Monthly Archives: June 2010


“My hope is that a process of ‘re-storying’ of peoples who had been knocked silent by all kinds of dispossession will happen. My hope for the twenty-first century — is that this “re-storying” will continue and will eventually result in a balance of stories among the world’s peoples.”
Chinua Achebe



The danger of telling a single story.

The danger of telling only one side of a story.

The danger of telling only what you, the presenter, wants your hearing and viewing audience to see.

The danger of hiding the truth in all its glory, all its pain, all its love, all its hate, all its striving, all its beauty.

The danger of a single story.


So let it be stated.

So let it be written.

So let it be done.


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COMOROS:  (From the Arabic Jazā’ir al-Qamar (جزائر القمر): “islands of the moon.”)

Some facts I’d like to mention about Comoros:

Demonym: Comorian(s)

HDI (2007) ▲ 0.561 (medium) (135th)

Drive on the :  right

President: Ahmed Abdallah M. Sambi

Political parties:

Politics of the Union of the Comoros takes place in a framework of a federal presidential republic, whereby the President of the Comoros is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. The Constitution of the Union of the Comoros was ratified by referendum on December 23, 2001, and the islands’ constitutions and executives were elected in the following months. It had previously been considered a military dictatorship, and the transfer of power from Azali Assoumani to Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi in May 2006 was the first peaceful transfer in Comorian history.

Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The preamble of the constitution guarantees an Islamic inspiration in governance, a commitment to human rights, and several specific enumerated rights, democracy, “a common destiny” for all Comorians. Each of the islands (according to Title II of the Constitution) has a great amount of autonomy in the Union, including having their own constitutions (or Fundamental Law), president, and Parliament. The presidency and Assembly of the Union are distinct from each of the Islands’ governments. The presidency of the Union rotates between the islands. Anjouan holds the current presidency rotation, and so Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi is President of the Union; Mohéli and Ngazidja follow in four year terms

Coat of Arms

File:Coat of arms of Comoros.svg



The Comoros (pronounced /ˈkɒməroʊz/; Arabic: جزر القمر‎, Juzur al-Qamar), officially the Union of the Comoros (French: Union des Comores, Arabic: الاتّحاد القمريّ‎, al-Ittiḥād al-Qamariyy) is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Other countries near to the Comoros are Tanzania to the northwest and the Seychelles to the northeast. The capital is Moroni on Grande Comore. At 1,862 km2 (719 sq mi) (excluding Mayotte), the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area. With a population estimated at 798,000 (excluding Mayotte), it is the sixth-smallest African nation by population—although it has one of the highest population densities in Africa. Its name derives from the Arabic word القمر qamar (“moon). Known as the Perfumed island, Comoros is the number one producer of Ylang-Ylang, a principle ingredient in perfumes. It is the second largest producer of vanilla. The archipelago is notable for its diverse culture and history, as a nation formed at the crossroads of many civilizations. Though in the contested island of Mayotte the sole official language is French, the “Union of the Comoros” has three official languages: Comorian (Shikomor), Arabic and French.

With fewer than a million people, the Comoros is one of the least populous countries in the world, but is also one of the most densely populated, with an average of 275 inhabitants per square kilometre (710 /sq mi). In 2001, 34% of the population was considered urban, but that is expected to grow, since rural population growth is negative, while overall population growth is still relatively high. Almost half of the population is younger than age 15. Major urban centers include Moroni, Mutsamudu, Domoni, Fomboni, and Tsémbéhou. There are between 200,000 to 350,000 Comorians living in France.

Comoros is also known as the nation where the 1938 discovery of the endangered species known as the  Coelecanth (or Gombessa) occured off its coast. The coelecanth is a “living fossil” thought to have been extinct for millions of years.


Photo: An endangered coelacanth fish

Thought to have been long extinct, scientists discovered these “living fossils” in 1938.

Famous Comorians:

Heads of state since independence include ‘Ali Soilih (1937–78), who came to power as a result of the 1975 coup and who died after the 1978 takeover; and Ahmad ‘Abdallah (1919–89), president briefly in 1975 and restored to power in 1978. Mercenary Bob Denard (b. France, 1929) virtually ruled the country through figurehead presidents between 1978 and 1989, when France negotiated his departure after the assassination of ‘Abdallah. Col. Assoumani Azzali (b.1959?) took power in a coup in 1999, assuming the titles of president, prime minister, and defense minister

Read more: Famous comorians – Comoros – power


Media and Culture

Comorian (Shikomori) is the most widely used language on the Comoros. It is a close relative of Swahili; like Swahili, it is a Bantu language with approximately 30% of its vocabulary derived from Arabic. It is one of the three official languages of the Comoros, next to French and Arabic. Each island has a slightly different dialect; that of Anjouan is called Shindzwani, that of Moheli Shimwali, that of Mayotte Shimaore, and that of Grande Comore Shingazidja. No official alphabet existed in 1992, but Arabic and Latin scripts were both used even though they are not native to the region.

There is a government owned national newspaper in Comoros,  Al-Watwan], published in Moroni; Kwezi is also published on Mayotte. Radio Comoros is the national radio service and Comoros National TV is the television service.


There are 15 physicians per 100,000 persons. Fertility rate was 4.7 per adult woman in 2004. Life expectancy at birth is 67 for females and 62 for males.


Almost all of the educated populace of the Comoros has attended Quranic schools at some point in their life, often before regular schooling. Here boys and girls are taught about the Quran, and memorize it. Some parents specifically choose this early schooling to offset French schools children usually attend later. Since independence and the ejection of French teachers, the education system has been plagued by poor teacher training and poor results, though recent stability may allow for substantial improvements. In 2000, 44.2 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school. There is a general lack of facilities, equipment, qualified teachers, textbooks and other resources. Salaries for teachers are often so far in arrears that many refuse to work.

National dress:

The women’s dress is a shiromeni (shiromani), which can be lively colored long dresses or skirts. The women also have a traditional form of dress that involves the use of sandalwood and coral paste as a beauty mask. A kanzu is a white or cream colored robe worn by men in East African countries. In English, the robe is called a tunic. The kanzu is an ankle or floor length garment.


National dish:

The typical Comoros meal may ontain rice and meat, seasoned with one of the many locally produced ingredients like coriander, vanilla, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Also very famous in this country are fish dishes like the one called “Langouste a la vanille”. The national dish of Comoros, Langouste a La Vanille, or Lobster in Vanilla Sauce, is a very rich dish made with lobster boiled in vanilla sauce.  The dish has its roots in France and is a melding of French culinary and Comorian local produce.  

Here is a recipe of Langouste a La Vanille, courtesy of the NYT:


Roast Lobster With Vanilla Sauce

Adapted from Alain Senderens, Lucas-Carton, Paris

50 minutes


  • 2 live lobsters, 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pounds each
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 7 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 pound tender spinach, stemmed
  • 1 pound watercress, stemmed


Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the lobsters in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. With the tip of a sharp knife pierce lobsters between the eyes to sever the spinal cord. Crack claws using the blunt edge of a cleaver or a hammer. Place lobsters in the hot roasting pan, drizzle with oil and roast until red, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.
Melt 2 teaspoons of butter in a small saucepan, add the shallots and saute over low heat until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and vinegar, raise heat and cook at a moderate boil until the liquid is reduced to 1 tablespoon, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in 6 tablespoons of butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the sauce, stir to combine and strain into a clean saucepan. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper, and set aside.
When the lobsters are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the claws. Detach the tails, and discard the heads. With a pair of scissors, cut the shell on the underside of each tail in half lengthwise, remove the meat and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Loosely cover the meat with aluminum foil, and keep warm.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large pot, and add spinach and watercress. Stir until greens have melted down, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
To serve, reheat the sauce over low heat until warm, whisking constantly. Place a bed of greens on each plate, arrange the lobster meat on top and spoon the sauce over the lobster. Serve immediately.
2 servings
  • NOTE

    Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 650 calories, 50 grams fat, 230 milligrams cholesterol, 1,385 milligrams sodium, 40 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate.



Comorian music:

The Comorian music is historically linked to both East Africa and France, and now has a strong Malagasy influence. Zanzibar’s taarab music, however, remains the most influential genre on the islands, and a Comorian version called twarab is popular. Leading twarab bands include Sambeco and Belle Lumière, as well as star singer Mohammed Hassan. Comorian instruments include the ‘ud and violin, the most frequent accompaniment for twarab, as well as gabusi (a type of lute) and ndzendze. Sega music from nearby Mauritius and Réunion islands is also popular.
Modern musicians like Abou Chihabi, who composed the Comorian national anthem and is known for his reggae-tinged pan-African variet music, and reggae/zouk/soukous fusionists like Maalesh and Salim Ali Amir, as well as Nawal, a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist.

Music of the Comoros ranges from the classic folk tradition music, to the contemporary, as seen here with the artist Barezi singing Comorian zouk.


National pasttime:

A wide variety of sports are popular in Comoros, including football (soccer), basketball, athletics (track and field), swimming, tennis, and cycling, most of which were introduced during the period of French colonialism. Comoros participates in several regional and international competitions, such as the Aces Cup (a Comoros-Mayotte basketball competition), the Indian Ocean Games, and the Francophone Games.

Famous Comorons:

This is a list of notable people from the Comoros.

  • Abou Chihabi, musician
  • Al Moustoifa Idarousse, musician
  • Wanamah, musician
  • Nawal, singer/songwriter, musician
  • Ali Mroivili, artist
  • Amad Mdahoma, journalist and editor
  • Lubaina Himid, painter and academic
  • Mohamed Ali M’Ze, painter
  • Ali Mroivilli, painter
  • Napalo, painter and sculptor
  • Said Bacar Housseine, artist
  • Oubeidi Mze Chei, government minister and banker
  • Moinaecha Cheikh Yahaya, educationalist, activist, government minister
  • Soeuf Elbadawi, journalist
  • Amad Mdahoma, journalist and editor
  • Allaoui Sad Omar, journalist and publication director
  • said Ali Kemal, Chief of the Royal Family and former Comorian minister
  • Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, president of Comoros
  • Mohamed Halifa, director general of the Central Bank of Comoros
  • Ahmed Djabir, Permanent Representative-designate to the U.N. for Comoros
  • Azali Assoumani, Former President of Comoros
  • Ayouba Combo, Former interim head of state of the Comoros
  • Sakina M’sa, Fashion designer
  • Rohff, French rapper born In the Union Of Comoros, who lives in Vitry-sur-Seine


File:Moroni Mosque Photo by Sascha Grabow.jpg
A mosque in Moroni. (SOURCE)


Fast Facts

Moroni; 53,000
1,862 square kilometers (719 square miles)
Arabic, French, Shikomoro
Sunni Muslim, Roman Catholic
Comoran franc
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $700
Literacy Percent:


Comoros Facts Flag

File:Flag of the Comoros.svg


Map: Comoros

(Enlarged map)

The Comoros are a group of volcanic islands in the Mozambique Channel between northern Madagascar and Africa. The people share African-Arab origins. In 1975 three of the so-called perfume islands voted for independence from France; the fourth, Mayotte, elected to remain a dependency. Some 18 coups, or attempted coups, since independence have created great instability. In 1997 the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli declared independence, but a new federal constitution in 2001 brought the islands back together. Most inhabitants make their living from subsistence agriculture or fishing; exports include vanilla and essences used in the manufacture of perfumes.


  • Industry: Tourism, perfume distillation
  • Agriculture: Vanilla, cloves, perfume essences, copra
  • Exports: Vanilla, ylangylang, cloves, perfume oil, copra

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition


Photo: Harbor Bay in Moroni

A Friday Mosque overlooks Harbor Bay in Moroni, the capital.

Photograph by Jean du Boisberranger/Getty Images






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Here is an update on the pregnant woman who was brutally attacked by cops who refused to believe she was pregnant. Melanie Dawn Williams, who in 2005, was pregnant at the time, was rushing to the hospital due to bleeding. She ran a red light, was stopped by a cop, but, due to the pain she was in, proceeded on to the hospital. Upon arriving in the ER, she was followed by the cops into the ER, thrown to the floor, with one of the cops putting his shoe on the back of her neck. She was then taken outside the hospital, only to have a nurse convince the cops to bring Ms. Williams back into the hospital for medical care. The cops did as instructed by the nurse, with Ms. Williams spending 10 days in the hospital.

Melanie Williams

Melanie Williams

Melanie attacked by police officer in the ER.

Ms. Williams later delivered her baby, with both mother and child surviving the ordeal.

For the cops inhumane maltreatment of Ms. Williams, the city of Jacksonville was served with a lawsuit. (The suit was recently settled for $67,500.00.)

All it would have taken for the situation to remain from escalating, was for the officer to inquire as to why Ms. Williams was speeding, follow her to the hospital, make sure she was not lying about her condition, and then, write her up for a traffic ticket, if it was so necessary for him to fine her.

Instead, the cops endangered Ms. Williams’ life and the life of her baby.

Thanks to their crass behaviour, the city had to pay out for a lawsuit settlement. Not to mention the mental anguish Ms. Williams suffered, as well as possible health complications for her baby.

Then again, cops like these give decent cops a bad name.

Not to mention losing what little brains they have when they could have just let reason, instead of police brutality, win the day.


A woman in premature labor was arrested in the hospital after running a red light.

June 7, 2010 – 7:13pm

By Paul Pinkham

On the eve of trial, a woman detained as she rushed to the hospital in premature labor has settled her unlawful arrest lawsuit against Jacksonville police for $67,500.

Melanie Dawn Williams was scheduled to go to trial this morning against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and two officers who she said tackled her in the St. Vincent’s Medical Center emergency room in 2005. The officers had pursued her after she ran a red light in Riverside.

The eleventh hour settlement appeared to satisfy all concerned.

“It achieved the certainty of not having an uncertain result,” said City Hall attorney Jon Phillips, who represented the Sheriff’s Office. He said he couldn’t comment further. 

Fraternal Order of Police attorney Paul Daragjati called the settlement a good result for the officers, Matthew Sirmons and James Mills. 

And Williams’ attorney, Linnes Finney, said the settlement recognizes the city’s exposure in the officers’ conduct. Fortunately, he said, his client and her child haven’t experienced health problems as a result.

“We think we proved our point,” Finney said.

Williams was seven months pregnant when she rushed to the hospital on doctor’s orders after noticing vaginal bleeding. After she was handcuffed in the emergency room, she was led back outside to the hospital parking lot.

Eventually a nurse came outside, found Williams bleeding and insisted she be taken to the hospital’s labor and delivery unit, where doctors successfully staved off labor. She spent 10 days in the hospital.

The officers were disciplined. One told internal affairs investigators that Williams didn’t mention being pregnant until they cuffed her; the other said she never mentioned it.

But that didn’t matter because the officers should have recognized she was in some sort of medical distress, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled last year. The appellate court denied the officers’ immunity claims and ruled Williams’ could sue for unlawful arrest but not for excessive force.

That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

In the weeks preceding trial, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled jurors wouldn’t hear about the officers’ discipline or, at the outset, Williams’ misdemeanor arrest record for drug possession and resisting arrest. She said lawyers for the police could revisit that issue depending on the evidence at trial.

But Howard ordered that Williams’ discovery of bleeding during sex could come in at trial.

Finney denied that Howard’s rulings had anything to do with prompting a settlement., (904) 359-4107





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#1 R&B Song 1951:  “Sixty Minute Man,” the Dominoes

Born:  Lena Horne, 1917; Florence Ballard (the Supremes), 1943; William Brown (Ray, Goodman & Brown), 1946; Stanley Clarke, 1951


1953   The Orioles’ legendary “Crying in the Chapel” (#11 pop, #1 R&B) was recorded.

1956   Aladdin Records sued the Five keys for breach of contract when the quintet signed with Capitol Records. The same day, the Velours’ debut 45, “My Love Come Back” ($200) was issued.

1972   Stevie Wonder performed in Vancouver, British Columbia, as the opening act for the Rolling Stones on an eight-week North American tour.

1973  Sylvia Vanterpool Robinson’s “Pillow Talk” reached #14 in the United Kingdom. It had reached #1 on R&B for two weeks, #3 on the pop chart with  Billboard’s Hot 100. Written and produced by Ms. Robinson and Michael Burton, the song became famous for Ms. Robinson’s sultry moaning and breathing. The song was released by the Vibration label, with the B-side entitled “My Thing”. It sold over two million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1973.

1984   The Jackson 5 charted with “State of Shock,” which featured a duet by Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. It reached #3 pop and #4 R&B.

1989   Bobby Brown made a personal appearance at the HMV store on London’s Oxford Street and police had to close off the thoroughfare as 4,000 fans attempted (among other things) to get his autograph. During the near-riot scene, six fans were hospitalized and one was brought back to life (so to speak) by a kiss from the star.

1990  Mariah Carey’s self-titled debut album charted. It would take the ten-song collection thirty-six weeks to make it to #1.

1995   Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, and Montell Jordan performed at the Starwood Amphitheater in Antioch, TN.

1995   Brandy, Blackstreet, Notorious B.I.G., Naughty by Nature, and Method Man, among others, performed at the Byrne Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, NJ, at the Hot 97 Summer jam.

1997   George Clinton, Cypress Hill, and Erykah Badu began the House of Blues Smokin’ Grooves tour at the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, MA. Badu originally performed under the name M.C. Apples in a rap trio before becoming part of the duo Erykah Free.

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#1 R&B Song 1959:  “Personality,” Lloyd Price

Born:  Leonard Lee (Shirley & Lee, 1936; Little Eva (Eva Narcissus Boyd), 1943


1946   Louis Jordan and Ella Fitzgerald charted with their duet on the rousing “Stone Cold Dead in the Market (He Had It Coming),” reaching #1 R&B for five weeks and #7 pop.

1953   The Drifters recorded their first song today, “Lucille,” which would become their third R&B chart hit (#7).

1956   The Channels recorded their classic “The Closer You Are” ($250). Sharing the session (to save money) were label mates the Continentals, who then recorded their beautiful ballad “Dear Lord” ($30).

1963   James Brown’s first album, Live at the Apollo, debuted on the pop charts today, eventually rising to #2. As with his pop singles, even though he had enormous chart success, he never had a #1 pop album. Though could go on to have forty-nine albums hit the pop charts through 1988, Live would remain his all-time biggest success and would be considered a milestone in the development of live albums for years to come.

1968   Pigmeat Markham, one of the few comedians to hit the singles charts, did it today with “Hear Comes the Judge,” which reached #4 R&B and #19 pop. The title line was from a recurring gag on TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In show.

1985   Whitney Houston stormed onto the singles chart with “Saving All My Love For You,” an eventual #1 pop and R&B. She would go on to have eleven pop #1 singles through 2002. The song was originally done in 1982 by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, formerly of the Fifth Dimension.

1985   The Mary Jane Girls entered the R&B charts with “Wild and Crazy Love,” reaching #10 and #42 pop. It was their follow-up to their break-through hit, “In My House,” which reached #3 R&B and #7 pop. Both were written and produced by Rick James.

1991   Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, En Vogue, Levert, and Dianne Reeves, among others, performed on the Celebrate the Soul of American Music  TV show.

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I often wonder how America and law enforcement (city, county, state and federal) would respond if many Black women took up arms, threatened a sitting president of the United States of America, ran around in the woods in camouflaged gear,  practicing military maneuvers, while shooting at pictures of the president and threatening to also take down the country?

More important, what would have happened to them if they committed the many acts that White militias have done, under both the Bush administrations? Wanna bet that if those Black women militias had ties to terrorists could continue to walk around unmolested or harassed?

Wanna bet that they would be allowed to partake in insurgent acts with nary an action taken against them by the government?

I highly doubt it.

Not to mention if Black women went around brandishing firearms during the administration of Reagan.

Everyone knows the extreme hate he had for Black women.

I am sure that many Black women would have been arrested and sent straight to Guantanamo, no questions asked.



Tolerance of white militias exemplifies racial double standard


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Imagine that the inauguration of President George W. Bush had sparked an explosive rise in African American militia groups. Suppose thousands of heavily armed black men began gathering at training camps in wooded areas throughout the country, devising military tactics for “taking back their country” after what they believed was an electoral coup.

Do you think Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would have reacted to a black militaristic buildup as coolly as President Obama has to the phenomenal growth of white militias?

Since Obama took office last year, the number of white militias has shot up from about 170 to more than 500, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups in the United States. Armed with enough firepower to take on a police department, some of these groups are honing their sniper skills using photographs of Obama for target practice.

They cling to the delusion that the nation’s first black president is somehow a subversive working for Muslim extremists, and they aim to bring him down.

“If the people we saw running around armed to the teeth were black, I think their organizations would be destroyed in a matter of hours,” Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told me. “If people saw on their TV screens photos of black militia members shooting at images of a white president, I don’t think they would last.”

No kidding.

This racial disparity comes to mind whenever I see militia leaders carping about government “tyranny” while enjoying the special privileges that come with being white. One such group, the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, was featured in a documentary, “The Rise of the New Right,” that aired last week on MSNBC and was narrated by Chris Matthews, the host of “Hardball.”

“Five areas that we focus on are crime, disaster, invasion, tyranny and terrorism,” said Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the militia group. “All five of those cover threats that would interrupt our ways of life.”

He’s worried about terrorism? It’s terrifying just to see his militia lurking behind trees, dressed in camouflage and wielding who-knows-what military armament picked up at some gun and ammo show.

What’s even more astounding is that Lackomar’s group has links to the Hutaree militia, another Michigan-based group, whose members were arrested by the FBI in March and charged with plotting to kill a police officer and then slaughter scores more by setting off a bomb at the funeral.

The Hutaree’s intent, according to federal law enforcement officials, was to trigger an uprising against the federal government. Lackomar’s militia was among the groups that helped Hutaree members, unwittingly or not, hone their shooting skills in preparation for the assault.

And yet the southeastern Michigan militia continues to operate with impunity, as if it were some latter-day Army of the Potomac.

Let’s say then-Vice President Cheney found out that a black militia group had ties to a terrorist organization seeking to levy war against the United States. Say hello to Guantanamo.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in effect, that you can go to prison for trying to hold a peace talk with groups deemed to be foreign terrorist organizations. But if the group is a home-grown white terrorist organization, it’s apparently okay not just to associate with them but also to offer them military training as they plot against the country.

Maybe Obama is just being savvy by not coming down hard on the militia. As Potok said, “There’s a huge amount of anger, and what we are really lacking at this moment is a kind of spark.” In an apparent attempt to defuse the tension, Obama does such things as supporting a U.S. Supreme Court decision crippling D.C.’s gun control law and then signs a bill that allows visitors to national parks to carry guns.

Still, gun advocates keep him in their sights. They show up outside presidential town hall meetings brandishing firearms. When a young black man, identified only as Chris, showed up at one such event with a rifle strapped to his back, white protesters cited him as proof that race had nothing to do with their contempt for Obama.

But they missed the point.

Had the black rifleman showed for, say, Ronald Reagan’s “states’ rights” speech in Philadelphia, Miss., back in 1980, they might still be dredging the Pearl River for his remains.


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#1 R&B Song 1952:  “Have Mercy Baby,” the Dominoes

Born:  Blues singer “Honey Boy” Edwards, 1915


1947   Louis Jordan entered the R&B hit list with “I Know What You’re Putting Down,” reaching #3.

1947   Ella Fitzgerald and the Andy Love Quintet (a vocal group) charted with a beautiful version of “That’s My Desire,” reaching #3 R&B.

1957   An all-star show at the Apollo Theater included the Jesters, the Charts, the Heartbeats, the Velours, and the Sensations.

1965   The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, the Supremes, Martha Reevs & the Vandellas, the Ronettes, and the Four Tops performed onthe It’s What’s Happening, Baby special on CBS-TV.

1986   Sade and Hugh Masekela performed at an anti-apartheid concert at Clapham Common in London. Also appearing were Sting, Boy George, Elvis Costello, and Peter Gabriel, among others. Nearly a quarter of a million people attended.

1990   Tina Turner became the first woman and only the second rock ‘n’ roll act (Pink Floyd being the other) to perform at the Palace of Versailles in France.

1996   R. Kelly was involved in a fight at a health club in Lafayette, LA, and as if his day couldn’t get any worse, the local Cajundome’s Commission commandered his and his band’s equipment for ostensibly failing to fulfill a commitment to perform a concert.

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This video really made my day. Talk about uplifting your spirits and putting a smile on your face (and the baby’s laugh is so infectious). Both enjoying the excitement of play and bonding.

Go, doggy, go!

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Published: June 25, 2010

Fred Anderson, a tenor saxophonist who tied the bebop innovations of Charlie Parker to the explorations of later avant-garde musicians and who owned the Velvet Lounge, a South Side Chicago club known for fostering the careers of emerging players, died on Thursday. He was 81.

June 26, 2010    

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Fred Anderson, who helped emerging musicians, in 1999.


The Associated Press and The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Anderson’s sons, Michael and Eugene, confirmed the death but declined to give a cause. Mr. Anderson was admitted to a hospital in Evanston, Ill., on June 12 complaining of stomach pains. He suffered a heart attack on June 14 and afterward, Eugene Anderson told The Tribune, was comatose and unlikely to recover.

Fred Anderson Trio at the Velvet Lounge (

Though largely uncelebrated outside Chicago and the inner circles of the jazz world, Mr. Anderson was an accomplished musician with a robust and opulent sound, whose furious arpeggios reflected the early influence of Parker but whose dissonant, impulsively searching flights were born in the free-jazz heyday of the 1960s.

Over the past quarter-century he recorded more than two dozen albums, with musicians including the saxophonist Joseph Jarman and the trombonist George Lewis, and performed in Europe and in New York (where he had been scheduled to perform with the drummer Chad Taylor on Thursday night as part of the Vision Festival).

But he was best known in Chicago, where in 1965 he was a founder, with the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and others, of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a collective, still active, devoted to nurturing composers and players of modern music and widely credited with establishing Chicago as a center of experimental jazz.

In 1982 Mr. Anderson, who was earning a living with odd jobs, including bartending, took over a workingman’s bar at 2128 ½ South Indiana in Chicago and slowly began to transform it. At first he opened it on alternating Sunday nights for jam sessions for local musicians; eventually he turned it into a full-time music room where he led his own bands and booked others, especially experimental players who attracted the most serious of serious jazz aficionados.

He named it the Velvet Lounge after an audience member complimented him, possibly inaccurately, on his smooth and velvet sound. Particularly since the early 1990s, when he began charging a cover, many prominent musicians — including the flutist Nicole Mitchell and the saxophonist Ken Vandermark — have had their careers nurtured there.

“People don’t come to the Velvet to hang out,” Mr. Anderson said in an interview with NPR in 2005. “They come to listen to music. It’s a happy place to play.”

Mr. Anderson was born in 1929 — most sources list his birth date as March 22 — in Monroe, La., and as a boy he moved with his mother to Chicago. He started listening to jazz recordings in the early 1940s and was taken by the music of Parker.

“I just listened to him and I tried to figure out how he was doing certain things — not so much the notes that he was playing,” he said in a 2003 interview with “He had a unique way about placing things.”

Mr. Anderson’s marriage ended in divorce. Complete information about his survivors was not available on Friday, but The Tribune reported that in addition to his two sons, he had five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mr. Anderson, who was known as a modest man, did not begin to perform publicly until he was in his 30s, and even after that he never had the temperament of a star performer. Still, he became a star, at least in his adopted hometown. When the building housing the Velvet Lounge was razed in 2006 to make room for condominiums, donors surfaced and local musicians played dozens of benefit performances to raise money to keep it going. The Velvet Lounge reopened nearby, at 67 East Cermak, just three months later.

Last August, when thousands of people attended a concert in honor of his 80th birthday, Mr. Anderson confessed that he was overwhelmed.

“I didn’t know that many people were checking out my music,” he said. “And people from all over.”





Published: June 25, 2010

Pete Quaife, a bassist who joined forces with two schoolmates to form the Kinks, one of the leading rock bands of the 1960s British Invasion, died on Wednesday in Herlev, Denmark. He was 66.

June 26, 2010    

Columbia TriStar, via Getty Images

Pete Quaife, second from left, with the Kinks’ original lineup, around 1964. From left, Mick Avory and Dave and Ray Davies.

The cause was kidney failure, a spokeswoman for the band said.

Born Peter Alexander Greenlaw Quaife on Dec. 31, 1943, he went to William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School in North London with Ray and Dave Davies, and the three began playing music together in 1961, with a succession of drummers. Ray was the frontman and Dave played lead guitar. They went through several names, including the Ravens, before settling on the Kinks in early 1964, with Mick Avory on drums. After two failed singles the band struck gold that August with “You Really Got Me.”

The song reached No. 1 in Britain and No. 7 in the United States, catapulting the young band to the fore of the British scene, and the abrasive guitar distortion on “You Really Got Me” and its follow-up, “All Day and All of the Night” — which Dave Davies made by slicing his amplifier with a razor — helped start a thousand garage bands. The Kinks were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

“Pete, Ray and me were the original band,” Dave Davies said in a statement on Friday. “We might never have done any of this without him.”

The band continued to score British hits throughout the 1960s, yet had only sporadic success in the United States, where a four-year dispute with the American Federation of Musicians prevented it from touring for most of the late 1960s.

Within the group, Mr. Quaife was sometimes called the ambassador for his ability to break up the Davies brothers’ regular brawls. But eventually the Kinks’ bickering and frustrations forced him out.

Mr. Quaife left the band for part of 1966 when he was injured in a car accident, but by 1969, after playing on the albums “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire),” he quit for good. He was replaced by John Dalton.

In interviews Mr. Quaife cited the group’s competitive volatility — one day in 1965, he said, a fistfight broke out among its members in a limousine after Mr. Quaife whistled a Beatles melody — for his departure, as well as the control that Ray Davies began to exert on the band.

“At the start I had some freedom with my bass lines,” he said in an interview with the British music magazine Mojo, “but as time went on, Ray treated us all more and more like session men.”

After leaving the Kinks, Mr. Quaife played briefly with another band, Mapleoak, and worked as a graphic artist in Denmark and Canada. He was found to have renal failure in 1998, and documented his experiences in cartoons collected in two volumes of books titled “The Lighter Side of Dialysis.”

He is survived by his fiancée, Elisabeth Bilbo, and a daughter.




Published: June 25, 2010
Bill Hudson, an Associated Press photographer whose powerful images of the civil rights era documented police brutality and helped galvanize the public, died Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 77.
June 27, 2010    

Associated Press

Associated Press staff photographers Horace Cort, left, of Atlanta, and Bill Hudson of Memphis pose in Birmingham, Ala, at the scene of a bombing which set off hours-long rioting in the city’s black neighborhoods.

June 26, 2010    

Bill Hudson/Associated Press

Bill Hudson’s searing images of the civil rights era documented police brutality and galvanized the public.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Patricia. He lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Mr. Hudson worked in photojournalism for more than three decades, beginning as an Army photographer in the Korean War. Covering the civil rights movement in the 1960s, he photographed protests in Birmingham and Selma, Ala., where the police turned dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators.

His most enduring photograph of the era, taken on May 3, 1963, shows an officer in dark sunglasses in Birmingham grabbing a young black man by his sweater and letting a police dog lunge at the man’s stomach. The man, Walter Gadsden, with his eyes lowered, has a passive look.

The photograph appeared across three columns at the top of the next day’s front page of The New York Times.

In “Carry Me Home,” a 2001 book about the civil rights era in Birmingham, Diane McWhorter wrote that the photograph helped move “international opinion to the side of the civil rights revolution.”

Mr. Hudson’s wife said he encountered a great deal of animosity from those who did not want him documenting the treatment of the protesters. “Sometimes people were throwing rocks and bricks at him,” she said.

Mr. Hudson was born Aug. 20, 1932, in Detroit and began his career in the Army in 1949. He later took photographs for The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., and The Chattanooga Times in Tennessee before joining The Associated Press in Memphis in 1962. He left The A.P. in 1974, joining United Press International.

Besides his wife, Mr. Hudson is survived by a sister, Sharon Garrison of Laguna Beach, Calif.





Published: June 23, 2010

June 24, 2010    

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life PIctures—Getty Images

The Life magazine photo of a sailor and a nurse in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II on V-J Day.

Teddy Blackburn/Reuters

Edith Shain in 2005.

Her death was announced by her family.

On the 60th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, in 2005, the Times Square Alliance welcomed Mrs. Shain to its commemoration of that frenzied August day in 1945, when strangers were hugging and kissing everywhere in the throngs that came to Times Square to celebrate the war’s end.

Wearing sneakers and a nurse’s uniform, Mrs. Shain re-enacted the moment captured by Life’s renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. Many men have claimed to be the sailor who bestowed the kiss.

“The happiness was indescribable,” Mrs. Shain said of the original V-J Day celebration. “It was a very long kiss.”

Mrs. Shain was back in New York in 2008, that time as grand marshal for the city’s Veterans Day Parade.

When Mr. Eisenstaedt took his photograph, he did not get the names of the embracing sailor and the nurse, and their faces were largely obscured. A Navy photographer, Lt. Victor Jorgensen, also photographed the pair, but he, too, did not obtain their identities.

Thirty-five years later, Mrs. Shain, who was teaching kindergarten in Los Angeles after having been a nurse at Doctors Hospital in New York during the war, wrote to Mr. Eisenstaedt, saying “now that I’m 60 it’s fun to admit that I’m the nurse in your famous shot.” (She was 27 when it was taken). She asked him for a print.

Mr. Eisenstaedt visited Mrs. Shain, and Life reproduced her letter to him in its August 1980 issue, along with pictures he took of her with her family and her students. Mrs. Shain said she had recognized herself in the photo but had kept silent over all those years. “I didn’t think it was dignified, but times have changed,” she told Life.

Two months later, Life published photos of 10 men who had come forward to say they were the sailor in that photo, and a picture of yet another man, no longer alive, whose family had put in a claim. It also ran pictures of two other women who said they were the nurse.

“We received claims from a few nurses and dozens of sailors but we could never prove that any of them were the actual people, and Eisenstaedt himself just said he didn’t know,” Bobbi Baker Burrows, an editor at Life, told The Associated Press in 2008.

Edith Shain was born in Tarrytown, N.Y., on July 29, 1918. She graduated from New York University and moved to Los Angeles a few years after the war ended.

She is survived by her sons Robert and Michael Shain and Justin Decker, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

When Mrs. Shain arrived in New York in 2008 for the city’s Veterans Day Parade, she spoke of what the V-J Day photo meant to her.

“It says so many things,” she told The Associated Press. “Hope, love, peace and tomorrow.”





Published: June 23, 2010

June 24, 2010    

Jose R. Lopez/The New York Times

Charles Ensley, the social workers’ union head, in 1996.

The cause was lung cancer, his wife, Annette, said.

As president of Social Service Employees Union Local 371, which represents 15,000 social workers, Mr. Ensley was independent, outspoken and often irascible, clashing with other union leaders as well as mayors of both major parties.

He ran unsuccessfully in 2003 and 2007 to become executive director of District Council 37, the umbrella group representing 125,000 New York City municipal workers, the nation’s largest union of municipal employees. The council’s delegate assembly elected his opponent, Lillian Roberts, over him, partly because he had alienated some delegates by repeatedly denouncing a culture of corruption among some of the union’s leaders.

When 20 officials from District Council 37 were convicted of either embezzlement or vote fraud in the late 1990s, Mr. Ensley helped lead efforts to right the embattled district council. The presidents of the council’s largest two locals were convicted of stealing more than $1 million each.

“I’m very proud I wasn’t a team player,” Mr. Ensley said in 2003. “If I had been a team player, I probably would have been in jail with the rest of them.”

When council officials announced in 1996 that the rank and file had ratified a five-year contract that included a two-year pay freeze, Mr. Ensley was the first official to complain to the parent union in Washington, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that he suspected vote fraud. The parent union dismissed his concerns, but four years later the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, won convictions of several council officials for widespread vote fraud.

Charles Stephen Ensley was born on May 27, 1941, in Birmingham, Ala. Family members said he learned to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden when his father, who worked at The Birmingham News, fought for equal pay for the newspaper’s black employees.

Mr. Ensley graduated from Howard University in 1962, having majored in political science.

He married in 1964 and moved to Brooklyn, where he became a caseworker for the Bureau of Child Welfare, working in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section. The couple later moved to Manhattan. Besides his wife, he is survived by his sister, Barbara Jean Ensley of Manhattan.

In 1982, he won the presidency of Local 371 with 70 percent of the vote, later bringing unity to its historically fractious membership.

In 1993, he clashed with Mayor David N. Dinkins and his commissioner of human resources, Barbara Sabol, when she sought to bypass the civil service promotion list. Mr. Ensley said she had called it “too male and too white.” Even though most of his local’s members were black, Hispanic and female, Mr. Ensley objected, saying promotions should be based on “merit and fitness.”

He later battled with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani over his push for a two-year wage freeze and for replacing annual raises with merit-based increases.

In recent years Mr. Ensley championed greater union democracy.

“We’re the only major union in the city that doesn’t have direct elections,” he said in 2005. “It’s just an embarrassment. One of the best ways to re-energize labor is to have the rank and file more involved in day-to-day operations, and direct elections will certainly assure that.”





Published: June 22, 2010

June 23, 2010    

David Brewster/Star Tribune

Judge Gerald W. Heaney

His son, Bill, confirmed the death.

In the estimation of former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a friend and fellow Minnesotan, Judge Heaney “should have been on the Supreme Court.”

“Many judges have told me he was one of the most influential members of the bench,” Mr. Mondale said in an interview. “He issued a range of decisions trying to get at the evil of racial discrimination, and often his circuit court dissents became majority opinions when they got up to the Supreme Court.”

In his first major opinion, Judge Heaney, a stalwart liberal, wrote the 1967 ruling that reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss complaints of racial discrimination in the Altheimer, Ark., schools. His opinion, tracing a history of segregation, prompted the district to adopt an integration plan. It was one of eight desegregation cases in which he played a key role.

For 18 years, starting in 1981, Judge Heaney oversaw the integration of schools in St. Louis, writing 27 opinions that outlined strategies to bring students together from all over the city. In 1990, he was a member of a three-judge panel that allowed more than a fourth of black students in Kansas City, Mo., to transfer to predominantly white schools in the suburbs at the state’s expense.

The rights of suspects and defendants were of keen interest to Judge Heaney. In 1967, he wrote a dissent from the court’s ruling that a confidential informant’s tip, without further evidence, could be the basis for an arrest warrant. Two years later, the United States Supreme Court agreed with Judge Heaney’s position. That decision, however, was reversed by the Supreme Court in a similar case in 1983.

A majority decision written by Judge Heaney in 1976 held it unconstitutional for a police officer to use deadly force against a fleeing felony suspect who had not been violent or threatened other people. That ruling provoked a scathing dissent from the court’s chief judge, Floyd R. Gibson, who said, “The state is not required to adopt a policy which might encourage the fleet of foot.”

Among other significant cases, Judge Heaney wrote a decision that granted First Amendment protection to high school newspapers (the Supreme Court reversed that decision), and voted to reverse a lower court ruling that a person could be denied citizenship for refusing to take an oath to bear arms for the United States if that refusal was based on sincere opposition to all killing of human beings. The woman who brought that case was granted citizenship.

The judge’s liberal bent was shaped by his father.

Gerald William Heaney was born on Jan. 29, 1918, in the small farming town of Goodhue, Minn., a son of William J. and Johanna R. Heaney. His father owned a butcher shop.

“He saw the hardships of the Depression,” said Robert Hennessey, a former law clerk for Judge Heaney, “and he always told me it came from his father, who during those days would provide food for people in need.”

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Judge Heaney received his law degree there in 1941. A year later he enlisted in the Army. As a first lieutenant, he led his men ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day, earning a Silver Star.

After the war, he married Eleanor Schmitt and moved to Duluth to practice law. Besides his wife and his son, Bill, he is survived by a daughter, Carol McPherson-Heaney; a sister, Elizabeth Majerus; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Drawn into local politics, Judge Heaney rose through the ranks of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which had been formed in a 1944 merger. He became a confidant of Gov. Orville L. Freeman of Minnesota and two future vice presidents, Hubert H. Humphrey and Mr. Mondale.

Nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, Judge Heaney sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas until 2006. A year later, President George W. Bush signed a law renaming the federal building in Duluth after him.

Nowhere was Judge Heaney’s concern for what he considered injustice more apparent than in his dissent from a 2003 ruling allowing Arkansas officials to force a convicted murderer to take drugs that would make him sane enough to be executed — a ruling the Supreme Court let stand.

Judge Heaney wrote, “I believe that to execute a man who is severely deranged without treatment, and arguably incompetent when treated, is the pinnacle of what Justice Marshall called ‘the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.’ ”





Published: June 22, 2010

Wendell Logan, a composer of jazz and concert music who more than two decades ago founded the jazz department at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, long a bastion of high-level classical training, died on June 15 in Cleveland. He was 69 and lived in Oberlin, Ohio.

June 23, 2010    

Courtesy of Oberlin College

Wendell Logan

Professor Logan died after a short illness, Marci Janas, a conservatory spokeswoman, said. At his death he was chairman of the jazz studies department and professor of African-American music at the conservatory, which is part of Oberlin College.

Though Oberlin had been turning out world-caliber classical soloists, conductors and orchestral performers for generations, jazz there had long been an extracurricular subject at best.

Professor Logan, who played soprano saxophone and trumpet, joined the faculty in 1973 and began offering jazz classes soon afterward. But it was not until 1989 that he was able to make jazz studies a full-fledged major, in which students can earn a bachelor of music.

Besides composing many jazz works, Professor Logan wrote concert music, a discipline that black composers have historically been discouraged from pursuing. His compositional style integrated elements of Modernism, European classicism and African-American musical traditions like jazz, blues and gospel into a seamless whole.

Among his best-known concert works are “Doxology Opera: The Doxy Canticles” (2001), a gritty sung drama of race and morality with a libretto by Paul Carter Harrison, and “Runagate, Runagate” (1989), a setting of Robert E. Hayden’s poem about a fugitive slave.

In 1990 “Runagate, Runagate,” sung by the tenor William Brown, was featured in a program by the Black Music Repertory Ensemble, a Chicago group, at Alice Tully Hall in New York.

Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Allan Kozinn wrote, “Mr. Logan’s music — a volatile mixture of angularity, harmonic haziness and expressive dissonance tempered with openly tonal sections — adds a palpable dramatic dimension to the narrative.”

Professor Logan’s jazz compositions include “Remembrances.” Reviewing a performance of that work by piano, bass and drums for The Times last year, Ben Ratliff called it “a stylish and mysterious ballad.”

Wendell Morris Logan was born on Nov. 24, 1940, in Thomson, Ga. His first musical studies were with his father, an amateur alto saxophonist.

He attended Florida A&M University, a historically black institution, on a football scholarship, graduating in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in music. He earned a master’s in music from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1964 and a Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Iowa in 1968.

Before joining the Oberlin faculty, Professor Logan taught at Florida A&M, Ball State and Western Illinois Universities. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1991; his music has been recorded by Orion and other labels.

Professor Logan is survived by his wife, the former Bettye Reese, whom he married in 1962; two children, Wendell M. Jr. and Felicia Logan; two brothers, Alvin and Howard; and four grandchildren.

In interviews over the years, Professor Logan made clear that for him and his colleagues, the rubric “black composer” was a decidedly mixed blessing.

“I’m not particularly in favor of it,” he told The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, as the paper was then known, in 1994. “I think our music should be evaluated and played alongside everything else, and programmed with Beethoven and other contemporary composers. No one is asking for a special day: ‘Here’s the day for black American composers.’ That’s kind of demeaning. But it’s better than nothing.”





Published: June 24, 2010

The cause was a heart attack, according to a statement by the African National Congress, the South African political party with which he worked closely.

Dr. Smith “sacrificed his well-being and forsook his privileged white status,” the statement said, “to join hands and lead the struggle for the emancipation of black people.”

From 1985 to 1989, some of the most climactic years of the struggle, Dr. Smith and his wife, Ellen, lived in Mamelodi, the main black township outside Pretoria. They were the only South African whites for hundreds of miles to have received official permission to breach a pillar of apartheid called the Group Areas Act, which determined residential areas by race. Dr. Smith had begun preaching in Mamelodi in 1982 as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, a breakaway denomination of the segregationist Dutch Reformed Church.

While a minister there, he regularly demanded inquiries into the killings of anti-apartheid activists. In 1988, he helped organize an effort aimed at racial reconciliation in which, for four days, 170 whites moved in with black families in Mamelodi and 35 blacks lived in the homes of whites in the suburbs of Pretoria.

Despite visits by the police, the families prayed together and shared meals, joining for a barbecue at which — at Dr. Smith’s urging — they sang “Nkosi Sikelele Afrika” (“God Bless Africa”), an anthem of the movement.

The Smiths moved back to a white neighborhood in 1989. After apartheid was dismantled in the early 1990s, Dr. Smith helped build a multiracial congregation in Pretoria.

Nico Smith was born in the rural reaches of the Orange Free State, which had been an independent Boer republic during the 19th century and joined South Africa in 1910. His father was the principal of a school for the children of white farmers.

He was 4 years old, Dr. Smith told The New York Times in 1985, when his mother gave him his first lesson in apartheid: Talk to blacks only when you have an order to give to them. Back then, he said, “blacks were not considered as people, they were just implements.”

After studying in Pretoria, Dr. Smith was ordained by the Dutch Reformed Church, which found scriptural justification for apartheid. He was a member of the elite, secretive Afrikaner fellowship called the Broederbond and taught theology at the University of Stellenbosch.

But in 1963 Dr. Smith met Karl Barth, a renowned German-Swiss theologian, who confronted his racist thinking.

“He said to me, ‘Will you be free to preach the Gospel even if the government in your country tells you that you are preaching against the whole system’ ” of apartheid? Dr. Smith said in the Times article. “That made a deep impression on me.”

By 1981, Dr. Smith had withdrawn from the Broederbond, resigned his professorship and left the Dutch Reformed Church. That year, he protested the plight of 120 black women in Cape Town’s Crossroads squatter camp whose homes were bulldozed in midwinter.

“I knew I had to make a choice,” he said. “I would have to decide to teach my theology but not apply it, or apply it and take the consequences.”





Published: June 21, 2010

Carlos Monsiváis, the Mexican writer and cultural critic whose trenchant literary chronicles laid bare the foibles of political power brokers and gave everyday Mexican life a surreal majesty, died Saturday in Mexico City. He was 72. 

June 22, 2010    

Miriam Berkley

Carlos Monsiváis in 1990. 

June 22, 2010    

Miguel Tovar/Associated Press

Mr. Monsiváis’s coffin was carried from the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on Sunday after a public viewing. 

Officials of the National Health Secretariat said he died of lung disease and had been hospitalized since April. 

Mr. Monsiváis was not well known outside Mexico, and he never achieved the literary fame or commercial success of such contemporaries as Octavio Paz or Carlos Fuentes. But within Mexico, in newspapers, magazines and books, his five decades of observations about politics, popular culture, liberalism, and the highs and lows of the Mexican character made his voice more recognizable than that of Mexican presidents. 

The current president, Felipe Calderón — with whom Mr. Monsiváis did not see eye to eye — paid tribute over the weekend. “His literary and journalistic work is a necessary reference for understanding the richness and cultural diversity of Mexico,” Mr. Calderón said in a statement. “He was a chronicler and witness for his era.” 

Mr. Monsiváis’s writings helped shape Mexico’s contemporary political and cultural life. With Mr. Fuentes and others he was an exponent of the Latin American “boom” of the 1960s, a flowering of literary expression that brought Latin American writers to the attention of the wider world. 

But while Mr. Fuentes and the others embraced universal themes, Mr. Monsiváis is best known for exploring the ordinary problems of common people to create extraordinarily moving sagas of the street. 

His writing was often laced with irony and sarcasm. In “Mexican Postcards” (Verso, 1997), one of his few books to be translated into English, he wrote of his homeland: “A decent society with noble sentiments loves the home as if it were the nation, and venerates the nation as if it were a mother: there is no such thing as virtue outside of official engagements, no true love outside marriage, and no civic pride that is far removed from the respectful laying of bouquets and wreaths.” 

Mr. Monsiváis wrote about some of the great social issues and political events of his time, often as a participant. He supported gay rights and embraced most leftist causes, starting with the 1968 student protests in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Plaza. Shortly before the start of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, scores of students were killed in a confrontation with security forces. The killings were a turning point for Mexico’s pro-democracy movement. 

In 1999, Mr. Monsiváis, along with the crusading Mexican journalist Julio Scherer García, returned to the Tlatelolco episode and published a book called “War Report.” In the book they revealed documents showing that the snipers who killed the students were plainclothes members of an elite army unit assigned to the president’s office, directly implicating Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Mexico’s president in 1968. 

Mr. Monsiváis also supported the Zapatista guerrilla uprising in 1994 and the 2006 presidential campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who narrowly lost to Mr. Calderón. He condemned the long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governed Mexico for more than seven decades. But when a member of the National Action Party finally won in 2000, Mr. Monsiváis criticized that party’s leaders and their conservative views. 

Mr. Monsiváis was beloved as much for his curmudgeonly image as for his wrinkled Everyman appearance. He was often pictured holding one of the many household cats he kept in his overstuffed apartment in Mexico City. 

He once referred to himself as a mix of Albert Camus and Ringo Starr, as a kind of fun-loving figure with the mind of a philosopher, and he was one of the few Mexican intellectuals who would be instantly recognized on the crowded streets of his city. 

At a public viewing in Mexico City over the weekend, thousands passed by his coffin, which was draped in the national flag, the flag of his alma mater, the National Autonomous University, and the gay rights rainbow flag. In a public tribute, the writer Elena Poniatowska said, “What are we going to do without you, Monsi?” using the nickname by which Mr. Monsiváis was universally known. 

Carlos Monsiváis (pronounced mohn-see-VICE) was born in Mexico City on May 4, 1938. After studying philosophy and literature at the national university, he began writing literary chronicles that have been compared to the novelistic New Journalism of the late 1960s practiced in the United States. 

Those articles have been gathered into a series of books, including “Days to Remember” (1970), “Scenes of Power and Frivolity” (1981) and “The Rituals of Chaos” (1995), that were hugely popular in Mexico. He won many literary awards, including Mexico’s National Journalism Award. His column, “For My Mother Bohemians,” ran in the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada for many years. 

Mr. Monsiváis had cousins but left no immediate survivors. His ashes will be kept in Mexico City at the Estanquillo Museum, which is devoted to popular culture and which Mr. Monsiváis helped create in 2006, drawing from his own collection of objects from everyday life. 

Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting from Mexico City.

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#1 R&B Song 1981:  “Give It To Me Baby,” Rick James

Born:  Rosalie Allen (Julie Marlene Bedra), 1924


1953   Jackie Wilson made his recording debut with the Dominoes, cutting “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” ($100). Meanwhile, R&B standards  “Gee” by the Crows (#14 pop, #2 R&B, $400) and “I Cover the Waterfront” by the Orioles ($1,200) were released.

1960   Lonnie Johnson, an originator and founding father of modern guitar blues performed at the Playboy Club in Chicago. The innovative Johnson, who played with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington going back to the ’20s, was recently found working as a janitor in a Philadelphia hotel.

1964   The Valentinos charted with “It’s All Over Now,” reaching only #94 pop. The group was actually Bobby Womack and his brothers, who started out as the gospel group, the Womack Brothers. Bobby’s song, however, would gain immortality as an early hit for the Rolling Stones. (Singing in the background vocals is none other than the great Bill Withers).

1970   The Jackson 5 hit #1 with “The Love You Save,” thus becoming the first artists to reach the top spot with their first three charters.

1987   Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” hit #1, while her album Whitney became the first album by a female singer to debut on Billboard’s chart at #1.

1992   Michael Jackson began his latest world tour in support of the album Dangerous in Munich, West Germany. A European-only TV program was taped and included two of Michael’s performances live from the concert.

1996   The Fugees appeared at the free Hoodstock concert in New York. A man began firing a gun and numerous onlookers were hospitalized.

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