Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Words" on Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day

Today Twitter (naturally) brought some very good news: one of my poems, "Words," which the brilliant poet and critic Dawn Lundy Martin selected for the Academy of American Poet's "poem-a-day,was featured today on the last day in February and thus Black History Month. Many, many thanks to Dawn for contacting me about new poems, and thanks also to Mary Gannon and Maya Phillips at the Academy of American Poets for their work in publishing it on the site!

Though I have been writing and publishing poems for over 25 years, and though I have several books of poetry (two in collaboration with wonderful artists), I have never had any of my poetry featured on any of the US's major poetry organization sites (beyond Cave Canem). Essays? Yes. Biographical notes? Yes. References to my fiction? Yes. But poetry? No such luck. So this is a first and again, many thanks to Dawn, Mary and Maya.

The Academy's site also includes an audio track of me reading the poem, and my brief statement about it:

“I initially conceived this poem while participating in the Vulnerable Rumble, an amazing reading-performance organized by Laura Goldstein, Jennifer Karmin, and Laura Mullen, as part of the Red Rover Series at OuterSpace Studios in Chicago in January 2014. In the midst of the excellent poetry everyone was reading, I thought carefully about where the United States was in 2014 and where we might be heading. I started to mull over how we have been struggling to communicate with and understand one another—even at the level of basic language and art-making. We have misvalued and disvalued the power of words and their social, political, and economic meanings and effects. From this kernel I drafted the poem and, learning quite a bit from an Italian translator’s attempts to wrangle it into that language, I have revised it over the last couple of years.”

It feels especially appropriate for where we are today. I should add that the Vulnerable Rumble ranks amongthe most singular and thrilling readings I have ever participated in, and I wrote it up on this blog shortly after participating. I highly recommend that post and will share this paragraph:

Indication by raising the hand or shaking one's head. Duets and choral readings. Self-halting and disabling. Strategies to encourage reader time. Failure. What principles, and I say that without irony. Oh, if only more poets would internalize many of these! What became clear as the evening proceeded was that many of us did, and rather quickly; there were some who read briefly, some who leapt in and then out, some who paired up more than once but never too long, some who added a theatrical or performative element to change the reading dynamics, and a few who seemed to step right back into the usual holding-of-the-floor at length, as if any other approach would not do. But, as Jennifer [Karmin] said and underlined, even failure at these "codes" was acceptable, so anything went.
Out of that event came "Words"--and more.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

J's Theater's 13th Blogiversary

A screenshot of my very
first post, from February
27, 2005 (Copyright © J's Theater)
On this date thirteen years ago, I started blogging at J's Theater. I've previously commemorated the date and written about why I began writing on this platform. In those and other posts, I discussed how my approach has changed over the years, and I've also commented a number of times about the fluctuation in the regularity of my posts. In brief: my teaching, mentoring and advising, and, in more recent years, administrative duties have sometimes led to sizable hiatuses or periods of silence. I've nevertheless tried to keep the blog going, in part because I enjoy blogging and it provides me with one of the few places to regularly and publicly share interests I have, especially if they fall outside the mainstream. What sometimes astonishes me is how much ground I've covered over the years, which includes posts I've completely forgotten about only to happen upon them when Googling some topic or other, and find that the blog is among the top links that appear.

From time to time, I with meet or speak with someone who speaks about the blog as primarily political, but rereading my posts since 2005, what stands out to me is the emphasis on culture, with cultural politics usually part of the equation. During my first year of blogging, which included 305 posts, I ranged widely, touching upon not only poetry and poets but artists, but also drawings and photos (many via Flickr, or from the web, so they're no longer visible); reviews of films, dancing performances, art shows, CDs and online audio sites, TV shows, plays; sports (primarily baseball, reports on the literary world and publishing industry; interviews, with domestic and international figures; numerous translations, by many others as well as my own original attempts; meta-commentaries on other bloggers and blogs; announcements of upcoming local and national events; obituaries and tributes; countless quotes by notable figures; random photos (always a popular feature here); and yes, discussions of politics. I've tried to maintain many of these foci over the years, the combinations changing in relation to my life at the time, while adding new ones. I probably do write less about TV and popular culture than I once did, and many of my favorite bloggers unfortunately have put their efforts to pasture or are no longer with us. There have also been strange occurrences, such as other blogs basically plagiarizing my posts and featuring them under other names; the specifics of the entries, however, makes the theft a bit nonsensical, but when has that ever stopped thieves?

What also continues to amaze me is how many people have visited the blog. According to the stat counter (which I had to reinstall when transferring J's Theater to Blogger's new platform) 745,059 people have visited the blog over the years. Blogger's analytics tell me, however, that there have been 1,061,061 (!) viewers over the lifetime of the blog. Last month, there were 29,566. The all-time most popular post remains the Julia de Burgos poem page (61,822 views), followed by my post about Vanessa Place and conceptual poetics (12,475); an entry on Allen Ginsberg (6,340); the 2007 Rugby World Cup (5,264); and my review of Christophe Honoré's film Homme au bain (4,147). Over this last week, the most read posts remain the one about de Burgos and Place, as well as one on William Butler Yeats and Federico García Lorca; the post about the new Locke biography and the Richard T. Greener statue, and my review of Inxeba (The Wound). Over the life of the blog, the most visitors have come from the US (556,277), Russia (92,407), Germany (54,849), France, Great Britain, Ukraine, Canada, China, Brazil, and the Netherlands, in descending order; over the last month, the visitors have primarily come from the same countries, with Italy, Estonia and Poland replacing Canada, China and Brazil. In sum, visitors from across the globe are checking out the new posts and some very old ones, which is heartening to see.

I intend to continue blogging for as long as it remains of interest and I have the time and energy to do so. At some point I probably should see if I can hire an assistant to cull through the posts and draw up a list categorizing and indexing them by date, subject, and so on. I am not sure how many translations of my own I've posted on here, but I often find ones I'd completely forgotten, including an entry featuring a poem by the late Dominican-immigrant writer Carlos Rodríguez (1951-2001). To my surprise, someone commented on the post this past January 16, under the title "Escritor de la nada," to say that there's an anthology out featuring 4-5 poems by Rodríguez was now out. They did not leave a name, but I have put on my list of books to seek out.


It's also a little surprising, at least to me, to note that blogging as we know it is roughly only 21 years old. I noted the 10th anniversary of the platform and genre back in 2007. Perhaps it was around this time or not long after that some pundits began declaring blogging over and done, and yet just a few years after that, it had come back with such force that reality shows were touting the fact the some of their stars' occupations included "blogger." "The blogs" even became an epithet of sorts. Blogging has morphed several times since, with platforms like Tumblr including blogs with almost no words at all. There are still many wordsmiths still toiling out there, and, in the case of publications like The New York Review of Books, some of their more vital, relevant writing is appearing on their blog, NYR Daily.

In 2005, I also wrote about one of the important proto-bloggers, Clarice Lispector, whose formally inventive and topically expansive newspaper Crônicas are more like blogposts and less like the conventional opinion pieces one usually finds in contemporary US journalism. New Directions plans to publish one her most difficult and personal books, The Chandelier, later this spring.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

New Alain Locke Biography + Richard T. Greener Honored at University of South Carolina

When most people think of the Harlem Renaissance, they probably summon the names of its major literary and visual atists--Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Aaron Douglas, etc.--and even may note figures who were linked to but critical of some of its aspects, like W. E. B. DuBois. They also may recall the cultural shift under which it unfolded, "The New Negro Movement." But they may not know the name of the man who popularized the term "The New Negro," in a famous essay and in, perhaps most lastingly, in the title of his 1925 famous anthology, and who provided the intellectual foundation, and cultivated the networks out of which the Harlem Renaissance developed.

That man was Alain Leroy Locke (1885-1954), a Philadelphia native who attended Harvard College (AB 1907), became the first African American Rhodes Scholar, studied at the University of Berlin, and subsequently returned to Harvard to receive his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1918. Black, gay, physically unimposing, an adherent of the Bahá'í faith, and a gifted and productive thinker and writer, Locke not only provided the intellectual framework for the New Negro Movement and the Harlem Renaissance, through his championing of Black art and culture, and the idea of the Diaspora and its links to Africa, but he taught at Howard University from 1918 to 1925, when he was temporarily dismissed for teaching a course on race relations, and then, after reinstatement in 1928, until 1953, training generations of students, including Toni Morrison.

Jeffrey C. Stewart, a professor in the Department of Black Studies at University of California-Santa Barbara has just published a new, thorough biography of Locke, a scholar, critic, and cultural worker, situating him with the intellectual, social, political, and cultural contexts in which he lived. Titled The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (Oxford University Press, 2018), Stewart's study draws upon previously unavailable primary source material and interviews with Locke's colleagues, friends and associates. Divided into three sections, the first focusing on Locke's youth and eduction, the second on Locke's involvement with the Harlem Renaissance and his advancement of ideas of Black beauty and aesthetics, and the third exploring the latter portion of Locke's rich and fascinating life, Stewart's exploration of Locke's life and mind looks like it also will provide a richer illumination of the intellectual foundations of and complex relationships among members of the Harlem Renaissance and its many cultural legacies.

I have ordered a copy of Stewart's biography, which has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and a laudatory review in The New York Times, and am looking forward to reading it. (If I can, I may post a review on here.) I especially enjoyed listening to Professor Stewart discuss it on Midday in New York; you can hear that podcast here. You can also read Eugene Holley's excellent overview of Stewart's book on Publishers Weekly's website. Stewart's previous work includes several edited volumes about Locke, as well as the biography Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen and 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History, a text that, like the Locke biography, strikes me as particularly appropriate for our current moment.


The unveiling of the Richard T. Greener
statue, University of South Carolina
( © Tracy Glantz

Nearly half a century before Alain Locke graduated from Harvard, the first African American to enroll and successful receive a Harvard College degree left his name on the university's rolls, and proceeded to a remarkable life that, like Locke's, is now almost completely forgotten. Richard T. Greener, whom I'd previously blogged about when a contractor discovered a trunk of his belongings in a run-down Chicago home, was that first graduate (A.B. 1870), and, as part of his extraordinary journey, received a law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1876, during that brief period of post-Civil War Reconstruction, which meant a brief interlude of integration. From 1873 to 1877, Greener served as a professor at South Carolina, becoming the first African American professor there, and, once Reconstruction ended and white retrenchment and segregation resumed their hold, he moved to Howard University, where he would serve as the dean of the law school, before eventually entering government service as an agent in Vladivostok, Russia.

Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, at the unveiling
( © Tracy Glantz
Yesterday, the University of South Carolina unveiled a 9-foot tall statue honoring Greener as one its pioneering figures. Speakers, including Democratic Congressman and Minority Whip James Clyburn, praised his numerous contributions during his brief stay at the university, which included serving as professor of philosophy, while also teaching the classics, mathematics, and constitutional history and serving as USC's first librarian. The statue, by Jon Hair, stands next to the Thomas Cooper Library, which he led. While teaching Greener simultaneously enrolled in South Carolina's law school, graduating with honors, and was admitted to South Carolina's bar in 1876 and the DC bar in 1877. An advocate for racial equality, journalist, and secondary school educator as well, Greener later moved to DC, beginning his career at Howard in 1879, where he taught until 1881.

Evelyn Bausman, a grand-daughter
of Richard T. Greener, poses with
a statue of Greener that was
unveiled at The University of South Carolina.
( © Tracy Glantz

He would go on to open his own law practice, and later, after serving as US Consul to Bombay, India, became the first black US diplomat to a predominantly white country and the first American to hold his Russian post. Throughout, Greener kept writing and advocating on behalf of African Americans; ironically, his daughter, Belle da Costa Greene, would pass as a white woman in New York, and gained the confidence of and great influence with banker J. P. Morgan, becoming his chief manuscript advisor and eventually the first director of the Morgan Library. At a time when US municipalities, public and private institutions, and corporations are rethinking monuments to problematic historical figures and eras, like the Confederacy, the USC unveiling offers and enshrines a powerful and necessary counternarrative.

Richard T. Greener
(photo courtesy of Harvard
University Library)

In 2001, while celebrating its centenary, USC commissioned and staged a play, The White Problem, by Jon Tuttle, about Greener's time on campus. Then in 2013, the centenary of Greener's arrival at South Carolina, the university honored him by reintroducing him to the campus, complete with a ceremony (see below) on his behalf. Among the events to celebrate him, there was an official presentation of his law diploma and law license, which USC purchased from the Chicago trove. As for his first alma mater, Harvard installed a portrait of Greener in   its Annenberg Hall, located in its famous Memorial Hall (opened the year of Greener's graduation). In addition, the Cambridge Historical Commission mounted a plaque commemorating him on College House, in Harvard Square, at 1430 Massachusetts Avenue. You can learn more about Greener's life in Katherine Reynolds Chaddock's biography Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College (Johns Hopkins, 2017).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Annotations, Soon In Portuguese

Annotations, my first book, appeared 23 years ago, when New Directions published it in the fall of 1995. In the intervening years, the brief, dense, lyrical novel--or poetic memoir, if you like--has, I'm thankful to say, attracted a steady readership and remains in print. Until recently, however, neither the book nor any portion of it has ever been translated into another language, as my other work has. An attempt shortly after the book was published in the US failed because the foreign publisher felt Annotations was perhaps too culturally specific. For my part, based on my own experience as a reader and translator, I have long wondered if the dense web of allusions, and the intricate, often lilting quality of the prose was the barrier. But unless you hear from the publisher and potential translators, you may never know what is or was going on.

A few years ago, however, I learned that a planned publication of Annotations in Portuguese, or Anotações, was going to go forward. The publisher is A Bolha Editora, who co-published my translation into English of Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer in 2014 with Nightboat Books. Guided by writer, editor and genius Rachel Gontijo Araújo, A Bolha Editora is one of Brazil's exciting small presses, publishing both domestic and international authors, and have been based in the downtown Botafogo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro since their founding (though I believe they may have recently moved to Brasília, the federal capital). Among the other authors and artists on A Bolha's roster are a number of prose and poetic experimentalists, including Claude Cahun, Kammal João, Bhanu Kapil, Tove Jansson, Douglas A. Martin, Adriano Motta, Jesse Moynihan, Nathanaël, Virgílio NetoGail Scott, and Studs Turkel.

Anotações' translator is Daniel Lühmann, originally from Poço de Caldas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, and now living in Lisbon. Daniel has previously translated the noted graphic novel, Snowpiercer (A Perfura de Neve) by Jacques Lob, Benjamin LeGrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, and Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly (Um Reflexão na Escuridão), into Portuguese, and also makes intriguing performance videos, under the title "Pasarela" (Catwalk), which you can view on YouTube. If you read Portuguese, you can enjoy Mayra Azzi's short, informative profile of him on Revista Trip (the same site that featured the Thiago Borba images) going about his morning routine, with accompanying photos. Or if you are feeling especially tl;dr, you can see Azzi's photo series "Despertando com Daniel Lühmann" (Waking Up with Daniel Lühmann) at Cargo Collective.

Anotações, from A Bolha
Editora (image © A Bolha Editora
and Rodrigo Martins)
In terms of the translation process, he was a pleasure to work with, possessing not just a fine ear but a subtle eye, and we resolved some thorny issues involving vernacular terms and syntax, assonant, consonant and rhyming prose, and obscure references that American readers might be able to guess but Brazilians probably could not. (As was the case with the original version, it will have a glossary, though much expanded from the one I provided at the request of James Laughlin.)

Daniel even devised a solution to "Scaredy cat, scaredy cat, too scared to know where your shadow's at" that mirrors but is hardly an echo of the original. In the process, he even reminded me that I'd invented a few words in that text. His version will be of incalculable help to anyone translating Annotations into any other language, and, like the best translations, he creates a music akin to the original, but distinctively (Brazilian) Portuguese. To him, publisher, author and visionary Rachel Gontijo Araújo, and everyone at A Bolha Editora, I offer my deepest abraços e obrigadões.

The volume is slated to be out later this year, I think, and I think it's OK to show part of one of the covers (there may be two), which uses a original painting by Rio native Rodrigo Martins (cf. above).

Monday, February 19, 2018

Black Panther, Cinematic Milestone


This weekend brought the debut of Ryan Coogler's newest directorial triumph, Black Panther,  a Marvel Studios production distributed by Walt Disney Studios. Based on the eponymous Marvel Comics character, Black Panther, which features a black director and a nearly all-black diasporic cast, raised incalculable expectations for black moviegoers, comics fans, critics and the film industry, and, having seen it yesterday, I can say hesitation that it more than satisfies them. It manages to be a thrilling fantasy movie based on a comics foundation, a visually arresting and movingly acted wok of cinema, and a politically aware, multilayered film that keeps the viewer thinking even after the final credits and post-credit clip have rolled.

The film's plot mirrors similar superhero tales, but is, as has been widely remarked, anchored in and deeply informed by an African(ist) futurist aesthetic. The story's hero must assume the mantle of his father, and shoulder the profound responsibilities for his people, but the script, by Coogler and John Robert Cole includes twists, include two villains, one far more significant than the other, and a tale of familial revenge, linked to differing ideas of cultural socialization (African vs. African-American) and liberation, that I cannot say I have ever seen in any other superhero film. (One sees echoes of this, however, in a TV show like Black Lightning, which I wrote about last week.) Indeed, the deeper conflict in the film, rooted in the idea of family, now underpinned by the DNA testing industries and genealogical research, about the relationship between those in the Diaspora and those, like the Wakandans, who have remained in the African homeland, may pass over some moviegoers' heads, but to me was one of the most stirring aspects of the film. Another was the film's baseline feminist perspective; Wakanda may be presided over by a king, and Black Panther may be a cis-heterosexual male, but this is no patriarchy, and women are equals--as warriors and citizens--to the men, the ruler notwithstanding. As a template for the new century, and for black children and children of all races, this is a powerful model to internalize.
Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick
Boseman, & Danai Gurira
What underlines this portrait is the fictional Wakanda's almost singular status as an uncolonized and unconquered country; it and its people, the comics' and films' writers tell us, avoided the fate of almost every other non-Western country in the world. (Watching the film, I immediately thought of its closest African model, Ethiopia, a site of ancient knowledge and civilization, a religious center, the home of a proto-Enlightenment preceding that of Europe, and more, which nearly withstood all attempts at subjugation, until Benito Mussolini's firepower briefly won control of its territory (1936-1941).) What if Ethiopia, in addition to all of its advances, had possessed an element so powerful it might transform the world? Another analogue I thought of is the contemporary Republic of Congo, whose lands contain a host of precious and invaluable resources now used in the high tech industries. Centuries of slavery, colonialism and empire, however, have created tremendous challenges for the people of Congo, and other resource-rich African nations, to pursue their destinies to the fullest, though a cursory glimpse at the economic, political and social developments in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa underline that advancements of all kinds are underway.

To give just a glimpse of the plot, Black Panther unfolds with a quick prologue, set several centuries back. In a world parallel to our own, a meteor bearing the fictional metal vibranium, the rarest and most powerful element known to humankind, strikes central Africa. As five tribes wage war over the magical resource, a member of one of the tribes ingests a "heart-shaped bulb" that has been transformed by the vibranium, giving him special powers that lead him to become the first Black Panther. He unites four of the five tribes as the nation of Wakanda, with the fifth, the Jabari, remaining semi-independent in a loose confederation in the snowy mountains above. (A scene later in the film gives us a mini-tour of this aerie-perched nation; what was not clear was where most its women were, as if it were a kind of black Sparta in the clouds.) Rather than exploiting this remarkable resource, Wakanda chooses to guard it, presenting itself to the outside world as an impoverished, sleepy "Third World" member of the international community, while inside its borders, it is a technological powerhouse.
Lupita Nyong'o and
Letitia Williams
The film's real action opens in 1992, in an apartment in a housing project in Oakland, California (where the original Black Panther Party was established in 1966). Outside, a group of black boys are playing basketball. Inside the apartment, two young black men, whom we think are African Americans, appear to be plotting a revolution, stockpiling firearms. We soon learn that one of them, royal Prince N'jobu (Sterling K. Brown), really a Wakandan with aims of arming oppressed black people worldwide, is the brother of Wakanda's King, T'Chaka (Atandwa Kani), has arrived to bring his brother back for violating one of Wakanda's chief tenets: betraying the country by working with an outsider, arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, exuding malevolence), who has stolen a cache of vibranium from Wakanda. N'jobu's co-conspirator Zuri (Denzel Whitaker, related directly to neither of his namesakes!) turns out to be a fellow Wakandan and spy who has ratted him out. When N'jobu attempts to kill Zuri for snitching, the King slays his brother, and departs with Zuri for Wakanda. As their airship zooms away, one of the boys on the playground looks up at the apartment, and notes the fleeing spacecraft.

We flash forward to the current moment, which includes references to our contemporary world, in which the noble Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is set to assume the Wakandan throne after the assassination of his father, T'Challa (now played by veteran South African actor John Kani). We meet his younger sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), Wakanda's resident tech genius; his mother, the grieving Queen Ramonda (a suitably regal Angela Bassett); and the head of the Dora Milaje, the Wakandan state's all female guard,  General Okoye (Danai Gurira, embodying an electrifying blend of brilliance and ferocity). Before T'Challa's coronation begins, he and Okoye retrieve his ex, Nakia (a radiant Lupita Nyong'o), now a deep operative in Nigeria, the sparks still evident between them. As part of his ritual installment, before a royal audience outdoors, above waterfalls, and presided over by a much older Zuri (Forest Whitaker), T'Challa must face a challenger from any of Wakanda's tribes, all of whom, including his best friend, W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), beg off. The Jabari tribe's head, the strapping (6'5" and stoutly built) M'Baku (Winston Duke), does raise a challenge, only to eventually tap out after being subdued by T'Challa. This is one of several rituals the viewer witnesses, giving a sense of the depth of the culture and the reverence with which power is transferred.
T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) facing off
against Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, at right)
The plot then moves first to South Korea, where the trio of T'Challa, Nakia and Okoye seek out Klaue (and Black Panther's creator, the legendary Stan Lee, makes a brief cameo), with a brief detour in London, before returning to the familiar confines of Wakanda. In the British capital, in a museum displaying African artifacts, we encounter another of the film's major characters, the oddly named but cinematically galvanizing Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who devours the screen every time he is on it. In fact, he moves through the script as a literal antithesis to Boseman's T'Challa. Where the new king is restrained, dignified, almost placid, personality traits Boseman portrays effortlessly, Jordan's Killmonger is all confident swagger, a mental and physical paragon (he nearly scorches the screen when he takes off his shirt for battle), pulsating with rage born of vengeance and, the viewer eventually learns, a sense of profound abandonment. Why, he asks, was he--like Black America--left to fend for himself, a question that the film suggests is the question of the entire Diaspora; yet, as we know, Africa itself has had a centuries-long battle on its hands too. When Killmonger reaches Wakanda, he upsets the social and political cassava cart, a civil war included, and the heart of the movie turns on whether his vision of the world, or T'Challa's, will prevail. (No spoilers!) As I noted above, their senses of duty are parallel; each seeks to rule, but in the service of an idea, and communities, beyond themselves. For Killmonger, is is black and other oppressed people of color across the globe; for T'Challa, it is his birthright, Wakanda. In the end, we see how the visions merge.

The acting is uniformly strong, and the viewer gets the sense that everyone in the film is enjoying themselves. Winston Duke and Letitia Wright are among the many breakout stars, if there are rolls for them down the road, and it was invigorating to see Boseman, Jordan, Nyong'o, and Gurira in roles other than biopics, historical narratives or realist tragedies, important and necessary as such films are. In 2006 and again in 2012 I wrote about the increasingly Diasporic cast of black Hollywood, and this film fully represents that shift, drawing its talent from across the globe, while bringing together venerable figures like Kani, Academy Award winners like the senior Whitaker, and beginners like the younger Whitaker. As other commenters have noted, the films is that rare Hollywood product that also seems not beholden to colorism, particularly for its leading actresses. How rare--and needed!--to see dark-skinned women not relegated to the background, but in the forefront of a story, yet this felt organic, not forced, like most of what the film offers its viewers. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison deserves praise for the rich imagery and her skillful blending of realism and CGI, and the score, by Ludwig Göransson, with contributions by Kendrick Lamar, and others, complements and enlivens what the viewer sees.
Michael B. Jordan, as Erik
Killmonger; Daniel Kaluuya,
as W'Kabi at right
I have so far not commented much on any of the film's white characters; in addition to Klaue, who functions mainly as a plot feint and device, there is another, CIA agent Everett K. Ross, played by Martin Freeman, who occupies a pivotal place in the plot. Ross appears in the original comics as a fairly timid, low-key character, I believe, but the filmmakers expanded his role and pumped up his personality, making him not just essential to what unfolds, but memorable as well. (It paints the CIA in a favorable light, despite the agency's less than honorable history in advancing US neocolonial, imperial and capitalist aims in Africa and elsewhere.) As a thought experiment, I asked myself, what if he had been played by a Latinx actor, say, or, given China's growing role in Africa, by a major Chinese-American or Chinese star? Would Hollywood ever have allowed that?

I then wondered about future iterations of Black Panther, which because of its box office success (like $200 million earned over the opening weekend, with receipts set to keep rising, and a fan base that dots the globe); will the original comics' template, and Hollywood's desire for viable white stars, shape the storylines, or will the films' directors and screenwriters delve a little more deeply into other parts of the world, considering South Korea, for example, not just as a scenic backdrop, but Korean and Korean-American actors--and other Asian American and Asian actors, actors from Latin America, and so on--for key roles? What would a big budget but decolonized, Afro-futurist and Diasporic, plural cinema look like? Would Disney, let alone Marvel Comics, allow it? Black Panther certainly provokes the question.
T'Challa (Boseman) again
facing off against Killmonger (Jordan)
I will end this review am not familiar enough with all of the past iterations of Black Panther to know which Coogler and Cole drew from, but I believe in one of the newer versions, Okoye, in addition to being womynist, is a lesbian. In this film, her love interest is W'Kabi, however. (They generate little heat on camera, unlike T'Challa and Nakia.) Will queer Wakandans make an appearance in future iterations of the film, or will wariness on the issue win out? Also, and this is just a minor quibble, but there is a patriarchal, pro-monarchist ideological strain in the film, connected to a quite different but related notion of Afrocentricity--"we are descendants of kings and queens"-- that I found a little unsettling. Of course some of us are descended, however distantly, from royals, and African Americans may find, upon receiving their DNA results, that our royal roots go in multiple directions (Africa, Europe, etc.), but the reality for most of us is that we come from the people who did the work to build most societies and cultures up, that is, from the bottom up, and there is nothing in this to be ashamed about. Patriarchy under any guise is problematic.

Moreover, at a time when democracy feels especially precarious, in the US, in the Americas, in Europe, in Africa, and across the globe, I hope that the writers of Black Panther's sequels can figure out a way to weave a vibrant representative democracy and republican structure into their portrayal of Wakanda's government.  I have nothing against noble black kings and queens, but everyone needs to see decent, dedicated politicians, black and of every hue, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, etc., taking the right and judicious steps, on behalf of the people they represent and the globe, which may include not only keeping each other, but kings--and presidents--on the just path.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Inxeba (The Wound)

The poster for Inxeba (The Wound)

Last year, a realist film set in Africa--South Africa, to be specific--debuted, both to great fanfare and considerable controversy that has only exploded in subsequent months.  Titled Inxeba, isiXhosa for "The Wound," and directed by white South African John Trengove, the story turns on a triangle of troubled desire involving three young Xhosa men, one a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, at an initiation ritual in the mountains of South Africa. Inxeba has since received a raft of awards, including the African American Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film, the Durban International Film Festival's awards for Best Actor and Best Director, the L.A. Outfest's winner in the Outstanding International Narrative Award, the London Film Festival's Sutherland Award for outstanding first feature, and the Mumbai Film Festival's Jury Grand Prize. It also has provoked virulent denunciation, including a demand by the Xhosa King that it be shut down; death threats against its cast; and, recently, in response to the growing uproar online and on the ground, an extreme X18 rating, essentially reclassifying it as pornography, which is most certainly is not, effectively banning it from most movie theaters in its home country. This has sparked its own backlash online.

Nakhane, as Xolani, leading
a group of initiates; Niza Jay
as Kwanda is third from left
Critics have fixed on the fact that an outsider depicted a culture he does not know or belong to, as well as on the belief that the film reveals secret initiation rites, though the film's Xhosa executive producer (Batana Vundla) and writers (Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu), and its actors note that in fact, the charges are false, and that Madiba Nelson Mandela's 1994 autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom reveals far more information about initiation rites than the film, which mainly uses the ceremonial space as a backdrop. In fact, the director and executive producer even brought in a cultural expert to ensure they were getting this correct. What the protests obscure, perhaps intentionally in some cases, is that Inxeba is a groundbreaking film, for relative progressive (at least on paper) South Africa and the continent, as assured in its direction and action as in its cinematography, and the story it tells, about queer desire, masculinities, community, and cultural tradition in contemporary society, underscores the struggles its protagonist and so many like him face, not only in South Africa and across the continent, but the globe.
Nakhane, as Xolani, with his defiant
mentee, Kwanda, played by Niza Jay
The protagonist of Inxeba is Xolani (Nakhane [Touré]), a single, soft-spoken, DL factory worker, who heads to the Eastern Cape mountainside to participate in the annual Xhosa manhood initiation rites of ukwaluka, with other men in his community. In the all-male space, the organizers' goal is to create a deep spiritual, cultural, and social bond between and among the participants, thereby cementing their senses of connection as they age into fatherhood and the community's elders. Xolani has gone through the rites himself, and acquits himself with quiet restraint, thus making him suitable as a guide and mentee for a young man from the next cycle. This time through, a wealthy resident of Johannesburg requests that Xolani to serve as his son's guide, urging him to be tough on the young man, Kwanda (Niza Jay), whom he feels is "too soft." Kwanda is in fact effeminate, openly queer, and defiantly outspoken. He appears to care more about his expensive sneakers and the lack of comfort in his lodgings in than acceding to expectations of the initiation experience, which includes not just the traumatic ritual circumcision and gatherings with fellow initiates, but avowals and toughening exercises to ensure a particular understanding of cis-hetero patriarchial black manhood.
Bongile Mantsai as Vija, comforting
Nakhane, as Xolani
The third figure in the triangle is Vija (Bongile Mantsai), an outgoing, insistently physical, lighthearted former initiate who, we quickly learn, is also Xolani's secret lover. Vija is married to a woman and on the verge of becoming a father, but he also still possesses affection and desire for Xolani, and after their effusive greeting, they are soon making love in the secrecy of an abandoned building or the high grass, and openly tussling before a campfire, their embraces and exchanges hardly as innocent as the elders and young initiates around them may believe. While Vija enjoys the sexual relationship and is drawn to Xolani, his goal is to return to his wife; Xolani, however, is in love, but tries to maintain a thin façade of sublimation and covering, to use Kenji Yoshino's term, his struggle playing out not only in his attempts to regulate his emotions around Vija, especially when the other men are around, but in his treatment of Kwanda, whom he alternately approaches with severity and understanding. Above all, he offers the multi-edged advice, which he is trying his best to live out,  though perhaps he knows Kwanda is not going to heed it: "When you go home, you don't speak of what happened here."
Nakhane as Xolani, embracing
Bongile Mantsai, as Vija
This is not Las Vegas, and Kwanda, however, sees through Xolani's mask and performance. Representing not just a new generation but the product of decades of fight for racial, political but also social and sexual liberation, in South Africa and across the globe, Kwanda presses Xolani at one point, almost as a taunt and interrogation of his mentor's participation in the ritual, "What brings you back here? Don't you miss your friends? Or your girlfriend?" Later he sizes up Xolani in devastating fashion, saying, "I see what you are. But you can't admit it." The rites are not what is going to make a "man" of Kwanda, nor are the forced chants, the taunts against his sexuality, or the threat of violence. Instead, for Kwanda what counts is being true to yourself, whether that clashes with the society and culture around you. He even begins to orbit Vija's group of initiates, and Vija himself, spurring Xolani to panic. I will avoid spoilers, but Kwanda's instincts about Xolani and Vija are correct, his inquisitiveness upsets Xolani, and the results are tragic, suggesting that no matter how progressive national and metropolitan laws and attitudes may be, longstanding cultural strictures, and the worldviews they produce, particularly among embattled and oppressed people, can produce catastrophe when they collide. The wound remains open, and is bleeding.
Niza Jay, as Kwanda, with
Bongile Mantsai as Vija
Nakhane almost effortlessly captures the emotional and physical tension bristling in Xolani, his eyes dams holding back his longing, his suffering, his tenuous and continuous attempts at self-calibration. His ability to project a gentleness and fragility within an outward hardness rings particularly true. Based on this role, if he wants it and if there are enough roles for him, he should have a long and brilliant career. (Nakhane also is an acclaimed singer, and a published novelist.) Niza Jay's Kwanda is another linchpin, embodying both an acute and delicate vulnerability that leaves him constantly open to verbal and physical assaults, and a vocal, fearless defiance that serves, at least temporarily, as a shield, not only from the other young men and elders, but from Xolani. It would not be hard to imagine these two men standing side by side without incident or even interaction in a store aisle or in a gay bar in Cape Town, but in the socially pressurized space of ukwaluka, the actors convey, through looks, gestures and words, the cataclysm that ultimately seems likely to occur. Praise also should go to Bongile Mantsai, who effortlessly brings Vija to life. The viewer never once doubts that he can make love to Xolani one minute, then banter about women and be thinking about his pregnant spouse in the next. His ability to mark out the film's visual and psychic space, modeling a particularly form of corporeal hypermasculinity, also is impressive.
Niza Jay, as Kwanda
The writers have produced a taut, often tender, psychologically and socially perceptive script that, as Trengove, who served as a co-writer, has pointed out, took inspiration from but was not an adaptation of Thando Mgqolozana's A Man Is Not a Man. Cinematographer Paul Ozgur not only manages to show the striking beauty of the Eastern Cape mountain region, but also demonstrates an ability to provide visual clarity to Trengove's sometimes deep and carefully composed scenes. Perhaps in anticipation of the criticism to come, the camera often captures elders in the background, visible but somewhat blurred, seeing but not really looking at or grasping what is unfolding under their gaze; or rather, it is not their gaze through which we see what is happening, but the queer ones, of Xolani, Vija and Kwanda. Perhaps this is what has set off the critics more than anything. It also points to the fact that we--South Africans, Africans, and the world--need more such films, how uncomfortable they might make some viewers, to parallel and complement the deservingly lauded Afrofuturist fantasies of Black Panther. What we also need are stories that show the Xolanis, Vijas, Kwandas, and their cis and trans female, male and non-binary compatriots living their lives in a variety of settings; Inxeba demonstrates that if there is funding and audience support, the talent is there to make these future stories a reality.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Carnaval in Recife (AfroPop Worldwide)

Carnaval in Recife, 2018
It's that time of the year: Carnival in the Caribbean, Hispanophone Latin America, and Europe, Carnaval in Brazil and Portugal, Mardi Gras in parts of the US, all marking the rise of the Lenten season. Over the years I've periodically blogged about Carnival celebrations, with the last such post, a search tells me, coming in 2012, my final year in Chicago. Those snowy Midwestern winters often provoked thoughts of getting far away and celebrating at a Carnival celebration, but the scheduling has never panned out. Glancing through news sites during the last several weeks, I've begun noting photos of preparations for Carnival and the big events themselves, fermenting once again my desire to attend one.

In lieu of doing so this year, I am posting a few photos from a Carnaval celebration in Recife, one of the oldest and major cities in Brazil's northeastern region. The Recife Carnaval is an important and culturally distinctive Carnaval in Brazil (the other key ones are in Salvador da Bahia and Rio de Janeiro), with the ethos that all attendees are participants, an Afro-Brazilian religious performance, Maracatú, at its core, and a drag parade to open it. Recife's local frevo music also serves as one of many soundtracks for the Carnaval blocos.

Since I'm in cold--and snowy (sigh!)--New Jersey and not Recife, the photos are courtesy of Banning Eyre, and are featured on AfroPop Worldwide.  I'm only going to share a few of the photos, all of which are copyrighted and belong to AfroPop Worldwide and Banning Eyre, so please do head over to AfroPop Worldwide's blog to see the rest. Banning Eyre says a bit not only about the Carnival events, with a bit of background about Recife Carnaval, but also notes how Brazilian's faltering economy is effecting the celebration.

If you have photos of Carnival or Carnaval celebrations, in Recife or anywhere else, please do share the links in the comments section here!

Side street maracatu!
Frevo on parade
No means no, My body is not
your plaything. Women's empowerment
is surging in Brazil, as elsewhere.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brazilian Notes: Quilombo Decree Upheld + Borba's "Black is Beautiful (#BLVCKSBTFLL)"

The signs read, "Brazil is quilombo residents;
not one less quilombo"
All over the Americas, when fugitive slaves had the opportunities to escape and set up maroon (marrons in French, cimarrones in Spanish, maròn/mawòn in Kreyol/creole, etc.) communities, beyond the administrative and military grasp of the settler-colonial and slave system, they did so. These communities took different forms in different parts of the hemisphere, but their legacies continue, sometimes in name (palenques in Spanish, maroon towns or free towns in English), sometimes in traces and foundations that are mostly forgotten but still inspire the descendants. In Brazil, these communities were often known as quilombos, the most famous of which remains Palmares, in the interior of the northeastern state of Alagoas, north of Bahia, established by a group of fugitive slaves and warriors led by the great Imbangala (Angola)-descended Zumbi (1655-1695).

Quilombos, from the Kimbundu word kilombo, dot rural areas far from the major metropoles across northern and northeastern Brazil. As anti-colonial and anti-imperial, black-centered zones of resistance, they were targets of the Portuguese and later Brazilian governments in the colonial period, and the state's administrative, bureaucratic, legal, social, and economic war against them has not relaxed in the 20th and 21st centuries. From attempts to seize title to quilombo land to the murders of quilombolas (residents of the quilombos), these communities have had to engage in continual struggle to stay whole, and free. A ruralist coalition of lawmakers, some allied with agribusiness and other powerful interests, has repeatedly attempted to gain control of the increasingly valuable quilombo territory. In 2003, however, then-President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva signed a decree that expanded the quilombolas' rights to title and demarcated their land, empowering the residents to gain legal title in order to keep them.

Brazil's current president, the profoundly unpopular Michel Temer, took office after a soft 2016 coup in which he and the Brazilian Congress impeached and ousted popularly elected president Dilma Rousseff, Lula's successor, over technical budgeting violations. Temer subsequently began instituting a range of neoliberal policies, under the aegis of pro-market rhetoric, yet Brazil's economy has continued to sputter, and the once expanding lower middle class of the Lula years has increasingly tumbled back into poverty. Among Temer's actions that threatened the quilombos was an order to suspend the titling process for the quilombos, which are supposedly protected by the Brazilian Constitution, until the Brazilian Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, or STF) could rule on the validity of the decree Lula signed, which the conservative Democratic Party challenged.

After over five years in court, an overwhelming majority of the justices voted, 10-1, to uphold the decree, finally leading the Democratic Party's leader, Senator Agripino Maia, from the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte, to end his opposition. The STF ruling represents a major victory for the quilombo communities and Afro-Brazilians in general, as well as for indigenous Brazilians, who have seen their lands seized and rights threatened, and a significant defeat for the powerful conservative rural interests, and their allies, including overtly racist, homophobic leading far-right presidential contender Jair Bolsonaro (of Rio de Janeiro state), who have strongly supported Temer.

As Black Women of Brazil blog reported (translating a report from the Brazilian media site iG):

Members of the National Coordination of Articulation of the Quilombola Rural Black Communities (Conaq) celebrated the [decision].”This is a first step in the recognition of the debt that the Brazilian State has with the quilombolas, as it also has with the natives,” said Denildo Rodrigues, a member of the association at the end of the trial.

Conaq was one of many associations engaged in lobbying the STF in voting. Among other actions, it organized the undersigned “Not one less quilombo”, which had more than 100 thousand signatures requesting the maintenance of Lula’s decree.

“There is no motive, reason or circumstance today for the policy of titling quilombos to be or remain paralyzed. What is expected now is for the public administration to continue and complete the regularization processes,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer at the Socio-Environmental Institute, also involved in the case.

It would be foolhardy to believe that this successful ruling will completely halt outside interests' attempts to gain control of the quilombolas' land, but it does give them an even stronger legal foundation to defend themselves in the courts, even as they battle ongoing violence and other forms of predation.

* * *

Photo © Thiago Borba
Black Women of Brazil Blog (BWBB) is always a trove of current, informative news about Black Brazil. One recent article I enjoyed featured the work of Bahian-born and based photographer Thiago Borba, whose current project, "Black Is Beautiful," so appropriate for Black History Month, is featured at Revista Trip. On that site, in an article entitled "A coisa tá preta" (The thing is black), writer Giulia Garcia discusses Borba's route to the project, which uses the respective English title and hashtag Black is Beautiful (#BLVCKSBTFLL). After turning to photography in 2006 and studying in Spain, Borba could find no jobs in Bahia, so he pursued a commercial career in São Paulo to make ends meet.
Photo © Thiago Borba
In 2016, however, he reconnected with an earlier interest in exploring the topic of blackness in relation to beauty, still so fraught in Brazil, and started a photographic project entitled Paraíso Oculto (Hidden Paradise), melding images of black beauty in human form and natural landscapes. As BWBB regularly points out, contestations over beauty, and valorization of Eurocentric standards, constantly play out not only in interpersonal and intrafamilial spaces, but in the Brazilian public sphere. A number of spectacular, overtly racist incidents, involving denigration of Afrobrazilians' hair, features, color, style, and intelligence, have occurred over just the last year. One irony in all of this is that Afrobrazilians now constitute a numerical majority in the country, with sizable populations in Brazil's north, northeast and southeast.

Photo © Thiago Borba
He returned to Bahia from São Paulo last year, and began focusing on images of Afrobrazilians, particularly darker-skinned ones, who remain the most discriminated against in Brazil--not unlike in the US, where colorism within black communities, and within the larger US society, persists. Bahia is the traditional African heart of Brazil, with the highest percentage of self-identified black ("negro") and brown or mixed race ("pardo") residents, but hierarchies of color, class and ancestry exist there as well. As the Brazilian saying goes, "Quanto mais preto, mais preconceito sofre" (How much blacker you are, the more prejudice you suffer"), as true in Bahia as in pats of Brazil far smaller black populations, like Santa Catarina, in the far south.

Photo © Thiago Borba
Photo © Thiago Borba
The new project centers "pretos retintos" (dark-skinned blacks), those people who are "mais preto," amid a range of hues; Borba draws his subjects mostly not from the ranks of models, but from his personal and broader social network. (Looking at the photos, though, any of these subjects could or should model, and some, like Vanderlei Nagô, clearly are modeling!) Borba began posting the images on his Instagram page, and from there they gained wider notice and were selected for the state of Bahia's Novembre Negro (Black November) campaign. (November 20 is Dia da Conciência Negra, a holiday celebrated since the 1960s and officially established as a legal holiday in 2003 to honor the death, in 1695, of none other than Zumbi do Palmares, mentioned above. In Bahia, the entire month is beginning to assume the cast of honoring black Brazilian history.)
Photo © Thiago Borba
According to BWBB and Revista Trip, one of the images was even promoted on billboards, on buses and in the metro, among other public spaces. For Borba, this expanded reach was important in helping to amplify, in the eyes of minds of Afrobrazilians and all Brazilians, the representation and representativeness of black people in Brazilian society. It is a battle we continue to fight in the US, in similar and different ways.
Photo © Thiago Borba
Photo © Thiago Borba

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Parkland Massacre & The Pressing Need for Gun Control

16 of the 17 fatal victims of the
Parkland school shooting
(From NBC News)
Another day, and extremely saddening and confounding to have to say, another school shooting, this one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida. Yesterday, on Valentine's Day, a 19-year-old expelled student, Nikolas Cruz, arrived on the school campus at 2:19 pm and, according to reports, began his terroristic assault  using a AR-15 assault rifle, ultimately killing 17 students and teachers, several of whom sacrificed their own lives to save others, and wounding over a dozen more. Cruz managed to escape with the fleeing students, walking to a nearby Walmart and then a Subway, but was later apprehended by police at 3:41 pm that same day as he strolled down a nearby residential street.

Reports suggest that despite Cruz's deeply troubled history at home and in school, the young man was able to purchase the AR-15 legally, in February of last year. Orphaned after the death of his adopted father, Roger Cruz, roughly ten years ago and his adoptive mother, Lynda, of pneumonia last November, he had been living at the home of a former schoolmate, whose parents apparently knew about the assault rifle and other weaponry he possessed. Cruz also had been working at a local dollar store at the time of the attack.

In addition to his expulsion, Cruz apparently was known for virulently racist and anti-Semitic postings online. Cruz has been pictured wearing a pro-Trump red cap, and a white supremacist leader also came forward to say that Cruz was linked to his group and had trained with them, though that assertion remains under scrutiny. One neighbor had videotaped Cruz firing off a BB pistol, and classmates stated that, before the murderous assault, they were concerned that Cruz might commit such an attack. Indeed, one teacher came forward to say that the school had been warned not to let Cruz bring a backpack onto campus. The FBI had received a warning about one of Cruz's disturbing social media posts on YouTube, in which he supposedly wrote that he wanted to "be a professional school shooter," but their followup produced no leads. The Bureau has since expressed regret for not being able to do more.

New York Times reporters Julie Turkiewicz, Patricia Mazzei and Audra D. S. Burch note in their roundup of news about the Parkland incident that "with this shooting, three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have come within the last three months." Since Adam Lanza's 2012 mass murder of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 438 people--children, adults--have been wounded in over 200 school shootings, and 138 have died. Moreover, there have been eight school shootings through the first seven weeks of the new year; to put it another way, as the Guardian points out, "guns have been fired on school property in the US at least 18 times so far this year."

School shootings since Sandy Hook, in 2012
Gunshot victims in school shootings:
Red dots = killed; pink dots = injured
(from New York Times)

Under any measure, this is a horrifying and unacceptable situation, though the persistence of such attacks, going back decades (remember Columbine?), and the continued inaction of the US Congress in tightening a range of gun laws--or even severely restricting access to firearms--underlines why these mass tragedies have become almost routine. Indeed, Congress and many stage legislatures, in thrall to the National Rifle Association and similar groups, have moved in the opposite direction, to loosen gun laws, allowing concealed carry provisions, guns in college classrooms, and so on.

At the time of the time of the Newtown massacre, then President Barack Obama vowed to address the crisis with legislation, and received support from many Democrats in Congress. But Republican leaders and legislators in the House and Senate refuse to enact new strictures, or even reauthorize lapsed ones, like the assault weapons ban. Early last year, Donald Trump even signed away the gun check regulation President Obama had put in place to make it harder for mentally ill people to acquire firearms. I should note that while violent crimes have plummeted in the US since the 1990s, other forms of violence, ranging from police killings of suspects to these mass murder events have not slowed. The US remains more armed than some entire foreign militaries, and guns, especially ones than can kill large numbers of people, are too easy to sell and purchase.  One parallel I noted on Twitter was the US's barely discussed but extensive wars across the globe, which continue under Trump's watch as they did under Obama, who inherited a number of them from George W. Bush; these external, almost shadow wars mirror the ones occurring inside our borders, where certain kinds of violence and, as we witnessed yesterday, slaughter have essentially become normalized.

One difference this time may be the outspokenness of the young survivors, who have not been silence since this incident. From outraged parents to students calling out Congress, Florida's governor and legislators, and Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress, the outcry looks like it may have some effect. The key word, of course, is "may"; again and again after these unspeakable tragedies, which do not occur anywhere else in the world outside of wartime conditions with the frequency they do here, we have heard calls for regulation gun access, but the NRA and Republicans--and even some Democrats--stall meaningful legislation. Let's hope that this time is different, and that those slain and injured in Parkland receive at least one tribute they merit, which is to spur those in positions of power to do something, beginning with reinstituting sane gun laws and eventually going much further, to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to acquire a human-killing machine, in order to prevent any more massacres of this kind.