Quotable Quote of the Month

What does it take for Republicans to take off the flag pin and say, 'I am just too embarrassed to be on this team'?".- Bill Maher

Thursday, May 20, 2010

TCM Remembers Lena Horne

As a tribute to the legendary Lena Horne (who passed away on May 14th at the age of 92), Turner Classic Movies will be airing a 3 film salute starting at 8 pm EST on Friday, May 21st.

Making her film debut in the 1938 musical The Duke Is Tops, Lena became the first black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio when she joined MGM in the early 1940s. For the most part, Lena's film appearances during the 30s and 40s were in "specialty" roles in which she'd perform a song that wasn't essential to the film's plot. This allowed her appearances to be easily edited out when the movies aired in Southern states. This tactic is deftly illustrated during the outstanding 1998 documentary Melvin Van Peebles' Classified X, which explores the portrayal of blacks in American films throughout the 20th century. The two exceptions during this period where Lena had substantial film roles were Cabin In the Sky and Stormy Weather (which ironically was produced by one of MGM's rivals, 20th Century Fox).

Although Hollywood rarely made proper use of Lena Horne's talents, she was a trailblazer in the truest sense. Every black actress from Dorothy Dandridge to Gabourey Sidibe owes Ms. Horne a debt of gratitude.

Below is the lineup of Lena Horne films that TCM will air on Friday, May 21st:

8:00 PM ET The Duke is Tops

9:30 PM ET Cabin in the Sky

11:15 PM ET Panama Hattie

You can read TCM's article on the career of Lena Horne by visiting the following link:

TCM Remembers Lena Horne

Shortly after Lena's death, I was contacted by someone at Newsy.com who wanted to know if I'd be interested in sharing the following short video with my readers. The video is a tribute to Lena's career that showcases the media response to her death and her comments on racial identity. If you have problems watching the embedded video, please click here.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teachable Moments To Remember In Ann Arbor and Arizona

Due to a variety of factors, a couple of recent stories have been simmering on my proverbial back burner. Since they happened close together and are related to education, I decided to kill two misguided actions with one stone and combine them into one post.

Ann Arbor School Sponsors A Black Students Only Field Trip

Align Left

Earlier this month in Ann Arbor, MI, Dicken Elementary School Principal
Michael Madison became the center of controversy when he arranged a field trip for black students only in which they got to hear Alec Gallimore (a black rocket scientist) speak at the University of Michigan. Understandably, the parents of students who were excluded were upset. In an effort to address their concerns, Madison sent a letter home to parents which said:

“In hindsight, this field trip could have been approached and arranged in a better way,” Madison wrote. “But as I reflect upon the look of excitement, enthusiasm and energy that I saw in these children’s eyes as they stood in the presence of a renowned African American rocket scientist in a very successful position, it gave the kids an opportunity to see this type of achievement is possible for even them.

“It was not a wasted venture for I know one day they might want to aspire to be the first astronaut or scientist standing on the Planet Mars.

“I also think it’s important that you know that I have talked to the children who did not go on the field trip, and I think they have a better understanding of the purpose of the AA Lunch Bunch now, as I hope you do. I’m sorry if any kids were upset by the field trip or my discussion afterwards with them, and I have let them know that.

“The intent of our field trip was not to segregate or exclude students as has been reported, but rather to address the societal issues, roadblocks and challenges that our African American children will face as they pursue a successful academic education here in our community.”

As unfortunate as incidents such as the one involving Dicken Elementary School are, their aftermath tends to reveal how messed up some people are in their thinking. Although there were some calm and rational comments on the various forums I visited throughout the Internet that covered this story, many of the posters chose to wear their ignorance like a badge of honor. Here are three of my "favorites":

I believe it is time for an NAAWP!!!! I would love to hear from anyone that might know how and where to start this organization. Can you imagine what an outcry it would have been had it been ONLY WHITE kids!!!!!!! Oh my gosh...I am soooooooooooo sick of hearing how the blacks are discriminated against. THAT IS JUST A LIE!!!!! It is time for white people to make a stand so our grandchildren do not have to put up with this bull!!!!

Everyone knows that this racist principal is the product of affirmative action --- benefits derived from racial preferences. I'm sure that's how he got into college, and equally sure that's how he got his job. No honest person can imagine this idiot is where he is today by merit. He's just passing on the belief that blacks get special treatment to his little kids. God save the poor kids in Michigan public schools who are defenseless against this unionized educational corruption.

This just reinforces why liberals should never be allowed to have close contact with children. Not in our schools, not writing books, not in day care, not as scout leaders. If we are going to take our country back, it has to start with the kids, at every level. Don't let an Obama supporter mow your grass, don't let them collect your garbage, pull them out of their class at school. Don't let them coach your baseball team, and if a liberal applies where you work, make sure they don't get the job. It's war, and they are the enemy.

What are you gonna do with people like that? I will hand it to the last two commenters though. Although they are woefully ignorant, they counterbalance that with traces of keen observation. How else could they know that Principal Madison is not only a liberal, but a product of Affirmative Action? That's awesome!

I think Principal Madison had good intentions. Results from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) released this school year found that 97 percent of white fifth-grade students at Dicken who took the test were "proficient" or above in all categories, while the figure was 78 percent for African-American students. However, he missed a golden opportunity by allowing only black students to benefit from Alec Gallimore's story.

Let me also add that this story is being incorrectly painted solely as a "racism against whites" issue. As of September 2009, 53.8 percent of Dicken's 379 students were white, 18.5 percent black, 8.7 percent Asian, 5.8 percent Hispanic and 2.1 percent Middle Eastern. The remaining 11 percent were listed as "multiethnic" or "other" on the district's website.

Arizona bill banning ethnic studies signed into law

Now we get to Arizona, which has been on a roll as of late. On May 11th, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill banning ethnic studies in public schools. The law, which takes effect Dec. 31, bans classes that are designed for a particular ethnic group, promote overthrow of the U.S. government, foster resentment toward a particular race or class, or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."

The bill leaves it up to the state Board of Education or superintendent to decide whether a school violates the law. A school that does not comply could lose 10 percent of its state aid each month, and school districts can appeal the finding.

If there are ethnic studies teachers in AZ with questionable methods, they should be handled on an individual basis. Howver, banning ethnic studies in public schools entirely is not the way to go. When I was in high school, I took a class called Minorities in the U.S. I saw it as an opportunity to learn about things that weren't being taught in my other classes. The fact that my Minorities in the U.S. teacher was fine as hell was just an added bonus! One thing I remember is that there was one white student in the class. He may have been the only non-black student in the class for that matter. His name was Scott and if the term "nice guy" was in the dictionary, you'd probably see a picture of him next to the definition. There were never any incidents where Scott was the target of resentment by me or the other students in the class. He was there to learn just like we were and that was the bottom line. I have no doubt that there are "Scotts" today who would welcome the chance to take ethnic studies classes.

Below is a clip from CNN in which Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and author/radio host Michael Eric Dyson debate the issue.

Although different on the surface, both the Dicken Elementary School incident and the new AZ law banning ethnic studies are very similar. The former deprived and the latter will deprive students from learning about others who don't share their background. Should the situation arise again, I hope that Principal Michael Madison will give students regardless of their race a chance to learn from someone like Alec Gallimore. Hopefully, the powers that be in AZ will realize that all students can gain something from taking an ethnic studies class.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

American Flag Raises A Red Flag For CA School Officials

At Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, CA, a controversy erupted on Cinco de Mayo when five male students showed up to school that day wearing clothing adorned with the American flag. Officials at the school (which has a large Mexican-American student population) deemed the garments "incendiary" and "disrespectful". The officials feared that displaying the flag would incite fights between Mexican-American students and their five peers. While the quintet were at brunch break (brunch break?!), the vice principal asked two of the boys to remove the American flag bandannas they were wearing on their heads and for the others to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out. When they refused, the boys were ordered to go to the principal's office (do not pass "Go", do not collect $200!) The students were told that if they returned to class with their American flag-adorned clothing, they would be suspended. To avoid suspension, the students went home for the day.

Below is the story as reported by an NBC affiliate in the Bay area:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/video.

The following day, Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Wesley Smith said, "While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing." For more on the story, click here.

Although I think the five students wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo was their way of saying "How ya like me now?" to the Mexican-American students, so what! Forcing them to change or else get suspended was the wrong move to make. It looks to me like the school officials hid behind the "safety of the students" shield to cover their overly PC asses. It's not like the quintet wore clothing emblazoned with swastikas or that said "white power", it was the American flag!

Side note: When I checked out the Wikipedia page for Morgan Hill this afternoon, I found it interesting that the "Politics" section ended with the following: "Morgan Hill is known for its excessive love for America and the American flag." I'd love to know if this sentence was there prior to the Live Oak High School controversy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Phoenix Suns Show Their Disapproval of the AZ Immigration Law

In a move that is rare in an era when athletes put making money ahead of making waves, The Phoenix Suns will be making a political statement on Cinco de Mayo. For game 2 of their semifinal series against The San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns will be wearing jerseys emblazoned with "Los Suns" in protest of the new AZ Immigration Law. The Suns took it to a vote and unanimously decided to wear the jerseys. Phoenix Suns' point guard and 2-time MVP Steve Nash said the following about the decision:

"I think it's fantastic," Nash said after Tuesday's practice. "I think the law is very misguided. I think it's, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it's very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us."

Although it may not seem like much, I think it's a big deal for The Phoenix Suns to take a public stand on such a controversial issue.

If you'd like to read more on the story, click here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

TCM Presents Native American Images On Film During May

As part of its popular "Race & Hollywood" series, Turner Classic Movies presents Native American Images On Film every Tuesday and Thursday nights in May starting at 8 PM EST. Hosted by TCM's own Robert Osborne and Professor Hanay Geiogamah, director of the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA, the 30 film retrospective traces the evolution of how Native Americans have been portrayed (both positively and negatively) on the big screen.

Below are the topics that will be covered each night (along with a sampling of the movies being featured):

The evolution of Native American depictions by director John Ford (May 4)-
  • Stagecoach (1939) starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor and John Carradine
  • Cheyenne Autumn (1964) with Richard Widmark, Carrol Baker, and Karl Malden

Non-Indians in Indian roles (May 6)-
  • The Outsider (1961) starring Tony Curtis as the ill-fated WW II hero Ira Hayes
  • Walk the Proud Land (1956) featuring Anne Bancroft as an Apache widow gifted to an Indian agent (Audie Murphy) by a grateful Apache chieftain

Indians as enemies (May 11)-
  • Northwest Passage (1940) with Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, and Walter Brennan
  • The Last of the Mohicans (1992) starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeline Stowe, and Wes Studi

White men living among Indians (May 13)-

  • John Huston's 1960 western The Unforgiven starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn
  • The 1990 Best Picture Oscar winner Dances With Wolves starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, and Graham Greene

Indians as “noble savages” (May 18)-
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) featuring Will Sampson as Chief Bromden
  • 1970's A Man Called Horse starring Richard Harris in the title role and featuring Dame Judith Anderson as Buffalo Cow Head!

Native Americans facing racism (May 20)
  • Devil's Doorway (1950) starring Robert Taylor, Louis Calhern, and future All My Children star James Mitchell
  • The 1992 mystery Thunderheart which stars Val Kilmer as a half-Sioux FBI agent

Native American actors and filmmakers (May 25)-
  • The 1994 made-for-cable movie Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee starring Irene Bedard (who in addition to providing the voice of Pocahontas in the 1995 Disney animated film of the same name, was the physical model for the character as well)
  • Smoke Signals, the 1998 road movie starring Adam Beach, Evan Adams, and Irene Bedard

Images from outside Hollywood (May 27)-
  • The 1922 silent documentary Nanook of the North
  • Broken Rainbow, the 1985 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature which tells the story of the mistreatment of Native Americans at the hands of the U.S. government.
For a complete list of movies that TCM will feature in the Native American Images On Film festival, as well as other information on the retrospective, please click here.