangster”), Queen Latifah (“Just Wright”), Christian Bale (“Terminator Salvation”), Ray Liotta (“Smokin’ Aces”), Steve Carrell, Tina Fey and Mark Wahlburg (“Date Night”).
Despite his vast accomplishments as an artist, however, very little is known about the man. The gripping and introspective memoir “One Day It’ll All Make Sense (Atria, $15)” reveals the story behind the man and his art. Common shares never-before-told stories about his encounters with everyone from Tupac to Biggie, Ice Cube to Lauryn Hill, Barack Obama to Nelson Mandela.
Drawing upon his own lyrics for inspiration, he invites the reader to go behind the spotlight to see him as he really is — not just as Common, but as Lonnie Rashid Lynn.
The artist holds nothing back as he unveils himself, layer by layer, from his childhood on the streets of the South Side of Chicago; to grappling with the decision to leave college, disappointing his mother and pursuing a career in hip hop; to emerging as a talented recording artist faced with all the trappings of fame and success but working hard to remain true to himself and the people who’d supported him along the way.
“People who know me as Common might find it hard to believe some of the things that made me Rashid,” explains Common. “That’s partly why I’ve written this book, so that I can show myself as a man in full. That means telling some tough truths, revealing my faults and vulnerabilities. But it also means showing the true strength of my character.”
He recounts his rise to stardom, giving a behind-the-scenes look into the recording studios, concerts, movie sets, and after-parties of a hip-hop celebrity and movie star. He reflects on his controversial invitation to perform at the White House, a story that grabbed international headlines. And he talks about the challenges of balancing fame, love and fatherhood.
Each chapter begins with a letter from Common addressed to an important person in his life — from his daughter to his close friend and collaborator Kanye West and even from his former love, Erykah Badu. Through it all, Common emerges as a man in full: Rapper. Actor. Activist. But also father, son and friend.
“As Common, I’ve often been classified as a conscious artist,” he reflects. “I take that as a compliment. The only problem with being labeled a conscious artist is that people assume that's all you are, that you’re not also a complex and flawed individual. I made a conscious decision early in my career to focus on growth and positivity. In my own life, I still deal with the negativity sometimes, but I don’t choose to reflect that in the art I put out into the world. I strive to be a conscious artist because I strive to be a balanced human being on my path towards the light.”
Common’s story offers a living example of how, no matter what you’ve gone through, one day it’ll all make sense.
On the eve of last Tuesday’s presidential election, Selma James, an internationally respected activist who lives in London, offered some insights bound to anger the Obama-hero-worship circles awash in American Black communities.
“Obama has disappointed us so much, but he has a second chance and we will not leave it up to him,” James said before she delivered an address in Center City last Monday evening around her latest book “Sex, Race and Class,” featuring a collection of writings by this widow of famed Caribbean author/intellectual/activist CLR James.
One area that President Obama and America’s political/power elites cannot ignore any longer, James said during an interview, is America’s alarming and growing rates of poverty.
“The U.S. has more poverty than any industrialized country,” she said about the nation where she was born in 1930 but left for life in England a quarter-century later.
“If we don’t address poverty we will be suicidal. Suicidal greed got the U.S. into this economic mess,” James said. “Remember that Nelson Mandela said that poverty is made by man and can be stopped by man.”
No, James isn’t blaming President Obama for causing poverty or exacerbating it, as his Republican presidential challengers fraudulently did in calling him the “food stamp president.”
However, James and others are rightly noting that as president, Obama has a responsibility to address dire issues confronting his country and too many of its citizens.
Those issues include poverty (particularly the obscene numbers of children living in poverty), structural joblessness, unjust mass imprisonment, urban decay, climate change and a host of other issues brushed aside by the body politic for too many years.
As a Black man who made history in the presidential campaign arena noted, “…whenever a government fails to secure for all its citizens that which it guarantees, such a government is nearing dangerous ground..” with such “neglect” becoming like the “cancer” that will continue to grow and spread.
This accurate yet frequently ignored observation on the role of government came from the first Black man nominated by a political party to run for the U.S. presidency…not Barack Obama, nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008, but George Edwin Taylor, nominated by the National Liberty Party in 1904.
Holding elected officials accountable is a duty of citizens in a democracy.
But too many Blacks have skirted this duty during the presidency of Barack Obama, giving him a pass on misplaced contentions thathe is too busy to attend to matters that have historically topped the agenda consistently advanced by Blacks.
This notion that Blacks have to devise an ‘agenda’ to present to President Obama is reminiscent of responses to disappointments during the first term of Philadelphia’s first Black mayor, W. Wilson Goode Sr.
It wasn’t plausible in the 1980s to assert that Goode didn’t know that the citizens who overwhelmingly supported his election wanted an end to racially discriminatory police brutality.
And, it’s not plausible in the 21st century to assert that President Obama doesn’t know that addressing urban violence and unemployment are important to those who helped elect him – twice.
Holding the U.S. president accountable does not diminish the history-making or role-modeling stature of Barack Obama.
But failing to hold any U.S. president accountable does diminish the moral authority Blacks have historically exerted in attempting to make America deliver on its constitutional promises.
As Bruce A. Dixon noted in a perceptive post-election commentary last week, Black America has lost its moral compass.
“We used to know right from wrong and have the courage to stand. In the era of Obama, we have lost it. We’ll need to fight to get it back,” said Dixon, managing editor at Black Agenda Report.
This problem of losing the ‘moral compass’ is not just a Black problem. I t is a fundamental problem with America.
And the source of this problem is that Americans believe the myths we concoct about ourselves just as others around the world believe the myths America projects about itself.
“One problem I have been having for decades is that many people here believe the myth of the U.S. as the ‘panacea’ of democratic order, which is that they cannot believe their ears with some of the things that people like Romney are saying,” said Berlin, Germany resident George Pumphrey, who grew up in the U.S. but left decades ago due to First Amendment-destroying harassment directed at dissidents like him.
For those in Black communities convinced of the inappropriateness of demanding accountability from President Obama for addressing urban issues like epidemic violence because he’s president-of-all-not-just-Blacks, consider the environmental degradation contributing to climate change.
Obama has championed clean coal’ since his 2008 candidacy, but one of the dirtiest deeds of the American coal industry is its extraction process called MTR – mountaintop removal, which literally blows up the tops of mountains.
Besides destroying irreplaceable mountain ranges, MTR destroys watersheds and creates serious health issues like higher cancer rates and birth defects in the MTR sites, now concentrated in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
This president needs to stop the disastrous MTR, but hasn’t.
Issues like MTR contributing to climate change problems like the recent superstorm Sandy are issues impacting all Americans.
And as London activist Selma James noted, “Sandy tells us so much. Nature is rebelling, reacting to what man is doing.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
As Philadelphia makes its mark as a world-class destination, a global stream of artists have taken notice. Recently, the side of a residential home in Southwest Center City became the site of a magnificent rendering of former South African President Nelson Mandela. It is the work of U.K.-based contemporary urban artist Ben Slow.
“I’m a portrait artist that likes to paint on the street also,” said Slow, 29, upon completion of the privately commissioned mural. “It is something that I have been doing for the last four years, and I am just starting to travel more and more with it and am meeting people, seeing places and having new experiences.”
After graduating University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury in 2006, Slow moved to London and embarked on a regular 9-to-5 lifestyle, something that he became dissatisfied with very quickly. Inspired by the wealth of street art that he was seeing in London, Slow set about starting to paint again, desperate for a more creative outlet. After putting some of his work out on the internet and gaining some very positive feedback he was commissioned to put a team together to produce a mural at The Royal Albert Hall. This was his first exposure to painting on a large-scale and it gave him the confidence to start the large street pieces that you can see around the world today.
Slow has already exhibited work in cities throughout the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Ibiza, Spain. He also has work in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the Mandela mural is Slow’s first work of art on the East Coast of the United States. “I tend to work big, and this has been a tricky one,” said Slow. “But I am happy with how it has turned out. Ninty-nine percent of the people have been pretty positive about it; not everyone, but you can’t please everyone. It’s been really good fun, and everyone has been kind of wanting to chat and let me know their thoughts.”
Slow’s canvases give him a chance to experiment with a plethora of fine art styles and allow him to explore the more abstract side of his personality.
“It’s nice to do Mandela,” Slow said. “It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and it’s quite poignant because of the time and he’s an international icon. It doesn’t matter where you paint him, because he always translates. I didn’t know what to do initially, if it was going to be a local character because I do something related to my location a lot of time — wanted something positive and uplifting and Mandela came to mind. I’ve done some projects in South Africa that w[ere] focused on his comrades in the struggle, and it was almost too obvious to paint him in South Africa, so this was an opportunity to kind of come outside and do it somewhere else — and I haven’t seen that many portraits of Mandela that are good kind of murals. I hope people like it. And, it’s new for me because it is in color; I normally work in black and white, so it is certainly the first big one I have done in color.”
Slow’s canvas is a material called, “Econolite,” which “is a strong, aluminum composite panel with a high-density corrugated polyallomer core that will not swell, corrode, rot, wick water or delaminate even under prolonged water exposure.” The instillation process took five days as the artist pieced together the work on the basement of the home, much like a jigsaw puzzle, as each panel measures 4 feet by 8 feet. “It was quite a challenge something that big that is spread out over a floor. It was like a nightmare of sorts,” recalled Slow.
The Mandela mural is removable. “Each aluminum panel comes with a plastic backer that screws on. In the future if we want to take it off we can,” explained homeowner Ram Krishan. “The idea was that we didn’t want to touch the wall, so we can take it off when we want.”
There is an obvious narrative that comes through in Slow’s street work, they tell a meaningful story of their subjects, they aren’t just pretty portraits, they are “people that deserve to be immortalized.”
The Nelson Mandela Mural is located at 1619 Fitzwater St. For more information about the artist, visit www.slowbenart.com.
You’ll have to forgive me, but with all that’s going on lately, I just haven’t had the time (or the inclination) to focus on a relative irrelevancy like the Paula Deen controversy.
The Philadelphia public school system is a shambles, and that’s being kind. If you attended these schools for 12 years, as I did, what’s happening now is surely tearing your heart out. If our schools open at all in September, a question still unanswered at this point — they will almost surely open without art, or music, or sports, or extracurricular activities of any sort. In short, school buildings will become warehouses — damp, airless tombs in which to place our children for six or seven hours a day until they’re old enough to someday matriculate to the state penitentiary.
Think that’s harsh? Well, our governor doesn’t think so, which is why there’s no money for schools but plenty of money to build new prisons. And his so-called “rescue” — a measure that would restore some money for education provided the unions give back enough salary and benefits to make every teacher a pauper — would be laughable if it weren’t a shameful slap in the face.
We’re peering over the edge and into the abyss – and it’s not pretty. Our property taxes are about to rise to a level that could potentially force longtime residents from their homes. Taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and gasoline are headed in the same direction, and remember that temporary one percent sales tax that was about to expire? Well, consider it renewed.
This week Philadelphia lost one of its brightest lights when native son and international hero Bill Gray passed away; and speaking of international heroes, South African human rights champion Nelson Mandela is still hovering at death’s door as of this writing.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget is a painful reminder that elections have consequences, the House kicked Sen. Vincent Hughes’ vision of Medicaid expansion to the curb, and my beloved Phillies are stinking up the league.
So no, I haven’t really done much thinking about Paula Deen, but let me make sure I have the story straight: an elderly white woman from Georgia, who grew up drinking from “white only” water fountains, and with the sense of entitlement that comes with a pre-civil rights era mentality, admitted to using the n-word. Further, I understand, it’s possible that this entitled elderly white woman continues to be disrespectful and condescending toward people of color.
Shocking. Positively shocking.
Find me the elderly white person from the deep South who has never used a racial slur. Heck, you might even have trouble finding a Black person to fit those criteria. I’m not excusing it, or her, I’m just wondering why everyone is stunned. She’s probably using the word right now, considering the kind of week she had.
The problem comes when we focus all our attention on that word, as though calling someone the n-word is the only way to exhibit racism. Because what happens is that by default we then excuse all the vile racism that doesn’t include that one highly-charged word.
I would contend that last year’s rash of state-sponsored voter ID laws, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s determination that the Voting Rights Act is an example of “racial privilege,” the many examples of race-based police abuses including Driving While Black, and the fact that in America you can actually argue that harassing then shooting a teenager holding iced tea and Skittles is somehow self-defense are far more egregious examples of racial hatred than butter-loving Paula Deen could ever conjure up in her kitchen.
What if tomorrow white people unanimously decided to never use the n-word again, but brought back the old-time favorites like coon, jungle bunny, jigaboo, darkie and pickaninny? Would that help? No, of course not. But by focusing on that one word alone, we give a free ride to the many racists whose actions are far more hurtful than their words. The vilification of Deen gives the real haters like Scalia a pass. And of the two, Scalia is far more dangerous.
I’ve never been a fan of Paula Deen. Her down-home mannerisms, witch-like cackle and honey-dipped slow drawl annoy me, and I can’t say I’ve ever watched her show all the way through. She’s no Julia Child, that’s for sure, but she’s also not public enemy number one.
The people who are a real danger to the Black community don’t wear aprons and carry spatulas. They wear black robes and three-piece suits and carry pens.
Daryl Gale is the city editor for The Philadelphia Tribune.