Independence Day

Photo Credit: pixabay

{Originally posted to the Abu Yehuda website}

Independence Day in Israel is a lot like Independence day in America. There are barbecues, fireworks, weekend camping trips, street fairs, concerts of patriotic music and boring speeches by government officials. Both nations gained independence from the British Empire, and neither felt warm enough toward their former imperial rulers to join the Commonwealth.

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But there are significant differences. Possibly because the nation is young enough that there are still people around who remember when the state did not exist and who remember the price that was paid to create it, there is still a feeling – at least, in some quarters – that independence is not a normal condition. For thousands of years there was no sovereign Jewish state, and the Jewish people were the paradigm case of the outsiders living, with various degrees of toleration, in other people’s countries. That changed suddenly on May 14, 1948, the 5th of Iyar on the Jewish calendar.

America had her Tories who would have preferred to remain colonies of Great Britain (including the son of Benjamin Franklin, who had been the Royal Governor of New Jersey), but I suspect that after some 242 years, very few Americans continue to believe that the US should return to colonial status. Israel had (and still has) her anti-Zionists: those who oppose a Jewish state for religious reasons, and those who oppose it for various political reasons. I doubt this will change even when the state reaches (with God’s help) its 242nd birthday.

Some Americans complain that many of their countrymen (and women) don’t appreciate the sacrifices required to create and maintain an independent nation. This is less of a problem in Israel, whose people are under constant threat, both individually and collectively, by the enemies of the state and the Jewish people. Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism (yom hazikaron) takes place the day before Independence Day. When the siren sounds to mark the beginning of yom hazikaron, almost all Israelis stop what they are doing and stand at attention for the duration of the siren. Autos stop in the middle of the highways , and their drivers get out and stand beside them. I admit that no matter how many times I’ve experienced this, it’s always emotionally powerful. Except for the siren (and perhaps a few barking dogs) there is absolute silence; and it happens at the same precise moment all over the country.

I said “almost all Israelis” because there are some Arab citizens, some Haredim, and even a few extreme leftists who oppose the Jewish state and make a point of showing their contempt for it and for the soldiers who died for it. If I could afford to, I would happily buy them all one-way tickets to the Arab or Diaspora countries that they appear to yearn for.

When America gained independence, its population was composed of Europeans mostly of British descent, African slaves and Native Americans. It was some time before the “non-white” inhabitants achieved equal rights. Israel also had a minority population made up of Arabs who, while citizens from the start, were under military rule until 1966. Since independence, both countries absorbed immigrants from numerous cultures, although almost all of those absorbed by Israel were Jewish.

Some Arab citizens of Israel see themselves as Israelis, while others embrace their “Palestinian” identity and reject “Israeli-ness.” Most Jews feel that they are part of a Jewish people that encompasses Jews of different national origins. The divisions between Jews of European and Middle Eastern or North African origin are becoming less important as time and intermarriage blur them. Russians, Ethiopians and others are also blending into the Jewish population.

In America until recently the concept of the “melting pot” which would turn immigrants (but never African Americans!) into members of a homogeneous American People was popular, and immigrants aspired to assimilate into “American” culture. More recently, many immigrant groups strongly reject the melting pot, and insist on maintaining their original cultures. I don’t believe this tendency is strong among non-Haredi Israeli immigrants, who do appear to be assimilating to “Israeli” culture. There are various reasons for this: army service, shared stresses (terrorism, bureaucracy, etc.) and the comparative openness of Israeli society. In Israel, at least among the Jewish population, it seems that identity politics is declining; while in America, it is gaining importance.

American society seems – from my admittedly distant vantage point – to be more divided than ever in my memory. The delivery of health care and other social services appears to be worse than I can remember, the primary, secondary, and higher educational systems are failing in their purposes, and the long-term decrease in violent crime seems to be ending. There are many other troubling social indicators. Time will tell if the decline that I perceive is real, and if so, if it will be overcome.

70 years after independence, Israeli society has overall never been better off economically, although the high price of housing is a problem. There are still pockets of deep poverty. The benefits of the success of the high-tech sector and the natural gas discoveries have not filtered down to the lower rungs of the ladder. Politically there is the ongoing struggle between the right-of-center majority and the left-of-center establishment that includes the Supreme Court, the media, academic class, the arts, and so forth. There is growing conflict between Haredi extremists and everyone else. But on balance it is a happy, optimistic society. One indication is the high birthrate, over three children per woman for the Jewish and Arab sectors.

Despite this, there is a cloud over our optimism, which is the almost certainty of war with Iran and its proxies in the near future. Israel is not expansionist and does not desire war. We have absolutely nothing against the Iranian people, but unfortunately their radical regime has an obsession with destroying our state and ourselves.

We’ll prevail. It will be terrible for us, but more terrible for our enemies. Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel was not reconstituted after thousands of years to be lost after only 70.

There are flags everywhere, hanging from windowsills, on cars, on both of the antennas on our roof. Our bank is giving out free flags, made in Israel by handicapped people.

Happy Independence Day!

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Politics | Our First Ladies are a National Treasure – Sunday Political Brunch—April 22, 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Mark Curtis

I was sad to hear of former First Lady Barbara Bush’s passing this week at the age of 92. She was a remarkable woman and a political force in one of the nation’s most famous political dynasties. It made me think back on all the First Ladies who served in my lifetime, and their contributions to our country. Let’s wish them all a happy Mother’s Day in advance, and look at their legacies as we “brunch” this week:

“Beating Around the Bushes” – This is a family that, like the Kennedys, is now in its fourth consecutive generation in America politics. They are simply interwoven in the fabric of this country. Barbara Bush was the daughter-in-law to Senator Prescott Bush (R-CT); wife to President George H.W. Bush; mother to President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and grandma of Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The family dynasty is by no means over, with Jeb Bush still viable on the national stage, and his son George P., just getting his political sea legs.

“The Kennedy Kin” – Quite honestly, the only other woman in American history that can match Barbara Bush is Rose Kennedy. Rose was the wife of British Ambassador Joe Kennedy; mom of President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy; grandma of Rep. Joseph Kennedy II (D-MA); and great-grandmother of current Rep. Joe Kennedy, (D-MA). There were many other elected Kennedys, too, within each generation.

“Of Politics and Pain” – One of the things I found remarkable about Barbara Bush and Rose Kennedy was their compassion for others, despite great personal loss in their own lives. Rose Kennedy lost two children in World War II, and then two sons to assassination. Barbara Bush lost a daughter to leukemia at a very young age. And, many people forget that First Lady Jackie Kennedy lost two children before her husband’s assassination. The tremendous grief they must have endured, especially while living in the public spotlight, is unfathomable. Yet, they endured, and their contributions post-tragedy were remarkable. I remember once talking about this in a college lecture I delivered and someone said, “But these are incredibly rich and powerful families.” My response was, “Pain is pain; and grief is grief. I can’t imagine what it must be like to bury a child, whether you’re politically-powerful, rich, poor, or in the middle.”

“Covering Jackie’s Funeral” – One of my most enduring memories of being a reporter in Washington, DC, was covering the burial of Jackie Kennedy Onassis at Arlington National Cemetery. No press was allowed at the graveside service, but we could share a pool feed of the event. With all due respect, that is too sanitized for me, although I do think it was respectful of the family. So, I set up along the long driveway to the public entrance of the cemetery hours ahead of the funeral cortege. Suddenly I heard a man singing the most off-key, horrendous rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. His singing was bad. Yet, he was waving a large American flag, and his passion and grief were palpable. When I interviewed him afterwards he was in tears, saying something to the effect of, “I came to this country from the West Indies. I never would have become what I have, without President Kennedy and his wife.” He was grief-stricken as the hearse carrying her casket passed us by. I’ll never forget him!

“Who’s My Favorite First Lady?” – It’s a tough call, but I am going to say Betty Ford. It’s interesting, some First Ladies are very politically active and outspoken (Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama), and some have been more quiet and reserved (Pay Nixon and Laura Bush). Some were clearly behind-the-scenes, influential political operatives (Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan). But who had the longest imprint on America? I say Betty Ford. First, she dealt with breast cancer publicly and with candor (back then you couldn’t even say breast on TV). Then she dealt publicly with addiction. The openness and availability of non-judgmental substance abuse treatment in this county – for decades now – is all due to Betty Ford.

“Sometimes it’s the Small Things” – One of the more understated First Ladies in my lifetime was Lady Bird Johnson. While some of the others I mentioned here took on heavyweight issues such as health care reform, drug use, literacy, nutrition, and substance abuse treatment, some were forceful and effective on other issues. Lady Bird’s issue was highway beautification. You must remember the Interstate Highway System launched by President Eisenhower was still in its infancy through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Lady Bird fought for limiting the number of billboards, and led a crackdown on littering. The fact that we can drive cross-country in such beauty is a testament to her passion and legacy.

“Why the Political Spouses Matter?” – I refer here to First Ladies, but more and more we are seeing First Gentlemen across the land. Folks, these are critical, important, and influential people. I’ve often felt sorry for political spouses, many of whom did not seek the spotlight, but were thrust on stage. But they are very crucial in our process, because they have the ear of a president, governor, senator, or all the way down to town council member. Political spouses can have great influence, and will say things to their partner that no one else will. When President George W. Bush told Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to “bring it on” in 2001, when he got back to the White House quarters he says First Lady Laura Bush scolded him, saying in effect, “Are you crazy? What were you thinking?” In short, political partners matter!

Who was your favorite First Lady and why? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the Mountain State


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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50…

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don’t know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don’t know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family’s financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don’t know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don’t know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don’t know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don’t know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don’t know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality – such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth – do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%

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Artist Paul Johnson critiques media depictions of African American women in ‘Sambo Princess’ exhibition

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SARA BARRON

  • Photo by Sara Barron

Detroit-native artist Paul Johnson — aka “ffty” — has built multiple bodies of work centered around variations of the same character — a voluptuous, doe-eyed figure that resembles the extraterrestrial version of the female form. In Johnson’s latest body of work, Sambo Princess, his recurring character takes the form of a mystical African American woman and is meant to critique the ways that African Americans are depicted in media, specifically anime.

Johnson says his fascination with the female form started in adolescence. “As a hopeless romantic, angsty teen, I felt I wasn’t popular with the girls, so the idea of drawing my own would suffice,” says Johnson. However, this fixation wasn’t drawn from some pubescent obsession with female sex organs, but a deep reverence and fascination with women as an entity. Johnson says that while he is “totally enamored with the female figure,” he is careful not to hypersexualize the female body in his work, especially in his latest exhibition.

The title Sambo Princess is a play off the controversial children’s book, The Story of Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman. Johnson says the success of this book facilitated and spread stereotypes of African American people, similar to the demeaning and stereotyping nature of 19th century minstrelsy, where white actors used blackface to perform and mock African American culture. In Sambo Princess, Johnson uses the color of his trademark character as a form of social commentary.

“I’m showing the evolution of my quintessential character from a flesh anime tone down to chocolate and straight carbon black,” says Johnson. Similar to the female characters in anime cartoons, Johnson’s “princesses” have unrealistically perfect bodies, but their faces are overtaken mainly by their drooping, exaggerated eyes, giving off a disillusioned and almost disturbing affect. By distorting the faces of his characters, Johnson is seemingly making a statement about where viewers are placing their attention when gazing at these female characters. One of his pieces shows multiple of the “princesses” splayed in different poses while two floating heads stare down almost salaciously.

click to enlarge "Sambo Princess rendition no.1 ft floating heads" by - PHOTO BY SARA BARRON

  • Photo by Sara Barron
  • “Sambo Princess rendition no.1 ft floating heads” by

Although Johnson says anime “taught him how to love,” he recognizes that the way some of the African American characters are portrayed is extremely problematic. “[The stereotypes] are even present in some of the anime I watch,” he says. “Figures like Mr. Popo, who was a puffy-lipped slave in Dragon Ball Z, or Staff Officer Black, also in Dragon Ball.” While Johnson’s Sambo Princess undoubtedly draws attention to these stereotypes, he also gives power to the character by placing her in settings where she’s depicted as a goddess or queen.

click to enlarge "Garden of Escapism" by Paul Johnson - PHOTO BY SARA BARRON

  • Photo by Sara Barron
  • “Garden of Escapism” by Paul Johnson

Described as a “loose collection” of work, Johnson’s Sambo Princess sparks an interesting and necessary conversation about the depiction of African Americans in cartoon media while leaving room for Johnson to develop his narrative, stylistically and conceptually. The exhibition will be up at Grey Area, 4200 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit, through May 6.

TV best bets for 4-22-18

“FAMILY FEUD” MARATHON

GSN, 5 p.m.

Did you know you can bliss out to a marathon of Steve Harvey-hosted episodes of the beloved “Survey says” game show every night? Well, maybe only 28 percent of you did, but now everyone’s aware.

INSTINCT: “HEARTLESS”

CBS, 8 p.m.

In the new episode, Dylan (Alan Cumming) and Lizzie (Bojana Novakovic) investigate the murder of a Jane Doe, but when they realize that the victim was killed by mistake, they must identify the killer’s motive and intended target before she suffers the same fate.


MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: WASHINGTON AT L.A. DODGERS

ESPN, 8 p.m. Live

Two NL rivals meet at Dodger Stadium as the Washington Nationals and L.A. Dodgers cap off a three-game series.

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE 90S, PART 2

History, 8 p.m.

The special concludes with a look at the rise of partisan politics in the ’90s, and the unexpected origins of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Part 2 also investigates the progression of gay rights, the fall of traditional media, the move from offline to online and the unforeseen rise of a global terror network.

I KILLED MY BFF: THE PREACHER’S DAUGHTER

Lifetime, 8 p.m.

Original Film! Not since “My Stepson, My Lover” has Lifetime gifted us with such a delicious, Lifetime-y title that tells us exactly what to expect — and this one’s based on a true story. Lily (Megan West), a Christian good girl, becomes friends with Rae (Carly Pope), who seduces Lily’s twin, Jason (Matthew James Ballinger). He winds up dead, and Lily blames Rae, sparking a war that ends in, yep, more death.

AERIAL CITIES: “SEATTLE 24”

Smithsonian Channel, 8 p.m.

A tugboat towing timber to a lumberyard at the Port of Everett is a reminder of the industry that built Seattle, but there’s no missing the $4 billion urban campus of Amazon, which now occupies 19 percent of all prime office space in the city. From the air, viewers can also trace the journey of coffee giant Starbucks from its first store in Pike Place Market to its massive world headquarters at the Port of Seattle.

NCIS: LOS ANGELES: “OUTSIDE THE LINES”

CBS, 9 p.m.

Sam (LL Cool J) and Hidoko (recurring guest star Andrea Bordeaux) go undercover to investigate the robbery of more than $10 million from a cryptocurrency farm in the new episode.

FAMILY GUY: “‘FAMILY GUY’ THROUGH THE YEARS”

FOX, 9 p.m.

The outrageous animated comedy is reimagined as a series that’s been on the air for 60 years and, in a special retrospective, it looks back at the cultural events and issues that were tackled on the show in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

WESTWORLD

HBO, 9 p.m.

Season Premiere! The futuristic thriller set in an Old West theme park returns, and despite HBO’s secrecy, here’s what we know: The hosts are mad and on a rampage; most of the cast is back, with several new characters making debuts; some of the people we thought were dead aren’t; and a second land called Shogun World will be introduced.

DECEPTION: “BLACK ART”

ABC, 10 p.m.

Cameron (Jack Cutmore-Scott) tackles a Fashion Week robbery with century-old black art — a way to hide things in plain sight.

INTO THE BADLANDS

AMC, 10 p.m.

Season Premiere! The third season of AMC’s apocalyptic drama finds Sunny (Daniel Wu) living off the grid and doing his best to provide for his infant son in the wake of Veil’s death. When baby Henry contracts a mysterious illness, Sunny must join forces with Bajie (Nick Frost) and journey back into the Badlands, where The Widow (Emily Beecham) and Baron Chau (Eleanor Matsuura)are entrenched in a drawn-out war that has destabilized the entire region.

MADAM SECRETARY: “THE FRIENDSHIP GAME”

CBS, 10 p.m.

In the new episode, Elizabeth’s (Téa Leoni) negotiations for a security agreement combating gang violence in South America become complicated when she attempts to free an American recently kidnapped there.

MEET THE PEETES: “THE NEXT CHAPTER”

Hallmark Channel, 10 p.m.

Holly plans a simulated flight experience for families dealing with autism; Roman plans a “Goodbye Gorgeous” week for Grams; and Holly struggles to plan an anniversary date for Rodney.

DAYS THAT SHAPED AMERICA: OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

History, 10 p.m.

What began as a calm spring day in April 1995 erupted into the largest terrorist act our country had experienced at the time when a truck bomb left by Timothy McVeigh at a federal building detonated and killed 168 people.

In this episode, hear dramatic stories of an office worker trapped in the rubble, a mother whose 1-year-old daughter was in the building, a firefighter, a news reporter and the head of the local FBI tasked with finding the perpetrator.

Brought to you by the publishers of TV Guide. © TV Guide 2018

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Wiz’s Kent Gash: “It is a gift to be African-American”

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

“The Wiz is a beloved classic of American musical theater,” says Kent Gash. “And it’s historically so important. It was the first black musical produced by an African-American producer, with a predominantly African-American creative team, to go on to win seven Tony Awards. That had never happened in history before. It had a long and very successful run financially.”

Gash, one could say, had a date with The Wiz long before his own production of the hit musical landed at Ford’s Theatre. For nearly his entire life in theater, the esteemed director has drawn some spark of inspiration from the hugely popular African-American take on Dorothy’s journey to Oz.

“I started performing as an actor when I was a kid,” Gash says. “In fact, I saw…the original national Broadway tour while I was still in high school. I saw it like six times. It had a big, big impact on me.”

Billed as the “Super Soul Musical,” The Wiz was one of many productions to cast a glow in the eye of the young black artist. Gash’s music and culture-loving parents took him and his older sister to see almost every major touring production that passed through their hometown of Denver, Colorado.

“They took me to see Zero Mostel in Fiddler On The Roof. I saw the touring production of Company. I saw Angela Lansbury in Gypsy. They took us to those things when we were very young.” However, it was The Wiz, with its ebullient display of African-American talent, that really spoke to Gash as a theater kid.

“It was the first black musical I ever saw where the black people didn’t have to suffer, where the black people were not sad all the time, and crying about the blues, or crying poverty,” he says. “It wasn’t Showboat, it wasn’t Porgy and Bess. It was a piece that was alive, and vibrant, and dynamic, and full of joy, and full of hope, and full of an energy that seemed to be unstoppable.”

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

Gash fatefully crossed paths again with The Wiz while studying drama and acting at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, when he booked an early professional role playing the Lion onstage.

“I was very young when I did it,” Gash recalls. “We did a small production in Pittsburgh that was choreographed by Broadway diva Lenora Nemetz…. One of my best friends, actress Tamara Tunie, who was on Law and Order: SVU and 24, was Glinda. We were all classmates together and were like, ‘Let’s go down here and get these jobs,’ and we did. It was great fun.”

Gash’s staging at Ford’s recaptures that sense of youthful fun, fueled by the unstoppable energy of well-honed talent unleashed both onstage and behind the curtain. A similar life-affirming spirit lit up the director’s fabulous production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Wig Out! last spring at Studio Theatre. Though a much darker tale of an innocent’s journey to the other side of the rainbow, Gash’s Wig Out!, like his staging of The Wiz, showed a flair for expressing the vibrancy within the black community.

“It’s really important for me to tell stories that celebrate and uplift African-American life, and also to tell the stories about African-American life that don’t get told all the time. That’s why it was so incredibly important to me to continue my working relationship with Tarell Alvin McCraney,” says Gash, who first teamed with the Oscar-winning playwright for a 2015 staging of the gay-themed drama Choir Boy, also at Studio. “No other playwright in the country is shedding as much light and so beautifully on the existence of the African-American and LGBTQIA community of color.”

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

The Wiz features several performers who, like the director himself, identify somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. And a few of the show’s characterizations, most notably Christopher Michael Richardson’s gloriously camp Cowardly Lion, reflect a story-conscious commitment to queer inclusion.

Undoubtedly one of the buzzwords of the cultural moment, inclusion is also a key component of Gash’s philosophy as an educator. The founding director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio on Broadway, Gash spends much of his time, when he’s not flipping over farmhouses at Ford’s, molding the talents of future thespians and directors.

“It’s an interesting, fascinating time to be teaching young emerging artists, because they have fast access to a great deal of information,” says the 57-year-old during an hour-long phone conversation. “The speed of that access has often given them a misperception about craft and about the dedication, the dedicated hours, discipline, and rigor required to really become an actor, to excel and to really become an artist.

“One of the great things about many artists in this generation — particularly many of the artists of color within this generation — is that there’s a deep desire for artistic expression, and social and cultural responsibility, and intersection to be a part of the work. You feel a deeper sense of representation of honor about culture, about using your whole self to really make the work, and to really have an impact, not only for yourself, but to really have an impact on audiences. People want to play for diverse, inclusive audiences now and work in diverse and inclusive companies of actors. There’s more and more of this happening, so that’s a great thing.”

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

METRO WEEKLY: How did you find yourself in New York?

KENT GASH: I was an actor for 20 years. Before I became a director, I went to Carnegie Mellon University, which is the oldest actor training program in America and one of the very best. I had a great time. Right after Carnegie Mellon I moved to New York and have lived here really ever since. Although, I’ve gone away to do other things. I went to Los Angeles to get my Masters in directing. I was a company member at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. I was also in residence as the Associate Artistic Director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival for two years, and for eight years was the Associate Artistic Director of the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. All that time, I still kept a place in New York.

MW: Is New York home for you now, or is it more like your Oz?

GASH: Home home for me is always going to be Denver, Colorado, because that’s where my family still lives. I go back to Denver and spend time there, easily five or six times a year. My sister still lives in Denver. My mom, who will be 90 in September, still lives in Denver. My roots as a human being, in many ways, start in Denver.

Is New York Oz? Well, yeah. It’s always going to be Oz in so many ways, because it’s a city of infinite, endless possibility, and wonder. There’s always something to aspire to in New York. Even criminals who come to New York want to be a world class best criminal. I think it’s an aspirational kind of city that can bring out the best in people. Especially in this complicated world that we live in now, it’s important that we not take each other for granted. It’s important that we listen, and listen with an open spirit and an open heart, and an open mind.

MW: Your iteration of Oz captures the quality of a place of infinite possibility and wonder. What’s your take on how much Dorothy might want to remain in Oz, versus returning to Kansas?

GASH: I think it’s like the Scarecrow says to her near the end of the play, “As long as you have the silver slippers, you could always come back.” The brilliance of The Wizard of Oz as a story, and in particular the brilliance of The Wiz, is that Dorothy goes on this extraordinary journey and throughout the journey she keeps discovering things that evoke home, or that evoke strengths from her aunt and uncle. She realizes that home is actually wonderful, and she always has that with her and in her. Just like all of us, as African Americans, if we experience the great love of our families, that’s always with us. She experiences great love and support in her adventures in Oz.

I think one of the reasons why the last scene of the piece is so moving is that she has made great friends of the Scarecrow, and of the Lion, and of the Tin Man, and they’ve all been through something together. They all learn that they’re more resilient, and more courageous, and more passionate than they ever dreamed they could be. She’s learned that, too. She’s given that to them, they’ve given that to her. They will all always carry those things. Oz is as much a state of mind and a state of being, as it is an actual place. That’s something that great cities and great human experiences give you.

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

MW: There’s a strong current of contemporary pop culture that runs through this particular production. How do you choose your spots for mentions of things like Wakanda and Siri?

GASH: A lot has been written about little references to Wakanda, and Siri. I want to be really clear that those things are little grace notes that have only been added where it specifies in the script, “There’s an ad lib here.” In 1975, there were ad lib references that were current and that connected the piece, or gave a little wink, to the time they were performing in. Those little references capture the spirit.

Ninety-nine percent of what we’re doing is the original play as it was done in 1975. So much of the heart and soul of the play is as it was in 1975, about this wonderful adventure that this brilliant young girl goes on, who doesn’t even know that she’s brilliant and magical.

The other thing that we have tried to do is tease out and really use all of the references and celebrations of great black music, and entertainment, and culture, and style. Black people have brought so much style, and music, and creativity to American life, and to the international perception of culture. We’ve changed music, we’ve led fashion in so many ways. Even now, the preeminence of something like Black Panther, some people have been surprised by that. Actually, I’m not. I’m not surprised by it at all. We’ve been on this path and this trajectory for some time.

MW: The character of the Wiz himself reflects this really well. He’s cut from a similar cloth as Prince or Rick James, pioneers who disseminated black culture to a mainstream audience. Were you deliberately going for that with this concept of the character?

GASH: Well, yes. I think we did tease that out. I do think there are suggestions of Prince, James Brown, but also Little Richard, Michael Jackson, even Louis Jordan, who was the first great black rock-and-roll pioneer. These references have all become part of world culture. Black music, soul music, rock-and-roll, disco, rhythm and blues, jazz — we’re accessing all of them in this glorious score, all of those songs. We really took our cue from the music. If you listen to “Y’all Got It,” even on the original Broadway cast recording, Andre DeShields sounds a lot like James Brown performing at the Apollo, circa 1975. We took our cue from James Brown to Prince, back to Little Richard, forward to Rick James. They’re all connected, and we’re all connected to all of them. That’s the music we’ve grown up with. That’s the music we’ve lived through. Those artists still have a reach in popular music, in popular culture, to this day.

MW: Speaking of Michael Jackson, it seems that regardless of what a cast and director do with The Wiz, ever since the ’78 film adaptation it’s virtually impossible to watch the show without thinking of Jackson, Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell. Is that something you lean into?

GASH: That film, when it came out originally, was not critically well-received. It actually didn’t do so well at the box office. For those of us who loved and knew the Broadway production really well, there are great, wonderful flights of imagination in the film. But there are also some things that were genius in the original production that, sadly, didn’t make it to the film, that they changed. I think it’s interesting the love that has come over time for the film. Look, it’s directed by one of the great American filmmakers in history, Sidney Lumet, who is really a genius on so many levels. He was a genius at recognizing talent. One of his main reasons for making the film is that Lena Horne, who played Glinda, was his mother-in-law. He wanted to give her one more great film role. For many of us, that sequence in the film is the most beautiful and most heartfelt, because Lena Horne is just magnificent as Glinda. She’s magnificent.

In terms of the impact of the film on our production, we all have things about the film that we love, but you can’t do on stage what you can do on film, and vice versa. We wanted to capture the spirit and imagination — particularly the visual imagination — that went into some of the film, but our truest inspiration for this production was to stand on the shoulders of the creative giants who made the original [Broadway] production: Jeffrey Holder, George Faison, Charlie Smalls, Tom H. John, Tharon Musser. What they did originally was genius, and we really took our inspiration from them. They really seemed to capture lightning in a bottle. Endless invention, beautiful costume after beautiful costume. With each entrance of each actor on stage, you couldn’t help but think, “Black people are beautiful and miraculous.” That’s really what I wanted to capture all night long. Black people are beautiful and miraculous, and it is a gift to be African-American.

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

MW: Going back to your childhood, was your family always supportive of your love of theater?

GASH: My family was intensely supportive of it. [My mother and father] took us to the theater all the time. They just felt we should be exposed to everything. They loved theater. They loved music. My dad knew a lot of jazz musicians. He made friends with a lot of jazz musicians. He knew Billie Holiday. He saw her not long before she died, in fact. We grew up with Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, and Ray Brown. They were all family friends. We grew up knowing them. There was always music in our house. We had a piano. We all had to study piano for at least a year as kids. Then if we wanted to play something else, we could, but they really wanted us to have music in our lives. Look, I thought growing up everybody grew up the way I did, for a while. Then I started to sort of realize, as I was getting older, “Oh, this is unique, how we’re growing up.”

MW: How did your father know Billie Holiday and all these people?

GASH: It’s interesting, my father, he’s no longer with us, but in Denver there was a huge and thriving black community in Denver.

MW: This is news to me, by the way.

GASH: I think it is to a lot of people. My parents were both born and raised in Denver, and my father was a very gregarious, outgoing, social guy. [Singers and musicians] would play concerts or clubs in Denver, but then they would go to the after-hours clubs in the black community. They would just hang out. My father would go to the concerts and then he would see them at these clubs, and begin to get to know people. If they were there for more than a night or two, he would invite people to the house for dinner, or invite people to our home on a Sunday, so they wouldn’t have to be just living out of a hotel and having to deal with that all the time. They could bring their laundry to our house and just kind of chill out, and have a home-cooked meal and spend some time outside of a hotel room. That’s really how he got to know people. He and my mom were both really friendly and open people. That’s how it happened.

MW: Along this journey from Denver, to Pittsburgh, to New York, and beyond, what have been the main challenges you’ve faced as an artist?

GASH: I think the main challenges stem from a couple of things. I think when I started as an actor, I was somewhat selfish. I was a lot younger, so I’m going to give myself a little bit of a break on that. But I think I was selfish in some ways. I actually think that’s why, while I may have been successful as an actor and I was able to make my living and sustain myself, and was able to do a lot of work that I was proud of, I don’t know if I was ever a great actor.

Now, as a director, I’m more interested in the dialogue and in the exchange between people, and in what and how a group of people can come together and create something. Whatever conversation I might be able to begin as a director, whatever creative conversation you begin, if it’s a genuine dialogue, then it’s totally informed by what everyone else brings to the table, and it has to be. I think as an actor, I was not as impacted, as affected by other human beings as perhaps I should have been. Where, as a director, I definitely seek out the richest possible collaborations, and that I think always improves the work.

I’m also much more curious now than I ever was before in my life. I think if you want to be an artist, you have to be much more interested in what you don’t know, rather than being interested in proving what you do know. If you know something, it’ll be self-evident, and that’s fine. We can all learn — and again this goes all the way back to Dorothy — something from every single human being we encounter. If you listen, if you’re open, if you pay attention, and if you’re more interested in someone else’s journey than you are in just regurgitating your own journey, if you want to really do anything that has any kind of impact, that has to be the conversation. That has to be what we’re on about.

Any other difficulties or adversities that I’ve experienced — and I’m not saying that I haven’t — I think sometimes there is still the underestimating of gifted people of color and of members of the LGBTQIA community. I think there can still be a sense that we are somehow less than. I would say that this has improved. Certainly, I don’t experience that as much. It also doesn’t surprise me when I still experience it — and I do. You can’t pay any attention to that. You can’t ignore it either, but the obstacle of that can’t become your sole focus. The way you overcome that obstacle is through excellence, and constantly striving for something beyond that.

Also you shouldn’t look for approval from people who can’t see you. If you don’t see me, that’s fine, that’s whatever. I’m not investing time and energy in people that aren’t investing the same time and energy that I am, and that aren’t investing the time and energy in every human being and in every encounter. People who don’t see value in every human experience, I’m not investing time in them. I’m not.

The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

MW: Speaking about LGBTQ influences or sensibility, how would you respond to anyone who called this production a very gay Wiz?

GASH: Look, there are gay people involved in creating it, just as there were originally. There is no moment where I, as the director, said, “Let’s do this because that would be really gay.” Kara Harmon’s genius costumes, Jason Sherwood’s surprising and exciting scenic design, where literally the stage gets turned upside down, the genius of the lighting of Rui Rita, and the projections of Clint Allen, and the unbelievable music direction of Darius Smith — I don’t think any of us sat down and said, “Let’s do this or that because it’d be really gay.”

I think that when you’re trying to tell a story, when you’re creating something, you bring all of your humanity into the room. You have to. I work with really inspiring collaborators, and so we bring all of ourselves into the room. I think Dell Howlett’s choreography of this production is every bit as great as George Faison’s original Tony Award-winning choreography. It’s different. Even though it stands on the shoulders of Faison’s work, so much of it is originally and completely Dell’s creation. I’ve never been prouder of a collaborator in my life, than I am of Dell’s work in this.

I think to your question, one of our guiding aesthetics and principles was, “Okay, if this is the first play you’ve ever seen and you’re five years old, or your 85-year old grandmother brings you to the theater, how do we make and tell a story that delights the child who is five and who is seeing a play for the first time? How do we endlessly delight and surprise that child? How do we warm the heart and delight the 95-year old grandmother, too, so that they both leave the theater exhilarated and feeling uplifted?” I think the theater is really about surprise, and awe, and wonder. If surprise, and awe, and wonder are a step away from being fabulous, and fierce, and gay, okay. Those things are pretty closely aligned. I don’t know if that’s intentional. It’s part and parcel of who we all are as collaborators, and part and parcel of what we bring to the making of the story.

Certainly, I think it’s the heart of the story that’s most important. The heart, the love, the caring, the generosity of Dorothy’s spirit — I actually hope that feels like it’s really part of the gay community too. That’s the stuff that keeps us all alive. That’s the best that we have to offer each other. If that’s what the gay community is offering, if that’s who we are and that’s what we bring, then yeah, it’s gay.

MW: What’s happening with the musical you co-wrote, Langston In Harlem, about gay Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes?

GASH: Walter Marx, who is a veteran Broadway composer and lyricist approached me about wanting to do a piece based on Langston Hughes’ poetry. I was like, “Yeah, sure. That sounds great.” We started working together on it. Through several versions and several iterations, we arrived at something that I think is attempting to understand how Langston matured into the man he became, through the work that he was doing. I have to say, I don’t know if our work on it is entirely finished. I think that it’s a piece that I want to do a better job with. I think at the time and for as far as we went, we did a lot of very good things, but I think Langston Hughes deserves a greater piece of work about his existence, and about his work, and about his contributions. It’s a piece that someday in my life I would very much like to revisit, and perhaps approach somewhat differently. I want to do it better. I suppose I feel that way about everything. You step away and you think, “Maybe that was pretty good, but how do we do it better?”

MW: So what triggers the notion when you’re working on something, “This is ready?”

GASH: That’s a dangerous question to ask a director. We never think it’s ready. You always see — even as it’s opening and it’s closing — something. Like at the closing night of Wig Out!, I thought, “That one little thing I could have made better.” This is life.

I think this is part of what makes us get up every morning. Aren’t we saying that about our own lives? Aren’t we looking in the mirror and thinking, “Well, what I’ve been doing so far, that’s okay, but, boy, today I could do this better. Today I could be a little kinder. Today I could be a little more compassionate. Today I could listen more than talk.” Aren’t we saying that with every waking breath? Aren’t we asking those questions all the time? This is why we stay on the planet for as long as we do, because hopefully the next day you’ll get it right, you’ll get the next relationship right. You’ll get the next conversation right. You’ll get the next engagement closer to something genuine and something true.

The Wiz runs to May 12 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 Tenth St. NW. Tickets are $20 to $73. Call 888-616-0270, or visit fords.org.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

MLK Events at the Charles Wright Museum

18th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Commemorative Breakfast

Monday, January 15 at 8 AM

Featuring Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and Morehouse College President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics; special guests include Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson, Associate Pastor of West Side Unity Church and host of the TV and radio show “Wake Up Detroit;” Tiffany Jones, Marathon Petroleum Company LP; and Franklin Wilkerson, ’77, Chapter President, Morehouse College Alumni – Detroit Chapter; with musical performances by Ken Boyd, Isis Damil and T’Zion Israel. Doors open at 7 AM; valet parking is included with ticket purchase. Tickets are $35 and are available at the museum, by phone at (800) 838-3006 or online by clicking here (phone and online orders subject to service charges). GROUPS: Tickets are $30 each when purchased in groups of 10 or more. Tickets include admission to all MLK Day activities and exhibits. Sponsored by Marathon Petroleum Company, Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne County Community College District.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration

Monday, January 15 from 9 AM – 5 PM

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is The Wright Museum’s busiest day of the year – and with good reason! It’s an exciting day of celebration that includes musical performances, arts & crafts, children’s workshops, storytelling, video tributes, displays of MLK and Coretta Scott King artifacts, the openings of two new exhibitions – i found god in myself: a celebration of Dr. Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls… and Collected With Pride: Amazing African American Art – and much, much more! All activities and exhibits are included in museum admission.

Brown Bag Film Series: Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World

Tuesday & Thursday, January 16 & 18 from 11 AM – 1 PM

Looking for a spot to take your lunch hour with great entertainment? Bring your lunch from home or pick up a meal from one of the many fine restaurants around Midtown and head over to The Wright for the free, weekly film series in the museum’s amphitheater. Free.

30 Days To Lose It! Weekly Workout

Tuesday, January 16 at 7:30 PM

Get ready to spin with Bear Sanusi of UFit2! Free for members, $5 for non-members. Attend 8 consecutive sessions and receive a museum membership, making your next 12 months FREE! For more information email 30days@thewright.org. Please bring an exercise mat or large towel to the workouts.

Freedom School at The Wright Museum

Saturday, January 20 at 10 AM

Boost your children’s competence in basic subjects and watch them grow strong in self-esteem as they learn about awe-inspiring African American history and cultural heritage! Freedom School features volunteer teachers who are retired educational professionals, artists, writers, media experts and college graduates committed to education. To arrange for your child to attend contact DIFS at (313) 583-9395 or via email at DIFS313@gmail.com. Free.

Family Activity Series

Saturday, January 20 at 1 PM

Enjoy The Wright Museum with this free Saturday activity series for the whole family. Whether art, music, dance, acting, or more, you and your children are sure to have a great time! Free.

Mama Sol & The N.U.T.S. Restoring the Soul of Hip Hop Concert ($)

Saturday, January 20 at 7 PM

Don’t miss this exciting concert hosted by Lola George where the dynamic emcee Mama Sol and her band will perform live in honor of The Wright’s 2018 theme, “The Year of Reparations Repairing & Rebuilding Our Global Community.” Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online, by phone at (800) 838-3006, or at the museum’s information desk.

GBI Political Education Series – Poor People’s Campaign: A Historical Perspective

Sunday, January 21 at 2 PM

Ideas, thoughts and teachings from General Gordon Baker come alive in the General Baker Institute (GBI) Political Education Series. This week learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and its relevance today with facilitator Dr. Colleen Wessel-McCoy. Free.

Hustle for History Weekly Dance Lessons ($)

Sunday, January 21 at 5 PM

Work your muscles, strengthen your bones and improve your health with weekly hustle lessons, taught by Thomasenia Johnson of Two Left Feet. Free for members, $7 for non-members. Purchase 5 lessons and receive a complimentary museum membership, making your next 12 months of hustle lessons FREE!

Click here to see all upcoming events!

Also On The Michigan Chronicle:

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Rex Smith: Free speech applies to all viewpoints

The right to freedom of expression, good Americans agree, applies equally to goose and gander. You can’t demand free speech or a free press for what you like and then insist on squelching it for what you don’t.

By that standard, Siena College absolutely did the right thing this week in making space available on its campus for some right-wing speakers who are notorious for their hostility to the sort of fact-based journalism that this newspaper practices. You won’t find many people in my line of work who will criticize efforts to bring diverse voices to college and university campuses, no matter what those voices may say about us.


But that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed that the Siena students who chose Roger Stone and James O’Keefe to headline their “free speech conference” didn’t instead invite more thoughtful and constructive conservatives. These guys have every right to a platform at an institution of higher learning. They just don’t deserve one.

Stone — who responded to the death of Barbara Bush this week with characteristic sensitivity, labeling her on Instagram “a nasty drunk” — has admitted to practicing political “black arts” since the 1972 campaign of Richard M. Nixon. He’s candid about his lies long after telling them and his dirty tricks long after pulling them, if not contemporaneously. His behavior may distort democracy, but dirty tricks often work, so he gets political consulting jobs, which lead to speaking gigs like last weekend’s at Siena. But he is often fired for offensive behavior, such as when he labeled a CNN anchor a “stupid negro.” He created an anti-Hillary Clinton political committee called Citizens United Not Timid. Think about it.

Just the kind of a guy you want your college-aged kid to grow up to be like, right?

James O’Keefe is a more serious type, but his specialty is distortion of reality. He has become famous for hidden-camera videos, starting with a series that blew up ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income Americans, in 2009. O’Keefe calls himself an investigative journalist, but views of his uncut videos typically reveal selective editing that misleads viewers about what they’re seeing. Strong advocacy is admirable, but the moral task of journalism is truth-telling, which makes O’Keefe a propagandist, not a journalist.

All that being said, and with due respect to people who either agree or disagree with the political stances of Stone and O’Keefe, I can’t abide the idea of closing campuses to them or their ilk. At colleges and universities more than anywhere else, perhaps, we have to encourage a robust exchange of views. It’s there that we are obligated to embrace what’s sometimes called the marketplace theory of free speech.

That notion is derived from a famous 1919 dissent of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote that “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”

Holmes was arguing, essentially, that restrictions on free speech ultimately threaten its survival, because “time has upset many fighting faiths,” meaning that the speech we find intolerable today may be the norm tomorrow. So, he wrote, “the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas.”

Never a semester passes these days without several highly visible controversies over free expression at a university somewhere — students rallying to stop one speaker or another. Last month, for example, students at City University of New York Law School heckled a conservative law professor from Texas who, ironically, had been invited to talk on free speech.

Students objected to his support of President Donald Trump’s effort to end the current program protecting so-called Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children. You may agree that ending DACA is detestable, but it is unhealthy to fight the disease of hate speech with the supposed cure of censorship, because that is a toxic medicine.

At a time when lies are amplified by partisans in both politics and the media, when they delegitimize verifiable facts as “fake news,” there’s a temptation to do whatever we can to promote truth-telling, even if it involves squelching seemingly valueless speech. We mustn’t do that.

It was heartening to note, in a Gallup-Knight Foundation survey released a month ago, that U.S. college students strongly support the First Amendment. But they voiced an emerging pessimism about its durability: The share of students who believe our press freedom is secure has fallen by a quarter in the past two years, and the share who believe free speech is impregnable has dropped by one-eighth. It’s unsurprising; they are front-line witnesses to the challenge facing our fundamental freedom.

Two-thirds of American high school graduates now go on to college. You could argue, then, that nowhere is it more important to stand up for the principles that our society cherishes than on college and university campuses. So it is there that the contest of ideas must be joined, freely and fairly. If you’re not a fan of the cut of Stone, offer your own, but let him be.

More Information

Rex Smith is editor of the Times Union. Share your thoughts at http://timesunion.com/rex_smith.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

With Broadcast Media Promoting Violence And M

If one should desire to know if a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of it’s music will furnish the answer. — Confucius

Currently the airwaves are filled with messages that are violently anti woman, anti Black and in a real sense anti life itself.

We are inundated with lyrics, dialogue, and images, from music videos, song lyrics and DJ comments that glorify violence while encouraging the degradation andexploitation of women, to video games that require that you kill people in order to stay in the game and move forward.

To appreciate our concern, perhaps it is helpful to understand the emotional significance and influence of music. As noted musician David Byrne has explained, music tells us things, social things, psychological things, physical things about how we feel and perceive our bodies, and it does it in a way that other art forms cannot. It is not only in the lyrics as Byrne and others have pointed out, it is also the combination of sounds, rhythms, and vocal textures that communicate in ways that bypass the reasoning centers of the brain and go straight to our emotions.

Poet Larry Neal, one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s has said that our music has always been the most dominant manifestation of what we are and how we feel. The best of it has always operated at the very core of our lives. It is the music that can affirm our highest possibilities.

That may be precisely why the best of our music is under siege.

It is also important to understand that in this society, music conveys social status. Being associated with certain kinds of music can increase your social standing, Consider the higher level of sophistication associated with opera or classical music, or the level of cool sophistication associated with the music of Coltrane, Monk and Miles.

Some have suggested that while we may indeed like the music, often what we really like is the company it puts us in. In this sense the music creates a community or life style that is validated by the acceptance of the music. It is the music that validates the “Gangsta.”

Currently the airwaves are dominated by a body of music, images and ideas that has established a code of behavior that in addition to denigrating women, encourages the murdering of Black people. It is a lifestyle where all women are “Hoes” and “Bitches”.

Consider this “gangsta” lyric: “I got a shotgun, and heres the plot. Takin Niggas out with a flurry of buckshots . Yeah I was gunnin and then you look, all you see is niggas runin”.

Music, images and dialogue that offers another view cant get reasonable airplay. Currently the airwaves are still regulated by the FCC, a commission that was established in 1934 to regulate in the public interest.

When George Bush installed Michael Powell as Chairman of the commission, in 2001, Powell said he did not know what in the public interest meant.

Since the 1996 telecommunications act which set the framework for deregulation, the FCC has been reduced to pablum serving only to sanction the acquisition of broadcast frequencies and license to the mega media corporations which has resulted in the concentration of media ownership into the hands of very few.

Under these major revisions of US telecommunications law, the first since the 1930s, members of the general public no longer have “legal standing” to challenge broadcast policy or to insure that the public interest is served.

None the less the Federal Communications Commission is directly responsible to congress and since Black media ownership is a major casualty of deregulation and since the diversity of opinion and ideas coming directly from the Black experience in the world are being removed from the marketplace of ideas, we have appealed tothe Congressional Black Caucus in general and the New York congressional delegation in particular to urge congress to reexamine the current function and effectiveness of the FCC.

Our first appeal to the CBC was December 6 2012, and in spite of additional attempts to reach members of the CBC, to date congress members, Yvette Clarke, Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries have freely dismissed our appeals to them.

Recently only Rep. Charles Rangel faced a serious opponent for reelection, the others ran unopposed. That is the last time that will happen. we cannot allow them to continue to casually stroll into office, they all must really earn and deserve the right to represent us.

Perhaps if there is a link established between the murder video games and the young White boys who routinely walk onto a school campus with automatic weapons and open fire, congress might act to at least balance the emotional stimuli on the air.

But as long as Women and Black people are the primary victims of this insidious violence, even the increasingly irrelevant Black congressional leadership ignores us.

Franz Fannon was correct in observing, “Ultimately a people get the leadership they deserve.”

It is time to support the kind of leadership we truly deserve.

Bob Law is a veteran media analyst, long time radio host, and entrepreneur in New York City.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Politics | Military Pensions, Hospital Acquisitions & More: This Week at the State House

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Representative Bob Lancia introduces a bill to exempt military pensions, a bill scrutinizing hospital acquisitions is introduced and more. This week at the State House. 

Magistrates would be selected under merit process under Sen. Sheehan bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on legislation introduced by Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) that would extend the merit selection process used for judges to the state’s magistrates. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket).

Click here to see news release.

Rep. Marshall bill would scrutinize hospital acquisitions from neighboring states

Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) is sponsoring legislation to make the state review process more thorough for hospital acquisitions and mergers involving hospital systems from states adjacent to Rhode Island. The bill, introduced as a result of the proposed acquisition of the Care New England network by Massachusetts-based Partners HealthCare, is meant to ensure the process considers the potential effects such acquisitions could have on health insurance premiums and other aspects of health care for Rhode Islanders. Identical legislation has been submitted in the Senate by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton).

Click here to see news release.
 

Rep. Lancia bill would exempt military pensions from state income tax

A press conference was held to launch proposed legislation introduced by Rep. Robert B. Lancia (R-Dist. 16, Cranston) that would exempt the amount of military pension which is included in federal adjusted gross income from the state income tax. The exemption would be phased in over a five-year period. 
 

Sen. Metts bill would eliminate exemptions for predatory payday lenders

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) would abolish ultra-high-interest payday loans by eliminating a special exemption from usury laws that has allowed payday lenders to charge interest rates as extreme as 260 percent, subverting the 36-percent constraint imposed upon conventional loans. Rep. Jean Phillippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) has introduced the bill in the House. 

Click here to see news release.
 

Rep. Nardolillo legislation would require seat belts on school buses

Rep. Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Dist. 28, Coventry) has introduced legislation requiring all school buses in Rhode Island be equipped with seat belts to protect students. The bill would require that every new school bus purchased or leased for use in Rhode Island be equipped with a three-point seat belt for every passenger after 2020. The legislation would also require every school district to train staff on the proper usage of the new seat belts including how to evacuate a bus equipped with them.

Click here to see news release.

Sen. Calkin bill would defend against wage theft

Sen. Jeanine Calkin is sponsoring legislation that would protect workers from a common form of wage theft by making those who hire contractors share in accountability if their contractors fail to pay their workers’ wages. Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

Click here to see news release. 
 

Sen. Picard bill expands pain therapies covered by insurance

Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) is sponsoring legislation aimed at helping to reduce opioid dependence by requiring insurers to cover alternative, non-opioid treatments for pain, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and oriental medicine.  Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) is sponsoring identical legislation in the House.

Click here to see news release.

Rep. O’Brien calls for arming RIC and CCRI police officers

Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is calling for the arming of police officers on the campuses of Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island. Currently, neither campus police force carries firearms. The University of Rhode Island is the only public institute of higher education that has armed its campus police officers. URI instituted this policy in 2015.

Click here to see news release.

Sen. Morgan opposes DEM plan to acquire farmland

Sen. Elaine J. Morgan (R-Dist. 34, Hopkinton, Charlestown, Exeter, Richmond, West Greenwich) announced her strong opposition to a state-run program that would allow the Department of Environmental Management to buy farmland and resell it below cost to new farmers. The proposal stems from a 2014 bond question that voters approved that permitted $3 million to be used to “protect the state’s working farms.”  Morgan said she is concerned the plan DEM favors is too loosely defined and has problems.

Click here to see news release.


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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50…

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don’t know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don’t know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family’s financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don’t know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don’t know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don’t know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don’t know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don’t know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality – such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth – do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%

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