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Showing posts from November, 2010

"It is the soul that must be preserved"

When we see pictures like the one above of the Obamas enjoying themselves at a basketball game, some people might think they are trivial (or worse, complain that the President isn't doing his job). But they remind me of An Open Letter to Barack Obama that was written by Alice Walker shortly after he was elected. 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

Some of my favorites

"The purpling beaches of dusk"

Ever so often, I need to remind myself of something Nezua wrote a couple of years ago. Reflecting on Reading Obama yesterday took me back to it once again. We are always new. Every moment is new. No moment need be like anything that came before, even when the resemblance is striking and our imagination lacking. And yet, of course we must learn from who we once were. But to let a lesson that once helped inform every step forward is to walk an old path, and to preclude the sight of new horizons from our view... Because life is not like a series of books in a course on …anything. It fluctuates. We fluctuate. We are not a being, but a becoming, as Friedrich once said. And sometimes ideas are hammered out and we draw lines and walls and are told we fall on one side or the other and so do our thoughts and so does all that follows from them…and so it goes. We buy into these illusory borders, too... I am far more comfortable navigating the in-between than I am in any Place. I like no th

What I learned from "Reading Obama"

I Think I'll... by Ed Ruscha. This painting was brought in to the White House by the Obamas. I read Dreams From My Father not too long after that stirring speech by Obama at the 2004 Democratic Convention. I was pretty intrigued by him as a politician, but my real interest in the book was that it was the story of a young multi-racial man coming to terms with his own identity. While Obama's story is unique to him, my work with young people (predominantly African American boys) has meant that I'm particularly interested in the process of identity formation for youth of color in this country. And Obama's was a very telling story in that regard. By the time The Audacity of Hope was published, it was clear Obama was running for President. At the time, I was pretty disillusioned about politicians and figured it was just another one of those books that gets published to promote a campaign. So I didn't read it. During the course of the 2008 Democratic Primary, I sta

A word from the wise

When three wise people say essentially the same thing...perhaps its time to listen. First of all, from Maya Angelou's book Letter to My Daughter : For the past four decades, our national spirit and natural joy have ebbed. Our national expectations have diminished. Our hope for the future has waned to such a degree that we risk sneers and snorts of derision when we confess that we are hoping for bright tomorrows. How have we come so late and lonely to this place? When did we relinquish our desire for a high moral ground to those who clutter our national landscape with vulgar accusations and gross speculations? Are we not the same people who have fought a war in Europe to eradicate an Aryan threat to murder an entire race? Have we not worked, prayed, planned to create a better world? Are we not the same citizens who struggled, marched, and went to jail to obliterate legalized racism from our country? Didn't we dream of a country where freedom was in the national conscience an

On victory and defeat

I was reminded recently of this quote by Teddy Roosevelt. It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. And that led me to one of my favorite poems by Marge Piercy... To Be of Use The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. The