Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Jena Six (continued)

H/T Professor BlackWoman and One Black Man

Mychal Bell's sentencing date has been changed from July 31 to September 20. He has a new attorney.

Some national entities have offered assistance and/or made public statements about the cases.

From the NAACP:
A team of concerned lawyers is volunteering their legal experience and research expertise to assist Bell in his appeal and stand ready to assist the other defendants. Professor Charles Ogletree, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, is also collaborating with the NAACP in the effort to secure justice for the young men.

At the NAACP's 98th annual convention recently held in Detroit, an emergency resolution was passed in support of the Jena 6 and the LaSalle Parish Branch of the NAACP to fight against racial discrimination during the trial and in the community overall. "This case reflects a national trend involving disparate treatment of African Americans within the United States criminal justice system," the resolution reads.
From the Congressional Black Caucus:
The racial hotbed that burned for over nine months in Jena should have been contained by school and elected officials. Instead, the students were left to battle this rage without institutional support or resources.

Therefore, the CBC urges the Judge to consider all the factors surrounding these events during sentencing of Mychal Bell, the first of the six students to be tried. Additionally, we appeal to the Jena District Attorney, Reed Walters, to drop the charges against the remaining five students.
Additionally, either the NAACP or the Department of Justice (depends on the source; maybe it's a joint effort?) held a community education forum in Jena on Thursday night. The DoJ's goal is "peacemaking":
Organizers say they are hoping Thursday's forum is the beginning of community reconciliation for the community.
But some residents were "disappointed with the lack of racial diversity -- most of those in attendance were black."
In order for there to be peace there's got to be both sides," said J.L. George of Sicily Island.
From Mychal Bell's father:
"I thought we wanted to resolve this," he said of the tensions, problems and injustice in the community. "We can't do that without both sides."
I think there is more than a little denial in some of Jena's white residents--I've seen the "We don't have a race problem/Jena is no more racist that X-city" and also the blank-eyed stare of the local (white) librarian on the Democracy, Now! film who says she doesn't know what the nooses meant or why they were there. She relies on the prank theory.

As does U.S. Attorney Donald Washington who spoke at the forum:
Washington and [FBI Special Agent Lewis] Chapman talked about the definition of a hate crime... as it pertains to the nooses found hanging in a tree... at the high school.

"You're absolutely right," Chapman said, addressing the community member who asked if the hanging of the nooses was a hate crime.

"What you may not be aware of is that we... did an investigation."

That investigation's findings, he said, were given to Washington's office. Washington said there were all the elements of a hate crime but one -- threat or use of force.

"How would I prove that in this particular case?" Washington asked. "What's my evidence? ... Put yourself in my shoes, and tell me what you'd do differently."
How he can stand flat-footed and say a noose can't be perceived as a threat towards black people in the U.S. South is beyond me. And I'll bet this was a prank as well:
Two men have been arrested after they ran over a church sign at a black church in [Jena]… just hours after the NAACP held a meeting at the Antioch Baptist Church to discuss the fate of the teenagers.
Washington also addressed the complaints of selective and malicious prosecution (against LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters).
Washington said selective prosecution is very hard to prove, and in order to do so he would have to have to "dig in his head" to determine if Walters was treating black and white people differently.
No, I don't know what's keeping him from digging.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why Mastering Homemade Desserts Is Going to Be Slightly More Dificult than I Anticipated

The setting: elle, prone on a bed, giddy yet strangely nostalgic as today was the last day of summer school. Suddenly, my sister throws open the door.

Sis: Girl, are you alive?

Me: Barely.

Sis: Well, I cooked. elle, you should've seen the big bag of rice Daddy brought me. And I guess I must've been thinking like him, cuz I cooked way too much rice.

Me: indistinguishable-but-sympathetic grunt.

Sis: Anyway, I'ma put you some on a plate for you and throw the rest out.

Me: (For the first time, a spark of interest makes me rise partially from my repose). Nuh-uh. I'ma call Mama and get her to tell me how to make rice pudding.

Sis: Okay.

So, I call ma mère, who's away at a convention. We exchange pleasantries, and then I jump in.

Me: Ma, how do I make rice pudding?

Mama: Oh, y'all ate rice?

Me: Mm-hmm.

Mama: With what?

Me: Sis cooked rice and fried some chicken. Now, ma-

Mama: Well, boil your rice.

Me: Ma!

Mama: Okay. Put you some eggs in there.

Me: How many?

Mama: Three. (This will be the last clear direction). And some sugar.

Me: How much sugar?

Mama: You know I can't tell you that, baby.

Me: Like half a cup or a cup or what, Ma?

Mama: Half a cup.

Me: (sounding doubtful) For rice, Mama? Half a cup enough for rice?

Mama: (in that sarcastic/reprimanding blend) Well, put what you think since you know.

Me: Okay. What else?

Mama: Uh, some milk. Add some milk.

Me: How much, Mama?

Mama: elle! Enough. Get it wet.

Me: Okay.

Mama: But not soupy. You know wet, but not soupy.

Me: Yes, ma'am. That's all?

Mama: Yeah--no, no. Vanilla flavoring.

Me: Like a capful?

Mama: Whatever looks right.

Me: (put upon sigh) Anything else? What about butter?

Mama: Your sister put butter in the rice, didn't she?

Me: Probably, but I like lots of butter.

Mama: Well put it in. But not too much, elle. Just-

Me: Enough.

Mama: Mm-hmm. And you could put some cinnamon if you like it. I don't like it.

Debate about temperature at which to cook ensues. Mama issues a last minute"Just bake it long enough!" Parting pleasantries exchanged.
Rice pudding going into the oven:

An aside: Chocolate cake from Sunday dinner. It tasted better than my limited decorating skills would indicate.

Monday, July 23, 2007


A dip in the emotions. One that I hope is temporary.

I don't think I'm all that sad... just not happy right now.

I'm feeling decidedly sorry for myself, I think. A little wallowing because I'm tired, more than a bit lonely, missing my own space, and wondering what happens now. In the last couple of days, I've had tears like, right behind my eyes and a tingly nose.

Then, as usual, I feel badly, because I have a good life in most ways. And my mom can look at me and tell--she says, "What is meant for you will come. Stop rushing!"

Usually, I am content with that. But sometimes, my mind is in a million places and I want to know. What will happen as my child approaches teenagehood--what if I "lose" him? What will happen with my career, the one that I'm just starting when most of my friends and family are settling in? What will happen with my personal life as I am acutely aware of my status as the only "single" among my friends? I battle that one all the time--part of me usually content with the other relationships in my life, part of me admitting that, no matter how weak or contradictory or unfulfilled or whatever it makes me seem, I do miss having a "real" significant other.

What am I willing to accept may never be part of my life--will I be happy spending the rest of my life unattached? just getting by? being bossy and trying to fix everything for everyone else while some tiny portion of me sometimes wants someone to smooth my way (and isn't that last thought petty and self-important)? Will I regret my decision to have no more children? to become a professional historian rather than some other thing for which I may have had an affinity?

Every once in a while those things and more settle on me, on my mind, and I can't shake them. And I know me--by this weekend, I'll probably be fine. But for now...


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I'm cooking Sunday dinner today. I decided to tackle my arch nemesis, collard greens. I have a hard time seasoning them the way I want them to be. To me, turnips, mustards, and cabbage (the other kinds of greens we eat regularly) have their own flavor, so that helps out. But collards--if you don't get those just right, it's like eating a mouthful of hot water.

To be honest, I had it a bit easy today. Trinity cut up the greens for me and my mom washed them--those are the two worst things about cooking collard greens. Plus, Trin gave me some of her preferred cured meat for cooking them with--that should help with seasoning them. And I'm using my grandmother's old pots for luck.

Okay so here are four bunches (it's just me and my parents today, but I always cook a little extra for unexpected company) dumped in a boiling pot of what will become the "pot liquor"--water, salt, cooking oil, and the cured meat.

We're having neckbones with them--here they are being washed.

The required vegetables, mostly for the neckbones, though I will put some jalapeno in the greens. My mom said I could put a little onion as well, but I'm sticking with what I know.
Coarsely chopped cuz I did it by hand. I refuse to sit there and prettily dice like my mom will, but that's probably why I don't cook as well as my mom either :-). Plus the seasoning salt and vinegar for the neckbones (you can add garlic and pepper as well).
What the greens have "cooked down" (reduced, I guess?) to so far.

Okay, neckbones ready to boil. I layered them and sprinkled stuff throughout.

I'm cheating on dessert--I was supposed to make a homemade chocolate pie, but I forgot to buy cocoa, then forgot to get some from Trin's house. Ah, well.
Stirred up.

Results later! I'm about to be shamefully late for 11:15 service.

Friday, July 20, 2007


So I thought, once I switch to teaching U.S. history, which I'm a trillion times more familiar with, I'll free up some time and right write some substantive posts. :-)

Still, even though I'm not writing my notes or deciding which primary sources to work with in class from scratch, I feel sooooo busy. They're a pretty good (if annoyingly quiet during class discussions sometimes) class.

There's another issue--a problem that I had while trying to write my dissertation as well. I don't know how to cut back and not try to become an expert on every single thing. I read a lot for that world history class, got all off into stuff about which I'll never write or need to know minutiae about. Same thing with this first half of the survey--I've been reading up on the smallest details, adding articles and books to my TBR list (Which is depressingly long. Really.), and generally being very micro-minded.

And then one of my committee members had the unmitigated gall to send me an e-mail asking how my summer was going with the implied question being, "Have you done any work/research on your Magnum Opus (is it Opus Magnum?)?" I wanted to write back and say, "Child, please!"

Here is the deal. I have plumbed the depths of local Louisiana libraries and found some good stuff... that sits on my dresser at my parents'. I've gotten the names and numbers of some more interviewees... and saved them in my phone. And I finally found out the name of the guy who wrote his stuff on the industry in my area, but from the point of view/experiences of contract growers... and that's all I've found out (his thesis is in my TBR pile, as well).

Thing is, after re-reading the damned thing, I am convinced it's hopeless. I hope no one ever reads it, much less references it!

Other historians have been asking me, "have you found/looked at any publishers?" Should I be? I haven't even applied for a job (I do have one for the fall, don't worry)! Seriously, do people look into publishing this early, with a minimum of 50 years of revision, rewriting, and research needed on the thing? I thought that would come later. The last thing elle, p(rocrastinating) h(appily) d(ammit) needs is talk of deadlines and such. My mind will finish the shut down process it began during the spring semester.

So that's my life. How's yours?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Damn! Even the Default Robots Are Male.

I went to see Transformers.

I came home and started reading up on it (yes, on a Saturday night).

Script writer Robert Orci on why Arcee, a "female" Autobot did not appear in the film:
I would have liked to see Arcee, but the idea of a female Transformer needs its own explanation, and there just wasn't going to be enough time. It would have been like, "Oh, that's convenient. They're trying to appease women with a pink Transformer."
Okay, is he saying:

1) All transformers are supposed to be the same (and, of course, male) so Arcee didn't fit?
2) Since women's primary purpose is sex object-ness and the (default male) transformers don't seem to have sexual urges, so Arcee didn't fit?
3) Since this was a movie about male figures engaging in the age-old battle to decide the fate of the world, Arcee didn't fit? (You know, let teh menfolk hash out the important stuff, then bring in the women?)

All theories aside, I really don't understand what he meant.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don't Call Us Out of Name

A reference to this book by Lisa Dodson. Yes, I think you should read it. (I've lost my copy now that I'm thinking about it).

But also a reference to's calling Beyonce a "roboho."

And when they are confronted about it?
As to accusations that our comment was racially motivated, TMZ has humorously called into question many celebs for wearing racy outfits -- regardless of their race. In the past, TMZ referred to Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, as "poshtitute," Hulk Hogan's daughter a "working girl" and called Lindsay Lohan's trashy ensemble a "HO-rror." A tight mini-dress is a tight mini-dress! Even Kid Rock got a humorous "ho" reference in a December 2006 story, and last we checked, he was neither Black nor a woman.
Got that? Since their racism is equally matched by their misogyny, what the hell are people complaining about? Oh, and since they "humorously" called a white man a ho, all the sting and insult is removed from their use of the word. But isn't saying, "We used the term for Kid Rock and didn't mean anything by it" sort of like admitting you know full well that use of the term just may imply something?

And why that word? If they were really aiming to use some innocuous term to critique her outfit, then why not use some innocuous term to critique her outfit?

Oh, and they fall back on some tried and true tropes:

1. Can't you people take a joke?
While others may have used the term with maliciousness -- we clearly did not. It was a humor piece... it is clear that the only thing more subjective than what is fashionable, is what one finds funny.
2. But, but... it wasn't our intent to offend!
Isn't the context in which a word is used almost as important, if not more so, than the actual word?
3. We will not be constrained by political correctness.
With everything serious going on in our world, if you can't make fun of something as superficial as awards show clothing, then what can you make fun of?
And the biggest piece of bullshit?
... please note that we called Beyonce's performance outfit "roboho" not Ms. Knowles herself.
Can y'all see my eyes rolling backward?


Okay, some preliminaries:

1. I rarely listen to the radio, especially here, where you get more static than anything.

2. I don't even own a stereo/CD player--I play music on the computer or CD player in my car.

3. I don't really watch videos.

4. I balk at spending $16 or $17 for a CD when I only know or like one song.

So, the fact that all the music I know tends to be "popular"--heard on mix CDs or gleaned from my staticky radio--should be no surprise.

Here's the question--how do you get turned on to music that's not mainstream/doesn't get much radio play? (For example, I first heard Teedra Moses on one of my soror's myspace page). I'm really burned out on hearing the same thing and the same people over and over.

Plus, I feel soooooo unsophisticated.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Jena Six

... on Democracy Now! Watch the film.

Happy Birthday

To my kiddo!

He turned nine on July 10th. His mama is late posting because she was embroiled in birthday party preparations.
Actual party pictures later.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Jena Six--What We Can Do

Thanks, Clare, for more info:
Get Involved!—Write, email, or call one of these local organizations:

The Jena 6 Defense Committee
PO Box 2798,
Jena, LA 71342

Friends of Justice
507 North Donley Avenue
Tulia, TX 79088

ACLU of Louisiana
PO Box 56157
New Orleans, LA 70156
(417) 350-0536
I'll be adding to this post all day. It's been on my mind for a couple of days, but I kept telling myself, "Get everything together." Only, being the procrastinator I am, if I wait until I've compiled all the ideas and resources, I'll never get it done.

1. Sign the petition:

(Thanks Tom and Sylvia).

2. Donate to the Friends of Justice (there's a link in the post).

3. Kevin started a Facebook group and cause for the Jena Six.

4. Grab this animator. (I'm trying to figure out how to put it on my sidebar. Is that possible? Am I totally technologically unsavvy?)

Action Updates

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

5. From blueintheface at DailyKos:

Please contact:
Senator Mary Landrieu
webpage contact link
(202) 224-5824

Senator David Vittner
webpage contact link
Phone:(202) 224-4623

Rep Bobby Jindal
webpage contact link
Phone: (202)-225-3015

Rep William Jefferson
Phone: (202) 225-6636

Rep Charlie Melancon
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-4031

Rep Jim McCrery
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-2777

Rep Rodney Alexander
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-8490

Rep Richard Baker
webpage contact link
Phone: 202-225-3901

Rep Charles Boustany
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-2031

Please call these representatives and leave a message. Tell them that Americans won't stand for racism and ask them to get involved. Let's bring political pressure to bear on District Attorney Reed Walters to stop using the Louisiana justice system to discriminate against African-Americans. For Mychal Bell and the rest of the Jena 6, we need to speak up. Our voices will make a difference!

blueintheface reiterates what Friends of Justice outline as needed responses:

Restoring justice to Jena will require the following:
· The Louisiana State Police must be assigned to the investigation of the alleged fight at the school.
· District Attorney Reed Walters must recuse himself from the investigation and prosecution of the black defendants in the alleged school fight of December 4, 2006 or the incident at the Gotta Go Convenience store on December 2, 2006.
· The legal cases cited above must be transferred to an alternative venue.
· A special prosecutor must be assigned to prosecute whatever charges (if any) are deemed appropriate on the basis of an independent state police investigation.
· The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice should launch a full investigation into events in Jena, Louisiana, beginning with the noose incident of August 31, 2006, and culminating in the alleged fight of December 4, 2006 to determine if the civil rights of Jena residents have been violated.
· The inaction of the LaSalle Parish School Board on the noose incident represents a clear violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Therefore, a written complaint should be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.
· The LaSalle Parish school system must institute a rigorous program of diversity education beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school with a particular focus on the history of race relations in America and the virtues of pluralism, mutual respect and equal opportunity. In addition, a yearly, system-wide in-service diversity training program must be provided for teachers and administrators.
6. Circulate this:

and this: "Injustice In Jena As Nooses Hang From The 'White Tree',"

and here is a link to a CNN Video.

7. I have talked to LA public defender Jason Williamson, who works in New Orleans, but who's keeping an eye on this case. He's in touch with the parents of the boys and has promised to let me know of local efforts to raise funds and encourage support.

8. Check out whileseated.

More later.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Quaker Agitator: Happy (Agitator) birthday...

The Quaker Agitator: Happy (Agitator) birthday...

to my favorite wonderful, brilliant, and just plain good Agitator!

Party Mania!

So last weekend we had three birthday parties. My goddaughter Alani and my little cousin Skylar both turned one on June 29 and we finally had Belle's party. Dora was the theme of the weekend.

Alani's cake.

Transitioning from crying to smiling. She knows what the camera means.

Alani enjoying her smash cake.

Skylar's cake.

My cousin Crystal, Skylar's mom, wondering why the hell she decided to have a party.

My favorite picture in a while--
Crystal hit the xylophone and Skylar loved it so much she fell backwards laughing.

Belle and the Dora cash register.

A grainy picture of Belle and Skylar (they're first cousins) at Belle's party

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Images for the Jena Six Petition

Tom has combined some of the images for the Jena Six petition with links to the petition.

Please check it out.

H/T Sylvia.

Independence Day?

Because of Jena.

And the Newark women.

And Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1.

And the criminalization and mistreatment of immigrants.

And continual violence against all of us.

And our overwhelming silence...

...a still-relevant perspective on the Fourth of July:
I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.

This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.

You may rejoice, I must mourn.

-Frederick Douglass
(What to the Slave is the Fourth of July)
July 4, 1852

One hundred fifty-five years ago. Apparently, not long at all.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Carnival Time


History Carnival at Historianess's. (I can't figure out how to get the permalink!! The date is July 2, 2007).

Carnival Against Sexual Violence at abyss2hope.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

(One Reason) Why Mychal Bell's Conviction Was No Surprise.

OK, I had to take a couple of days. You know what I felt like happened? Let me give you a couple of historical examples.

After Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, when eyes turned to Virginia, when the lies about enslaved blacks' contentment and the relative benignity and beneficiality of slavery were so thoroughly challenged, the white South basically shut down any discussions on the peculiar institution.* Challenges and criticisms wouldn't be met with defenses, justifications, or skewed logic (not that they'd always been prior to 1831). Instead, they were met with aggression, anger, and threats toward suspected abolitionists (and even the more moderate anti-slavery folk) and further repression of blacks. Pro-slavery forces in Congress even managed to effect gag rules, shutting down the discussion in Congress for a decade.

The lesson--there are very real, very negative results if some white Southerners perceive attacks on the racial status quo, particularly in the form of liberatory actions on the part of blacks and "interference" from "outsiders."**

I've mentioned before that in the late 1950s/early 1960s, Senator Allen Ellender of Louisiana stood in the Senate and painted a picture of the South, and Louisiana in particular, as a peaceful region, with few "racial" disturbances, and a status quo accepted by blacks and whites alike. If blacks were largely disfranchised,*** then it was the result of insufficient motivation on their parts and nothing systematic or institutional. But, Ellender warned, if the Justice Department kept interfering, if civil rights organizations kept pushing, then no one could hold white southerners responsible for what they might do about the attack on their states' rights and the favoritism shown towards blacks.

And in the aftermath of new civil rights acts and the establishment of the Civil Rights Commission (CRC), white Southerners, again, shut down. They restricted access to social services to the poorest blacks. In Louisiana, they ruthlessly purged blacks from the voter rolls. They expanded the use of literacy tests and "good character" requirements. They refused to cooperate with the CRC, refused to even acknowledge its legitimacy.

The lesson--there are very real, very negative results if some white Southerners perceive attacks on the racial status quo, particularly in the form of liberatory actions on the part of blacks and "interference" from "outsiders."

So when it came to Mychal Bell's trial, I just knew. When blacks in Jena rallied around their children, when international attention came to the situation, I knew. When I read the nasty comments from Louisianans on different blogs about how "Jena isn't that bad" and "There's racism everywhere" and "If six white boys had done this...", I knew. And Lord, when they
chose that all white jury, I knew, as a historian, as a black southerner, that the jury was not going to miss the chance to reinforce "the lesson."


At the expense of a child's life.
*The rebellion was not the sole reason, of course, but I believe it played a large role in the way the South handled the issues surrounding slavery over the next three decades.
**Outsiders can be within the community, too, e.g. white southerners who challenged the status quo in the South.
***I mention this because I am hearing the same defenses of the all-white jury in Jena.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...