Saturday, January 07, 2006

Saturday Stew

First, I want to thank everyone who sends in comments responding to my posts. I really do enjoy reading them and thinking about what you have to say, and I have learned quite a bit, so thanks for reading and writing me back.


RawlsThe Seattle Times reports that last night, singer and humanitarian Lou Rawls died at age 7o (or 72) after a year-long battle with lung and brain cancer. His rich, thundering baritone voice and intonations were among the most distinctive in jazz and R&B, and several of his songs, including "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" (one of my all-time favorites), "Lady Love," and "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing" became standards. I especially liked his versions of Christmas songs and the monologues that preceded some of his songs from the late 60s.

Lou Rawls was raised by his grandmother and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where his influences included gospel music and the popular music of the day. In high school, he sang doo-wop with his classmate, musical pioneer and great, Sam Cooke. In 1962, he recorded the first of his 52 albums, Stormy Monday, with the Les McCann Trio, and by the late 1960s, he had received his first Grammy Award. Perhaps the apogee of his recording career came in the late 1970s with his Philadelphia International album All Things in Time, which featured "You'll Never Find..." but he continued to give concerts until he was incapacitated. He also appeared in many TV shows and films over the years.

When I think of Rawls, what also comes to mind for me in addition to his singing was his longtime association with the United Negro College Fund, for which he helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars through his Parade of Stars telethon, which he convinced multinational Anheuser-Busch to sponsor. From 1976, he was the "voice" of the brewery and food conglomerate, based in my native city, and his trademark "When you've said Budweiser, you've said it all" was one of the advertising touchstones of my teenage years. He was also active in fundraising with the Variety telethons in St. Louis for a decade.

A resident of Arizona for several years, he leaves his third wife, and three children.


McKinley and ReynoldsAs has been reported on many other blogs, the top Cherokee Nation court in Oklahoma has declined to strike down the same-sex marriage of two of its female members on its sovereign territory. This landmark ruling effectively upholds gay marriage on Cherokee territory, which was permitted during the period that, Dawn McKinley, 34, and Kathy Reynolds, 29 (at left, being united by David Cornsilk, photo courtesy of, decided to marry, which was just weeks after the series of same-sex marriages in San Francisco in 2004, later ruled invalid, galvanized public attention on the issue.

As Adam Tanner's Reuters report says:

Because tribal law at the time allowed same-sex marriages, a tribal clerk gave them a wedding certificate. But members in the Tribal Council sued, saying the marriage would damage the reputation of the Cherokees, and the law was later changed.

In a December 22 [2oo5] decision announced on Wednesday [January 5, 2005], the Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation, the tribe's highest court in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, rejected the request for an injunction against the marriage.

"Members of the Tribal Council, like private Cherokee citizens, must demonstrate a specific particularized harm," the court ruled. "In the present case, the Council members fail to demonstrate the requisite harm."

McKinley and Reynolds now appear to be the first gay married couple on Indian territory. According to Tanner's report, historians have pointed out that before the arrival of Europeans, many Native American cultures tolerated homosexuality (or same-sexual relations). In fact, as is the case among indigenous peoples across the globe, same-sexually oriented individuals often held specific spiritual and social roles in their tribal communities. Reynolds, a graduate student, said

"Since the tribe has become so Westernized and adopted Christian religions and European ways, they strayed away from traditional Cherokee values of indifference....Cherokees are very private where they respect each other and respect how they live."

In truth, though their families have accepted them and their union, some members of the tribe, including people in the hierarchy, have not, in part, according to McKinley, based on "family values."

One very important outcome of the decision will be its ramifications on US law. Since Indian tribes are sovereign, the US government may have to recognize the marriage, which would make them eligible for tax benefits denied to gay couples married in Massachusetts or people civilly unioned. I'm not sure I understand the legal issues here, but they're pretty fascinating.

The Navajo Nation, the largest Indian sovereign state, however, outlawed same-sex marriages at the time the Cherokees initially did.


BacellarIn another horrible blow for Haiti and the world community, the head of the 9,000-person United Nations peacekeeping force there, General Urano Texeira da Matta Bacellar (at right, photo courtesy of EsMas), appears to have committed suicide just a month before the country's several-times-postponed elections were to be held. According the Yahoo! News report by Joseph Guyler Delva, Bacellar was found dead in his hotel room today. The Brazilian Army's initial reports said the general's death was the result of a "firearm accident." A Chilean general will replace him.

Bacellar's death comes as Haiti's interim government, which was installed by the United States, with the complicity of France (from which Haiti gained its independence in 1804) and other countries, struggles to maintain even a semblance of control over the impoverished country of 8.5 million+. Its attempts to organize elections now set for February have been disastrous. The UN peacekeeping force under Bacellar has not done much better. The world community was told that the ouster--I'm sorry, the resignation (under duress, followed by a flight arranged by the U.S.)--of the country's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the establishment of the new government under U.S. puppet Gérard LaTortue, and the disarming of the rebels (who had obviously been prepping in the neighboring Dominican Republic and elsewhere), would lead to coöperation by the country's business interests and social élite, who bankrolled and constituted the opposition. Yet conditions in every way have worsened since Aristide's removal, to the extent that cross-border immigration to the Dominican Republic has risen, as have kidnappings of foreigners, gang violence, and attacks on various political actors. Brutal reprisals of Aristide supporters in particular have occurred with impunity.

I would argue that the situation in Haiti should be paired along with the debacle in Iraq (which some people incredibly are still defending) as emblematic of the W administration's foreign policy. Although the inept mainstream news media appear incapable of making this link, and although you could point to numerous problems during Aristide's tenure, including state violence and corruption, the horrific situation since the W administration intervened--steadily worsening economic conditions, a surge in political violence and corruption, and waxing social chaos--deserve far greater analysis and commentary. And condemnation. I won't dare predict what's going to happen in Haiti, but it's obvious that the situation there is grave, and right now, the possibility of fair and violence-free elections strikes me as more of a whimsy than anything else.

ShelbyOrlando Patterson, the noted Harvard University sociologist, reviews two new books on the African-American themes in his New York Times Book Review article "Being and Blackness." One is Harvard professor Tommie Shelby's (at left) new book, We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2005). If I'm recapitulating his argument properly, Patterson praises the book highly, particularly for its rigorous historical and empirically based discussions of the thought of figures such as Martin Delany and W.E.B. DuBois, and for its reasoned critiques of biological essentialism and identitarian politics. But as the review proceeds he draws an ever tighter critical circle around Shelby's conclusion that Black upper-middle-class and middle-class should engage in "thin racial solidarity," which he describes as approximating W. E. B. DuBois's "Talented Tenth" argument and which he says already is occurring. As for poor and working-class Blacks--uh oh! Patterson even goes so far as to write in this manner, with interjections and exclamation points, no less! If it gets Patterson that worked up, I've got to check it out.

PainterHe is far less enthralled with distinguished Princeton University historian Nell Ervin Painter's (at right) new textbook on African-American history, Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2005). It appears that Painter has decided to make great use of visual images in her comprehensive study, an interesting enough choice (and one I'd think could spark productive discussions about what histories, particularly textbooks, should look like). But Painter has advocating utilizing pictures only by Black artists, which Patterson finds highly problematic (he even mentions the array of portraits of abolitionist Sojourner Truth which Painter, as a result of her constraint, must pass on), and engages in the kind of heroic, essentializing rhetoric about Blacks that the sociologist finds anathema. Suffice it to say, he didn't like. I'll have to look around to find other reviews; I'm curious to see how this text compares with other overview works I've used in the past, such as John Hope Franklin's From Slavery to Freedom.


  1. Oddly enough, I have book the books Patterson reviewed at home!:) Just started the Shelby (and had two staff members try to borrow it from me before I even got out of the library:). I've not gotten to the Painter yet, but have looked through it, and I meant to make a comment about it on a CCertain listserve we're both on. The art reproductions are fantastic, and, just on a visual level, in some ways the book functions as a thumbnail history/overview of African American art and artists. Will let you know my thoughts

  2. Not to be a vulgar feminist: but why does the male harvard professor get 10 paragraphs while Professor Nell Painter gets two in Patterson's review?

  3. I found this blog surfing.

    You mixed together too many important topics, that deserve their own space.

    I can't believe Lou Rawls is not alive. It happened so fast.

  4. hey john,

    haven't been here for a while but I wanted to thanks you for reminding me of the current stuff within the Cherokee Nation in Ok. It's a interesting thing because for one, the Cherokees were and still are, considered one of the most assimilated into European culture...and since...laws within the nation, regarding quatum theories, laws once that dealt with tribal revenge (read the 7 Cherokee clans), have changed tremendously.

    I'm not surprised that this would come up eventually...

    wado papa

  5. Reggie, wow, you're reading Shelby's book--let me know what you think. I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to get to it.

    Keguro, I know we both know the answer to your question... And let's keep in mind too that Painter is one of the leading contemporary historians of African America.

    Renegade Eye, sometimes it be like that. I got to put it all down or it's gone. I know you can handle it.

    Lana, thanks for the points about the Cherokees. I thought the ruling was pretty incredible on many levels. I wonder what sort of influence it may have on any other sovereign Native states who confront the same or similar issues....