Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July Bits and Pieces

Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"
As I did last year, I'm posting a link to Frederick Douglass's famous speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" I again quote historian David Blight, who wrote of the speech, "In thought and feeling, Douglass the ironist had never been in better form. No abolitionist had ever brought the two great intellectual traditions of antislavery—the Enlightenment and the Bible—together with such power. The meaning of slavery and freedom in America had never found such a voice at once so terrible and so truthful. As Douglass took his seat, 600 white Northerners roared, wrote a journalist, with 'a universal burst of applause."

Mexican Election
Sunday millions of Mexicans voted in national and local elections, though arguably the most important race was the one to replace current center-right president and Bush ally (dupe?) Vicente Fox Quesada. The contest, of ideologies, approaches and visions for the immediate and long-term future of Latin America's second largest country, pitted Felipe Calderón, a right-wing, wealthy businessman and member of Fox's conservative National Action Party (PAN) party, against Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the left-leaning, populist former mayor of Mexico City, who was running on the Democratic Revolutionary Party standard. Though López Obrador held a lead for much of last year, Calderón was able to narrow the race through relentless advertising that portrayed the PRD candidate as a potential dictator and follower, or at least mimic, of Venezuela's outspoken socialist president Hugo Chávez Frias. As of today, the major American print and TV media organs are noting, in some cases with what strikes me as relief, that Calderón maintains a 400,000 vote lead over López Obrador, whose supporters are now demanding a vote-by-vote recount. I am extremely curious to see how this plays out, both in the American media and in Mexico itself, over the next few weeks, as the electoral commission counts the votes. The stakes are high enough for Mexico--and the United States--and there is no guarantee of fairness, especially given the country's long history of domination by élite political cliques through, among other means, fraudulent and stolen elections.

Gukira: Feeling Lonely?
Keguro posted an expansive rejoinder, "Feeling Lonely?" to my prior post on the Washington Post article on the university study on increasing social isolation. He takes the discussion in a different and rich direction.

Queer Cinema on TV
The other night I caught PBS's broadcast of Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafe, transgender scholar Susan Stryker's documentary on the 1966 uprising by transgender, gay and bi denizens of San Francisco's Tenderloin district against police harassment. It is definitely worth viewing. Despite my familiarity with gay history of this period, the level and intensity of repression surprised me (trans and gay people were arrested for wearing buttons on the "wrong" side of their shirts, and if they public performance was too "out," they were often bullied into staying within a well-defined area of San Francisco). The riots provoked profound social changes and liberated the social space of the city of LGBTs, while also initiating the creation of one of the earliest official LGBT police liaison posts in any US city. Stryker's non-didactic approach was refreshing, as was her success at finding imagery, and surviving participants, that represented the racially, ethnically and socially diverse demimonde of that epoch.

More (Queer) Cinema: Thomas Allen Harris's Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela
Today's New York Times features an enthusiastic blurb by Felicia Lee and laudatory review by Jeannette Catsoulis of Black gay director Thomas Allen Harris's new film, Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, which will premiere theatrically tomorrow at the BAM Cinemathek. The mixed-form documentary will also be broadcast on PBS on September 13. The film is the third in a trilogy Harris has made over the last decade, and explores the story of his late stepfather, Benjamin Pule "Lee" Leinaeng, who was one of a dozen young Black South Africans who first met in high school in Bloemfontein, joined an African National Congress youth cell, and then, after the White minority government banned the ANC, scattered across the globe, eventually supporting and furthering the struggle against apartheid from afar. As with Harris's prior movies in the trilogy, Vintage: Families of Hope (1995) and É Minha Cara/That's My Face (2001), the film also delves into Harris's youth and his family's dynamics. His mother, Dr. Rudean Leinaeng, and his younger brother, the noted photographer Lyle Ashton Harris, factor into the narrative. I've known Thomas for over 20 years and highly respect his work. A close friend whose seen the film says it's one of his best, so I look forward to seeing it as soon as I can.

World CUpdate
C. noted today with some surprise that the 2006 FIFA World Cup matches were still going on. I answered that the tournament lasts a month, and will end this upcoming Sunday, July 9. What a tournament it's been! It's set to be an all-Latin final, as Italy defeated host country Germany in their semifinal match today on two stunning, beautiful overtime goals by Grosso and Del Piero. The Italian team now advances to the finals against either Portugal or France, who meet tomorrow.

Portugal, whose best showing was in 1966, defeated a sharp Dutch team 1-0, and then knocked out the heavily hyped, drama-ridden English squad on a 3-1 shootout advantage. France, whose chances the media rated low at the start of the tournament, has improved with each stage, defeating a gifted Spanish squad and then toppling the defending champions, Brazil, 1-0, in one of the best demonstrations of playmaking so far, when retiring international star Zinedine Zidane floated a ball across the defense to Thierry Henry, who shinned it past Brazil's outstanding goalie Dida into the goal.

Both Portugal and France will have to avoid ginning up yellow cards, because each team has at least five players who already have received a yellow and could therefore be prevented from playing in the finals, and both teams will need to execute their most creative plays to get past the other. Portugal has the edge in youth and speed, while France's team includes many players from its 1998 championship team (which also defeated Brazil), including several of the best midfielders, forwards and defensemen in the world. I think France, with Henry, Zidane and Patrick Vieira, has the edge.

Brief Interview: The Gapers Mouth
John Hospodka of The Gapers Mouth, a Chicago-based online journal, recently posed three questions to me, and my responses are here.


  1. John, we caught Screaming Queens, too. I was really struck by the courage people showed, even when still finding a name for themselves. The moment, the nature of the repression is described similarly in Zami. Remember that moment when she is describing parties and people worrying about how many articles of clothing "matched" their genders?

  2. Mendi, you know I'd completely forgotten Audre Lorde's mention of this in Zami, so thanks for reminding me of it. Now I'm trying to think of where else I'd seen something along these lines....