When I left Jersey City last week, autumn had arrived. Cool days and cooler evenings filled my final week at home. In Chicago, however, it's still summery. Actually mid-summery. Every day the thermometer's crossed the 80°F threshold, and today it's so warm (90°F) I'm finding it difficult to believe that classes are about to start and October is just around the corner. Rather than calling this Indian summer, it's basically Summerfall. Or Sutumn. Or Faummer.
JENA 6 RALLYING LAST WEEK
From Los Angeles Times: Chris Graythen / Getty Images
Last Thursday I wasn't able to head down to Texas to participate in the Jena Six protest and rally nor was I able to participate in the local demonstrations, so I signed up to call Louisiana state officials to urge justice in the case, in which six African-American teenagers were arrested, and one convicted as an adult, for an attack on a White schoolmate. The attack on the White student was the culminating event in a series of clashes that began White students decided to hang a noose from a tree, as an racially inflammatory affront to Black students who'd decided to sit under it (and to Blacks in Jena more broadly), and received only token sanctions as a result, their action being labeled a "prank." The case has rightly sparked international outrage, and last's week's public protest drew many thousands of participants.
Since I'm shy and not especially comfortable on the telephone, I was a little nervous about calling, but ColorofChange provided scripts and numbers, and I set to dialing. I can report that of the actual human beings I actually reached, all were unfailingly polite, some even apologetic, and one sounded exasperated, especially after I said that I was calling from Chicago, Illinois. (I think C said she probably was thinking "Damn Yankees!") This same person also said she would put me "on the list," which I assumed meant a list to be presented to the state official to whom I was lodging my protest, but then I also considered that the same list might end up in the hands of scary right-wing types (even though I realize we may be undergoing wiretapping, which I say with no little amount of horror and rage), so while I gave my name, she at least got a dummy phone number.
I do not for a minute think that my telephone rallying matched the commitment and courage of those who were present at the marches and rallies, or the bravery of the young defendants. I also think that one response by some of the officials involved will be what it was in before, during and after the Civil Rights movement: defiance, though they have been served a wake-up call, not only by the longstand Black leadership, but by a new generation of activists who are fed up by the persistence of racism in its most grotesque and spectacular forms.
Louisiana's officials probably will respond to the threat of economic boycott, but they also probably realize that many of the supporters of the Jena Six are also strong supporters of those who suffered from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and cutting off the state of Louisiana could harm New Orleansians just as readily as racist district attorneys in rural parts of the state. So it strikes me that one of the best positions to take is to keep the pressure on, publicize the miscarriages of justice far and wide, and not let Louisiana's officials of whatever party off the hook. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Director of Tourism, top judicial officials, and everyone else in power should know that last Thursday was not the last hurrah--that won't come until all of the Jena Six are fully cleared, and there is a public apology and investigation into everything that occurred.
And, now that the New York Times has abolished Times Select, you can read Paul Krugman's take on the protests and on the electoral corner the Republican Party, through its Southern, a/k/a racist strategy, has painted itself into. (I would add that the Democratic Party and politicians also engage in racist discourse when they feel--wrong--the need to do so.)
And as Metta Sama noted in a recent email she sent, "it ain't just a Southern thang."
And as Reggie notes, the issue of Black on Black violence, and Black male violence against women, deserves a similar nationwide demonstration and rally.
HASTA, LIBRERÍA LECTORUM
Sic transeunt ruae Novi Eborici.
Herbert R. wrote Reggie and me to pass on an article from Críticas saying that the landmark Librería Lectorum, the major Spanish-language bookstore in New York, has closed. Founded in 1960, the store can no longer afford the burgeoning rents on its strip of West 14th Street--that's right, rents are exploding on West 14th Street!--and ironically, the landlords are the sons of the store's founder, Argentinian Gerome Gutiérrez. The heirs no longer own the business, which was sold along with the Spanish-language publishing arm, Lectorum, to the publisher Scholastic, which now plans to shift the entire outfit to the online world
Lectorum Publications president Teresa Mlawer says that street traffic has plummeted and the neighborhood has been gentrifying for years, but 14th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues was still fairly gritty when I walked it many times this summer, although it has changed somewhat even from last year. Still, it's no SoHo or Chelsea, at least not yet, and ousting the store will only help speed the gentrifying process. It's a major loss for New York's Spanish-speaking community and for the city's culture, on multiple levels, not least because of the disappearance of an important venue and meeting place for Spanish-language authors from across the city and globe, and because of the ongoing dismantling of 14th Streets's longstanding cultural economy, which is set to shift into another mode altogether.
I realize New York, like all vibrant cities, is always changing, and that from its origins it's revolved around commerce, but it still painful to acknowledge the loss of yet another key institution like this. I also think the Gutiérrez brothers ought to be ashamed, but is that even a valid emotion in our contemporary society? I visited the store several times this summer, primarily to look for books in Spanish by the late Roberto Bolaño, and I also recall one of the first times I went there, back in the 1990s, and found a book by the Dominican fiction writer and scholar José Alcántara Almánzar, and the woman at the registered, noting his back cover and glancing up at me, asked me if I was he! Given how bad my spoken Spanish was then and that I was flattered into speechlessness, I had to deny it with a headshake.
Neither of the two articles mentions that one block west, another Spanish-language bookstore, Macondo, remains, though it long has hand only a fraction of the texts as Libreria Lectorum, and on occasion I've almost had to wake the attendant who was working in there. I wonder how much of a lease and life it'll have as the relentless march of luxury condos and stultifying chain stories continues across every square inch of Manhattan's grid.
The New York Times's article on the store's closing is here.
Que nunca se la olvide, que siempre se la recuerde.
AHMADINEJAD IN NEW YORK
Re: the brouhaha surrounding the visit by the decidedly wacko, authoritarian, Israel-hating, democratically elected, figurehead president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to New York to attend the opening of the UN General Assembly, and his "roast" (to use C's apt term)/conversation/free-for-all today at Columbia University (which should not be punished by New York State politicians for hosting the talk), I came across a great quote from the comments section after Glenn Greenwald's post on this topic:
"History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure."--Thurgood Marshall
In light of the events this year and the past seven years, that "urgency" deserves scare quotes, BTW.
UPDATE: Here's a New York Times report on Ahmadinejad's bizarre riffs today, including his claim that there are no gay people in Iran (though they're persecuted, like the Baha'i and other religious, social and sexual minorities, and hanged there) and that the Holocaust was theoretical rather than actual (though Iranian TV is featuring a very popular miniseries on this topic). He did get in a few knocks at his questioners and at his chief antagonist, W, though he said little of substance, whether about the appalling heinous human rights record in Iran, its support of Hamas, or its connection to the corrupt and ineffectual quasi-government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
WHERE DID THE TV GAYS GO?
There are fewer gay characters (and Latino characters) on network TV, but more on cable. So says a new Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) study. According to GLAAD's report, most of the network gay characters--all 6 of them--are on one channel, ABC, with the other one appearing on NBC; there are no gay characters on CBS, Fox, or CW. The last channel has the largest percentage of characters who're people of color. CW used to be the WB, and snapped up content from UPN, both ghettos for neo-minstrelsy, right?
(BTW, what categories does Wentworth Miller fall into? Racial, that is, for the survey purposes. Just asking.)
I'm not sure what the mainstream network folks are thinking, and I'm not suggesting there's a conspiracy so much as the usual oversight, indifference and neglect, but given the high gay quotient both in Hollywood and New York, it makes you wonder.
No word on how many of the few remaining network gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgenders or their cable kin have lots of melanin, though. And the lone show featuring lots--a whole cast full!--of Black and Latino gay people, Noah's Arc, problematic as it was, is off LOGO, so I'd imagine the numbers aren't great on cable either. It's not just on Queer as Volk that queers of color don't exist....
UAW SAYS STRIKE
GM wants to cut costs while to compete with foreign automakers. The United Auto Workers want to keep jobs in the US. GM says, No. The UAW says no more more work until they get a guarantee. Health care costs and liabilities are a major aspect of the negotiations. But if we had a single-payer national health care system, GM and the UAW wouldn't have haggle over this issue. Would they?
DEMOCRACY IN MYANMAR
Finally, this is what I'd call religious, moral and ethical leadership.