Saturday, March 14, 2009

From The Campaign for Peace and Democracy

Dear Friend,

We have just learned that the Czech Chamber of Deputies is likely to vote this coming week of March 16 on whether to accept the U.S. military radar base that was originally proposed by the Bush administration. The radar, along with Interceptor missiles in Poland, would create a European "missile defense" system. Two thirds of Czechs have consistently opposed the radar, and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy has been active in supporting the Czech anti-radar movement. The upcoming vote in the Chamber of Deputies is critical; a vote to defeat the radar could put an end to this dangerous escalation.

Please sign the open letter below TODAY; we will be sending it to Prague early in the week of March 16. To sign the letter, donate, or see the full list of signers, please go to the CPD website at If for any reason you have difficulty signing on at the website, just send us an email at

Thank you for your support,
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

Here is the text of the open letter:


It is our understanding that after much debate in your country, the Czech Chamber of Deputies will vote very soon on the proposed agreement to accept the U.S. military radar. We are writing to let you know that we deeply believe that the radar is not in the real interests of people in either the United States or the Czech Republic. We hope you will vote to reject it.

Millions of Americans, including ourselves, are eager for a new peaceful U.S. foreign policy that advances democracy and demilitarization around the world, rather than an escalation of the arms race. Moreover, the extremely expensive missile defense program is, like so much of our country's military budget, a vast waste of resources. We would much prefer to spend our nation's wealth on education, housing, healthcare and other human needs, both domestically and internationally.

We are inspired by the fact that more than two thirds of the Czech people have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the radar. We join with them in calling on President Obama to pull back from plans to install Interceptor missiles in Poland and a companion radar station in the Czech Republic.

An end to this dangerous "missile defense" program could form the basis for a very positive and constructive relationship between the people of our two countries, and could serve as an important first step in a broader process of global disarmament.

America's Five Black Presidents-You Mean Obama Is Not the First?

I find this interesting and I wanted to talk about it. It all started yesterday, when someone posted to a history listserve that I am on offering up their list of the greatest historians. I offered up DuBois, J.A. Rogers, and Jacqueline Jones...who all hold my very highest esteem...of course I knew that that wouldnt sit welll with many (DuBois might fly, but J.A. Rogers--some won't hear it because he wasn't formally educated....J.A. Rogers wrote a very very important series of books entitled Sex and Race, everyone should pick them up and read them. He didn't go to Harvard like Dubois, but DuBois was in Massachusetts, J.A. Rogers had to come from Jamaica first...and it was the late 19th/early 20th century....and he still had to deal with white people. His is a very important voice. So, anyway, I was reviewing all of the books written by Rogers and his title The Five Negro Presidents peaked my interest. I did a google search on it and found some very interesting stuff. Firstly, did you know that Warren G. Harding was colored? I dug up this recent New York Times article on the subject. Apparently, Warren came from a mulatto family and crossed the color line in order to better his opportunities. This is not uncommon, especially at that time.

DuBois noted that approximately a half a million mulattoes may have crossed the color line in the late 19th and early 20th centuries--with a major impact on the U.S. Census. DuBois discusses this issue at length. Read his collected essays in David Levering Lewis' reader. In regards to Harding, one of his relatives apparently wrote a book on the subject of her family and her shared blood with Warren G. Harding. Also, I found this interesting-to-read- power point that was done on the Five Black U.S. Presidents.

Of course, the idea of passing and/or discovering hidden Black or otherwise colored ancestry is something that is quite familiar and current in this day and time. With Carol Channing telling the world that her father was Black and the very thoughtful book One Drop, written by Bliss Broyard concerning her father Anatole Broyard, this is a topic that has been broken wide open. However, there is a lot that must be uncovered and discovered about our American past before this is all over. I had a conversation with the social historian, Noel Ignatiev once and he gave me an astounding figure for the number of so-called whites in the United States (and in particular the southern United States) that carry ancestry that would prove them to be otherwise. We know that 85% of all Black people in this country descended from slaves are mixed.I have long held that the term white is a misnomer and is really nothing more than an old attempt by those men who founded this country and set up the establishment that is now falling to distinguish between their legitimate (i.e. white) children and their bastard (i.e. Black) children. Rooted in patriarchy, I believe all of this must be eliminated. This is definitely an interesting topic, one which I have studied and done work around for a long time and one which is definitely not going away any time soon.

Has Anyone Else Not Heard About the Murder of Brandon McClelland?

24-years-old,this Black youth was dragged behind a pickup truck by two white men in Paris, Texas last year until his body was nearly dismembered. I have heard nothing about this.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Chris Brown and Rhianna Story On Oprah

Today's Oprah is a powerful show. Everyone should be watching. I don't have much to say on this topic right now, except that I believe that the entire Chris Brown/Rhianna incident is shameful. I think he ought to be ashamed of himself and I think she is absolutely foolish to be in a relationship with him.

Today's Oprah

I love Oprah's hair today. I'm going to blog more later.

I Need Some Advice

I want to change the background color of Juliusspeaks. Anyone know how?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Interview With Shaindel Beers, Author of A Brief History in Time

With the recent publication of her first book of poetry,A Brief History in Time, I had the opportunity to interview author, Shaindel Beers, a former classmate of mine at Huntingdon College. Here is what transpired.

1. Your poetry is filled with some very astute perceptions along the lines of race, gender, and class. What is your background? Where are you from? What is your family like? What do they do?

I’m from a very small rural town in northern Indiana, called Argos, which, at least in the 2000 census, had a population of 1,613. It might seem unusual to someone that you can grow up somewhere that is 98% white and be so impacted by race, but I moved from Argos to Montgomery, Alabama, to go to Huntingdon College, and it was like another planet. I’d heard racist comments in Indiana, but they were the sort of things one “expects” from people of a certain generation. Like, my grandpa would say something and change the channel if he walked in and I was watching The Cosby Show. But I think there was a lot of jealousy in this. If you remember, on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby’s character was a doctor, and the wife was a lawyer, and here’s my grandfather who has a sixth grade education and has had a hard life—farming (which always depends on the weather), factory closings (which depends on the whims of the wealthy, or the economy), all sorts of things. I think a lot of people from his generation in the same position probably felt the same way. It isn’t right, but you can understand where it comes from.

When I got to Alabama, the racism was much more real. First of all, there were people of other races—at least then in Alabama, Whites and Blacks. And, to me, it felt like the Civil Rights movement had barely happened. When I met one of my first college friends and wanted to go to Wal-Mart to buy some dorm supplies, she started driving the opposite way I thought we should be going. When I asked why we weren’t going to the Wal-Mart next to the college, she said, “Oh, that’s the Black Wal-Mart,” like it was the most common thing in the world. I heard other such gems such as a wealthy woman who said, “Of course, we’re not racist; all our maids have always been Black” and the one that appears in my poem, “Branching.”

For me, at least, gender and social class are so intertwined. I think that there is much more hope of social mobility for men than for women. There’s a book I haven’t read yet but want to called Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class. I remember when I was in high school and things were rough, my mom would say things like, “Maybe some nice boy will marry you.” That really seemed to be the answer she had for everything. She bought me a subscription to Brides Magazine when I was around fifteen and seemed fine when my high school boyfriend at that time just assumed we were getting married and gave me a ring.

I think a lot of women my age were raised without the skills we really needed because our parents still expected us to move from their house to a husband’s. And that really seems to surprise a lot of people, but I think small towns are socially a generation behind other places.

As far as my family, they are sort of a “mad genius” family. That’s probably saying enough.

2. What is your ethnic makeup?

On my father’s side, I’m Russian-Jewish, maybe with a few other Eastern European countries thrown in. On my mother’s side, it’s pretty much everything from the British Isles. I can look up family tartans in Scottish museums and things like that.

3. Do you have a great interest in Greek mythology? Your knowledge of it seems to be very expansive. Does it inspire you?

I absolutely love all mythologies, but I know more about Greek mythology than others, probably because it was required in eighth grade. We had to memorize who was the god or goddess of what and read The Odyssey. I’m always fascinated by rewritings of myths and fairy tales for a few reasons. First, there’s less work for the author because the reader already knows the basic story, and secondly, because there is a wealth of the human condition for the reader to connect to. For instance, in Louise Gl├╝ck’s Meadowlands, she uses the figures of Odysseus and Penelope to explore the breakdown of (presumably) her own marriage. Most of us know the story of The Odyssey, and most of us have suffered broken hearts, so putting these elements together creates something between the author and the reader that is greater than the sum of the parts. For my creative writing MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, part of my graduation requirement included giving a lecture on a specific topic in creative writing, and I did mine on “Feminist Revision of Myth and Fairy Tale.” If any readers are interested in it, they can let me know, and I’ll email them the lecture.

4. You seem to have lived a very interesting life--from the mundaneness of rural Indiana to the cosmopolitan life of the city. Give us a rundown of your life from birth to present. Where have you lived? What has marked you?

First of all, I don’t see how rural Indiana is any more mundane than living in a city. Wherever you are is your reality, and you can have a boring or an exciting life in either. I was born in South Bend, Indiana, which is where Kenneth Rexroth was born. (Maybe it will eventually be a city known for poets?) I lived in Argos until I moved away to Montgomery, Alabama, for college, then I moved to Chicago to go to the University of Chicago for graduate school, and after that, I kept moving further and further out to the suburbs, for jobs. (And I would do my graduate residencies in Vermont in the summers and winters from 2003-2005.) Eventually, I got a full-time college teaching position in Florida. I just wasn’t a Florida person and had to get somewhere where it would snow before I died of depression (or drank myself to death), and I ended up in Eastern Oregon. So far, it’s the best place I’ve lived. I have fantasies of a cabin in Montana or Alaska or somewhere more remote than this with bigger mountains, but this is pretty phenomenal for now. It’s also a great teaching position. It’s a rural mountain community college, and there are only three full-timers in the English department (myself included), so in addition to the regular Composition sequence, I get to teach Shakespeare, British literature, Fiction writing, Poetry writing, and Poetry as Literature. It’s nice to get to use my graduate degrees in both British literature and Creative Writing. Anywhere else, I’d most likely have to choose one or the other.

A lot has marked me. A. Lot. I’ll let people read my poetry collection and decide that.

5. You seem to have had a lot of experiences in terms of love and loss. What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

I’m still learning, but I think I’m discovering that you can survive anything if you have to. I’m also learning to value myself and not to mould myself into whatever will make other people happy, but it’s definitely a process.

6. Who are your greatest influences as a writer?

I’m just going to start listing here. As far as poets: Anne Sexton, Anne Carson, Richard Jackson, Eavan Boland. Fiction writers: Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, Ellen Gilchrist. I’m sure there are at least a hundred others, but I’m hoping readers will look up everyone on this list if they’re not already familiar with them.

7. What's next for you?

So far, I feel really fortunate to be booking readings since the publication of A Brief History of Time since it’s my first full-length book. I hope to keep giving readings and to keep up with my radio show, Translated By, on . In June of 2010, I’ll be teaching at Writing Away Retreats , which I’m really excited about.

I have a two book deal with Salt Publishing, which is just amazing. I’ve never even heard of another poet getting a two book deal! For my second book I’m working on, tentatively titled The Children’s War, I’m looking at children’s art drawn during war-time from the Spanish Civil War to the current time and writing an ekphrastic poem on each one that inspires me.

I have what amounts to maybe half of a short story collection so far, and one novel in progress that I wish was more in progress. And I always have stories and poems going on in my head.

Next stop on Shaindel Beers' Virtual Book Tour Kate Evans:Being and Writing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Mornings News

Kudos and much applause to President Obama for endorsing Stem Cell Research! This will go a long way towards stopping preventable diseases. I cannot believe there are those who can't or who refuse to make the connection between funding stem cell research, providing health-care for all people(healthcare IS a right, not a privilege), and boosting the American economy....Cheers to Obama!....In regards to the story I heard on the Today Show concerning the state of Connecticut planning to strip away financial control over parishes from the Catholic Church, I do believe that is unconstitutional although I applaud the effort. I believe the parishioners themselves should strip the church of financial control. They can set up their own board and refuse to give money to the priests....The big story this morning was Warren Buffett and others' admonishment of Barack Obama and his handling of the economic crisis that the United States is facing. Firstly, Obama inherited this mess from eight years of incompetence. He won't(even though he is brilliant) be fixing this problem in three months time. Secondly, I wholly disagree with Warren Buffett and others for making use of a war analogy to address this problem....that is the problem...this country has been engaged in nonstop warfare for three hundred years...and is no longer the superpower....I applaud Obama for making use of Dr. King's analogy in tackling this difficult and immensely complex problem. Thank you for your wisdom President Obama!

Does Anyone Remember This Film?

Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveler--

I soo got caught up in this film as a child!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Labelle and Nyro

Happy International Women's Day

Cheers to Alice Walker and Medea Benjamin on being in Gaza today to stand in solidarity with the women of Palestine on International Women's Day!