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The Buffalo Bullet

The Missing Op-ed page in most Major Newspapers

Dr. Anthony Monteiro’s Dismissal:

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Temple University’s Sitting on a Diamond and Doesn’t Even Know It












by Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Some people just don’t know when they’re well off; or when they’re sitting on “Acres of Diamonds” – which is the title of a famous speech delivered by Temple University’s founder and first President, Russel H. Conwell. It appears that the Dean of Liberal Arts, Teresa Soufas might well have studied this little 16 page missive before taking on the apparently stupid task of getting rid of Temple University’s Star Professor of African Studies, Anthony Monteiro. In a move that can only be described as “shooting yourself in the foot” she decides to terminate Monteiro by not renewing his contract for Fall 2014.

I originally received the news in January from Pam Afrika while covering a wonderful tour de force with comedians Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney. But clearly this was no laughing matter. It was just prior to the homegoing services for Amiri Baraka, which was held in Newark., NJ.

I had hoped to have had the opportunity of sitting down with Dr. Monteiro after Baraka’s services to find out what was going on. However, the immense crowd made that impossible. Reaching him later by phone, he verified the fact that his contract had not been renewed, which essentially meant he had been fired. When I asked him if I could post an article on this in my blog, I was advised to hold off until he had had an opportunity to meet with the Dean and find out what his options were.

Soufas, apparently, is no stranger to stupid moves, having put her foot in it in 2012 when she appointed a white woman to head up the African American Studies department, after the retirement of the department chair at that time. Monteiro confronted her about the move, stating that it was disingenuous, and through a series of demonstrations and negotiations was able to have Molefi Asante declared the new Chair of the Department. And for a while, it appeared that all had been right with the world. It’s apparent, however, that Soufas is known for making dumb decisions – and this is yet another in a long line of them.

Not only is Monteiro one of the star professors in Temple’s African American Studies department, he is both nationally and internationally known for his work. It is alleged that because he is a non-Tenure Track (NTT) Professor, whose contract is renewed annually, it makes him expendable – nothing could be dumber, or further from the truth. In fact, on balance, one Anthony Monteiro is worth ten other mediocre professors put together. Even in the aggregate they wouldn’t measure up. Individually or collectively, they neither possess his knowledge, acumen, passion, compassion, professionalism, or scholarship in the realm of African Studies, and more importantly in the arena of the philosophical impact of WEB du Bois. Additionally, Monteiro is perhaps one of the few professors in Temple’s employ who is whole-soul devoted to the students and their success.













Harking back to Conwell’s aforementioned seminal address, “Acres of Diamonds,” Soufas is guilty of going off on a tangent looking for diamonds elsewhere, not realizing that she had them right there under her very nose, in the personage of Anthony Monteiro, all the while.

But to add even more insult to injury, when it was pointed out to her that such was the case, instead of graciously admitting the oversight, she sought to bring in cohorts via the board to back her up, under the rubric that there is strength in numbers. But who wants to back a dumb move when it is the height of stupidity? And while there may have been some who sought to get along by going along, it’s pretty hard to pretend that it’s a dumb move, and to sweep it under the rug. It’s like trying to bury an elephant by covering it over with a few shovels of dirt, and declaring that the deed is done and irrevocable.

It’s like saying, “pretend you don’t see that diamond there, we’re going to go somewhere else and hunt for them in other fields,” that one’s not big enough. But Anthony Monteiro’s diamond is shining right there in front of your face, and you can’t ignore his brilliant brightness, no matter how many blinders you put on, or how you tell your cohorts to look away – the light just keeps coming through.

Philadelphians know this; the people in the community surrounding Temple University know this; the students at Temple University know this; the faculty and staff know this, though they’re afraid to say anything for fear of losing their jobs, or their tenure; the unions know this; the international community knows this. But somehow or other this appears to have escaped the Dean.

It makes no sense for Temple University to hold itself out as an institution of higher education and opportunity, and then be shown to be the total opposite. Sadly it appears that Soufas is the only ignorant person in the whole group, who then wants others to back her ignorance because she holds the title of “Dean.” To try to pull the board and others in with her in a co-conspiratorial farce in order to save face, makes the board look irresponsible as well.

The preponderance of evidence makes whatever rules they have conjured up look more like a joke than anything else, not to mention being racist in the extreme. On the face of it, it’s a simple remedy – reinstate Anthony Monteiro’s contract, without prejudice, and place him on the tenure track with consideration for time already “served” at Temple University. As Emerson stated, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of narrow minds.” So to continue to say that “those are the rules, end of story,” as though extenuating circumstances have not seen rules bent, broken, or amended, especially when it’s in the best interest of all concerned, is to show that this decision is, in the main, is not only foolish, but based on racism, as opposed to Monteiro’s competence or performance.

Indeed, Anthony Monteiro’s position at Temple University has been a drawing card and a motivator for other students in the Philadelphia area, and beyond, to attend Temple and seek higher education. Rather than ignore that fact, it should be augmented and accentuated. He should be the poster child for a Philadelphian, “born and raised,” who brought his skills, talents, and abilities back home to his neighborhood, and has served and continues to serve Temple well.

While Temple is to be commended for housing the Charles Blockson Collection, it’s interesting that the locale for it is underplayed, and not open to the public at hours that would make it conducive to for the surrounding community, which is still 80% African American to have access to it. Instead, it closes at 5:00PM, and is not available for students or community groups to have evening hours.There is no signage even indicating that it exists – in fact Pollett Walk, where it’s located, should have had an information plaque added to it quite some time ago.

It also appears that as a “good neighbor,” Temple leaves a lot to be desired – with a student body population that is more than 70% white, it is definitely not working very hard to recruit or open its doors to students from the immediate community – leaving that to colleges outside the Philadelphia area. Perhaps this is why Soufas sits back and appears to think that it’s of no consequence to summarily dismiss Monteiro. Perhaps her move is indicative of a larger issue with Temple University in the main. Perhaps they have become so accustomed to turning a blind eye to the “Acres of Diamonds” to be mined in the surrounding community, that they don’t know one when they see one, even when it’s right under their very noses.

Newly hired President, Neil Theobald may well want to review how “liberal” the Liberal Arts department and its education really is. And whether he wants to continue in a mode that could very well set the college at odds with the surrounding community, as opposed to working out some positive, amicable solutions that would benefit all concern.

Rather than making it a win/lose situation, forging a win/win resolution, would not only set his first years as president on a positive and solid footing, but stand him and Temple University in good stead, locally, nationally, and internationally.

Anthony Monteiro has been a great asset to Temple University and her students; the City of Philadelphia, the Black community of Philadelphia as well as Black people the world over. It’s not only a good move in terms of “good will” it makes good financial sense as well, with the increased grants and underwriting that accrue to those programs that have viable affirmative programs that foster education opportunities and options for African Americans and people of color. Something that Monteiro has been well versed in throughout his career.

One can only hope that President Theobald knows a diamond when he sees one, and will make the wise and prudent decision to reinstate Monteiro and move forward with his mission to make Temple University one of the world’s greatest educational institutions.

Stay Blessed &

bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com

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Outer Harbor Site Compromise is Best Hope for New Stadium

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by Pat Freeman

The passing of Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson has fueled speculation about the future home of the NFL franchise and there is much information to digest when it comes to understanding how such situations can best be dealt with in order to retain a franchise that may have attractive opportunities in other, competing cites. As the Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex, LLC (GBSEC) has argued for the last two years, our community does not have the luxury of time in acting on a new facility to replace the antiquated, single sport stadium in Orchard Park. GBSEC has promoted a comprehensive plan to build a multi-use, multi-sport, conference, cultural and entertainment complex on the long vacant, public property known as the Outer Harbor. The plan and its economic model has been developed by HKS, Inc. of Dallas, a world leader in the field, and follows the legacy model of facilities HKS has built for the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Minneapolis Vikings and the new urban sports and entertainment complex being planned in

HKS reviewed sites in Buffalo and the surrounding area and determined that a waterfront site in proximity to our Central Business District would provide us with the best opportunity to create the kind of economic engine needed for downtown and waterfront synergy. The economic model for the new complex would transcend the narrow and limited economic scope of a single purpose stadium and, like the Indianapolis model, would build an everyday use venue where the economic impact of professional football operations would be overshadowed by a hundred or more additional major events. As in Indianapolis, this new economic model is predicated on a community controlling such a facility and building new economies with other sporting events such as college football and basketball, soccer, entertainment events and mid to large size conventions and conferences. Under this plan, a professional sports franchise would lease space in the facility and receive brand enhancement opportunities in return. The brand of Buffalo, NY and the NFL would be upgraded and maximized – as well as the opportunities presented by closely integrating the Buffalo market with the expanded Ontario market through joint scheduling of future sporting events in soccer and potential Olympic competition.

The biggest challenge to a new way of thinking in WNY is the ingrained tendency to repeat the past with the creation of non-transparent committee structure, insider influence and lack of vision. Unfortunately, when it comes to pro sports, WNY taxpayers have always gotten the short end of the stick. Additionally, it’s tough to buck vested interests and political turf wars but the stark reality that the time needed to plan and build a suitable new facility together with the huge capital costs make it unlikely that, outside of a private sector initiative such as the GBSEC plan, the capital cost and commensurate implied public subsidy underpinning the approach of some local officials aligned with the current Bills’ ownership is simply not viable or timely.

The good news is abundant, however! GBSEC has been working closely with City of Buffalo officials and other elected officials to proceed with extending a crucial Outer Harbor Land Option to the development group. The Common Council has passed a unanimous resolution of support and has notified the NFL Stadium Committee and Commissioner Goodell that Buffalo intends to proceed with due diligence in partnership with HKS. While some critics of waterfront use for such a facility has argued for dedicated park space usage of the site, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes has advanced the idea that the site has abundant space to provide for both park & waterfront recreation use as well as space for building the proposed structures. The GBSEC proposal has always advocated that the facility be surrounded by a park setting and has also offered to finance the creation of an Olmstead inspired park. Clearly, the HKS/GBSEC private initiative plan offers all constituencies (taxpayers, park supporters, job seekers) with the best possible, realistic outcome. The specter of the stadium location fiasco some 50 years ago hangs over us again. Let’s let private competition be the basis of a decision and let’s vet the HKS plan NOW – with no cost to the taxpayer!

It seems to me that we need to send a clear message to Governor Andrew Cuomo on what the citizens of Western New York want to be done on it’s waterfront. Please Call Governor Cuomo beginning this Monday at 9AM and tell him that we the citizens of Western New York want him to support the New Downtown OuterHarbor Stadium Complex. ASAP!!!!! (518)474-8390.

If you enjoy talking about the world of sports tune into the number#1 sports show in the nation every Saturday from 4-5:00PM hosted by WUFO Sports Director Patrick Freeman on 1080AM WUFO radio or via the internet at www.wufoam.com. Or catch Sports Update for clbTV (ch.20 Buffalo) and YouTube. Also join us for the number#1 recap show every Monday at 7:25AM with Lee Pettigrew, and The Mighty O’Ba Pat Freeman.

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Written by cs

April 14th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

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Is Rev. Al a Rat?

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by Alton H. Maddox, Jr.

Rev. Sharpton now claims that he is a “cat”. He fraudulently led UAM to believe that he was a “pit bull.” A “cat” is no match for most dogs. Rev. Sharpton is confusing an “alley cat” with a lion. Of course, Curtis Sliwa did tell me that Sharpton had “nine lives.” This was in reference to my successful defense of him in 1990 in a 67-count indictment.

New York had thrown everything at Sharpton except the kitchen sink. It was his own greed and jealously that led to his demise as a “political maverick.” He is now a “political pawn” but “armed and dangerous.” Only the Black community is being endangered by his “paralysis of analysis.”

Instead of denying that he is still a “foot soldier” in organized crime, he is now arguing that the allegation of his being a “snitch” is a “distraction.” Any judge would tell a jury that credibility is always an issue at trial. Distraction is a “red herring.” It is not a “legal defense.” Thus, Sharpton has to do some more explaining if he wants to continue having his cake and eating it also.

Sharpton has three viable options. He may relinquish his title as “Head Negro-in-Charge.” He may also rescind his offer to President Barack Obama to be the keynote speaker at the annual convention of the National Action Network. Finally, he may retire as the “greatest switch-hitter” since P.T. Barnum.

Rev. Herbert Daughtry and his lieutenant, Charles Barron, in June 1987 at the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, first claimed that Sharpton was a “snitch.” This claim was made before an assembly of about one hundred high-profile activists including, but not limited to, Rev. Calvin Butts, former NYC Councilman Al Vann, the late Gil Noble, Les Payne, the late Sonny Carson, Elombe Brath, the late Jitu Weusi and Michael Greys. Everyone believed the claim of Daughtry and Barron, that Sharpton was the “problem.”

Although I had no working relationship with Sharpton in June 1987, I did have probable cause to believe that he was a “snitch”. Since there was no law in the Black community against being a snitch, I had to decline any invitation to prosecute him. This gave Roy Innis a pass. Only Sharpton had been charged with being a “snitch.”

I was the only person in House of the Lord Church to extend Sharpton the “presumption of innocence.” Everybody wanted his head. Selective prosecution is unconstitutional. An ex post facto law is also unconstitutional. Wittingly or unwittingly, this unlawful assembly was acting at the behest of Gov. Mario Cuomo, New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams and Newsday. U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani was waiting in the wings.

This proof of probable cause consisted of conversations that I had with the late attorney Louis Clayton Jones who was a very credible person. Sharpton is being disingenuous when he claims that he was afraid of mobsters. Therefore, according to him, he had to become an “FBI snitch.” He voluntarily consorted with white mobsters. This voluntary relationship is subject to judicial notice. Throughout the years, he had acquired a history of double-crossing the Mafia.





Sharpton has no respect for the Mafia’s code of ethics. He knows that the Black community is a “mobocracy” and any cost-benefit analysis favors him. As long as he continues to “run with the hares” and “hunt with the hounds,” he is safe. This explains his ability to be a “switch-hitter.”

Over a period of nearly ten years, I have never acquired sufficient, unprivileged information, absent hearsay, to prove that Sharpton is a “snitch.” I have found substantial evidence, however, that he is a xenophile. He enjoys master-slave relationships.

I am aware that Sharpton will do anything to express his loyalty to white supremacists. “Actions speak louder than words.” See, for example, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell-Sharpton connection. Falwell publicly expressed hatred for Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.

Sharpton has reason to claim that this charge is being made on the eve of NAN’s 2014 annual convention. It is well-founded. There is a precedent for his charge. President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1901 invited noted educator, Booker T. Washington, to dinner at the Executive Mansion. White supremacists hit the ceiling. The Memphis Scimitar, for example, castigated him for allowing a “nigger” to dine with him at the White House.”

Roosevelt had to give the Executive Mansion a change of name to put Negroes on notice. Only a Negro who had been given the title of “honorary white” could enjoy social rights in the White House under the Commerce Clause. This rule is still in effect in 2014. The Tea Party is enforcing it.

By no stretch of the imagination does Sharpton bear any resemblance to Booker T. Washington. Nonetheless, white supremacists are opposed to any president consorting with a mobster. Even among the “Negro bourgeoisie,” Sharpton lacks credentials. It is of no moment that he is a “disc jockey” on MSNBC-TV and on Sirius Satellite Radio. Unlike Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Boulé would never accept him into its fold.

It would take more than “Borax” and a “twenty mule team” to clean him up. The United African Movement should be given credit for cleaning up some of his “funk.” This “second chance” allowed him to beat multiple, state felony charges and carve out a new career for himself in politics. But for the United African Movement giving him some credibility, no one would be talking about him in 2014.

We must learn to give credit where credit is due especially when the recipient is a descendant of enslaved Africans. Rev. Sharpton will give thanks to the Ku Klux Klan or the John Birch Society even though he received all of these benefits from UAM free of charge. His “bad character” outweighs his “rap sheet.”

In 1983, I filed a major lawsuit against the Mafia in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. It also involved Black selected officials. The mob represents the Black community politically and economically. They feared my legal ability to prove the charges. This is the real story. The Brooklyn Federal Court illegally removed me from this litigation. Read the court records and the transcripts.

If six white men had raped a fifteen year-old Black girl or if a white man had murdered a Black teen-ager, the perpetrators would not be walking around today. In Tawana Brawley, the only Black man who has demonstrated a knowledge of ethics is the only Black man who is standing alone in defending her. Others have “run for the tall grass.” Ethics is about accountability to each other and not to the white man. Like in slavery, no Black person can marry or defend a Black female.

Any Black person who is too busy to sit down and draft a “code of ethics” is no better than Sharpton, Daughtry and Barron. These men are “social parasites.” Twenty-six years later, they have still refused to draft a “code of ethics.” The military, business and legal communities all have “codes of ethics.” These codes mandate accountability. A “slave” only wants to be accountable to his or her master.

I would be very happy to discuss Sharpton’s status with him and Mayor William de Blasio over cable television and satellite radio. Mayor de Blasio is not an innocent bystander. Don’t hold your breath, however. Rev. Sharpton would prefer to “run though hell with gasoline drawers” than to debate me. What are they hiding? In the meantime, I have to “eavesdrop” on his lies in ex parte communications.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. coupled with Rev. Al Sharpton and Jacqueline Jackson was arrested for protesting the U.S. Navy using Vieques in Puerto Rico as a bombing range. He kept a journal and on July 5 he made this entry:

The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton “give me the creeps.” [He continues to write]: Al Sharpton has done more damage to the black cause than George Wallace. He has suffocated the decent black leaders in New York. His transparent venal blackmail and extortion schemes taint all black leadership.”

Too honest for the White Press and too black for much of today’s Black Press; bullet columnist Alton Maddox upsets the same people and status quo as he did as an uncompromising Defense Attorney. He is also a founding member of the Freedom Party. Please support the movement to Reinstate him. Contact him at c/o UAM P.O. BOX 35 BRONX, NY 10471

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Paul Ryan and Racists Codes

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by Charles M. Blow

Paul Ryan continues to be flogged for disturbing comments he made last week about men “in our inner cities” and their “culture” of not working.

In a radio interview with Bill Bennett, Ryan said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Reactions to the comment were swift and brutal.

Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, said in a statement, “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’ ”

Ryan has agreed to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Lee’s a member and which found his remarks “highly offensive.”

But at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Ryan was rebuked by one of his own constituents, a black man from Mount Pleasant, Wis., named Alfonso Gardner.

Gardner told Ryan, “The bottom line is this: Your statement was not true.” He continued, “That’s a code word for ‘black.’ ”

But instead of cushioning his comments, Ryan shot back, “There was nothing whatsoever about race in my comments at all — it had nothing to do with race.”

That would have been more believable if Ryan hadn’t prefaced his original comments by citing Charles Murray, who has essentially argued that blacks are genetically inferior to whites and whom the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a “white nationalist.” (The center’s definition: “White nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites.”)

Whatever Ryan meant by men “in our inner cities” and their culture, the comment obscures the vast dimension of poverty in America and seeks an easy scapegoat for it.

According to the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (in Ryan’s home state), the gap between the poverty rate in inner cities and that in rural areas and small towns is not as great as one might suspect. The inner city poverty rate is 19.7 percent, and the poverty rate in rural areas and small towns is 16.5 percent.

Furthermore, as Mark R. Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University, argued several months ago in The New York Times:

“Few topics in American society have more myths and stereotypes surrounding them than poverty, misconceptions that distort both our politics and our domestic policy making. They include the notion that poverty affects a relatively small number of Americans, that the poor are impoverished for years at a time, that most of those in poverty live in inner cities, that too much welfare assistance is provided and that poverty is ultimately a result of not working hard enough. Although pervasive, each assumption is flat-out wrong.”

His research, he noted, indicates that “40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line during that period” and “54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty.” Rank concluded, “Put simply, poverty is a mainstream event experienced by a majority of Americans.”

By suggesting that laziness is more concentrated among the poor, inner city or not, we shift our moral obligation to deal forthrightly with poverty. When we insinuate that poverty is the outgrowth of stunted culture, that it is almost always invited and never inflicted, we avert the gaze from the structural features that help maintain and perpetuate poverty — discrimination, mass incarceration, low wages, educational inequities — while simultaneously degrading and dehumanizing those who find themselves trapped by it.

Other parts of Ryan’s original interview were on target, when he talked about the value and dignity of work and the way that work builds character. Work doesn’t always alleviate poverty, in part because some people are forced to work for less than a living wage, though work does bring dignity.

But this is in part the problem, and danger, of people like Ryan: There is an ever-swirling mix of inspiration and insult, where the borders between the factual and the fudged are intentionally blurred and cover is given for corrosive ideas.

Ryan is “one of the good guys,” a prominent Republican operative explained to me last week. Maybe so, but even good people are capable of saying and believing bad things, and what Ryan said was horrific.

(This column originally appeared in the New York Times March. 21, 2014 , 2014 under the title “Paul Ryan, Culture and Poverty”)

Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.”

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Written by cs

April 9th, 2014 at 4:20 pm

The Outer Harbor Land Site and Fair Compromise

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by Pat Freeman

The recent proposal submitted to the NFTA’s Board of Commissioners and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. from the Greater Buffalo Sport’s and Entertainment Complex offers our leadership an opportunity to mature and broker a compromise that benefits both parties interests in this on going power struggle over the outer harbor parcel. Before we help to negotiate this issue let’s review some key facts of each argument for the use of this particular property.

Total Acres- of the Outer Harbor site- 384 Acres

GBSEC- Requested Land Option Space- 150 Acres

So here is the solution leaders, media, and board members.

Grant the GBSEC a land option on 150 Acres that will suit their project and the rest of the 234 acres would go to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. for Public access.

Question- Why aren’t our elected officials standing up to broker this compromise for the betterment of the western New York region? Something is not right for this type of easy brokered compromise from not being front and center.

This has been the history of western New York for over fifty years that we make the easiest of circumstances for our benefit into a complete mess. The stakes are too high to allow this type of private investment to continue down the road of frustration that so many have experienced for so many years. We elect representatives to formulate public policy not appointed boards. When these appointed entities conflict with the will of the people, and begin implementing personal policy there should be outrage from every neighborhood deploring true conflict of interest.

This is a warning to the obstructionist cabal that has continued to operate in western New York under the disguise of having the best interest of the citizens in your decisions, when in actuality your choices are based on what benefits you, and those that have entered into an unholy alliance without consideration of the destitute, hungry and poor of this region who just need an opportunity to support themselves. These policies will no longer be tolerated in this region without a challenge from its citizens. The majority of the people of western New York support the proposal put forth by the GBSEC; along with the expertise of HKS this is a great opportunity to change its economic landscape.

In closing it’s time to make a demand on our leadership not to allow the wealthy to dictate economic policy that goes against the interest of the majority of its citizens.


If you enjoy talking about the world of sports tune into the number#1 sports show in the nation every Saturday from 4-5:00PM hosted by WUFO Sports Director Patrick Freeman on 1080AM WUFO radio or via the internet at www.wufoam.com. Or catch Sports Update for clbTV (ch.20 Buffalo) and YouTube. Also join us for the number#1 recap show every Monday at 7:25AM with Lee Pettigrew, and The Mighty O’Ba Pat Freeman.

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Written by cs

April 7th, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Putin, Obama and the Ukrainian Crisis

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by Playthell Benjamin

The Ukrainian crisis is a very complex affair, dramatic changes are occurring so quickly things could fall apart. In the past few weeks we have witnessed a democratically elected president driven from office and into exile by raging mobs in the street who disagreed with his decision to form closer economic ties with Russia, rather than seizing an opportunity to form closer economic ties with the European Union. A new government of questionable legitimacy has been hastily cobbled together, with the new President, Arseniy Yatseniuk, also holding the office of Chairman of the Parliament, although the Fatherland Party, which he represents, only holds 25% of the seats in the Ukrainian parliament.

This is equivalent to President Obama being overthrown by an armed right-wing mob and somebody from the Tea Party becoming President, Speaker of the House and the Majority leader of the Senate. While the US accepts this arrangement, albeit temporarily until new elections can be held, the Russians do not, they view these developments as an illegal coup engineered in Washington and the European Union, with Andrea Merkle of Germany playing a major role.

The American role in manipulating events that led to the overthrow of the elected president Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, is confirmed in statements made on the phone by Undersecretary of State for Europe,Victoria Nuland, which was tapped by some hacker and put on the internet. Nuland’s conversation with the American ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, leave no doubt that Washington was moving people and parties as if the Ukraine were a chessboard….they were involved in the overthrow of the president up to their teeth. I have attached the transcript of Secretary Nuland’s conversation with Ambassador Pyatt’s conversation to the bottom of this essay, so the reader can see for themselves the extent of American meddling.












American diplomats Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt Plotting the future of Ukraine with Vitali Klitchko and Arseniy Yatseniuk

Now the question is whether the country will break up, when the predominately Russian-speaking population in the Crimea region votes on whether to rejoin Great Russia in the upcoming referendum. This is such a volatile issue the country could quickly descend into civil war. In such a scenario the Russians will certainly become militarily involved, and the fact is that an American guided missile ship is steaming by the Crimean Peninsula right now – probably armed with nuclear missiles – right through the shipping lanes where the Russian naval vessels routinely patrol.

This strikes me as an extraordinarily reckless move, and I am surprised that President Obama let his military advisors talk him into it – or maybe he ordered this despite the advice of the Joint Chiefs. In any case, despite the lame explanation that this voyage had been planned before the Ukrainian conflict began, I find the President’s decision to order an American warship into these troubled waters impossible to reconcile with the geo-political realities of this historical moment.













A Russian Delta Class Nuclear Submarine; N1401-SCN-S94-011. Playing A Deadly Game of cat and Mouse on the High Seas

I becomes even more puzzling when we learn that the Tuxton, which is armed with Tomahawk Cruise missiles, is steaming to the Black Sea in order to participate in joint naval exercise with the Romanian and Bulgarian navies. The US government has announced that we will be sending in 12 F-16 fighter planes and 3oo air-force service personnel to Poland, at the request of Polish Minister of Defense Tomaz Simoniak, who is concerned about the Russian takeover of Crimea. And the US sent five F-15 fighter planes to Lithuania last Thursday, because their Minister of Defense was alarmed by “Russian Aggression in the in Ukraine.”

The Pentagon has also announced that these American fighter planes will be patrolling the skies over the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. What we the people desperately need to know is what are their orders, what are the rules of engagement and with whom are they to engage. We need to know the answers to these questions because if these American fighter planses have orders to engage Russian aircraft this is a scenario that could spark a nuclear confrontation! Yet the US cannot avoid these actions because of NATO.

The essential problem with NATO, for the US government, goes back to a decision made a decade ago on May 2, 2004, when the 19 member states of NATO decided to admit seven former members of the Warsaw Pact, including former Soviet Republics which had become independent states after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, whose center of power was Moscow, thirteen years earlier. Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria all joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Many observers thought this was a bad idea at the time – this writer included – and believed that it would come back to haunt us.

Well, we were right. In the euphoria following the collapse of Communism, when talk of a “new world order” based on a unipolar world where all roads led to Washington, and projections for “a new American Century” appeared to be simply acknowledging the obvious, people forgot that nationalism and religious fanaticism have led to more wars than communism ever did. These are the forces that America now struggles to deal with in the Mid-East and in Eastern Europe, with the eye of the storm in Russia, which is well armed with nuclear weapons and whose armies are invincible on Russian soil. Hence bombing Russia or invading her are both out of the question.

Yet the US is committed to an organization whose fundamental objective is mutual defense. And NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer left no doubt when he told the Foreign Ministers assembled for the admission of the former Russian allies: “The accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia demonstrates the principle that freedom is irrepressible. From now on, 26 Allies will be joined in a commitment to defend each others’ security and territorial integrity. This is the strongest, most solemn commitment nations can undertake.”

Herein lies our problem and it is a mess. This commitment means that should any of these former Soviet Republics get in an armed dispute with Russia, the US is bound by NATO protocol to act as if the attack was against America! And yet, as if we are not in enough of a quagmire, there are Republican Senators calling for the Ukraine to be admitted to NATO. It is an invitation to disaster!

The dangers portended by Ukrainian events require the most calm and thoughtful deliberation, exactly the kind of approach that President Obama has been pursuing. Unfortunately, he is not indifferent to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics and this crisis is unfolding just as the Republicans are holding their C-Pac convention.

This is where all those who pretend to the presidency hold forth before the most rabidly right-wing sector of the Party – the so called Republican base – who are rabid Obama-haters. A parade of presidential hopefuls seeking to seduce this crowd and gain their support try to out-do each other in rushing to the far right of the American political continuum.

They all know that the easiest way to get some love from this crowd is to bash President Obama, so we see the President trying to conduct very difficult and dangerous diplomatic relations with Russia while assailed by a constant chorus of ridicule from Republicans Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, to Lindsay Graham and the Alaskan Barbarian Sarah Palin.

There are two themes that run through their attacks on the president. “The Ukraine crisis is the result of Barack Obama’s “weakness” in asserting American military power in promoting US foreign policy objectives in places like Syria and Iran, and this has emboldened America’s adversaries around the world.” And “he is being bullied in the Ukrainian conflict because President Putin knows Obama is a punk.”

These vociferous denunciations of President Obama are accompanied by praise songs for the “toughness and decisiveness” of Putin; one wise media wag has labeled the phenomenon “Putin Love.” None dare call it by its proper name: disloyal opposition bordering on treason! When you consider that far from doing nothing, as the Republicans charge repeatedly, the evidence shows that President is doing far too much in the Ukrainian mess; this baseless criticism exposes the same deep-seated racist attitudes that compelled white American soldiers to permit German Nazi prisoners of war to share bathrooms with them, while the black American soldiers guarding them had to relieve themselves in ditches beside the road!

What Dr. DuBois said of Jack Johnson, the first black Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world, is also true of Barack Obama, the first son of an African father to become President of the most powerful nation in the world. Whites didn’t hate Jack Johnson because of anything he did, because they had done far worse; the source of their hatred is his “unforgivable blackness.” Hence they see in Barack things that are not there, but are projected onto him – by envious, racist whites who become hysterical at the very thought of a black First Family in the White House, an uppity nigger with an African name who is way smarter than they are, running the USA….which they believe is a white man’s job and it just drives them bonkers!

The Republican warmongers hold an Oxymoronic position regarding the President: on the one hand they hate Putin and call him a ruthless dictator – House Speaker John Boehner call the Russian President “a thug” – but they are pissed off because President Obama is not more like him. Sarah Palin, one of the loudest and most mindless voices on the right, denounces Obama as “a tyrant who ignores the constitution and constantly violates the law”, but gushes over Putin: “He rides bare-chested on a horse, wrestles bears and drills for oil….while Obama walks around in Mommy Jeans.” This white trash debutante who nearly became vice-president on the US appears to cream in her jeans when she rhapsodizes about the manly virtues of the Russian President…Putin Love indeed.

The more we hear from these twisted people the more obvious it becomes how lucky we are that Barack Obama and not John McCain became president five years ago. Under a McCain presidency we would be in wars everywhere, and the Alaskan Barbarian would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. When viewed from the perspective of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, Barack’s wisdom in managing this nation’s foreign affairs has been Solomonic.

He has found and offed Osama bin Laden, something the tough talking Bushmen never managed to do…in fact George Bush gave up trying to find him. The former President said he wasn’t even thinking about him anymore as he waged a war of choice against Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden became “Osama been Forgotten.”

Barack has also devastated Al Qaeda’s leadership, successfully wound down two wars the Republicans started that have become by far the longest running wars in our history – over twice as long as World War II – and he has kept us out of other foreign wars that John McCain would have eagerly waded into. And Barack is the only American President to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the Prize even while waging two wars, but they were wars that he inherited from the Bush years and the wise members of the Nobel Prize committee were prescient in their vision of Barack as a peacemaker who would steer American away from the war path. In his acceptance speech President Obama displayed his gift for reconciling contending forces that he has employed in his diplomacy. (See: “Hooray for the Juggler!”)*

Alas, with the Ukrainian crisis we are witnessing the return of all the warmongering cretins from the neo-con cabal hatched in The Project for a New American Century – see “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” – that pushed a clueless George W Bush into invading Iraq; the same crew that his wiser father George I called “The Crazies” – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, et al.

Once again the Grand Obstructionist Party is sending in the clowns….and they are a murderous bunch with blood and gore on their hands…..much of it innocent blood from the needless slaughter of women and children. And these homicidal jokers are itching to start another war. Just look at that madman John Bolton, Bush’s UN Ambassador, whining about President Obama’s reluctance to intervene in every crisis that arises in the world with armed forces, or that little grinning jackal Bill Kristol, who, from his position as Editor of the influential right-wing Journal The Weekly Standard and Director of the Project for a New American Century, played a major role in convincing Bush to invade Iraq on phony information.

Now here he is again, while the nation is still recovering from that criminal folly, recklessly calling for ratcheting up tensions with the Russians by “humiliating Putin.” These neo-con clowns never learn; they are stuck on stupid.

However this little poot-butt provocateur, Wee Willie Kristol, who like Dirty Dick Cheney has never spent a day in the military, does not seem to understand that provoking a military conflict in the Ukraine is a very different class of event from invading Iraq, because within such a conflict lies the seeds of our own destruction; which was never a possibility in the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Vietnam.

Yet any military conflict with Russia could devolve into nuclear war; a prognosis that has been greeted with disbelief, even ridicule, by some really smart and thoughtful people. They are certain that the mostly straight white males who monopolize the instruments of power are rational actors, and supreme egotists, committed to self-preservation. Therefore any mention of the possiblilty of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia over the Ukraine is prima facie “absurd.”

It is fairly certain that no rational person would make a decision to destroy modern civilization. I even had a wag with a PhD in political science tell me as much in this very language as he dismissed my concerns, and I must confess that on the face of it he appears to be right. Yet the leading nations are well-armed with nuclear weapons and nuclear war remains an option, despite their awareness of the fact that all mankind has achieved during our history on earth would evaporate in a flash. And those who survive would be struggling to sustain life on a radioactive planet with Stone Age technology. This could be our fate an hour from now if the US and Russia had a nuclear exchange.

Such an event is, in fact, unthinkable. Until you begin to consider that the mere possession of nuclear weapons is evidence of a collective madness among our leaders, who are prepared to perpetrate a massive crime against humanity, a catastrophe of biblical proportions, for their deployment would be worse than the sum total of all the atrocities man has committed against man in the history of the world. An attack with nuclear weapons would instantaneously achieve mass murder on a scale that would make the Nazi holocaust look like a minor event.

Yet the most advanced civilizations in the world are awash in these weapons and cannot find a way to rid mankind of this horror! This means that all of these “rational actors” in whom my friend has placed his confidence are ready and willing to slaughter millions of innocent civilians; all they need is the right scenario to develop on a computer screen and they will launch. And since I have been in the room with the people who are assigned this task during a stint in Strategic Air Command at the height of the Cold War, right on the cusp of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I have no doubt that they will do it.

I would have done it! That’s the way we were trained and I, like everybody else in Central Security Control, would have been convinced that I was serving the best interests of my country. Yet I would not have raped a woman, mugged anybody and robbed them of their coin, and would readily give the elderly or handicapped my seat on the bus…in fact I was something of a Good Samaritan in everyday life…but I would have pushed the button and launched a nuclear attack on Russia upon command. This is what the philosopher Hanna Arendt meant by “The banality of evil.”

The real danger here is not that a group of men will sit quietly around a table ensconced underneath a mountain somewhere and decide to launch a nuclear attack, even though I believe the only reason they won’t is not moral restraint but the MAD doctrine: Mutual Assured Destruction, because I know men are indeed capable of such evil. The clear and present danger that confronts us is that it could all happen by accident.

In the event of a serious miscommunication where a computer says the other side has launched an attack ,there is so little time to retaliate by those who believe that their nation is under attack they would have to launch immediately. This is why fomenting hostility and mistrust between the US and Russia is akin to playing Russian roulette with the whole world.

Hence all the talk from Republicans about building anti-missile systems on the doorstep of Russia in places like Poland, and recruiting Poland, Georgia and Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, is a doomsday scenario. The people who advocate this madness often talk as if the rest of us are fools.

For instance Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, often talks this way. A smart man, albeit unprincipled, this former Air Force lawyer is openly calling on President Obama to invite former Republics that were a part of the Soviet Union until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 – and they became independent nations – to join NATO. We are left to speculate as to what the senator’s motives are, but he talks like a man who is intoxicated on the opiate of “American Exceptionalism,” terrified by a Tea Party threat to “primary” him, and seduced by the limelight that follows actors on the stage of national politics.

Professor Stephen Cohen – the Director of Russian Studies Centers at Princeton and Columbia Universities –is convinced that should the US pursue this course it will lead to nuclear catastrophe. Dr. Cohen – whom I regard as a cut above former functionaries in the US foreign policy establishment like Madeline Albright, Ziebnew Brzezinski, and Hilary Clinton – argues that if the US put troops in Poland, which has now joined NATO, the Russians will militarily occupy the Ukraine and they will be prepared to defend their position at all cost, including nuclear holocaust!

Since Romania and Bulgaria, who were formerly Russia’s allies in the now disloved Warsaw Pact, have also joined NATO, should the US gain control of the Ukraine they would have succeeded in bringing their forward military position to Russia’s front door. The Russians will resist this advance and any conflict between Russia and one of these new NATO countries would immediately become a military confrontation between the US and Russia. It is in the nature and letter of the agreement.

This is a plausible scenario of how a nuclear war could begin, because when there are military tensions between nuclear armed nations they put their nuclear forces on Alert. And once this happens the possibilities for an accidental nuclear conflagration greatly increases. That’s why we need careful diplomacy in times like these and any suggestion of introducing military forces into the equation, such as conducting military maneuvers in the area, deploying American forces on Polish soil, or promoting any military activity in Crimea is destabilizing.

Never has this nation needed the calm deliberative style of President Obama more than now. His choice of quiet diplomacy over saber-rattling and caustic rhetoric calms the situation and gives everybody time to think. If John McCain were president just now the world would be in a state of nuclear terror as the destruction of our planet hung in the balance. Rejecting this old whacko warmonger in favor of the humanist visionary Barack Obama was the American electorate’s finest hour!

One of the greatest dangers of the American Exceptionalist doctrine is that it encourages national chauvinism and prevents Americans from recognizing the just claims and interests of other nations; they view the world with blinders on, like a draft horse pulling a wagon in city traffic that you want to look in only one direction. Alas, while this may be a good thing for draft horses it is suicidal in international politics where nuclear weapons are involved.

In order to understand how Putin would view the Ukraine entering NATO, one need only recall the US response when the Russians deployed missiles in Cuba. The US government under President Kennedy was prepared to start a nuclear war over it. When Kennedy ordered the US Navy to blockade Cuba and challenge a nuclear armed Russian fleet on the high seas, the world came so close to destruction the Cuban Missile Crisis –as it has become known in history – had a lasting effect on Robert McNamara, the American Secretary of Defense at the time.

Before coming into government Robert McNamara was a hot shot corporate Titan, a former Air Force captain who was computer savvy – which was unique in the early 1960’s – McNamara was president of the Ford Motor Company, but after he left government he spent the rest of his life promoting peaceful development among the world’s poorest countries by employing the resources of the World Bank, which he headed.

Later in life he produced a documentary film titled “The Fog of War” in which he recounts how close they came to destroying the world during the Cuban Crisis. He even traveled to Russia and Cuba and talked to his counterparts on the other side. The question he most wanted them to answer was “would you really have launched your nuclear weapons?” The fact that they said yes, as did he, shook him to the core, this question hounded him to his dying day is: “how could a group of rational, intelligent, sane, men even consider such a crime against the earth?

I believe the answer lies in our basic instinct for survival and the strong impulse to protect home and family. The US government felt Americans could not live with the threat of Russian nuclear weapons just 90 miles away on the Island of Cuba because it threatened our national existence. Hence no measure was too extreme to prevent it….even gambling with the fate of the earth. That’s how the Russians feel about American incursions into their spheres of influence: and there is every reason to believe they will use any means necessary to prevent Americans from gaining military hegemony on their door step.

This is why President Obama must remain steady as she goes in steering the American ship of state through these troubled waters, and he must pay the Republican clowns screaming on the sidelines no mind. First of all their criticisms of his foreign policy, like their claims that he is a lawless dictator who has usurped the Constitutional powers of the government, are all a damned lie! These jackanapes –who chatter on ad nauseum spouting putrid nonsense like drunken magpies – foam at the mouth as they denounce the president’s “weakness” and “indecisiveness” in refusing to “do something” about the Russian transgressions. This, like all of the criticism in their narrative of the Obama residency is a balantant lie!

They conveniently forget – and some are so ignorant of US history they never knew – that the Russians invaded several Eastern European nations while Republican Presidents occupied the Oval Office –and these were actual invasions, not like this little walkabout in the Crimea, where nobody will even admit they are Russian soldiers. There was the 1956 invasion of Hungary under Eisenhower – a Five Star general who only a decade earlier had led the victory over Nazi Germany as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. But he refused to intervene despite many calls to do so. Ike weighted the costs – a possible nuclear war with Russia – against the nebulous benefits, and decided to chill out despite the shrill cries for intervention on the right.

When the Warsaw Pact forces – a group of five Eastern European countries led by the Soviet Union – invaded Czechoslovakia during the presidential elections of 1968, Richard Nixon did nothing to intervene in the situation after he won by a landslide. Nixon, who had been Ike’s vice-president when the Soviets invaded Hungary, was no stranger to Russian invasions and was enraged by the Czech affair, but made no attempt to intervene in the situation because he knew that the Soviets had gained parity in nuclear weapons with the US.

Furthermore, given American actions in invading Cuba after the Revolution led by Fidel Castro turned in a socialist direction, Nixon, a very bright but morally deformed man, must have recognized that the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to overthrow the Dubcek government, which was moving away from the Russian communist model, mirrored US actions in Cuba, although they would never admit this obvious parallel. So he sought the friendship of China, breaking an American policy of ignoring mainland, or “Red China,” that had prevailed since the triumph of the Communist Revolution led by Mao Tse Tung, and promoted the absurd fiction that “the real China” was the off shore island of Taiwan.

The strategy of exploiting serious ideological difference between the two communist titans, China and Russia, by cozying up to China, led to an American rapprochement with China and Detente with Russia. This artful foreign policy was possible because Nixon was advised by Henry Kissinger, whereas George Bush was advised by people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their Guru, the neo-con warmonger Paul Wolfowitz and his PNAC cabal.

In 2008 the Russian army invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and Bush, already burdened with two wars that he started, did nothing! And although Senator John McCain is demanding an investigation of the CIA to find out why they didn’t predict a situation that erupted at rapid speed, a question whose answer does not require a costly congressional investigation; the answer is obvious to any reasonably informed person looking objectively upon the situation rather than through a veil of bias.

The fact is that there is nothing unusual about the CIA getting caught off guard: they got caught off guard in each of the full scale Russian Invasions under three Republican presidents. Thus all of this self-righteous posturing and demonstrations of outrage from people like John McCain, that smug Howdy Doody looking charlatan that sits in the governor’s mansion in Louisiana, that fat dumb dope fiend Rush Limbaugh and that evil hysterical anorexic witch Gun Boat Annie Coulter are pure bullshit, as the Princeton Philosopher Harry G. Franks describes bullshit arguments in his book ”Bullshit”.

Consider the account of Daniel Fata – the assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy from September 2005 to September 2008, which was most of George Bush’s second term. He recalls in an interview with Professor Stephen Benedict Dyson, a Professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, that when the Russian Army invaded Georgia ““We were scrambling for information during these critical initial hours. My desk officer, who had great personal ties at the highest levels in Tbilisi, had the most usable real time information via texts from his friends in Georgia.” And he went on to observe “Putin was never punished by the international community.” Notice he said nothing about the Bush Administration punishing Putin…it appears to have never entered their minds!

Bush evidently decided that he had gotten in enough trouble listening to Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their neo-con crew. In view of the history of Republican presidential inaction in the face of actual Russian invasions…..why are these chattering clowns so hard on President Obama, who has not even been confronted with a “Russian invasion?” At worse, thus far, the president is dealing with a pooty-pop police action. And as I have shown: Barack has already done far too much!

To treat the Crimean situation as some major aggression by the Russians that threatens US interests, and therefore requires our intervention, is surely some species of madness. This peculiar madness is magnified when you reflect upon the fact that American officials traveled to the Ukraine and openly encouraged the insurgents to overthrow the pro-Russian President

Yet given the level of routine obfuscation and outright lying, the massive and systematic disinformation campaign being conducted by the right-wing media complex, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of their listeners are pugnacious airheads whose understanding of political reality is akin to the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground, you have an untutored impassioned mob who can be manipulated into believing anything. Hence the Republican politicians who are hurling slanders at the President that have not a trace of truth, but plays big with their audience, could just be playing politics.

If that is true, and given the intellectual shallowness and situational ethics that inform the actions of many Republican politicians in could well be true – then they are even more dangerous than the true believers. Intelligent people who hold sincere beliefs can be persuaded to change their view, but a soulless, ignorant, charlatan has nothing there. They’ve got a hole in their soul, and thus could demagogue a grave issue of national security for partisan political advantage.

These are people for whom only money and power are sacred; so even now they are trying their best to tie the conflict in the Ukraine to the refusal of President Obama to sign the Canadian pipeline deal. Aside from confusing the foreign policy debate, their constant chatter, scripted lines repeated ad nauseum, paid for by plutocrats and beamed into the skulls of the vast untutored working class – and that includes many white collar “professionals” – shamelessly plays on their fears in order to panic them into voting reactionaries into political office who despise them and constantly injure their interests.

President Obama is in a tight predicament. He is bound by an attitude of fear and suspicion toward Russia that has long been cultivated in this country. The ignorance of Americans regarding Russia is abominable, hence they are prepared to believe the worst. When coupled with the sense of American Exceptionalism that almost all Americans in their smug self-righteousness believe in, it makes sense to them when the Republican clowns cry out about President Obama’s weakness in the face of Russian aggression.

Since they know nothing of American history, they really believe that Putin would never have committed such a criminal act of aggression if that “lily livered; mommy jean wearing; secret agent for Al Queda; European socialist communist low down dirty half-breed mongrel nigger” had not “duped the American people and wormed his way into the White House”.

Yet even if we discounted all the other madness in this description of our fabulous President, arguably the best ever, and simply accepted that they believe Barack could deceive the Secret Service, the FBI, the National Immigration Service, the National Security agency et al, even believed that Donald Trump’s alleged private investigators could detect such fraud, is frightening testimony of the epidemic of irrational thinking among millions of Americans who come out aggressively and vote!

Barak Obama’s actions and pronouncements regarding the Ukrainian situation are formulated with an eye toward domestic politics. After all, he is not only a politician but a great one….perhaps the greatest of all times. In fact I have argued this very point elsewhere see: “The GOAT: Greatest of All Times” on this blog. And the first step in being a successful politician is to recognize that politics is the art of the possible! Barack not only recognizes this, he understands how to win elections.

The fact that fact a young black guy who looks like he might be hanging out on the basketball, courts in Chicago waiting for a pick-up game, and is married to a big fine chocolate, brilliant, sassy soul sister who can dance her ass off and will bust a move anywhere, getting himself elected president twice, is driving a lot of these white boys like Donald Trump – who was born to the purple but can’t get elected to the villager dogcatcher’s post in Washington – clear out of their minds!

So the Republican propaganda machine, disguised as news sources, make up lies about him and broadcast them on a non-stop loop, right into the fickle brains of Dumb Dora and Joe Six Pack. And they have done it so well that millions of Americans – most white but some black leftist too – actually believe it. And that is part of my evidence for his greatness: with all of their researchers they cannot come up with an authentic complaint against Obama. Yet perception is reality in the eyes of the beholder. Hence President Obama must pay homage to the prevailing American myth….because it is firmly rooted in the Master Narrative of American civilization.

Hence we see President Obama, a brilliant man who must recognize that Russia has a legitimate right to their Sphere of Influence, and that Putin is doing nothing that the US has not done –and far worse – all over the world! Yet he must pay lip service to the American Exceptionalists vision or be labeled a traitor and hung if they had their druthers. And he knows that none of his major policy objectives can be realized so long as Republicans control the House of Representatives, and should they take the senate in the elections this year he will spend the rest of his second term mainly casting vetoes, Barack must pay attention to domestic politics. All of these factors figure strongly in the presidents public posture toward Russia.

As important as these other issues are, they are picayune matters compared to a military conflict with Russia. This is as serious as it gets. Things on the ground in the Ukraine are changing so fast the President must focus on the fundamental issues involved here and correctly decide where American interests truly lie. Considering that he has ordered an American guided missile ship into waters off the coast of Crimea, one wonders if he is becoming confused on this issue. Hilary Clinton, his recently retired Secretary of State is obviously confused by the Ukrainian affair because she is talking like a babbling idiot…. spouting dangerous and misleading nonsense comparing Putin to Hitler and muttering about the similarity to the Munich Conference?

This kind of crazy talk invites comparison of President Obama to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. I am expecting to hear cries of “appeasement” from the Republicans any day now. Although she has tried to equivocate on here statement, saying she was not implying an exact comparison, Hilary comes across as either a fool or an opportunist. Conversations about Hitler and Munich conferences from the middle of the last century is not the conversation we should be having now….for it confuses far more than it clarifies and provides fuel for the verbal arsonists in right-wing media.

All of this is a distraction. The thing that should remain uppermost in President Obama’s mind and that of all American political leaders is whatever happens in the Ukraine it is not worth one ounce of American blood, nor the profligate squandering of American treasure. President Obama should also be aware that many thoughtful Americans, this writer included, resent the fact that the Republicans who control the House of Representatives quickly voted a billion dollars in emergency aid to the Ukraine, while denying benefits to American workers suffering long term unemployment, and kills every program President Obama proposes to help desperate Americans and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Yet above and beyond all everything else, no matter what, the President must constantly think about avoiding any action that could make the Russians nervous about their national security, because they will surely put more nuclear weapons on alert….alas some are already on alert. For most people these weapons are like something out of science fiction like the transformers firing laser beams, that explains why most are going merrily about their business totally unaware that 40 minutes from now our world go up in radioactive flames. They are like sheep quietly going to slaughter; for if they had any idea what a nuclear war means they would out in the streets demanding that President Obama call off the proposed naval exercise involving the US and Romanian forces in the Black Sea.

Ignorance about the world is dangerous in any case, but ignorance about the nuclear forces of the US and Russia could prove fatal. Both nations have triple threat strike forces that consists of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Long range bombers, and naval forces composed of nuclear submarines and missile ships that fire from surface platforms. The ICBMs can be launched from silos on land or beneath the sea; they go up out of the earth’s atmosphere and return to earth to hit their targets. They also have MIRVED warheads – Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles – which means that a single missile carry up to eight separate warheads capable of being programmed to strike different targets.

In order to gain some understanding of the scale of destruction a single missile can wreak consider the following facts. The atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities had an explosive power equivalent to 20, 000 tons of high explosive TNT, plus the intense heat from the nuclear reaction and the radioactive fallout. The nuclear warheads carried by the MIRVED missiles are 5 megatons each, which amounts to 45 million tons of TNT per missile! And we have thousands of them ready to launch at a moment’s notice….and so do the Russians. And since this is a neutron hydrogen bomb, the radiation is immeasurably more intense.

I can still remember the day I first found out about all this. It was in an orientation class for those of us with Top Secret security clearances when I arrived on the Strategic Air Command base in Glasgow Montana, up on the DEW line – Distance Early Warning – out in the Great Plains near the Canadian Border, where I would be stationed. At the time SAC was the center of the US nuclear strike force and from where we were the giant B-52 Strato-Bombers, which flew at supersonic speeds at very high altitudes, could be over Moscow in less than an hour. After showing us the official SAC films on the atomic bombing of Japan, an unspeakably horrible event, the colonel conducting the class said, “Or this is nothing…those bombs are like firecrackers compared to the ordinance we have on this base.”

After seeing the giant radioactive fireball rise up over Japanese cities, and heard the tales of poisonous black rain and the nuclear night that followed the atomic flash upon detonation, creating such intense heat people who saw it eyeballs melted and people were bursting into flames everywhere. And all this was from the little 20,000 tons of TNT bomb; the instructor pointed out that we had bombs of 100 million ton capacity! I thought it was madness, and I have never changed my views on the matter of nuclear weapons. As I have said previously, I consider the mere possession of them to be a crime against humanity.

However the bombers, while still active, are third in destructive capacity in the tripartite US nuclear war machine. There are the missiles I described, and then there are the nuclear submarines, marvelous frightening instruments of mass destruction, one of which has more firepower than all of the ordinance exploded in World War II, including the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. And we have about a dozen of them prowling under the world’s ocean seas.

Should a nuclear exchange begin there will be two chain reactions: the atomic one and a human one. For once it starts the computers will take overs and both sides will empty their arsenals in order to make sure the other side will not survive….the computers are programmed to see to that. It is such an unspeakable horror, the destruction of all life on our planet, it is no wonder people don’t want to think about it, but I’m just keepin it real! It is no exaggeration to say that those who do survive for a while will envy the dead. This is the possibility we are playing with as I write.

The way things are developing in terms of the rapid deterioration of US/Russian relations over the crisis in the Ukraine is frightening to those who pay attention to the possibility of blundering into an accidental nuclear war. As I said early on in this essay I was prompted to write it because of an exchange I had with a friend who smugly assured me that a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia couldn’t happen. However I take my cue from the people who understand this problem best: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist. Their views regarding the danger of an outbreak of nuclear war – which is to say its probability – is succinctly expressed by the position of the hands on the Doomsday Clock.

This clock was created in 1947 by the scientists from the Manhattan Project, the guys who invented the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only two years earlier, the only time atomic weapons have been used in human history. Over the last 67 years the hands on the clock have been moved 18 times by the scientists affiliated with the Bulletin, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates, an astonishing number for any organization. The scientists move the hands on the Doomsday Clock based on their assessment of how close human beings have come to self-annihilation.

At present the hands on the clock stands at five minutes to mid-night! And, despite so major changes in US/Russian relations, the nuclear arsenals possessed by these nations remain the most dangerous threat to continued human existence. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist sums it up thusly:

“Today, the mind-numbing possibility of nuclear annihilation as a result of a deliberate attack on the other by the United States or Russia seems a thing of the past, yet the potential for an accidental, unauthorized, or inadvertent nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia remains, with both countries anachronistically maintaining more than 800 warheads on high alert, ready to launch within tens of minutes”.

That’s why President Obama had better move with the greatest caution in his policy choices regarding the Ukraine. He must maintain his fabled cool as – “No Drama Obama” – pay the hysterical hawks on the Republican right no mind and make keeping the peace his first priority. Because as we know from former Defense Secretary Bob McNamara: things get confusing in the fog of war. And before you know what happened we could be the late….great….planet earth.




Successful Diplomacy or Nuclear Apocolypse?

Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.

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Written by cs

April 5th, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Bob Knight: “NBA has ‘Raped’ College Basketball…”

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What do you think about Knight’s Statement?









by Zachary Husser

Dear Family of Friends,

What we have here is a failure to communicate along with a Coach, Bobby Knight, talking about things going on in today’s NCAA as though he was back in the Indiana days of his high profile teams. Well, I didn’t like what he did to College Basketball by treating the players like they belonged to him and Indiana. As far as the Universities being raped, a new group of NCAA players will always be coming through the playground doors, the AAU teams, and just from places unknown so that we are treated to the excitement of March Madness every year!

I say every person with skills in their chosen profession, shouldn’t have any obstacles in the way of making the CASH! Money is what this story is all about and we throw up all kinds of smoke screens talking about things the NCAA, the Coaches, the Benefiting Businesses, and the Players care nothing about!

In the case of who gets what and when, the Players are the last ones to get the CASH. Take a look at how this system works and we see the Coaches getting sneaker deals, radio shows, summer camps, and other stuff under/over the tables. We see the Universities and their Booster Businesses getting millions of dollars. We see Nike/Adidas and other Sports companies getting millions. We see the media companies making millions. All of these Corporations are cashing in big time on the backs of the players. The only person not getting any of the “Big Cash” is the player and the entire pyramid is built on the players skill sets.

So, I say every player should get as many “Millions” as they can get, but don’t forget to get that College Education. Some of Us get Degrees from the Classroom and some of Us get Degrees like LeBron James, on the job training! In any event, the Deal is to make it so that Players get more of the CASH, get the University to guarantee them a College Degree via the players work in the classroom. Also, take a look at this new CAPA, the College Athletes Player Association and you’ll see more of what I believe the players should get.

In concluding, these new times of “Big Cash” demands that new ways develop for players getting the Cash. I agree with the one and done system because all of the Corporations get their Big Cash Deals and Players get the opportunity to make a judgment call with their family that decides when they want a piece of the Big Cash they never got prior to signing a NBA contract. Go Get The Money!!

The Money Is What This Is All About.

Zachary Cornell Husser is a NY/NJ Community Organizer and member of the Columbia University men’s basketball teams of 1967–70. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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April 1st, 2014 at 11:57 pm

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What Bitstrips Taught Me About Colorism

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by Hope E. Ferguson

Several months ago, like everyone else, I started seeing cartoon avatars from Bitstrips show up in my Facebook news feed. Like countless other Facebook users, I had fun piecing together my avatar from a number of choices available and posting a few cartoons. It was all good passing fun, except for one thing. When I looked at some of my friends’ and family’s Bitstrips, I noticed a disturbing trend. Many people of color created avatars with much lighter skin than they actually have. Light-skinned blacks became indistinguishable from white. Brown-skinned people were suddenly light tan; and dark-skinned people inevitably made themselves light brown, and in one case even white!

It got me to thinking about how this issue of colorism plagues us still. In the last few years, the topic has been revived by such documentaries as “Dark Girls,” and by celebrities like Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj, who have created controversy by seemingly morphing into white women before our eyes. Allure magazine recently ran an article on the popularity and dangers of the practice of skin bleaching, and my sister told me that West Africans even have a term for it: Fanta face and Coca-Cola body. (Fanta is an orange-colored soda, and the effect of whitening often leaves brown skin with an orange cast.) As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in a very cogent piece in the Daily Mail, “Too many black and Asian children grow up understanding the sad ‘truth’ that to have dark skin is to be somehow inferior,” and dated the desire for light skin in India to before the time of the Raj.

For black Americans, it’s an old story. Dark-skinned female slaves brought from Africa were used as sex toys by white slave owners and overseers. A new caste arose: the mulatto. Because these mixed-blood people had hair, skin and features closer to that of the master, many, both white and black, viewed their looks as more desirable. Black sororities and social clubs instituted “paper bag” tests: i.e., you had to be no darker than a brown paper bag to gain entrance. Some mixed people passed for white by day in order to achieve the economic benefits of whiteness, while reverting to their own race when at home. “One Drop,” the mesmerizing story of New York Times (<–subscribe) book critic Anatole Broyard, who in his later years passed for white, had parents who did just that. I find it perplexing that in almost every culture, light is considered desirable, and black despicable. White is pure; black is evil. Why does this mindset stretch across the globe in cultures that until recently had no significant contact with one another? After pondering the issue, I decided that likely it is a vestige of agricultural societies, where the well-to-do were able to avoid toiling in fields and darkening their skin, whereas the peasants were dark or swarthy from the sun. Therefore, light skin became equated with wealth, ease and class, and dark skin with poverty and peasantry.

I grew up in a family that disdained colorism. Or so I deduce, because I was completely unaware of it until my teens, when my family returned to the U.S. after my father’s diplomatic posting in East Africa. I was fascinated and surprised by the talk of “good” hair, light skin, and that the hip popular clique were mainly light-skinned and wavy-haired. My fair skinned, wavy-haired boyfriend with a monster curly Afro, would dissect his family’s lineage with excruciating detail. I later attended Howard University with a green-eyed young man who came from a family infamous for having intermarried with relatives to avoid the “curse” of dark skin. That is why the Bitstrips avatars, Beyoncé, et al, and the extreme prevalence of nose jobs on beautiful black female actresses, has been such a disappointment to me. I admit that once upon a time, many, many, years ago, I would probably have gone under the knife to refine my round, negroid nose if I had the money. But now that I am older, I view my nose as a badge of honor. Even if I had the time, money and vanity, I would no more alter what God gave me than to change my first name. I feel that it’s almost a rebellious act to be proud of my nose.

That’s a sad commentary during a time when we have seen our first Black commander-in-chief, and when a black man has just joined the ranks of chairmen at Microsoft. I say, it’s time to bring back James Brown’s anthem: “Say it loud; I’m black and I’m proud.” As we witness the dawn of the brown, black and yellow century, let’s throw off the old bondage that taught us that if you’re white, you’re all right. Let’s embrace our African, Asian, Arab, Latina beauty … if not for ourselves, then at least for our children and our children’s children. There’s speculation that women in Hollywood feel they must alter their looks in order to “cross over” and to become mainstream, and therefore rich and powerful. To paraphrase scripture: But what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, if he or she loses his or her soul?

Hope E. Ferguson is senior writer for the State University of New York’s Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, New York. The great-granddaughter and granddaughter of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) ministers, she grew up hearing about social justice issues from her father, a human rights attorney, and mother, an artist, who were active in the civil rights movement. She blogs about faith, culture and politics at Morning Joy.‎

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March 31st, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Join Us and Speak Out Against Prison Injustice on May 5

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by Karima Amin

Every Spring, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. encourages you to join us in Albany, NY where we face-off with “the powers that be” to express our major concerns regarding criminal justice issues. Whether you call it “Lobby Day,” “Legislative Awareness Day,” “Family Empowerment Day,” or “Day of Action,” it is a special day for you to speak out against prison injustice. At our website (www.prp2.org) we have noted which issues concern us most: parole reform, reformed offenders, juvenile justice, parole for aged prisoners, solitary confinement, reentry, restorative justice and more. Past PRP2 meetings have disseminated information on these issues and will continue to do so.

We encourage you to seriously consider coming to Albany on May 5 to add your voice and your presence at a day of actions that allow you to meet with advocates across the state who feel as you do about reform and the ultimate abolition of a criminal injustice system that is destroying lives and communities everyday.




May 5 will consist of a 10:00am Press Conference on Solitary Confinement; a 12:30pm March and Rally Against Prison Injustice, where Cornel West will be the keynote speaker; and a 2:30pm Parole Reform Speakout. Details regarding topics of special concern and transportation to Albany will be shared at our next meeting. (SEE ATTACHED.)



























Please join us on Monday, March 31 at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo at 7:00 – 9:00pm. The Circle of Supporters for Reformed Offenders will sponsor this gathering. If you need more information, call 716-834-8438 or contact Karima or BaBa: karima@prisonersarepeopletoo.org or g.babaeng@yahoo.com.

“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)

Karima Amin is a longtime Buffalo Activist, Educator, and Storyteller as well as founder and director of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2). This is her first column for the bullet.

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March 29th, 2014 at 8:13 pm

New Federal Theatre Celebrates 44TH Anniversary

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by Gloria Dulan-Wilson

There are so many days when I am glad to be me, and Sunday, March 16 was definitely one of those days. Not only did I get the opportunity to cover the 44th Anniversary of Woodie King’s New Federal Theatre (NFT), but I got to witness one of my heroes and living legends, Voza Rivers, honored and feted in a way that was, to my mind, long overdue.

It was like old home week with so many stars, writers, producers, directors coming out to be a part of the festivities – Black royalty of the stage, screen and television all gathering together – it was like homecoming – only much more elegant. The program was held at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

What a wonderful way to tell a brother who has “labored in the vineyard” and produced much fruit for his efforts, “I Love You,” than to bring together his peers and an adoring, grateful audience. And who is more deserving that Voza Rivers, whom I’ve known now for 30+ years, but is not widely known by those outside the entertainment realm.

Actually, to many Voza on the surface, appears to be a very quiet, non assuming character. “Cool as a cucumber,” my mother would say. But make no mistake, he’s as powerful as they come. The perfect foil for Woodie King, Jr., founder and CEO of the New Federal Theatre (NFT), whom I’ve likewise known for almost twice as long (friend and former neighbor), who is as ebullient, and animated as they come. The only person this evening would not appeal to would be an automaton with no feelings, emotions or sense of theatre.

This was entertainment at its best, with us celebrating each other – not the Oscars or the Emmys or the Tonys – just us -we Black folks – a real family affair. It didn’t just honor these two wonderful men, and their accomplishments, was but a living lesson in Black history as well. The works of living legends, side by side, with the spirit of their forebearers, highlighting their best to a captivated and adoring audience. It’s something that Black children, and many adults, the world over would learn a lot from. These two are shining examples of triumph over trials and tribulations.

Now when the Black theatrical and entertainment community salutes, fetes and shows their love for entertainment Impresario, Voza “Vo” Rivers, and celebrates the NFT’s 44th Anniversary, which was founded in 1970 by Woodie King Jr. of course you’d expect the who’s who in Black entertainment to turn out for a gala cocktail reception. And they did. And our favorite caterer, Norma Jean Darden did the honors. It’s then that you know that they are not going to skimp on the entertainment – because she is caterer to the stars.

I pulled Voza aside as he was going into the theatre before the ceremony and got a special hug from him, and whispered in his ear that it was about time people knew how great he was. “Your superman cover has been blown, and you can no longer walk around incognito – people have to know that greatness and Voza Rivers are synonymous.”

The evening got off to a grand start with Cliff Frazier, NFT Board Member making the initial greetings. Of course, as he was introducing Co-hosts Debbi Morgan and Danny Glover, things begin to take on a different feeling. It had started off quietly dignified, with Cliff setting the tone, as is his nature, of proper decorum.
Co-Host Debbi Morgan

As Glover and Morgan stepped up to their respective podiums, pandemonium broke out in none other than the personage of Robert Townsend – who, apparently, didn’t realize that he was not supposed to be on stage until after Danny Glover had done his initial greeting and left for the airport to fly somewhere for something important – we never did find out what that was.

When Robert Townsend suddenly appeared at Danny Glover’s podium to also co-host the show, after being informed that he was not to come out until Danny had actually made his exit, Townsend appeared to be comically confused as he walked back and forth – in a combination perplexed Groucho Marx/Woody Allen fashion – trying to decided whether or not he should leave or just hang around on stage, until Danny actually left. And this comical charade kept up for the first portion of the program, keeping the entire audience in stitches – which, by the way, is the hallmark of Robert Townsend, the consummate comedian. Glover eventually made his exit, making it possible for Townsend to “settle down” into his role as co-host of the evenings festivities.

The opening filmography depicted the life of Voza Rivers, giving the highlights of his accomplishments. For those who are unfamiliar with his bio, Voza started in 1964, at age 19 working with the late, great Roger Furman, founder of the Roger Furman Theatre in Harlem. He did practically everything there was in the theatre, from hoisting lights, to cleaning stage to setting props, and has steadily risen through the ranks, eventually becoming the Executive Director of New Heritage Theatre, after Furman’s death, in 1983. The New Heritage Theatre was the first ever Black production company to bring the plight of South Africans to the stage starting with the two-person performance of Woza Albert, featuring Mbogeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa.

In 1988 Voza’s New Heritage Theatre collaborated with South African writer/producer, Duma Ndlovu, to present the stage production of Sarafina! in Harlem’s Aaron Davis Hall for two presentations; one for 750 Harlem students and the second for the community. Also in 1988, he received the FEDAT (Foundation for the Extension and Development of the American Professional Theatre, supported by the League of American Theatres and Producers) award for his work on Sarafina! That same year Rivers received the United Nations Medal for Peace, also for Sarafina! and in 1989, a banner year, he received a Grammy nomination, as one of the producers of the Sarafina! cast album and co-produced with Lincoln Center Theater a musical concert featuring Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela and the Sarafina! cast at Radio City Music Hall. More than any thing else, the play helped indelibly solidify the connectedness and the plight between African Americans and South Africans in a way no other history lesson or lecture could ever have done.












Voza Rivers, who is generally known for his activities behind the scenes has partnered with so many individuals and organizations over the past few decades, it would take more than a ceremonial program or a filmographical salute to truly encapsulate his impact. Though he softly goes about playing the unassuming man behind the scenes, he is truly the foundation and the glue that gets it started and keeps it together. Most people recognize Voza for the ever present smile he displays and his quiet, soft spoken manner when he is speaking with you. The epitome of speak softly, but carry a big stick – in which case Voza’s stick is that incredible creative genius of his to come up with concepts and them see them through to fruition. Generally speaking, if Voza’s stamp of approval is on an idea, production, concept, collaboration – it will not fail, and will be an inordinate success.

Congressman Charles Rangel, presented Voza with a Congressional Proclamation in his behalf, showing that Sunday March 16, 2014 was now in the Congressional Record. Of course while all this was transpiring, Robert Townsend was behind the Congressman exaggerating his gestures.

The presentation was followed by a Citation from the City Council of the City of New York, presented by Inez Dickens, who was likewise mimicked by Townsend. Try as she might, she couldn’t get him to cease. The audience was cracking up. Finally, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who had no award to present wanted to “acknowledge what a wonderful influence and impact Voza Rivers has had, and continues to have in the City of New York.” As each presenter was being mimicked by Townsend, the audience was in an uproar.

Townsend then decided that while all the presentations were being made, Woodie King, Jr. might just as well come to the stage and receive his as well.. King, who had been sitting in the back of the auditorium surveying the entire scenario, and had had no intentions of being part of the melee, was coaxed into coming up front to receive his accolades, as well. Also present and part of the photo opportunities, was awards designer, and acclaimed Black artist Otto Neals.

However, once the photos had subsided, all the presenters, including Congressman Rangel, as well as the recipients, were not allowed to leave. Townsend had come up with one last duty, and that was to be the doo-wop back up behind the music for none other than the great Chuck Jackson! Townsend had them mimic him as he did a few classic moves reminiscent of “The Five Heart Beats.” Again, the audience roared with laughter.

Artist and living legend, and still fine – I might add – Chuck Jackson, performing his updated version of “Any Day Now,” and looking as young and handsome as when had just started his career. The man does not age. A veteran of the music industry himself for more than 40 years, and his voice can still make you “swoon” (okay, so it’s an old school word, but it still works for me). He later performed a duet with the video of Dionne Warwicke playing in the back ground, their voices harmonizing perfectly.

Jamal spoke of how, after spending time in prison for his participation as a Black Panther, he had emerged even more dedicated than ever to bringing truth to Black people, was given his first break by Voza. Joseph had written a play that he was trying to get produced. Not only did Voza like the play, but he gave him $500.00 of his own funds to help him get stated. The impact of that act of kindness alone has led to a lifetime of friendship and collaboration between the two.

Both Rivers and Joseph believe that people should speak in their own voice, and the participants of Impact, who range in age from 6 years to young adulthood, write, produce, rehearse and perform their own original work.

They collaborate with each other to ensure that each artist is given respect and succeeds in whatever production concept they are working on. The results of their work have been phenomenal, and was more than adequately displayed in their stage presentations, which both opened and closed out the ceremony. Jamal concluded with a stirring speech, when he exhorted the audience, as well as his fellow actors and writers, “We must tell the story of our people, their work and their accomplishments. We cannot leave it in the hands of others to do so. Voza thank you so much for believing in me and for the advocacy of my work. I am because you are, and we stand tall from standing on your shoulders.”

Lloyd Williams, President and CEO of the Greater Harlem Uptown Chambers of Commerce and Voza Rivers co-founded Harlem Week, which initially started out as Harlem Day, in response to a request from the late Percy Sutton to focus on the highlights of what was good in Harlem. The concept, which started in 1974, on the corner of 138th and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd (aka 7th Ave), expanded from one day, to a week, and of course is now a month+ celebration of what makes Harlem great , with 109 events – from entertainment, to business, to commerce, to the people who live and work in Harlem. His collaboration with Voza has taken him around the world – from South America, to Africa to Asia, and points in between. Somewhere in the midst of all the other projects they collaborated on, Williams and Rivers managed to also start a clothing store called Fabinacci, which was highly successful at the time.

Duma Ndlovu’s message had been taped earlier for the presentation spoke of the long, and ongoing, collaboration with Voza, which will be further enhanced by a production they are currently working on about the Zulu nation and their impact on South African culture and liberation. (Duma Ndlovu is another one of my own personal hero/friends – we have had many a conversation, prior to the epoch making release of Nelson Mandela from prison, as to how to liberate South Africa for their oppressors, and how to educate Black people the world over to the fact that African people all over the world have to come together as one people. Duma returned to South Africa as soon as Mandela was released to help with the development of the New South Africa.)

Great performances included an excerpt from Debbi Morgan’s one woman play, “Monkey On My Back;” and a wonderfuly animated performance by South African/Lesotho vocalist Tsiidi (seedee) Le Loka (who plays “Rafiki” in the Lion King).

Valerie Simpson, of Ashford and Simpson, who performed a medly of songs in tribute to Voza’s accomplishments, invited the audience to sing along to “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough,” and “Reach Out and Touch,” – make this world a better place – which is exactly what Voza Rivers epitomizes.

Also on hand to round out the accolades to both Woodie and Voza were Andre` Robinson, who directed the evening’s event. “I thought that you had skipped over my part in the video (on Voza’s life); but you don’t know the depth of the life of caring and sacrifices that Voza has put into caring for the Harlem Community – and actually all of New York. He actually worked for that theatre for about 7 years with no salary.

He convinced me to do it for five years until I wised up. And then he brought Phyllis in and I moved on.” Stating that it has been an incredible journey with Voza, of more than thirty years during which they have remained friends and colleagues. Actually, it was Phyllis Stickney who brought them to the Roger Furman Theatre, according to Robinson.

Of course, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, comedic actress, activist, educator, writer, and one of the major underpinnings of the New Heritage Theatre, brought her own brand of comedy to the stage. Phyllis, who has been in collaboration, as well as front and center, from the time Voza came to the helm of New Heritage Theatre, has been behind the camera, in front of the camera, a mentor to rising talent, and of course a leader in her own right.

Her booming, yet feminine, quasi-street/Caribbean voice characterizations are unmistakeable. “Voza! He was Uncle Vo, to me!” asserted the beautiful Ms. Stickney – who has her own inimical comedic style. “I just have to take it back a little bit – do y’all mind? I just have to give a little history! There was a man named Roger Furman! Amen! That was who gave us opportunity, and this man was the head and the tail of the whole thing. He was Uncle Vo to me, because every time I climbed those three flights of stairs to do ‘whasonever’ I was supposed to do with Roger, I knew we were going to have a full house. I knew that somewhere Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were going to be somewhere in the house. I knew that somehow we were going to have everything that we needed. But when Roger became ill – we didn’t know how ill – Andre came in and took over the reigns and we continued to grow. Before we had Impact, we had Roger. And we had you (Voza), and we had New Heritage Theatre.” Phyllis shared a poem she had composed in honor of Voza, “Meaningful Magic, that’s what you create!” culminating with “Thank you for all the opportunity you have given us. And I love you!”

Then she spoke of Woodie King: “The King??? Well, any Black actor that is an actor, that lives in this city, works in this city or wants to work anywhere near this city, has got to have an experience with Woodie the King. Now in 1969, Woodie King, Jr. Founded the New Federal Theatre. He has been for 44 years – count them 44 – at the helm of the New Federal Theatre. And was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.” {After a glitch in the script – it does happen in live performances} – Phyllis continued, “no matter what you might think about him; no matter what you might have heard about him, he was and is integrally involved in the Black theatres in New York and Harlem.












Woodie King, Jr., founder/CEO of the New Federal Theatre CelebrCharles Rangel, Chuck Jackson, Duma Ndlovu, Five Heart Beats, Jamal Joseph, Japan, NFT, NHT, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Sarafina, South Africa, Voza Rivers, Woodie King Jr., Woza Albert Voza Rivers, in expressing his appreciation for the accolades, admitted that he actually came across Roger Furman by “accident.” He was taking a course in public speaking at what had been at the time the YMCA, after having been inspired by so many Civil Rights leaders of the day, and wanting to overcome his shyness about speaking in public. He wanted to be able to make some contribution to the activities that were taking place around him, and be able to address people on the issues of the day. The first day of the class Roger Furman happened to have been the guest speaker. He spoke of how he got started at the age of 19 in the basement of the Countee Cullen Library – wrote their own material, etc., wring about social issues, dealing with politics, etc. “Jamal mentioned 1500 artivist – not artists, but artivists – in the spirit of being what we call activists, which is important, but also artists was well.”

He thanked his South African Group – Duma Ndlovu, as well as Mbogeni Ngema, continuing, “Hopefully, with the help of City College’s Karen and Sharon, we’ll be able to bring the history of the Zulu Nation, which Mbogeni has just written.” Voza, whose interests don’t stop with Africa, is equally well known – if not more so – in Japan, where, along with his corporate partner, Katsu Abe, has been packing Japanese theatres upwards of 32,000 people with his shows, plays, musical productions for the past 30 years. In addition to the above mentioned productions, other successes include: Township Fever, Third Rhythm, The tragedy of Macbeth, Bailey’s Cafe, Voices of Griots, The Huey P. Newton Story, Tierno Bokar, One Good Nerve, Resurrection, Mr. Joy, and Tearing Down the Wall.

Always planning ahead years in advance, Voza indicated, in closing, that in honor of Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday Celebration, he would be doing a series of productions of his most outstanding plays.

Lest I forget to mention, that no event worthy of its salt would be complete without the timely interjections of approval via playwright, artist and musician Rome Neal’s sekere` – a traditional African instrument that is played at most spiritual ceremonies and rituals. As Woodie King, Jr. noted, “Sekere – Rome Neal is in the house, all is right with the world.”

Rome Neal punctuated the event with his sekere` throughout the evening Cliff Frazier, life long friend and Fine Black Man, pulled me aside after the program, obviously pleased at the entire outcome, and said: “This is exactly what I’m talking about, Gloria. We have to do more of these kinds of events. We have to be the ones to tell our own stories, and honor ourselves and each others. They (meanstream media/racist whites) are never going to do it. They don’t want us to to know it. It’s so important that we keep each other informed and begin to respect and honor and learn from each other. That’s what’s going to make the change – we have to be the change to make the change happen.”

I frankly love being a witness to the wonderful things Black people do. I never tire of writing about us, and bragging about us, sharing who we are, and what we’ve done, what we can do, and continue to do when we work together.

The theme of NFT’s 44th Anniversary Celebration is “OUR HISTORY IS OUR EQUITY.” And judging from the presentation at the Tribeca Theatre, we are truly wealthy indeed.- GDW

Stay Blessed &

bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com

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