Sunday, July 10, 2016

Writers React to Shootings Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Dallas Police

Needless to say, we -- I and others --- have been shook up by the recent spate of violence that has taken place in the US -- the shootings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the Dallas Police. Here are statements from writer-friends of mine, Julia Stein, Traci Gourdine and Kambon Obayani, about what has gone on. Many thanks to them for sharing their thoughts.

Further, the novelist James E. Cherry shares a link with his essay on Black Lives Matter: Struggle and Resistance at The Jackson Sun - here

Julia Stein has published five books of poetry and has edited two books of poetry.  She co-authored the non-fiction book, Shooting Women: Behind the Camera, Around the World (London, 2015). After receiving a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and M.A. in Psychology from California University at Los Angeles, Julia Stein left psychology to be a writer.  Later she got an M.A. in English from UC Irvine.

She helped found Los Angeles local of the National Writers Union and worked as an arts journalist throughout the 1980s publishing articles and commentary in the Los Angeles Reader, Village Voice, Daily News, High Performance, and the American Book Review among others.

She has taught psychology at California State University at Los Angeles and English at Los Angeles City College, Santa Monica College, Valley College, UCLA Extension writers program etc. Beginning in 1992, she published more poetry books as well as literary criticism essays on such topics as women’s and working-class literature. She was a featured speaker at several national conferences, and has been an invited poet/reader in venues from Honolulu to Paris. 


 After the Dallas shooting, Rudy Giuliani on “Fox & Friends” said that Black Lives Matter “puts a target on the back of police,” and other conservatives have made shrill attacks on BLM, which are reported in the mass media.  Black Lives Matters has responded saying they want a reduction of violence, not an escalation, and that a lone gunman had committed the Dallas shooting. They said that to assign one person’s actions to an entire movement is “dangerous and irresponsible.” Black Lives Matter was started by three women—Alicia Garza, Patrice Cullers, and Opal Tometi. Garza said, “The truth is that we’re doing what the labor movement has always done—organizing people who are at the bottom.”  I also think that a reduction in violence, particularly the banning of assault rifles, would save lives of civilians and police.

 I think Black Lives Matter most resembles Gandhi’s movement in India.  Rather than just spending his time only fighting for independence, Gandhi fought with the peasants against excessive land-tax as well as led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, for more women's rights, for peace between ethnic and religious groups, and for ending mistreatment of untouchables. Like Gandhi’s work on many issues, Black Lives Matter is concerned with saving black lives from police violence but also the rights of working people, disabled people’s rights as well as sexual and gender equality.  Like Gandhi, Black Lives Matter uses non-violent force but not violence:  Gandhi led a peaceful march that violated the British imposed salt-tax and outraged British tax-collectors while Black Lives Matter leads peaceful demonstrations against the police. Like Gandhi's followers who got arrested many times (after the march against the salt-tax the British imprisoned 60,000), Black Lives Matter protestors get arrested.  Like Gandhi, Black Lives Matters also intervenes in politics, having protests at presidential candidates’ rallies or dialogue with Hillary Clinton, and one leader is running for mayor in Baltimore. Like Gandhi who was attacked for decades in the British press, Black Lives Matter has now come under attack in the U.S. press as it continues international protests in the U.S., Toronto, London, Berlin, and Amsterdam, and has received a solidarity statement from the Kurdish Women’s Defense Units.


Kambon Obayani, former Professor at Cal State University Northridge and Pierce College, has written five novels and has edited books of poetry, prison writing, African-American art, as well as having ten plays produced and selling five movie and television scripts. Oba holds a BA in English from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. He runs Jasmaya Productions and Publications, an independent publishing house.


The recent shootings of the two African American men, was not about race; they were about humanity.  The police shootings were retaliation.

An individual, who represents an institution, the police, does not kill a human being; it kills an object, a thing, a lower animal which has no value. Various names are used to describe black people at large, and specifically black men; NIGGER! A NIGGER is not a human being, and therefore can be killed because the killer does not believe he, or she, is taking a human life. This concept of not confronting a human being has been woven into the consciousness of the United States psyche from its inception; NIGGERS are property like a horse, pig, or cow, which are used for profit, commerce, or sustenance, and one slaughters one's property at will without a second thought whenever it presents danger in order to illustrate one's ownership, dominance and power. Therefore when a NIGGER presents a danger, one puts the NIGGER back in its place, by destroying it, which sends a message to the others; get out of line and you're dead. One does not treat a human being in such manner.

The retaliation by militarized African Americans is merely  those trained by the same institution, using the tactics and training they've learned to demonstrate their anger, and rage, at being devalued. Imagine...I fight for my country, demonstrating my loyalty, love of country, putting my life on the line, and you treat those who look like me, and me indirectly, as if I, we, are meaningless. 

God help us all Cecilia if the others militarized despair and do the same...because they are the majority in the military, and the retired vets, and vets....   


Traci Gourdine's poetry and stories have been published in numerous literary magazines, and she has been anthologized within Shepard and Thomas' Sudden Fiction Continued. Traci and Quincy Troupe were paired in a year-long exchange of letters for the anthology LETTERS TO POETS: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT POETICS, POLITICS, AND COMMUNITY (Saturnalia Books, 2008). She is co-editor of Night is Gone, Day is Still Coming, an anthology of writing by young Native writers, as well as We Beg to Differ, poems by Sacramento poets against the Iraq war. She has also co-edited the Tule Review with Luke Breit for the Sacramento Poetry Center. Traci Gourdine is a professor of English at American River College and chairs the Creative Writing department for the California State Summer School for the Arts. She was Chair of the Sacramento Poet Laureate Committee for four laureate terms. For ten years she facilitated writing workshops within several California state prisons in the Arts in Corrections program for the William James Association. RINGING IN THE WILD (2015) is Traci's debut full-length poetry collection, published by Ad Lumen Press.

Here's a quick quote I found in a book I've just begun reading. "We are here to educate, not forgive. We are here to enlighten, not accuse. (Willie Johns, Brighton Seminole Reservation, Florida)."

The unwillingness of many civic, political and even media heads to understand the purpose of Black Lives Matter stuns and frustrates me. It must be demonized: the citizens involved must be called thugs, and the victims of systemic racism are whiners who are incapable or too lazy to realize their place in this country. We can have all the tech in the world to document decades of abuse, but still nothing happens to assure change. Yet somehow this last week feels a bit different. I sense a tipping point at least in the population about what's been going on in many communities. I'm torn though because I fear it will be washed over by some new horror streamed on CNN. Already Orlando is receding in the rearview mirror


Read also:

Tags: Julia Stein, Kambon Obayani, Traci Gourdine, writers, poets, literature, novelists, #blacklivesmatter 

This is all for now,

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