". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

While We Go About Dreaming That It Can't Happen Here

Discussions are popping up that we are on the cusp of martial law in the United States. (Not in the primary media, of course. Indeed, if that's what you depend on for the news you wouldn't even know how huge the anti-Iraq momement is.)

Here's the latest one.

The Cindy Sheehan Peace Caravan gave us matching t-shirts: IMPEACH BUSH and IMPEACH CHENEY FIRST.

But I say the first figures we need to impeach is us. IMPEACH US FIRST. We let this happen.

Most people in the country don't even know there is an out of Iraq movement, much less how large it is, because all they see is primary media. Primary media hardly mentions anything that isn't about itself or what our masters want us to hear.




Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rape Cases on Indian Lands Go Uninvestigated

Part 1, broadcast yesterday:

Part 2, broadcast today on "All Things Considered."

This is beyond outrageous. Non-native men are responsible. No investigations, no indictments, no trials, no convictions. This is in the general region of where I come from. It's our version of the Mexican borders maquilordoras, where sexual kidnapping, torture and murder happen with impunity.

When did my part of the world become like this, filled with men making war on the most defenseless, children and women? O.k. granted I come from the bottom of the Red River Valley, which is far from the North-South Dakota Standing Rock stateline-bridging reservation. But I read in the Fargo Forum, and even the smaller towns' papers, every week of terrible crimes involved torture and beating and kidnapping and rape, of small children, of girls, young women, old women. This wasn't going on when I was growing, lucky for me.

This nation is beyond sick.

And, I truly fear, beyond healing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's Our Anniversary

It's a beautiful day.

We're packing boxes, moving office.

St. Ann was our anniversary celebration, I think, just as it was Vaquero's birthday.

And now we've had dinner and champagne and dessert, and watched some Abukuá ritual and music from Epke in the Calabar, and are checking facts for an AFRO POP radio program, and all and all, feel this was a great one too.

We've had so many different great anniversaries.

One I recall with great vividness, was in Santiago de Cuba, my first trip to Cuba, which fairly coincided with Carnival.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Anti-War Movement Becomes Pro-Impeachment Movement

Cindy Sheehan got arrested at Conyers's office. Our friend, who went on her march cross-country, is in charge of "springing everybody out of jail, so I can't get arrested," he e-mailed this a.m. (He's the one with money ....)

Cindy Sheehan's caravan will be in New York this week. Everyone is invited . . .
THURSDAY, July 26, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
RALLY & MARCH at the United Nations Begins & Ends at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza East 47th Street & 1st Avenue Candlelight vigil to follow. (E, V to Lex/53rd St, or 4, 5, 6, 7, S to 42nd St/Grand Central)

FRIDAY, July 27, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM RALLY at Union Square Park on the South Steps WEAR ORANGE for IMPEACHment! (L, N, Q, R, W, 4, 5 or 6 to Union Square/14th Street)

[ Cindy Sheehan announces she'll run against Nancy Pelosi 07/23/2007 @ 3:41 pm Filed by Nick Juliano and Michael Roston

Anti-Iraq War activist Cindy Sheehan announced in Washington on Monday afternoon that she would challenge Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2008 Congressional election.

"The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable so we have to old them accountable, and I for one will step up to the plate and runagainst Nancy Pelosi," Sheehan told a cheering crowd outside Rep. John Conyers' office on Capitol Hill.

Sheehan brought a petition calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Pro-impeachment organizers gathered more than 1 million signatures for the petition, Sheehan said.

Sheehan and other activists meet with Conyers in his office for nearly two hours. Conyers told them there were not enough votes to impeach the President or Vice President, and so he did not intend to hold hearings on the impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Sheehan said, eliciting loud boos from the hundreds of people gathered outside. Kucinich's Articles target the Vice President.

"We expressed what we feel is the urgency of removing George Bush and Dick Cheney from office," Sheehan told the crowd. She said their impeachment was "the only thing that can save our country and our soldiers" by bringing the war in Iraq to an end.

A spokesperson for the Congressman would not confirm the details of the meeting with RAW STORY, but agreed that Rep. Conyers said the resolution would not advance.

The anti-war activist, who became prominent after initiating peace vigils near President Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch, then conducted a sit-in at Conyers' congressional office, where she was later arrested by Capitol police. Between 20 and 30 people were carted off by Capitol police after they refused to clear Conyers' office and the hallway outside.

"Everybody, this is a police action now," a Capitol police officer told the protesters. The officer told RAW STORY that the protesters would be charged with unlawful assembly or similar charges.

Sheehan and a group of 300 or so supporters marched to Capitol Hill from the Arlington National Cemetery. Sheehan is the mother of Casey Sheehan, an Army Specialist who was killed in the Iraq War.

The activists came to Washington from across the country to make their voices heard in favor of impeachment. Even if the protest doesn't change many minds, it is important to speak up for one's beliefs, some of the activists told RAW STORY.

"I felt strongly about what Vietnam was doing to this country, and this time around, I want to be a little more involved than last time," Ken Jones, a 58-year-old protester, told RAW STORY. Jones traveled to Washington from Pennsylvania to participate in what was his first pro-impeachment demonstration.

Daily Kos diarist Bob Fertik offered further details of the Conyers-Sheehan.

While Sheehan has considerably greater national prominence, she would not be the first progressive candidate to challenge Pelosi. In the 2006 Congressional election, Pelosi faced Green Party candidate Krissy Keefer, who received 8% of the vote in Pelosi's San Francisco district. The Speaker received 80% of the vote.

Sheehan and her supporters hope her decision to challenge Pelosi inspires other progressive citizens to challenge their elected representatives in the 2008 elections.

"We need citizens that aren't beholden to corporations," Tina Richards, CEO of Grassroots America and a Sheehan supporter, told RAW STORY, "people that won't allow their government to have preemptive wars." ]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Our Culture

I've recently spent an intense span of time considering culture and identity in the context of the personal and the national, the colonialized and the colonizer. This was within the matrix of France and Europe, in the Caribbean and New World. You might think that the issues of the U.S. would be peripheral, at best, to this matrix. And it was, though it loomed, for a fundamental consideration for those who are a "colony of citizens," as brilliant Laurent Dubois has called them, is that if they are NOT France, then they are very likely to become subject to the U.S., which they view as contemptible, and thus fear.

And thus one inevitably must begin to consider the 'culture' of one's own home, which in my case is the U.S.

And this seems to be, from the wider perspective, to be more and more what the majority culture of this nation is:

[ California highways have been shut down by wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes and police chases. And now road rage.

Drivers inconvenienced by a road-widening project subjected construction workers to so much abuse — death threats, BB gun shootings, a flying burrito — that the state shut down California Highway 138 altogether. ]

[ Last September, Charles Fenn was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon on accusations that he clipped a flagman with his vehicle on his way home to Wrightwood.

“I’m the victim,” Mr. Fenn maintained in a brief telephone interview, declining to say anything else. ]

These are indeed the children of clownface, and why the rest of the world sees this nation by and large as filled with obese, selfish, cruel, mean, ugly, ignorant hordes that they don't want in their back yard.

[ A new executive order signed by President Bush does not authorize the full set of harsh interrogation methods used by the C.I.A. since the program began in 2002. But government officials said the rules would still allow some techniques more severe than those used in interrogations by military personnel in places like the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. ]

The wording is so vague that anything short of actual death appears permitted.

Anyway, it proves its mendacity that the regime felt it needed to execute an exec order re torture, when it claimed all along that it did not torture. Just like it claimed it didn't have secret prison camps. Nobody even bothers to deny the existence of the secret prison camps now. Feh. Crooks & Liars from start to finish. How can they put the words democracy, human rights, free and fair elections in their mouths and tell OTHER NATIONS they must obey such injunctions as issued by them? Thus we are the nation that employs torture -- not because it is useful, as it has been proven time and again, over the ages, not to be. But because we like it. It is another example of the top trickle down.

You all know that the first mention in primary media -- the New York Times -- of this clownface, was in the case of him defending the use of branding with red hot coat hangers the freshman being intiated into his fraternity. "It's no worse than getting burned with a cigarette."

These are the behaviors of sociopaths.

Sports fans abuse the players of the teams they support when the players make errors, they abuse the players of the teams they don't support, because they are the 'other.' They riot against each other.

The ignorance and brutality of the so-called Dark Ages reign.

Yet, as in the Dark Ages there are pockets of resistence and light -- the kids who go to New Orleans to help build houses for the evacuated that the fed gummit keeps gumming up, deliberately, the works for them to return home; the people who dare to write and speak publicly against the evil and ignorance spread by those on top. How long, how long ....

Many of the worst villains in literature and other 'entertainment' media are torturers. One of sf's great character - villains is Dune's Baron Harkonnen, straight out of the 16th / 17th Revenge Tragedies, is an unabashed sadist-torturer, who takes great pleasure in being so. However, his creator does not ever suggest anything other than that he tortures because he is a villain and he's a villain because he tortures.

SF has also contributed Gene Wolfe's Severian (the name of the principal character in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose partially autobiographical novel Venus in Furs, is the most famous S&M novel ever).

THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN series is considered by many as a stylistic masterpiece of manners; others see it as creepy (not to mention dull), particularly within the context of other works Wolfe has produced. It is creepy to attempt to make a torturer guiltless and sympathetic. Severian loves torturing -- oh, but he has a soul, and feels guilt. Sort of. It is necessary to this sympathy that he belongs to a Guild, quite like the Inquistition. This is to legitimize what he does. Supposedly.

Yet Wolfe must go further than this to make him a sympathetic character; Severian's had to be coerced, and then trained, when still a most malleable youthm into the sophisticated wielding of his 'art.' I.e., it's not supposed to be his choice.

However, Wolfe also chooses to include the information that these meticulous tortures are inflicted -- NOT FOR INFORMATION, but for the inexplicable satisfaction of Others. Often these people are entirely innocent of anything.

Civilized peoples don't torture. Period.

The Iroquois's tortures of their captives have become legendary in their prolongation and attention to physical detail -- keeping the victim alive and suffering as long as possible. Those tortures were not inflicted for information either; they were done for the pleasure of doing them. The only possible justification to that then, for the victims, was to make the endurance and suffering a manhood test. Yet, they, like Apaches and Commanches and any other of the Natives who ritually practiced torture, were considered savages. The accusation that one had 'gone native' included practices like scalping of Indians -- mostly an innovation provided by the invading Europeans. Most shocking of all was that women of these tribes also tortured their enemies.

The greatest villains of all, in literature and popular media, are, of course, women, women who participate in torture -- because when a woman does so, we have crossed so clearly the line that our cultures have set up to separate humanity and civilization and value for the spirit into the world of evil. The names of the (few) women engaged in SS tortures will live in infamy through recorded history. It is when women are involved with torture that it becomes utterly clear how connected to the toxic, evil eros-thanatos impulse torture is, because, you know, that's why they make those movies -- it gets guys hot. That's much of the impulse that keeps the SS constantly in the forefront of bad guys, and movies dealing with them and their activities are still being made, books are still being written. It gets guys hot.

Those who justify torture seem not to realize what their eager justification reveals about themselves.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sober North Dakotans Hope to Legalize Hemp

[ OSNABROCK, N.D. — David C. Monson seems an improbable soul to find at the leading edge of a national movement to legalize growing hemp, a plant that shares a species name, a genus type and, in many circles, a reputation, with marijuana.

As Mr. Monson rolls past his wheat, barley and shimmering yellow fields of canola, he listens to Rush Limbaugh in his tractor. When he is not farming, he is the high school principal in nearby Edinburg, population 252. When he is not teaching, he is a Republican representative in Bismarck, the state capital, where his party dominates both houses of the legislature and the governor is a Republican.

“Look at me — do I look shady?” Mr. Monson, 56, asked, as he stood in work boots and a ball cap in the rocky, black dirt that spans mile after mile of North Dakota’s nearly empty northern edge. “This is not any subversive thing like trying to legalize marijuana or whatever. This is just practical agriculture. We’re desperate for something that can make us some money.”
The rocks, the dirt, the cool, wet climate and a devastating crop fungus known as scab are part of what has landed North Dakota, of all states, at the forefront of a political battle more likely to have emerged somewhere “a little more rebellious,” as one farmer here put it, like California or Massachusetts.

Though federal authorities ban the growing of hemp, saying it contains tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance better known as THC in marijuana, six states this year considered legislation to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, and Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, introduced a bill in Washington that would let states allow such crops. In state legislatures, the advocates of hemp note that it contains mere traces of THC, and that hemp (grown in other countries) is already found here in clothes, lotions, snack bars, car door panels, insulation and more.

But no place has challenged the government as fiercely as North Dakota. Its legislature has passed a bill allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp and created an official licensing process to fingerprint such farmers and a global positioning system to track their fields. This year, Mr. Monson and another North Dakota farmer, with the support of the state’s agriculture commissioner, applied to the Drug Enforcement Administration for permission to plant fields of hemp immediately.

“North Dakota is really pushing the envelope on this one,” said Doug Farquhar, the program director for agriculture and rural development at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legislatures in Maine, Montana, West Virginia and other states have passed bills allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp, said Alexis Baden-Mayer, the director of government relations for Vote Hemp, a group that presses for legalization, but those laws have not been carried out given federal drug law. ]

There is much more to this article -- hit the link above.

Friday, July 20, 2007

All-Star Group of Sudanese Musicians and Dancers on Summer Stage

MUSICIANS CALL FOR A UNIFIED SUDAN The First Annual Sudanese Music & Dance Festival

Saturday, July 21st, 2007 from 3:00pm to 7:00pm
at Central Park SummerStage, NYC

"An unprecedented gathering of Sudanese musical and dance legends from all regions and religions of Sudan..."

With appearances by:
* Sharhabil Ahmed
* Abu Araki Al Bakhiet
* Yousif El Moseley
* Hadia, Ammal, Hayat "Al Balabil" (The Humming Birds)
* Ali El Sigade
* Omer Banaga
* Rasha Sheikh Aldein Gibreel
* Al Warif Sheikh Aldein Gibreel
* Brides of the Nile Dance Group
* Emmanuel Kembe (South of Sudan)
* Omer Ihsas (Darfur)
* The Nile Music Orchestra

To most of us in the West, the Sudan has become synonymous with refugees,war and genocide. But the country had a rich and thriving culture before the imposition of fundamentalist rule in 1989 - a fact that makes the current situation there all the more tragic. SummerStage is proud to host a showcase of Sudanese culture, featuring legendary Sudanese artists who are reuniting for the first time in 20 years to celebrate the past and hope for a peaceful future.

For event details & directions, see below or visit

FREE Event and World Wide Broadcast on

Produced by Dawn Elder Presented with the support of the Sudanese Information Center


This summer, an unprecedented gathering of musicians from the East African nation of Sudan will come together in New York to accomplish something politicians, war lords and diplomats have thus far failed to do: Unify Sudan!

Sudan is Africa’s largest country. It is also one of the most diverse, with some 300 ethnic groups living in deserts, mountains, and along the shores of the great Nile River. Once called “the bread basket of Africa,” Sudan today is better known for poverty, war, and ethnic and religious division. At the heart of Sudan’s crisis is the fact that the country has never really coalesced. In ancient times, the north was the Kingdom of Nubia, with close ties to Egypt and the Arab world, and the south the territory of African agricultural groups, such as the Dinka, Shilluk, Nuer, and Azande. The south was physically cut off from Nubia by the nearly impassable swamplands of the White Nile. These two distant worlds became politically joined when Egypt annexed Sudan in the 19th century. When Britain then occupied Egypt in 1898, it claimed Sudan without so much as a fight. The trouble was, neither occupier had ever sought to forge an overarching, Sudanese identity. This was a country in name only.

Sudan won its independence in 1956, but given its history, fair and effective governance was impossible. Power tended to center in the Muslim north, and after the government imposed sharia law in 1989, people in the Christian south felt radically disenfranchised and victimized. After much strife and conflict, the north and south established a fragile Peace Accord in 2005. Meanwhile, new fighting surged in the West, in Darfur, and the world’s attention focused there. The broad array of Sudanese musicians participating in the Sudanese Music and Dance Festival believe that both of these conflicts must be understood as pieces in a larger puzzle, the puzzle that is Sudan. Today, with the North-South Peace Accord as a model to be applied in Darfur and elsewhere, many Sudanese sense an opportunity to at last build a nation. These artists intend to show the way.

The Sudanese Music and Dance Festival event is produced and created by a veteran of daring world music initiatives in the United States, Dawn Elder.

Elder, a composer and award-winning music producer, has a passion for Sudanese music which goes back to her work with one of the greatest living Sudanese singers, Mohammed Wardi. Wardi no longer leaves his homeland, but the superlative orchestra that backed him and other Sudanese legends, the Nile Music Orchestra, will be the musical hub of this historic, Sudanese showcase, and the spirit of Wardi and his seminal generation will pervade the performance.
A Pantheon of Sudan’s Diverse Cultural Legacy

The artists participating in the Sudanese Music and Dance Festival have lived the diverse and troubled history of Sudanese music. One of the festival’s grandest figures, Shurahibeel Ahmed, was born in Omdurman in central Sudan in 1935, and he came to the capital, Khartoum, at a time when the lyric songs of the Sudanese tambour (lyre) were beginning to find common ground with the Arabic maqaam system of music, as well as the tradition of madeeh, praise songs to the Prophet Mohamed. The secular, and at times irreverent haqiba genre was emerging as an entrancing and distinctly local form of recreational song, especially popular at weddings. Shurahibeel was transfixed when he encountered a man from southern Sudan playing a guitar, an instrument he had never seen. Shurahibeel went on to specialize in guitar, and also to play saxophone, trumpet and trombone. He fell in love with jazz, the songs of Harry Belafonte, and Egyptian art music, especially Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, and all of this went into his unique and groundbreakingstyle. Shurahibeel recalled the 50s as a time of exuberance and optimism in Khartoum. Still, like Sudanese many greats of his generation, he ventured on to Cairo to begin his recording career. But he returned home, and during the 60s and 70s, his performances on Sudanese radio and television helped set a new, modern direction for popular music throughout the country.

In the 70s and 80s, fascinating musical hybrids flourished in Sudanese cities, such as Khartoum in the north, and Juba in the south. Mohammed Wardi’s rich fusion of elements made him a sensation, along with other vocal giants such as Abdel Gadir Salim, Abdel Aziz el Mubarak, and Abu Araki Al Bakheit, who will represent this crucial generation in the festival. The music was orchestral and celebratory, Arab and African - quintessentially Sudanese.

The musical director for the Sudanese Music and Dance Festival is Yousif El Moseley, who moved from singing traditional songs with percussion to composing for and performing with wedding bands in 1970s Khartoum. As a star student at the Institute of Drama and Music, El Moseley earned the chance to travel to Cairo, where he attained a Masters degree in composition. When he returned to Khartoum in 1989 modernity was in the air. The amazing Balabils had hit the scene. This trio of talented, musically trained Nubian teenagers became Khartoum’s answer to the Supremes, and they revolutionized social and artistic possibilities for Sudanese women.

Music and social life were advancing hand in hand as Sudan broached a new era, and El Moseley was poised to shepherd the Sudanese music scene to new heights. But shortly after his return, this tale of promise ended with the coup of 1989, and the imposition of sharia law. From this time onwards, life became terribly difficult for musicians. There was an 11PM curfew, and popular figures like El Moseley and Al Bakheit faced pressure to sing for the regime. Both refused, and suffered the consequences. El Moseley eventually moved to Cairo, where he became a successful producer, and between 1992-96, recorded 45 albums for all the top Sudanese singers. Al Bakheit tried to retire rather than sing for the regime, but his fans wouldn’t let him stop, and he was harassed and threatened often as government minders scanned even his love songs for subversive messages.

There are many terrible stories from the 1990s and since. Irreplaceable manuscripts and recordings - especially of artists from the south - have been destroyed and erased. Musicians have been beaten, even murdered, and over 200 of the most beloved performance artists have gone into exile. From Cairo, Yousif El Moseley moved to the United States in 1996, and he now teaches in Monterrey, California. A number of other singers of his generation have followed him to the U.S., and the musicians with whom he made so many classic recordings, the Nile Music Orchestra, now live in Virginia. Some Sudanese artists, like the young singer/songwriter Rasha Sheikh Aldein Gibreel, moved to Europe. Rasha has made a promising crossover
career blending Sudanese tradition with contemporary jazz and world music, and delivering powerful social commentary. Meanwhile, Rasha’s older sister, Tumadir Sheikh Aldein Gibreel, abandoned her career as an actress and director Sudan to found the Brides of Nile Dance Group, presently based in Boston.

In New York, these artist will be reunited not only with one another but with legends like the Balabils - now Monterrey - and beloved artists who still struggle to make ends meet in Khartoum, like Shurahibeel Ahmed, Abu Araki Al Bakheit, and Zeidan Abrahim, beloved for his soft voice and sad songs. There will also be singers from the next generation, like Atif Aneis and Omer Banaga, who made his name with the band Igd Al Galad, champions of modernizing Sudanese folklore as electric pop music.

Most radical of all will be combination of these artists with rising stars from the southern Sudan and Darfur. Emmanuel Kembe is a contemporary Afropop star from the south, whose frank lyrics caused him to be jailed in Sudan in 1994. From his home in exile in the United States, Kembe now makes hugely successful recordings, and tours for the Sudanese diaspora community worldwide. Omer Ihsas of Darfur transitioned from a medical nurse to a successful soul singer, and now creates haunting, bluesy contemporary music, deeply connected with the suffering of his people back in Sudan.

The Nile Music Orchestra includes some of Sudan’s most respected instrumentalists as well.
The group’s elite corps of string players, the Nile Strings, includes veterans with over 25 years of experience in the Sudan Radio and Television Orchestra, and other top ensembles. Ahmad “Bass” Al Tigiani is a master violinist, songwriter, composer, arranger and singer, beloved for his vocal adaptations of folk songs from his native region, Darfur. Merghani El Zain studied violin and composition in Russia in the late ‘80s and returned to found, along with years as part of Abdel Gadir Salim’s ensemble. Mekail Bakhid is another veteran violinist from Darfur, but there is also young blood in today’s Nile Strings, notably up-and-coming violin virtuoso Magdi Al Ageib. Among keyboardist Mahir Hassan, with over 25 years experience backing Sudanese vocal stars, and superstar percussionist Faiz Miligy, who comes from one of Sudan’s most beloved musical families in the central, Jazira region. Members of the Nile Music Orchestra will travel from Sudan, Canada, the UK, and many parts of the United States for this unprecedented performance.

Although these artists come from different locations, ethnic backgrounds, generations, and experience, they all share a passionate vision of a united Sudan. Their presence on one stage will not only be an unprecedented summit of Sudan’s greatest living musical talent, and an emotionally charged reunion for the participants, but most of all, a powerful symbol of what could be possible back home. This will be a true life example of musicians showing the way to a better world.

This entire event will be presented worldwide via streaming on, the new all-music network bringing the music of the world to you via the internet.

The Production and Its Producers

Dawn Elder is also the Director of Programming for the internet all-music and dance site, StayTunedTV is producing the concert video of the event for worldwide streaming as a “Recorded Live” event. The video production will be directed by John Kuri, an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and television producer. Kuri created the StayTunedTV concept and has produced and directed the majority of the programming available on StayTunedTV.TV. StayTunedTV is a presentation of Kuri Productions, Inc. and its sister corporation Elixir Entertainment, Inc.

Dr. Mahmoud Mutwakil, head of the Sudan Information Center, and a key sponsor of the Sudanese Music and Dance Festival, says that everyone involved in this event shares one overriding motivation, “to work for a united, peaceful, democratic, and just Sudan.” Dr. Mutwakil concludes, “It’s time that these senseless wars stopped, and that people sat down together and solved their problems once and for all.”

For more information regarding the Sudanese Music & Dance Festival events, the artists participating or music producer Dawn Elder and, contact: Gillian Zali at 310-291-7909,

Media inquiries for Central Park Summerstage: Kristin Coleman, 212-561-7469

Location and Directions: Central Park SummerStage is located at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. Enter the park at 69th St. & 5th Ave. on the east side or at 72nd St. & Central Park West on the west side.

By Subway: East side: 6 train to 68th or 77th Streets West side: 1, 2, 3, 9, B or C trains to 72nd Street

By Bus: East side: M1, M2, M3 or M4 to 72nd Street and 5th Avenue West side: M7, M10, or M11 to 72nd Street and Central Park West Crosstown: M-66 or M72 to Central Park West or Fifth Avenue

Bishops' Proposal - Virginia Tech

From Michael and Jeri Bishop, posted here by permission (for those who may not know, "Steffi" was Jamie's wife):

What follows is a serious proposal for the use of Norris Hall, where our son Jamie was slain along with thirty-one innocent others on April 16 in the worst school shooting in the history of our nation. It is not originally our idea, and we don't intend to claim it as ours, but we do hope to gather support for the idea of a peace center at Virginia Tech, and we hope to gather it from as many places as we possibly can. Note that our letter is followed by one from Tech alumna, Kathleen Ann Goonan, a successful science fiction novelist whose latest novel IN WAR TIMES deals in part with "the possibility of peace."

Michael & Jeri Bishop

To Whom It May Concern:

We, Michael and Jeri Bishop, the late Jamie Bishop's parents, wholeheartedly support our daughter-in-law, Stefanie Hofer, and several others in their fervent desire that at least a portion of Norris Hall can be turned into a center for the study of international peace and crime prevention -- as one component of a major effort on Virginia Tech's part to take the lead in promoting campus safety at institutions of higher learning all across the country and indeed the world.

As Steffi has repeatedly pointed out, many of those slain, physically wounded, or psychologically scarred by the events that took place on April 16 in Norris Hall were international students (or international faculty), and there could be no more fitting memorial to those who died or more fitting tribute to those who survived than to acknowledge the horror that occurred in Norris Hall and to redeem that horror by establishing, within its repainted walls, a center for the study of international peace and crime prevention.

Many currently say, and no doubt believe, that no one will ever forget that morning or the lessons implicit in it, but as a species we have to be reminded repeatedly of matters that we would prefer to forget (as is demonstrably the case with the Holocaust); thus, the total necessity of appropriating space in Norris Hall for the purposes of remembering, redeeming, and preventing further acts of the sort that killed Steffi's husband (our son) and so many other good, kind, and productive people that we cringe before the raging bonfire of so much loss.
We intend no slight to, or diminution of the importance of, the concept of Norris Hall as an engineering facility; we recognize its significance to the engineering program and applaud the fact that no one wants to completely decommission the building. However, we think it crucial to champion the equally vital notion that only two or three classrooms in the building devoted to the study of international peace and crime prevention would stand as a permanent, proactive memorial and as a bold statement that we can not only learn from past horrors but also take steps to prevent them and better our world for everyone. We understand all too well that some people disparage this vision as naive and Pollyannish, but we argue just as vehemently that if figures as naive and Pollyannish as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela had not put forward their powerful ameliorating visions, the world would today be a poorer, less just, and more violent place than it currently is.

We would like to relay these sentiments to all those discussing the fate of Norris Hall and instrumental in making decisions connected with its future use. We would also like to acknowledge that taking this visionary step will pose difficult financial, organizational, and teaching challenges, but that the benefits accruing to Virginia Tech, our country, and the world from accepting and overcoming these challenges would outweigh almost all the costs and attendant struggle. Some of these benefits would perhaps be intangible, especially at first, but they would not be trivial or merely symbolic. They would include a clear communication of the fact that Virginia Tech intends to do something concrete and coherent to redeem the events of April 16 (not only for itself but also for other universities, colleges, and educational plants around the world), and an authoritative daily proclamation that through vision and effort even the most intractable of human problems can be taken apart, diagnosed, and treated. Greatly daring, we assert that this approach to establishing peace and preventing crime even has a conspicuous engineering element wholly in line with the original provenance of Norris Hall.
Forgive this small treatise, but we wish to lay before you and others not only the heartfelt rationale behind our proposal but also our passionate conviction that this idea will prove practical, doable, and beneficial. Even if others demur and even if it must start humbly, we envision this center growing incrementally in size and impact until it works, and goes on working, positive measurable change in the world at large. This we propose in remembrance and redemption of an April morning too dreadful to forget.

Michael and Jeri Bishop

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pulls From the Moleskine

This is the Moleskine notebook Vaquero gave me at Christmas. I hadn't rated anything worthy to sully the pristine pages until now. It was the perfect writing kit down in St. Ann, Guadeloupe. Right size for my bag, the paper, which despite the humidity, kept the ink from running and didn't rumple and bubble in the heat and humidity, from either air or my skin. The elastic band kept the pages from blowing around. As the conference presentations and panels and symposia were held in le hôtel's salle d'conférence this was much appreciated as well as necessary.

The salle d'conférence is a separate building, between the swimming pool and the beach. The windows' glass louvres tilted open to the trade winds, multiple doors on two sides were wide open, and the ceiling fans blew constantly, as they needed to. There were occasional, and very short, power failures. You could feel the difference nearly immediately when those electric, rotating fans were out of commission, despite the ventilation. By the afternoon sessions, even with all that ventilation it was a wee bit warm and sweaty in there.

I wish I had photos. I took a lot of them, but they are all film, as my digital camera's flash has failed. It will take a while to get them all developed and some scanned. A lot is going on here. As much as I'd liked to have just stayed on in St. Ann, even if it were possible, it would have been a very bad, very irresponsible thing to have done.

But I'm ruffling through the many, many pages written in the Moleskine now. Some oddities jump out, such as, "We all eat so much pineapple that the lavatories smell like pineapple juice."Was that too much sharing?

What else? The Séminaire's organizers and participants do NOT regard Haiti as included in the French Caribbean. This is vastly intriguing, since so much energy is directed toward the efforts by a significant number to erase French in the Dept of Guadeloupe in favor of Créole, for such Séminaires, for schools, for government, and Haiti's Créole is the same as Guadeloupe's, Martinique's, St. Lucía's (though St. Lucía is an English possession -- and some want it to become France). As the title of the Séminaire declares, this is about identity, and the intangible patrimony of these islands, thus the arguments will, of course, be organized greatly around language. Just as here in the U.S. we have the endless argument for "English only," no bi-lingualism. USians like to believe 'we' are above such colonialist concerns as identity politics, but lordessa, we are nothing if NOT about identity politics, or so it seems even more so, from the perspective of sitting in the salle d'conférence.

The anger against France and French emerges again and again. But also what emerges again and again, is the terror of becoming what the Dept. of Guadeloupe sees all around itself, outside of the French Caribbean -- the violence and the poverty of eveywhere else, particularly Jamaica and Haiti. France has saved them from this. They see how much more prosperous in material goods they are than Cubans. Yet, so much of the language of the ideologies and even the research projects and the goals and objectives of preservation and transmission of culture has been lifted directly from Cuba's Revolutionary directives and models.

I had no idea this conference was going to be so much about library skills, archives and organization of information. By and large, I am less impressed by the understanding of these methods as demonstrated by the functionaire participants (as distinguished from the people actually doing the research and other work in the field), than perhaps, I might be. There were these guys showing up who mouthed the jargon in the most awful, boring manner, and to my mind didn't even understand the jargon of the field, and generally tried to plug in the jargon and the methodology in a way that was irrelevant and meaningless to the work that was being done, and was attempted to be done. Kennedy Samuel, a long-time cultural activist Roots Man from St. Lucía was the best. He always challenged empty bs, as did our NYU doctoral candidate who is working with Pacific Colombian black cultures. Both of them walked out on ithe diots too, but first telling them WHY they were idiots and worthless and their time was valuable and the empty-of-content presentations were wasting it. These idiots were all functionaires, naturally. Also, I get the impression that these sorts of affairs aren't anywhere nearly ruled by the decorum that is usually in effect among tenure-conscious academic events in the U.S. Denouncement isn't taken as personally as we might do.

A headshaking moment: a woman ethnologist, Diana Rey-Hulman, who has been working with the Breton descendants on the small fishing island of Désirade, which is part of Guadeloupe, and their traditional marine songs and chanties, spoke of how the men were generally illiterate. The transmission of this traditional heritage was actually in the hands of the women, preserved in family notebooks. The women were literate, and they were the ones who wrote down the songs, and would look them up when necessary, and would sing them to the children, though the men sang them in public spaces, and the women did not. Immediately some blowhard stood up to explicate upon what she said, speaking of how fathers passed these songs down to their sons, when she had just made the point that it was the women who actually passed the words along to their sons.

However, when it came to actual presentation of papers and so on, the USians killed by about a million. So much more to the point and professional. And by golly, we woke 'em right up in the heat and lethargy of the afternoon meetings. Electrified them, in fact. Some things we can still do right, but there appear to be fewer and fewer of them.

Guadeloupe 2 - Why Can't I Stay in France

We return from as close to paradise on earth as you can get, it seems, to -- learning that Vitter likes to have prostitutes order him into diapers, and that the clownfacecrimefamilysyndicate still has not been impeached.

Bad show, U.S.A.

France's Ministry of Arts and Culture really paid for everything. 11 days in a lovely hotel steps from one of the world's most perfect tropical beaches, food, transportation, everything. We paid for transport to and from JFK and a few beers and bottled water. I tend to go through a 6-pack of 1,1 liter bottles every day and a half. (Which is something to think about, since that was just private drinking water, not the other water I drank during the symposia, and elsewhere. Most people in the world don't get that much clean, potable water every day -- not to mention what we need individually for washing, laundry, cooking, to raise the food we consume.) Going by the rates listed on the web, this would have been something like well over $10,000 for the two of us.
And the Ministry of Culture paid for all this, just for this one Séminaire, held within this one arts festival, this one month, on this one very small island of their Caribbean department (department here, meaning like state in the U.S. organization -- Guadeloupe, Martinique, etc., ARE France, in the way Hawai'i is the U.S., and not the way Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, but not a state).

In other words, France supports directly more intellectural and cultural and arts activity, and those who do this work, on one tiny island than the U.S. does for the entire farkin' U.S.A.
The way these intellectuals live! They have vacation homes everywhere! They don't pay for either education or medical care. The food, the clothing, the perfume are the miracle that French joi d'vivre and French exquisite attention to detail make them. The people of the islands are beautiful, with all that French flaire and charm and taste, well-nourished, healthy -- and not fat. You could always tell when you ran into (rarely) someone from the U.S. They were fat. Grossly fat. And wore t-shirts that announced, "I'm a Texan and I Fart in Your Face," and worse. No wonder several people took we 4 USians participating in this Séminaire aside, to assure us that they thought we were splendid exceptions to the view they hold of the USians they generally run into here and in metropolitan France.

The 4e Séminaire d'éthnomusicologie caribéenne: Patrimoine Culturel Immatériel de la Caraïbe was an unparalleled opportunity. It enlarged and expanded my perspectives in just the way they needed to be, started to fill in gaps and connect dots that need filling in and connection for my historical viewpoints. I was able to do the same for them to certain degrees as well. See these are all ethnologists, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, etc., but none of them have much, if any training in history and the wider global cultural development over history. For instance, when the Indian Guadeloupian spoke of his work for the Cultural Center in the preservation and transmission of his Tamil heritage, neither he nor anyone in the room realized that sugar cane was originally cultivated in India, which is why the Indians were chosen to be indentured and brought in to take the place of the now sugar cane labor refusnik former slaves -- ain't neveah gonna work on that plantation no mo, fo sho! So they brought in Indians throughout the Caribbean to do the work (by trickery and chicanery and lies -- and even outright abduction -- of course, just as KBR and their Kuwaiti sister corps are doing in Iraq right now).

So I explained this wasn't just a whimsical, arbitrary choice -- just as with the beginning of the New World slavery, those chosen to be slaves had a cultural heritage already of doing the kind of work they were enslaved to do in the new colonies -- cultivation of rice, indigo, etc. There was also the connection with the earliest Europeans to colonize in India, the Portuguese, and with the Spanish, both of which were already running sugar cane latifundia in the Azores, Cape Verde, the Canaries, and their Mediterranean districts before Columbus sailed, that still maintained the strong Arab influences in technology and culture. These were worked mostly with African labor they'd already brought back from their first tentative forays down the African West Coast. Additionally, slavery as an institution continued all around the Mediterranean basin and remained in effect well into the Christian era, and, indeed, was not stopped there, until the Enlightenment. The Vatican worked many of its properties with slave labor in those days.

There were a couple of men who violently stated I was flat wrong about this, demonstrating USian myopia and ignorance, that sugar cane was indigenous to the New World and brought to the old with exploration, like tomatoes. But I rattled off several book titles that document the history of sugar cane and the plantation system, as it moved, via, first the Arabs, out of India and further and further west along the Mediterranean. One of the multiply-lingual participants (languages were Spanish, French, Créole, and English, as well as Portuguese) took his laptop to le hôtel Rotobas's tiny, limited wi-fi (pronounced weefee -- oui, oui, weefee!) area, looked up the books, looked up the subject on wiki, etc., and returned, to solomnly announce that Madame was indeed correct in every respect.

This was my only unpleasant experience. I felt so embarrassed. I hadn't intended to speak to the conference participants at all. But while Raghunath Manet's presentation was in play I inadvertently mentioned this little fact, basically to myself -- connecting dots for myself -- aloud, within our little circle of English speakers and our translator, and Stephanie, the translator, waved wildly to the roving microphone and insisted I present this information to room.

And things went from there.But this little bit of information ended transforming most of the participants to some degree or another, whether a doctoral candidate at NYU, a member of the ministry of culture who lives, naturally, in Paris, to the translator, who is television documentarian of culture and art, to the organizer of the Symposium, whose ex-father-in-law was one of the most poltically significant figures of Martinique, and with whom she shared none of his views -- Aimé Césaire.

But isn't it amazing how every discipline that could so benefit from history, doesn't know it? And I was one of the few non-academics the room. Later in the week, I confounded the French Ministry of Culture guy, who is the one in charge of the Guadeloupe Department (all of the French Caribbean is under the Guadeloupe Department, even if it is named the Guadeloupe Department), and thus the guy who has control of all the money, when I casually mentioned the speculations that can be made in terms of the significance to the history of the Department of Guadeloupe -- slave revolutions and counter-revolutions and, later, their generally activist leftist political leanings -- Martinique being the place from which came Madame d'Maintenon, born protestant as Mademoiselle d'Aubigné, who ended up wife to King Louis XIV, as well as Pagerie Plantation, where the future Empress Josephine grew up.
This was in every way a transformative event, and I feel so very, very grateful and privileged to have had this opportunity.

This nation looks worse than ever from that perspective. We are a civic sewer. Our only culture is greed and consumption. Nevertheless, the citizens of the Department of Guadeloupe have many, many complaints. But they don't want to be separate from France even so. Among their considerations is the terror that if they became independent the U.S. global corps would take over. Not to mention they'd lose their pensions, free health care, free education and all the other multiple benefits they receive from being France.This is what one African national called, "A vision of African paradise, what we should be, and what our colonialism has always made sure we never can be."

Guadeloupe 1

Fish at least twice a day, and fruit, yes.

It's very hot, very humid, a drought in progress, yet all is green and blooming with aromatic flowers.

Fascinating people and events all day, every day.

And this beautiful beach almost out the door.If it wasn't for the mosquitos, it really could be perfect.

I have had my first encounters with that famous seductive French masculine charm. I never believed in it before, judging by the French men I've met previously. There are loads of men here at the conference who are high in the French ministry of culture.Good lordessa, if this nation spent only a fraction on the arts and culture that France spends on this tiny island alone, every year .... So much about cultural politics.

The most telling sign concerning our own status in the world, just economically, is that nobody here wants or will take our dollars. We can't change our money anywhere here, except at the airport. That is what the years of the regime have accomplished, people. Made U.S money worthless.

We've learned so much in these intense days of the conference. I've become ignorant in many languages, however. At first, Spanish was a relief, like English. But as of today I've hit that language wall. I can't even speak or write English. From past experience, this will go away, and I'll have another level of fluency.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fish For Dinner

We rise at 5 a.m.

By dinner time we should have our fish.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day - Built On Slavery

"Plain as Dirt: History Without Gimmickry"

An Excavated Passage Leads Visitors Deep Into the Story of Washington and His Slaves

[ But tunnels have a fascination that transcends their pragmatic explanations. For historians and archaeologists, the discovery of the tunnel was an interesting new bit of knowledge about the house, and a reminder that Washington kept slaves while he lived there in the 1790s. For others, it seemed to suggest that a man whose name is synonymous with probity was trying to deceive both his neighbors and history about his deep involvement with the peculiar institution of slavery.

"People jumped to the conclusion that Washington was hiding slaves," says Levin. "But he couldn't." He couldn't because they cooked his meals, cleaned his stables, tended his carriage and managed just about every mundane detail of life. But he wasn't advertising their extended presence in Philadelphia either. Pennsylvania had a law that required slaves to be freed after six months of residence. So Washington was forced to shuttle his slaves back and forth between Philadelphia and Mount Vernon to evade the residency clause -- which he hoped in vain could be done without his slaves realizing the reason.

"I wish to have it accomplished under pretext that may deceive both them and the Public," he wrote to his secretary, an act that author and Washington biographer Henry Wiencek called "perhaps the only documented incident of George Washington's telling a lie." Perhaps even more disturbing than Washington's lie was his very vigorous pursuit of slaves who escaped his service. When Ona Judge, a slave who tended primarily to Martha Washington, carefully planned and successfully executed an escape to New Hampshire, Washington was furious and attempted to use his prestige to pressure a federal official to help recapture her.

"Everything about this was illegal," wrote Wiencek in "An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America."

Agitation for a memorial that included discussion of Washington's slaves and women such as Judge, who lived with Washington at the President's House, was fueled by a sense that the Park Service was hiding this history. With discovery of the foundations of the original house and evidence of the tunnel, it seemed as if the city of Philadelphia had discovered a bombshell bit of new history: that the father of the country kept slaves in the first executive mansion. But this was well known. The archaeological dig merely brought forth visible, tangible evidence of a house that, like so many houses at the time, was what a later president would call "divided against itself." ]