My Quick Thoughts About “In The Heights”


a) Lin-Manuel Miranda reminds me how Ta-Nehisi Coates described Barack Obama: an activist, not a protester. (Nice move he made with NPR’s Maria Hinojosa to get some intellectual/activist cred! :)) This is the most thoroughly gentle–even if ever-present!–film portrayal of systemic white supremacy I’ve seen on film. Miranda, who loves 20th-century white popular culture at least as much as I do 🙂 , does NOT want to upset Whitey, EVER. 🙂 Having said that, I enjoyed seeing the undocumented struggle included in this. It shows how, like Coates, he is VERY careful. 
b) This story is highly cultural–very BROWN, the way Hamilton is (ironically!) very WHITE. (I can see Miranda on that Heights vacation, reading that Ron Chernow bio and going: “Yes! I can now go completely in a new and opposite direction, like an artist should! Past instead of presentwhite instead of Black/Brown, historical narrative instead of love letter, naked, individual ambition instead of family/community survival, birth of a nation instead of death of a neighborhood!”) As a concept, Hamilton makes a LOT of sense to me now. You can clearly see the themes in both New York-centric, immigrant-centric musicals that attract Miranda–the power of personal drive and dreams with/versus sacrificial commitment to family and community, etc.
c) Whether it is culturally stereotypical I will leave for Brown people to discuss. To this outsider, it looks like he’s trying to hit EVERY cultural mark. 
d) Because Hamilton was first for me, this seemed like a workshop to test out the style he would perfect with the slaveholders. 🙂

JUNE 12th UPDATE: So now that I’ve laid my issues on the table, I will admit he’s a FREAKIN’ GENIUS!!! Have you seen the teaser (below) for his directorial debut?!? And the Oscar goes to…. 😉 The year 2021 is only halfway through, and he’s already its savior!! LOL!!!

Asante Sana, Bill McCreary….

Bill McCreary

….for so many things: “The McCreary Report,” “Black News” and your being in charge of WLIB-AM news in the early 1960s. That was when you hired some guy named Gil Noble.

MOVE Organization Press Conference (4-26-21)

UPDATE: MOVE Protest on 4-28-21:

UPDATE: Some of Democracy Now!‘s coverage:

https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2021/4/30/ivy_league_human_move_remains_scandal

https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2021/4/30/ethical_stewardship_african_american_remains

https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/11/move_bombing_human_remains_controversy

229-Word Review of “Genius: Aretha”

It takes all eight hours to get the point of Season 3 of National Geographic’s “Genius,” profiling The Queen of Soul

At one point, Glenn Thurman shows Aretha Franklin The Trust Fall and it takes a little bit of internal work for Aretha to make it. But make it she does. Watching eight hours of Genius‘s third season requires a lot of trust in showrunner Suzan-Lori Parks, because the viewer has to wade through aaaa lottttt of Lifetime-type, music-biopic tropes to get to the core of Franklin’s story: She is a woman who is sometimes-comfortably trapped in concentric gender and music circles, pushing out only when they threaten her windpipe. Each burst-through creates its own cycles of searches. Aretha’s stoic speaking voice is the outer shell that hides deep insecurities but also hidden strengths. The seemingly endless flashbacks show where and why the holding patterns stick; her grown-ness comes in her 40s, as an unavoidable right-of-passage beckons. Parks has said she read all the books and articles, so while the hours went by this viewer had to trust that she was going in a direction worthy of so much (relatively) limited discussion of politics and society that seemingly dominated the show’s first two seasons. What the playwright has shown is how complicated the sexist male circles are to surmount–how it takes time and patience to wedge through, to prove oneself, to burst free into a full identity who can do anything–even sing opera on 15 minutes notice.

Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” (Inauguration Poem)

This sure beats Maya Angelou’s “a rock, a river, a tree” 🙂

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_Gorman

“The Hill We Climb”

When day comes we ask ourselves

Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast;

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace.

And the norms and notions of what just is

Isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it;

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

A nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time

Where a skinny black girl descended from slaves

And raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president,

Only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes we are far from polished, far from pristine,

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge a union with purpose,

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze not to what stands between us,

But what stands before us.

We close the divide, because we know to put our future first,

We must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms

So we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew,

That even as we hurt, we hoped,

That even as we tired, we tried,

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious—

Not because we will never again know defeat

But because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision

That everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,

And no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time,

then victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promised glade,

The hill we climb if only we dare it.

Because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded,

But while democracy can be periodically delayed

It can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith we trust,

For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,

But within it we found the power

To author a new chapter,

To offer hope and laughter,

To ourselves sow. While once we asked:

How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert: How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was,

But move to what shall be,

A country that is bruised but whole,

Benevolent but bold,

Fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation

Because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.

Our blunders become their burdens

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might and might with right,

Then love becomes our legacy

And change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

With every breath of my bronze pounded chest,

We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lakeland cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sunbaked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

In every known nook of our nation,

In every corner called our country,

Our people, diverse and beautiful,

Will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes we step out of the shade,

Aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it,

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Narratives: Remembering Stanley Crouch

A very fine article I found reminded me of the type of serious longform writing and print-era that, once I discovered it, shaped and fascinated me as a young newspaper reporter. The Village Voice and its crew, of which Stanley Crouch was a part, were in this great, fascinating NYC-centric, newsstand literary universe.

I was definitely not a fan of the content, philosophy or personal style of Crouch (who had left The Voice when I began to read it), but I was a fan of the idea of him. This act of remembering–published in one of the remaining traditional 20-centuryish places left for this kind of writing–brought back memories of a time long gone: of picking up The Voice at Newark Penn Station while on the way to or back from Harlem on an early 1990s Friday, all the while wondering what was possible for me and writing.

Later in the 1990s, embedded in graduate school, I was even more obsessed with The Writers’ Life. For example, I actually bought a transcript and video of the below because I wanted to absorb this discussion.  (Not surprisingly, these writers–who were actually post-World-War-II-nouns, who wrote in the mid-20th century for a living–didn’t see that nonfiction and fiction were going to move en masse to the academy.) I succeeded: this 23-year-old talk has been almost completely memorized over the years and, as a result, it serves as part of my internal writing clinic when/as I write.

https://charlierose.com/videos/3810

My Latest Very-Quickie-Type Book Reviews……

are here and here.

Newark In The Spotlight: “Policing The Police” From 2016–And The 2020 Sequel

 

 

And for an activist success story, read this book excerpt by Lawerence Hamm and Annette Alston, courtesy of Jared Ball’s imixwhatilike.org.