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Ebony, that staple in Black American life, hits 65 this year. That's quite a milestone. Here is a link to a bio on John H. Johnson, the visionary, who started the magazine:
http://www.visionaryproject.org/johnsonjohn/. When Johnson started publishing Ebony, and its precursor The Negro Digest, there was no national black magazine. Within six months of publication, in 1942, The Negro Digest had a circulation of fifty thousand. Putting all of this in perspective? Back in 1942 and 1945 when Ebony started blacks didn't have the vote. It was against the law for blacks and whites to date and/or marry. Blacks and whites did not share the same bathrooms, the same schools, or sit together at the front or the back of the bus.
Why the late John Johnson is worthy of study by our youth and deserving of accolades by the black community: Because he was a descendant of blacks who'd been enslaved. Because, according to the website National Visionary Leadership Project, "in 1982, he became the first African American to be named one of the 400 richest people in America by Forbes magazine. In 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation."
Dig that. Understand that. Appreciate that. The closest contemporary that I can think of is Jay-Z and I don't even know if he comes close.
So what's the bottom line, Wilbur: The bottom line is there are plenty of excuses, but no reasons not to. To? Yes, to. To achieve whatever the h*ll you, we, me want to achieve. We're a generation, a nation, which over the last several decades, has fed ourselves on excuses for not doing. There are plenty of reasons why things are tough, why they are near insurmountable, why they may make us want to scream, this economy being one of them, but there are no legitimate reasons for accepting that we cannot do better, that our children cannot achieve, that we can't surpass or improve upon life as our parents had it. YES I KNOW ABOUT THE ECONOMY! YES I KNOW ABOUT ALL THE ISMS. YES I KNOW THEY ARE LEGITIMATE. AND YES I KNOW THERE WILL ALWAYS BE INDIVIDUALS WHO BEAT THE ODDS. I KNOW THAT THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WILL NOT BECOME MILLIONAIRES AND THAT THE ODDS ARE THAT A SELECT FEW WILL RISE. YES, I KNOW.
BUT....My point is but, all those reasons-excuses-whatevers in play, look at the times, the obstacles and the odds that Johnson had to confront and overcome. They were, in many respects, far greater than anything we face now--though admittedly they were different and the world was different--but still Johnson was unflagged and undefeated. I still believe.
Watch Johnson in the oral history video below and share a little of this man, his spirit/ambition and accomplishments with some of the younguns that you know. It's a good day. Every day. Click on the individual videos at the bottom of the video screen at its conclusion to see parts II, III and so on, including Johnson's advice to African-American youth.
Just discovered a new website for film: Black Public Media: http://blackpublicmedia.org/. Looks like a great source for shorts and independent film. This in addition to my old fave Shadow And Act: http://www.shadowandact.com/, and it feels like I've gotten a real gift today. Check them out at your leisure, but know that they are there, quite often, with little discovered, though great films that expand the images of people on film, and even more than that, offer us a large serving of stories previously untold.
Here's a description of the short, One Plus One, taken from the website: 'Film-maker George Amponsah and twin brother Ben, a former British army officer, return to Ghana, their ancestral homeland. They meet their father for the first time in twenty years. The journey provokes a series of bittersweet questions in the brothers about identity, similarity and difference.'
One Plus One is a short that zings with nostalgia for an identity that never was and a sense of moorlessness in the identity that exists present tense. In short, a short worth seeing. Ck it out.
A Thousand Words from Ted Chung on Vimeo.
Okay, so I started watching this cuz dude was cute, but after seeing the short I completely dug it. Kind of loves-ly and rosemantic -- and I am a romantic at heart. Yes there are moments when it could get kinda sicko-stalkerish, but it doesn't, cuz the power remains in Nasmin's hands, which I completely like. Anyhoo, it's sweet and I likey, so give it a look puhleeze and perhaps in future you can keep a lookout for Ted Chung's films. Art or Fart? We rate this Art.
Schwarzfahrer (Black Rider) - German Short Film
Saturday at the Movies
Saturday is a day for relaxing and kicking back, if we're lucky. So for today I've chosen a few short films that might have been missed, but are worthy of viewing. First up, Schwarzfahrer. I found this terrific film on the black film website, Shadow and Act, http://www.shadowandact.com/, a great portal for checking out works by promising talent. This is the description by the writer, Tambay, on that site, 'Schwarzfahrer (aka Black Rider) is a 1993 German short film directed by Pepe Danquart. It won an Academy Award in 1994 for Best Short Subject. The title is a play on words: literally, “Schwarzfahrer” means “black rider” in German, but is also translatable to “fare-dodger.” This word-play forms the punch line of the short film.' Infuriating, but worth the watch. (Question: How do you deal with the a-holes of the world?)
Albino United - Documentary
Albino United from Barney Broomfield on Vimeo.
Caught a part of this very noteworthy documentary, 'Albino United,' last week on NYC's public television Ch 21. It's about a group of albino soccer players in Tanzania, who form a soccer team in order to counter the heinous practice of killing albinos or hunting them for their body parts. The group forms to help fight the myths about albinos, build public awareness of, and comfort level with albinos and in so doing, to help bring an end to the killings.
What I saw was riveting and shocking both. The idea that somebody could be hunted or killed because others in their community don't consider them truly human, or believe that their limbs and other body parts have magical powers is beyond bizarre.
Watching the documentary was a kind of weird out of body experience as I saw other Tanzanians watch/respond to/treat members of Albino United as though they were intruders from another planet. (Excuse the voiceover in the 2nd clip where a British news' announcer editorializes that albino body parts are used in cannibalistic rituals. Where she got that one wonders, as there's no proof, that I know of, of any group eating another. Though there are plenty of stories of tribes (in different regions throughout the world) claiming that other tribes are cannibalistic -- a bow to how animalistic and inhuman they perceive the other tribe to be. ) Click on the video or the link to learn more and to see how you can help.
Albino United on Vimeo
The End of the Line - Documentary
Trailer for the documentary 'The End of the Line,' an expose of the fishing industry's overfishing of the seas and depletion of fishing stock. Only 1% of our oceans are protected, the remaining 99% are acessible to the fishing industry. Some species are at near extinction levels. In short, it's a war against the fish. Where will we be in 50 years? If we deplete those resources what happens if our food supply on land runs short? What happens to the balance of marine life when we eradicate certain species? And why do we fish at the levels that we do, when we can utilize more efficient marine and environmentally friendly fishing techniques?
The End of the Line answers those questions and many more. ('Scientists predict that if we continue fishing as we are now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048,' according to the companion website.) Watching the film I was keenly aware of the war on fish; the brutality with which we hunt them left me wondering if I could ever eat fish again with a clear conscience. I seriously considered removing fish from my diet because I felt so guilty/responsible for what has happened to their species. An alternative, for those who will continue to eat fish (myself included) is to find out if the fish that's sold in your supermarket or at your local restaurants are on the protected species list, and where they come from, if possible. It's also worth contacting your senator or congress person regarding your concern for preserving the residents of our seas. Click on the link above or below to watch the video. YouTube - The End Of The Line, The inconvenient truth about the oce...
The film, directed by Robert Murray, premiered in Jan. 2009 at Sundance. You can learn more about it here: http://endoftheline.com/film.
Kandahar - Scene + Trailer from 2001 film about Afghanistan.
Trailer for the movie.
Scene from film. Saw this film years ago. It was excellent. Moving, terrifying, an eye opener to the female condition in Afghanistan. YouTube - Kandahar a Movie About Afghanistan (2001)
Madiba - Documentary about Nelson Mandela.
#! Madiba: The Life and Times of Nelson Mandela. Okay folks, this is a small gift. From the gem that is the independent film portal Shadow and Act, I found this film on Nelson Mandela. It's on the Fireworks channel on Youtube and it's a documentary on Mandela's life and impact. Mr. Mandela's 92nd birthday was on July 18th, yesterday . (This aired back on Dec. 13th, 2009.) It's worth watching.
Below are two photos of Mr. Mandela on his birthday yesterday and the day before. We thank him for his activism, leadership, sacrifice and vigilance even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Thank you Madiba and a belated Happy Birthday.
Just A Band - Ha He - Classic exploitation of the Blaxploitation films of the early 70s.
Blak to the future. A little riff off the old blaxploitation movies. This came out back in March. Lucky me, I just learned about it courtesy of the great independent film website www.shadowandact.com. Just A Band, three cats out of Kenya (Dan, Blinky and Jim) doing a musical melange, not to be confused with Just a Band, out of France. Their first album, Scratch to Reveal, is available on Itunes. Visit them at http://www.just-a-band.com/
New Boy - Short film
Found this 11-minute short film on Shadow and Act, a great blog that promotes black independent film throughout the diaspora. (http://www.shadowandact.com/)
New Boy is about a Rwandan boy trying to fit in on his first day at an Irish elementary school. Based on a story by writer Roddy Doyle, who wrote the books The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. Doyle also wrote The Commitments and The Snapper, books that were made into films. I like his writing, so I'm not surprised that I enjoyed the film. (According to Shadow and Act, the film is up for an Academy Award this year for Best Short -Live Action.)