IN REMEMBRANCE: 6-27-10

FRED ANDERSON, SAXAPHONIST AND CLUB OWNER

By BRUCE WEBER

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.

Related

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 (youtube.com)

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 Allaboutjazz.com. “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.”

SOURCE

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PETE QUAIFE, A BASSIST FOR THE KINKS

By BEN SISARIO

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.

SOURCE

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BILL HUDSON, A PHOTOJOURNALIST DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.

SOURCE

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EDITH SHAIN, CLAIMED TO BE SUBJECT OF FAMOUS V-J DAY PHOTO

By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN

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.”

SOURCE

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CHARLES ENSLEY, LABOR LEADER AND UNION CRITIC

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE

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.”

SOURCE

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GERALD W. HEANEY, A JUDGE WHO RULED FOR THE DESGREGATION OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS

by DENNIS HEVESI

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.’ ”

SOURCE

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WENDELL LOGAN, COMPOSER OF JAZZ AND CINCERT MUSIC

By MARGALIT FOX

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.”

SOURCE

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NICO SMITH, SOUTH AFRICAN MINISTER WHO DEFIED APARTHEID

By DENNIS HEVESI

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.”

SOURCE

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CARLOS MONSIVAIS, MEXICAN WHO WROTE OF THE GREAT AND THE HUMBLE

By ANTHONY DePALMA

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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