Asante Sana, Randall Robinson

Randall Robinson is now an Ancestor.

He lived almost 30 years after I first seriously meditated on him because of this Donna Britt Washington Post column.

In many fundamental ways I never left this account, never turned the newsprint page, so Robinson, a man I learned about because of apartheid, today remains for me frozen in this moment of heroism.

*****

Donna Britt/Washington Post

April 29, 1994, Page D1.

A Good Man Going Hungry For a Good Cause

On Saturday night, President Clinton dined with hundreds at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on asparagus and Roma tomato salad, petit filets of beef and salmon and a dessert of fresh berries in Grand Marnier sauce served in a chocolate scoop.

That same night, my family gathered at a favorite eatery to consume angel hair pasta, Caesar salad, a wheelbarrow-sized burrito and barbecue chicken pizza.

In the basement that is now his home, Randall Robinson feasted on two glasses of tomato juice and some spring water. His wife, Hazel – who on weekend nights leaves their 4-year-old daughter, Khalea, at home with a friend to join him – sipped iced tea.

By now, many Americans know about the 18-day fast of Robinson, 52, executive director of TransAfrica, a group that lobbies on behalf of Africa and the Caribbean. He says he will subsist on juice and water until the United States ends its policy of automatically repatriating all Haitian refugees back to an island where many are immediately murdered.

As somebody who has real trouble bypassing a Snicker Doodle at the mall, I felt many things when I learned of Robinson’s fast: admiration, awe – and fear. A story from a colleague explains the fear:

Last week, after ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide spoke of Robinson’s stance to a crowd in Los Angeles, a female Haitian emigre approached. “Is Randall Robinson black or white?” she asked.

He’s black, Aristide replied. The woman looked crestfallen.

“You should find someone white to fast with him,” she said. “Because Americans won’t care if a black man dies.”

In truth, many Americans are too numbed by images of death from Bosnia to Rwanda to a Japanese airfield to be exercised about the death of anyone who wasn’t an ex-president or a suicidal rock star.

It’s also true that if white Americans were dying in the streets the way black citizens are, our government would come to a standstill until the carnage stopped. Like that woman, I wonder: Can the threatened demise of anybody as devalued as a black man change a U.S. policy that results in other blacks’ deaths?

But this column isn’t about desperate city youths killing each other out of ignorance and despair. It isn’t about somebody faceless, who can be dismissed as a druggie or gang member who “deserves” it.

It is about Randall Robinson. It is about the man whose 1984 arrest with two others started a ball rolling that grew into a boulder massive enough to flatten a virulently racist regime – and to help spawn this week’s historic South African elections.

It is about an eloquent, flesh-and-blood guy who delights in a pigtailed daughter, a child who nightly sketches family pictures and whose eyes fill when she’s asked about his absence. “I miss kissing Daddy when he comes home from work,” Khalea says. “But he has to help the people in Haiti.”

It’s about a man whose son, Jabari, 19, will attend Lincoln University, and whose aspiring-writer daughter, Anike, 22, says, “The word `proud’ is so small {to describe} having a person in your life who inspires you to want to do the most passionate thing for your beliefs.”

It’s about a man whose face makes you believe it when he says he “can’t imagine life” without his wife, Hazel Ross Robinson, a foreign policy adviser to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.). “I believe in what Randall’s doing,” she says. “But as a wife, it is heartbreaking.” Her husband’s doctor says that the always-slim activist has lost eight pounds and that the protein level in his blood has dropped below normal.

It’s about someone who literally would rather die than not risk everything to save Haitians – real people, too, with wives and husbands and cute little girls – trying to flee a killing field. Their attempts to escape an island where thugs hack to death democracy-seekers with machetes, lop off their faces and feed the remains to pigs, are thwarted by U.S. vessels that scoop them up and return them “home.”

Some of us don’t know what to make of a guy who’d abandon a graceful, colonial-style house, beloved Chopin recordings and even his gorgeous office upstairs to exile himself to a Spartan room in TransAfrica’s basement.

I don’t. I woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday, haunted and taunted by the magnitude, the madness, of Robinson’s mission. The darkness couldn’t obscure my sense that his stance makes my own efforts to make the world a fairer, more loving place seem cowardly, ineffectual.

But each of us, I told myself, has power. More than we even begin to exert.

President Clinton, who like me, ate well on Saturday, has the power to keep this man – and by extension, thousands of Haitians – alive. If he can move beyond his ennui and fear, he can by executive order rescind the automatic repatriation order he railed against during his presidential campaign.

We have power too: In fingers that can dial the White House and tie up phone lines at Congress; in feet that join tomorrow’s 11 a.m. rally at the Capitol; in hearts that can pray for Robinson’s continued strength.

We have the power to be just a bit braver. To acknowledge, at our next meal and the next, one man’s willingness to sacrifice that and so much more – for a good cause.

https://charlierose.com/video/player/11337

Jared Ball, Black Power Media and “The Penny Trick:” What I Thought About Peacock’s “Lowndes County and The Road To Black Power”

Some Comments About “Star Trek: Picard” @ The Halfway Point Of Season 3, The Final Season

If the last five episodes are as incredible as these first five, this one season of this one streaming show will have made up for:

  • Every bad episode of TOS;
  • Every bad episode of ST:TAS;
  • Every bad episode of TNG (yes, even the race/ethnic stereotyping and overt racism of Seasons 1 and 2);
  • Every bad episode of DS9 (were there bad episodes of that? 🙂 );
  • Every bad episode of Voyager (and I love the fact that there are not many of those 🙂 ),
  • Every bad Trek movie (maybe even including the new ones, depending on how powerful this particular story and series ends!) and 
  • Every misstep of streaming Nu Trek, animated and live-action (including Picard Season Two)

This is an amazing time to love this franchise! Today is a good day to live 🙂

*****

A Related Aside: Between this and what’s going on with Star Wars streaming shows, it’s beginning to be understood that good writing fixes everything–even bad movie sequels and prequels. The Star Wars streaming showrunners are creating world-building that’s so well done it’s actually showing the greatness of the content of the prequels and sequels. An example of re-evaluating and changing your long-held view of something based on something else new that puts the old in a new context, a la the maxim, “If you change the way you look at things, what you look at changes.” 

“Bearing Witness In The Case Of Mumia Abu-Jamal” Forum

140-Word Review Of The First Two Episodes Of Hulu’s (And Nikole Hannah-Jones’) “The 1619 Project”

Easily the most militant, near-radical Oprah product yet. 🙂 Episode One is the usual (corporate) skewered portrait of Black people (only) wanting as-is American identity through American liberal democracy and capitalism instead of freedom, which is a much more complicated socio-political discussion that American documentarians wish to ignore. (Docs like this conveniently 🙂 forget that the American Civil Rights Movement was a McCarthyite compromise to what Blacks really wanted and had to politically dismantle–a Freedom Movement.) But admittedly, having a Black woman on-camera asking other Black women about the state of American democracy, regardless of the lack of imagination of the answers, feels new. Episode Two’s Black womanist-centered approach to the discussion of the concept of race, again, felt quite innovative. Overall, the personal-is-political approach works for Hannah-Jones since it creates tensions not normally “scene” in Black American docs.

FEBRUARY 16TH UPDATE: I finished the whole series. Nikole Hannah-Jones deserves her own family-centered, elite-access-influenced worldview, but I think future explorations of Black America should be divided into sections of multiple commentators/producers/narrators, etc. I believe that this historical doc should establish a new tradition.

Belated 78-Word Review Of The TV Adaption Of “Kindred”

Mallori Johnson is a star but she has to burn through an unnecessary mess. A uniquely powerful story about the pain and irony of slavery in America–a short but stout book that slams the reader in the face–is so packed with television characters and thinned out and stretched as to lose its original meaning. Sad for non-readers who will think any of this has to do with a product produced by our amazing ancestor Octavia Butler.

UPDATE: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/kindred-canceled-fx-1235313309/

And so now I feel I just wasted eight hours of a Sunday. But I’m glad to be introduced to Mallori Johnson, who deserves better projects.