Friday, November 28, 2008

Naturally 7

I just ran across these guys for the first time on a replay of Tavis Smiley. He heard them at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and HAD TO have them on his show. I can definitely understand why.

They will definitely be featured in my MP3 Player

They call what they do "Vocal Play" Instead of Acapella. The difference being with acapella you sing without insturments. Vocal play is to become the instruments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Prop 8 Blame Game by Kai Wright

By Kai Wright |

Why white gays and black homophobes both need a reality check.

Nov. 12, 2008--Somebody forgot to tell gay people that race wars are no longer in vogue.

While the rest of the country has spent the last week reveling in the afterglow of Grant Park, gay America has devolved into a Sarah Palin rally.

The issue is a particularly nasty California ballot initiative, Proposition 8, which passed last Tuesday with just over half the vote. Prop 8 repealed a historic state Supreme Court ruling that gave gays the right to wed—and it appears to have won massive black support. That's a fact that ought to shame black folks everywhere.

But it also ought to finally convince the white-led gay rights movement to take people of color seriously, a case black gay activists have been trying to make for the better part of the past 30 years. Addressing the destructive reactions of too many of my white gay compatriots in recent days would be a good place to begin.

It started when a CNN exit poll declared that 70 percent of black voters supported the initiative. That finding led many in Cali's white gay community to conclude they lost their rights because of black homophobia. Things went downhill fast from there. Much of the ensuing outcry has been nasty, even hateful. As one college student wrote to the black gay blog Rod 2.0 in describing a Los Angeles protest, "It was like being at a Klan rally, except the Klansmen were wearing Abercrombie Polos and Birkenstocks."

I wish his remark could be easily dismissed as hyperbole. The comment sections of blogs ranging from progressive standard-bearer DailyKos to black lesbian rabble rouser Jasmyne Cannick have been swarmed with racist rants and reports of slurs hurled at African Americans. Big-name gay scribes have piled on. By 10 a.m. the day after the election, popular columnist Dan Savage had shot off at the mouth, declaring himself "done pretending" that "the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans" aren't a bigger threat to gays than racist gays are to blacks. Whatever that means.

There is no question that homophobia runs deep in black America—or that it wreaks far more acute damage than denying marriage rights, frankly. Just ask the families of Sakia Gunn or Rashawn Brazell or any one of the scores of black queers whose murders have been met with a collective shrug in black communities. Or all the families destroyed by a raging AIDS epidemic we go on ignoring, in large part because of our uneasiness with sexuality of any sort, let alone the homo and bi and transgender kind. It's long past time black people have a conversation about this ugly reality.

But first, as with all things involving race and sex, there's a whole mess of facts about the California marriage fight that must be straightened out.

Not least of these is the shaky assertion that black voters made the difference. DailyKos diarist Shanikka has gained small celebrity for her post debunking it. The fact that blacks are densely clumped in just nine out of 58 California counties makes any race-based claim in CNN's geographically random sample muddy at best. Further, the poll excludes all of the state's 3 million early votes and counts blacks as 10 percent of voters when they're less than 7 percent of the population.
Of course, you don't have to get into such devilish details to notice something weird about this blame-the-blacks narrative.

Even if 70 percent truly did support the marriage ban, why single them out? So did six out of 10 people over 65. Ditto white Protestants and people with children under 18. Look at the electorate through any of these lenses and you identify a far larger share of the vote than when viewing it by race.
"The reason why people are so fascinated with the 70 percent number is Obama and this kumbaya moment that we were having," says Ron Buckmire, a leader in L.A.'s Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition, a black gay group. "To discover that not everyone was in the same place was really shocking and surprising for some people."
It should have been a no-brainer.

The Mormon-funded, anti-gay side aggressively targeted every racial and ethnic group in California—often dishonestly. Anti-gay operatives launched a robo-call scheme directed at black voters that falsely claimed Barack Obama supported their initiative. Obama does not support gay marriage, but neither did he support Prop 8. (Not that Obama did a hell of a lot to counter the lie.) The underfunded, pro-gay side responded with too little, too late.

These shenanigans explain why many black voters supported the marriage ban. Still, that's no excuse. "I am far less concerned with a white gay backlash than I am with the need for us to have a dialogue within the African-American community about what it means to have equality," says H. Alexander Robinson, who heads the National Black Justice Coalition, a black gay rights group.

Here, here.

Let's be clear, these hateful repudiations of gay relationships hurt black people. According to the U.S. Census, 10.5 percent of same-sex households are black, and they are at least twice as likely to be raising kids as their white counterparts.

Denying these families access to civil marriage bars them from hundreds of rights and responsibilities.

Many black folks wince when they hear gay rights compared to the black civil rights movement. And when it comes from white gays whose only interest in black people is appropriating our history, I do too.

But here's what Coretta Scott King had to say, in an address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Homophobia is as morally wrong and as unacceptable as racism," she declared. "We ought to extend to gay and lesbian people the same respect and dignity we claim for ourselves. Every person is a child of God, and every human being is entitled to full human rights."

The whole community faces consequences when those human rights are denied. Look no further than AIDS for proof. Black people were overrepresented from the epidemic's outset, but fear and hate of the gay men who bore its first burn paralyzed the community as the virus spread. Now black people account for half of all new infections.

At some point, we all must ask difficult, self-critical questions. No, as black people, we're not any more or less homophobic than anybody else. And yes, the white gay community needs to look at its own failures before casting blame on others.

But so what? Too many of us are homophobes, and we need to talk about it. Last Tuesday's vote should remove any doubt about the urgency of the discussion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rest Mama Afrika...

In the late 70's at my elementary school, maybe as a residue of the Black Power Movement or the burgeoning Afro-Centric focus on education for black students, one of our teachers fresh out of college had us do a dance to this song.

She had said the name Miriam Mekeba but it didn't resonate. What did resonate was the connection to the music, the beat, the feeling in conveyed.

Miriam Makeba transitioned to another expression on November 10, 2008. One of the strongest and first voices against apartheid in South Africa she will always be more than just a singer...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama - By Alice Walker (Nov. 5, 2008)

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Meditation, Mindfulness, & Metta

Meditation, Mindfulness, & Metta:
One-Day Retreat for MEN OF COLOR

with Larry Yang and Brian Hill

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008
9:30 am to 4:30 pm
East Bay Meditation Center
2147 Broadway, Oakland
(2 blocks from the 19th St. BART station)

Meditate with a capital M-More .
Be More Aware.
Be More Alive.
Be More Loving.
Be More of who you really are.
Explore Meditation, Mindfulness and Metta (the Practice of Lovingkindness)

Have you wanted to explore what meditation feels like? This is your opportunity to find out.

Come together for a day of meditation and exploring our spiritual lives. This daylong will include guidance in sitting and walking meditations in the Vipassana Buddhist tradition, instructions in cultivating Lovingkindness in our everyday lives, and opportunities for group sharing. Meditators of any experience are welcomed, with a special invitation to beginners.

Registration is required.

To register, please click on the following link, to fill out a registration form.

(If the link does not work, please copy it, and paste it into your web browser. If that still does not work, email us at -- or reply to this email -- with your full name, and a message requesting a registration form for the Present Moment, Future Moment workshop .)

Cost: The teachings are offered without charge. You will be invited to support the teachings and our efforts by choosing your own level of voluntary donations (the practice of "Dana") to support the expenses of the East Bay Meditation Center and the teachers.

The East Bay Meditation Center is wheelchair accessible.

Out of respect for people with environmental illnesses, please do not wear fragranced or scented products, or clothes laundered in fragranced products to this event.

About the Teachers

Larry Yang

Larry Yang teaches meditation retreats nationally and has a special interest in creating access to the Dharma for diverse multicultural communities. Larry has practiced extensively in Myanmar and Thailand, with a six month period of ordination as a Buddhist monk under the guidance of meditation master Ajahn Tong. He is one of the core teachers and leaders of the East Bay Meditation Center. His webpage is at:

Brian Hill

Brian Hill has been practicing Vipassana meditation since he first studied it in 1987 at a monastery near Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. He has participated in retreats, both as a practitioner and as a teaching assistant to meditation teachers in the U.S. since then.