Happy 100th Birthday Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, painter, activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers turned 100 years old today.

Ferlinghetti is maybe best known for “A Coney Island of the Mind” and as publisher of the beat poets, which included being arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the ensuing First Ammendment trial.

My favorite work of his is the little book Poetry As Insurgent Art which a good friend gifted me a few years ago.
A few of my favorite quotes:

  • “The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.”
  • “Haunt bookstores.”
  • “Think long thoughts in short sentences.”
  • “Don’t ever believe poetry is irrelevant in dark times.”

Image: Christopher Michel, CC BY 2.0

My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength…

It’s important to acknowledge that, most of the time, the underlying problem human rights organisations are trying to solve isn’t technical. It’s often a bureaucratic, institutional, process or workflow problem, and technology won’t solve it (and might exacerbate it).

Human rights work attempts to prevent the abusive deployment of power against those who have little of it. While technology might disrupt some power structures, it might also reinforce them, and it is rarely designed to empower the most vulnerable populations.

“Tech folk: ‘Move fast and break things’ doesn’t work when lives are at stake:” A comment on the complex, strenuous working relationship between Silicon Valley and human rights organizations by Keith Hiatt, Michael Kleinman and Mark Latonero.

The thing that got me about Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson was when his mom said that he didn’t think he was going to live, anyway. She said she was always trying to get on him about going to school and doing his homework and graduating and all that. And he didn’t really think he was gonna have a life. […]

I was like, damn. People don’t know how much our kids are worth, and they don’t care. But his friends knew. When you would see those images on the news about what was happening in Ferguson, those were kids. On Twitter and Facebook, they were like, “Meet me at my grandma’s house.” You would see kids talking about getting batteries and keeping their cameras going and getting water. What I remember about Ferguson is that when the police put a curfew in place, the kids went on boycott. They stayed outside, and they were building tents and camps. This was for days. They were streaming what they were doing outside, and they were organizing. They were ordering food and connecting online and communicating with people. They’s kids! Everybody’s connecting communities to give them resources to stay outside. It lasted months. Every time something happened, they had the communication line. It was going through the buzz. Kansas City might’ve just sent water one time, but now Kansas City is a buzzline. If somebody tweets in Ferguson, it’s gonna tweet in St. Louis and tweet in Chicago. Beautiful. That’s what made it go: The kids were pushing it and everybody else couldn’t ignore it because they were calling for help.

My Journey to Activism and Black Lives Matter   Teressa Raiford tells Casey Jarman how she became an activist, community leader, and talks about he community experience of death that is at the core of the Black Lives Matter movement. Must read. 
https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/242726297/stream?client_id=N2eHz8D7GtXSl6fTtcGHdSJiS74xqOUI?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Jamila Woods – blk girl soldier 

(Direct link to soundcloud)

This is so good and so timely. A day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, a day that this year was the stage for #BlackLivesMatter protest action, Jamila Woods, a vocalist and poet from Chicago, released this track. The song connects music to protests, both of the civil rights movement era in the 50s/60s and today, as Woods explains: 

“I’m interested in figuring out what freedom songs would sound like in 2016. My hope is that ‘blk girl soldier’ is a freedom song for black women today who are fighting the macro and microagressions of daily life in our city/country/world.”

She also sings about  #blackgirlmagic, another concept or movement – the positive highlighting of the great and beautiful things Black girls and women – that is controversial because it is so important and effective. 

Plus, it’s a really great song with a fantastic beat. 

Selma

What a stunning, important, moving, magnificent film. It might have not won the Oscar, but it will surely enter collective cultural memory and countless syllabi. 

The entire ensemble of actors and actresses was great, lead by a brilliant David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. Great directing and cinematography, too. For me, the “4 little girls” bomb attack particularly stood out, but there were so many less showy, more mundane or domestic moments that were well done, too. Ava Duvernay  did a really good job, I think, at showing Martin Luther King as a human – not a saint – and how important others were for the movement – John Lewis and SNCC, Coretta Scott King, the SCLC, but also local women and organizers in Selma. It’s hard to compare three so different movies as Boyhood, Birdman, and Selma, but Selma is the more important movie. If it’s better than Birdman (which I haven’t seen yet because I live in a cave) or Boyhood (which I also loved) I don’t know, but it’s certainly not worse. 

Leading up to the Oscars, an anonymous Academy member claimed that Selma isn’t “art.” In a way, that is even true – if you think of “art” as “l’art pour l’art.” The skilled, artistic work in Selma was not its own end, but is used to create a profound impact and to tell the story of a struggle. A struggle that in many ways is still going  on today. Watching the 1st Oval Office scene in which LBJ tells MLK that other issues are more important than the Black vote, I couldn’t help but think of the discussion going on on Twitter between certain White Feminists™ and people of color – particularly Black women –  who criticized Patricia Arquette for her backstage remarks and the way Arquette’s framing erased Black women. After people (of color) pointed this issue out, they were immediately called divisive and told to focus on “bigger fish” like wage equality. 

Many scenes of the march, particularly when the State Troopers put on their gas masks and clubbed men, women, clergy, and youngsters, immediately brought the last summer in Ferguson to mind. The story Selma tells isn’t over, yet, and the film makers know that. That makes the movie so important and so great.

Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.