Remebering our MAMA's MAMAs
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Remebering our MAMA's MAMAs
It feels like only yesterday when KPOO [89.5 FM] DJ's Donald Lacy, Harrison Chastang and others of us were ending each show with the call "FREE JAMES BROWN" to protest his 1988 arrest and several years of hard time served. Brown is now Free.
James Brown was a master teacher. Ricky Vincent's The History of Funk Show on KPFA a few nights ago highlighted Brown's music, role in the civil rights movement, and also how he integrated his politics and social commentary in his art. He said that Brown "belongs to all of us."
In his History of Funk analysis Vincent says that Brown changed the structure of Black music more than any other person in history. Brown 'Africanized' Black music by changing the rhythm, the structure and the manner in which soul/Black music was played, according to Vincent. In 1968 Amiri Baraka called Brown "our number one Black poet."
In the Funk World 1969
If Elvis Presley/ isKingWho is James Brown,God?
I cherish an old 1984 EP with Brown and HipHop "godfather"Afrika Bambatta urging UNITY in the fight against racism, war and nuclear devastation. And, when I played "Say It Loud" to my 6 year old daughter Jade a several years ago it touched off an interest in music and her search for her own heritage and identity. Besides being drawn to Brown's screeching and grooving, Jade liked hearing the children singing the chorus - "I'm Black and I'm Proud!." When she later asked me: "Daddy, am I Black?" because of Brown and her predominantly African American classmates in her school in SF's OceanView/Ingleside neighborhood, I gently broke the news to her that she was not. But I told her that she should be proud of being Asian, Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese and try to be an ally to African Americans and other oppressed peoples as well.
Brown's influence was worldwide - P-Funk Pioneers like Parliament and Funkadelic to Pop Icons like Michael Jackson and Prince owe a debt of gratitude as well to the Godfather of Soul. KRS-ONE says that Brown sums up the "entire black struggle" in his music. Learning about Brown's life is a sharp lesson in the struggle for self-determination of African Americans in the United States.
Of all the pieces on Brown's passing I've read, I think KRS-ONE sums up James Brown's life best in AllHipHop.com -
The Godfather is now FREE - and his "fabulous flame" burns brightly in me, my daughter and hopefully many of us.
KRS-One: James Brown is the Grandfather of Hip-Hop, of course recognizing Kool Herc as the father. You're talking to a 25 year theologian, and Christ is my s**t. Jesus is my s**t, that's my n***a! [Laughs] This guy, James Brown, dying on Christmas is very symbolic. Dying on Christmas, we know God is looking at us! We established right here and now. According to Christian tradition, James Brown dying on Jesus' birthday means that Hip-Hop starts today. ...James Brown passing on Christmas could mean the birth of Soul in you. He is the Godfather of Soul – not Pop, not R&B, not Rock, not Blues, not Jazz – Soul music!
We should print the lyrics of "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" and we should say it every Christmas. [KRS recites lyrics] He summed up the entire Black struggle. James Brown dying on Christ's birthday shows not only who he was – Christ returned – but that Hip-Hop has a chance, politically, to take a day. Let's celebrate James Brown! Hip-Hoppers celebrate the birth of their Soul, the birth of their Christ, the birth of their nature. Every Christmas, we gonna play James Brown records. ..
There is nobody who is more influential to Hip-Hop than James Brown. Kool Herc said that James Brown was the A-1 b-boy, the first MC, the first DJ – 'cause he had two drummers. The drummer was what the turntable was today. When one finished playing, the other'd start, and sometimes they'd play together! ... James Brown is our artistic father. We all sample from him. This is a day where we exchange gifts. The gift exchanged with us from James was our culture. He freely gave his music to our culture. To me, that brings tears to my eyes! That's some god s**t. That's the lord and savior. On December 25th, James Brown gives the gift of himself to his children. What's the gift we should be givin' back? We should be givin' back his request. "These record companies stole from me, get it back." Get it back, children. There should be a James Brown Soul Museum, not a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. James Brown.
Celebrating James Brown's birthday a few years ago Davey D wrote:
I swear to God when I speak at schools I'm amazed how kids who love Juvenile, BG and Jay-Z will draw blank stares when you mention groups like X-Clan, Jungle Brothers and even Public Enemy. They're completely at a loss when you start talking about James Brown, George Clinton and others. Sure they may have heard the names, but they never heard the songs. Sadder still they have no idea of their importance. Hence, that is the reason for penning this article. It's up to us to make the necessary changes.---
Click Here to listen to KPFA/Ricky Vincent/History of Funk's tribute to the Godfather of Soul
Click Here for Davey D's Blog on James Brown's Passing
Davey D's Hip Hop Corner
Ricky Vincent's History of Funk
KPOO - Poor People's Radio
Friday, December 29, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Grassroots Resistance to Globalization - from Oaxaca repression to San Francisco Monster Cable Workers
“For the living reappearance of the disappeared, for the freedom of the detained, for the exit of Ulises Ruiz and the federal forces from Oaxaca, for the punishment of those guilty of torture, rape and murder.” - EZLNFrom the Independent Media Center: In defiance of severe repression brought by federal and state authorities, hundreds of thousands of Oaxaqueños took to the streets Dec. 10 for the international day of action for Oaxaca and the Eighth Megamarch. Demanding the freedom of 138 political prisoners, live presentation of disappeared individuals, the immediate exit of federal police forces and governor Ulises Ruiz from Oaxaca, 385,000 people filled the main avenues of Oaxaca city. Updates: APPO Chiapas IMC CML Indybay
The EZLN, which has just wrapped up its national listening tour, has called for international mobilizations in solidarity with Oaxaca on Dec. 22
Locally in San Francisco, other local victims of Globalization here are refusing to give in. Some 120 Monster Cable workers are organizing with the support of the Chinese Progressive Association's Workers Organizing Project, San Francisco State students and others to demand economic justice, a fair severance and workers fund to support local workers impacted by corporations' outsourcing, contracting-out and globalization.
MONSTER CABLE’S HOLIDAY PARTY ACTION! -
FRI, DEC 22ND AT 1 PM IN BRISBANE, CA
Last weekend, over 100 laid-off Monster Cable workers and their community supporters held a press conference and holiday march for justice, delivering candy canes to major electronics retailers who carry Monster Cable Products, such as Circuit City, Cambridge SoundWorks and Guitar City for them to call on CEO Noel Lee’s "holiday spirit" to fairly resolve the concerns of laid-off workers. Thank you for all that came out but its not over, we need YOUR help for our next important action before Christmas.
Noel Lee, the CEO, is having a holiday party at his factory in Brisbane this Friday, December 22nd at 1 pm and we want to crash it! Since Monster Cable Stole the workers’ Christmas, its time to crash his Christmas party. It will be FUN! In the holiday spirit, we will sing Chinese and English Christmas carols and give a nice Christmas gift and card to Noel Lee!
We know the holidays are near and that everyone is very busy this time of the year, but this is the final action before Christmas. Please make it to this important action, details are below –
Date: Friday, December 22, 2006
Time: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Place: Meet at Bayshore Blvd & Geneva Ave (in Daly
City near Brisbane) – we will shuttle people over to
the location – Please Call 510-449-1172 if you arrive
Once again U.S. business leaders and elected officials decry the low level of education of U.S. students. ( This has consistently been debunked by Gerald Bracey).
Once again a plea that the business community needs a better prepared workforce- not a bad thing.
However, this is a business community and their political allies who have looted the U.S. with outrageous salaries, tax benefits, and subsidies. (See United for a Fair Economy)
This is a business community which has looted the public treasury by insisting upon and getting massive tax breaks, thus taking funds away from schools.
So, the report argues U.S. schools are mediocre. Yes, and U.S. funding for schools is mediocre, and California funding for schools is below mediocre.
And, when school funding is mediocre, then funding for schools in poor peoples areas is below mediocre, and they lack well prepared teachers, adequate facilities, and reasonable class sizes. I bet not one of these business leaders and elected officials would spend more than one day living and working in conditions similar to that of the average U.S. school.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Speaking in Tongues!
On a similar note, I am excited about an upcoming film about multilingualism in San Francisco Schools by local independent filmmakers extraordinaire Marcia Jarmel (director, producer, writer) and Ken Schneider (co-producer, editor) who produce films that explore contemporary social issues through intimate character stories. Their award-winning films have been broadcast around the world and have screened at museums, film festivals, schools, universities, public libraries, and for community groups.
KQED will be hosting a previewing of the film in January. I hope it hits the theaters soon as well. More info -
Alone among the educated world, the U.S. remains resolutely monolingual, despite how decidedly international our world has become. The idea of “American exceptionalism” is in vogue, Congress is once again considering “official English” legislation similar to that already passed in 22 states, and the Education Department’s No Child Left Behind initiative effectively discourages second language learning. Yet, at the same time, the Department of Defense is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a K-16 pipeline developing fluency in languages deemed “strategic” and business leaders clamor for bilingual U.S. citizens to engage in the global economy. Children around the world have for decades learned a second and even third language as part of their schooling. In the “flattening world“ described by the writer Thomas Friedman, bilingualism is a survival tool. But are we ready?
Speaking in Tongues documents the experience of one city grappling with the challenge. Amidst the widespread perception that bilingual education, intended as a transitional program, has failed, San Francisco school board will consider a measure to offer language immersion education to all public school students. Unlike bilingual education classrooms, immersion students come from a spectrum of language backgrounds—English learners, native English speakers, and “heritage language learners” reclaiming a family language lost through assimilation. All study at least half of their regular school subjects in a non-English language—in our story Mandarin, Cantonese, or Spanish. As a bonus, every student is exposed to different worldviews, customs, and approaches to problem solving. Data confirm the success of this approach: native English speakers join much of the rest of the world in becoming bilingual, and English language learners do better, have more positive attitudes about school, and are more likely to graduate from high school than their peers in English only classrooms.
Consider the possibilities presented by Alice Fong Yu K-8, the nation’s first public Chinese immersion school. The school’s motto, “Bridging Cultures, Building Community” alludes to both the city and the globe. Immersed in Chinese language and culture, K-3 students study 85 percent of their lessons – math, science, physical education, and social studies-– in Cantonese. By 3rd grade they are fluent. In middle school they add Mandarin as a third language. They also develop English and math skills that place them first among the city’s 72 elementary schools on statewide mandatory testing. By the end of 8th grade they are trilingual and tri-literate, enough to participate in a cultural exchange program where they will attend school and live with a family in Beijing. Six years ago the school was challenged to reach full enrollment. This year 400 parents competed for a mere 28 slots in the entering kindergarten class.
Across the city, in a neighborhood known as much for its projects as its stunning Bay views, Starr King Elementary opened its doors this September to the city’s first Mandarin immersion kindergarten. Asian and white students cross the city to join African American and Latino children from the neighborhood. If 30 years of research is correct, and learning in two languages really does stimulate brain circuitry and enhance academic success for all students regardless of socioeconomics, native language, or cognitive ability, the school can expect its achievement to climb.
Not far away, in the city’s Latino Mission District, Buena Vista Elementary has been educating a mix of native Spanish and English speakers for over twenty years. Through the eyes of a 5th grader and her family we’ll explore what happens when English learners attend a school that values their native language as much as English. The fact that both Spanish and English speaking students here test at grade level or above in both languages—a skill that eludes many Americans in English alone—gives hope that the city might address its shocking 50% drop out rate for Latino students.
Speaking in Tongues is an intimate glimpse into a community squaring the challenges of public education with the needs of a changing culture. As we consider the experiences of parents, advocates for and against, and students engaged in this experiment, we come to see what's at stake—for those involved and for our nation. Will San Francisco’s story be a national model or a cautionary tale? Speaking in Tongues will be available as a DVD toolkit that includes an hour-long public television documentary, a shorter version for education and community engagement, and study guides to support these uses.
Join Patchwork's e-mail list, to keep informed of the film's progress.
More info - Speaking in Tongues
Chinese Educators From Harbin Visit with San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent, Staff and Board Members
Addressing the visitors I said that delegations like these allow educators from the US and China to share experiences and dialogue to help build US and China People's Friendship for the future, not just for mutual trade and business, but also to help move us toward world peace and global justice.
For more info http://www.uscpfa.org/
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Ho Ho Ho? My vote for the Grinch of year is Noel Lee the Hillsborough Multimillionaire and owner of Monster Cable which laid off some 120 workers just before the holiday season and has contracted out the work to factories in China. Lee had donated $6 million for the naming rights of our beloved SF 49'ers Candlestick Park, now called 'Monster Park' but refuses to meet with or offer a fair settlement with workers that have made his company so profitable over the years. NBC Ch11's Tracy Grant did a excellent report yesterday on the workers' organizing.
Parenting & Teaching about Grinches and Solidarity:
The wannabe-good-parent that I am - I took my 6 year old daughter Jade to the rally to support the workers, San Francisco State students and the Chinese Progressive Association's worker organizing project. I love teaching moments where my daughter and I are able to talk about the local impact of globalization; real life GRINCHes; and the importance of concepts like SOLIDARITY with workers and ORGANIZING for change and justice in America.
My daughter found one of her classmate's parents on the picket line who worked for Monster for 9 years. She was laid off with over 100 others in mid-October and is demanding a fair severance and justice/justicia for all the workers, most of whom are immigrants from China, Vietnam, Mexico, and Eastern Europe. Many of the workers are parents with children in our schools. That's one reason they say that Monster Cable stole their Christmas.
US Workers as Casualties of Globalization - From 90's Fuerza Unida to Today's Monster Workers:
As a parent and teacher I also try to link the struggle of the SF Monster workers with the heroic battle of the women of Fuerza Unida! from San Antonio Texas who organized themselves after being the 'first casualties' of Levi's plant closings around the US and the rise of NAFTA and Globalization in the early 90's. The Monster Cable workers are not alone and they are the current casualities of Globalization. Like Fuerza Unida they are resisting and fighting for justice for themselves and for all workers here and abroad. Besides picketing we also asked shoppers and store managers to support corporate accountability and -
Please Call Noel Lee, "Head Monster" (CEO) of Monster Cable and ask him to show some HOLIDAY SPIRIT towards the workers who helped build his company and to resolve their concerns.
(415) 840-2000 Executive Assistant ext. 4387
MONSTER WORKERS CAMPAIGN UPDATE - San Francisco, CA – Over 100 laid-off Monster Cableworkers and their community supporters gathered yesterday to hold apress conference and holiday march for justice. Workers and community supporters marched up VanNess Ave and delivered candy canes to major electronics retailers who carry Monster Cable Products. They asked retailers and consumers to call on CEO Noel Lee's "holiday spirit" to fairly resolve the concerns of laid-offworkers.
Most recently, CEO Noel Lee left workers hanging on Monday, Dec. 11th , when he failed to show up to a scheduled meeting with him, company executives,and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Workers were disappointed and requested to re-schedule the meeting, but were informed by company representatives that Mr. Lee was unavailable and that the severance package was not up for negotiation.
On Oct. 20, 2006, Monster Cable Products, Inc. laid off over 120 production workers from their Brisbane facility, outsourcing their jobs to low-wage labor overseas to increase profits. The company is a highly profitable company which sells high end audio visual cables, home theater equipment, etc. The laid-offworkers are mostly monolingual middle-aged Chinese,Vietnamese, Latino, and Eastern European immigrants who worked an average of over 8 years and as many as 20 years for the company. Laid off workers want:
1) a just severance as previous laid off workers and 2) want the company to address their long term unemployment issues by contributing to a Community-Worker Transition Fund.
Although it's the holiday season, the attitude of Monster Cable has been anything but one of giving. In stark contrast, the company's approach has been to ignore laid-off workers and their concerns.
JOIN THE WORKERS IN THEIR FIGHT FOR JUSTICE! - more info: contact the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)1042 Grant Avenue, 5th Floor San Francisco, CA 94133- Website: http://www.cpasf.org/home.html
Thursday, December 14, 2006
The reports though show a very half-hearted acknowledgement that she may have hurt some feelings, with little remorse or understanding of how offensive her remarks were.
On Thursday, O’Donnell expressed surprise when she learned that some Asian Americans considered speaking in that kind of sing-song accent an insult as grave as calling a black person by the N-word. She sympathized with people who were teased for their language on the playground while they were growing up.
However, she warned that she was a comedian, and she did accents of all kinds — including the “Japanese Yiddish” accent of Dec. 5.
“There’s a good chance I’ll do it again next week,” she said. “That’s how my brain works.”
San Francisco Asian Americans Respond Proactively to Rosie O'Donnell's 'ChingChong' Insensitivity; Reject Right Wing Attempts to Divide Us From Others
Rosie O'Donnell needs to meet with Asian American and immigrant community groups right away to learn about our history of struggle for language rights and equality in the US. O'Donnell's insensitive 'chingchong' comments on national TV have touched off a firestorm of anger and frustration from many Asian American organizations and Chinese groups globally as well.
But is Rosie really the problem?
Or are her recent comments merely the tip of a bigger iceberg of historical language discrimination and English-Only-ism that spread in the 1980's with the passage of California's Proposition 63 [a conservative 'wedge-initiative' which declared English as the Official Language of California] and has intensified since September 11th, 2001 in border areas like Arizona and many parts of the US Southwest. But the anti-immigrant and language intolerance has also become national as well, like it was in the 80's when our Prop 63 passed. This past May 18th the US Senate as a part of the draconian anti-immigrant legislation added an English-Only ammendment sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) which passed by a 63-34 vote, largely along party lines. See Jim Crawford's excellent analysis of English Only and language policies.
Reporter Vanessa Hua covers the issue in this morning's SF Chronicle from a community perspective: Asian American advocates decry parody by TV's O'Donnell . And, beyond the demands for an apology by some, San Francisco Schools are proactively promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism as one of the means to combating ignorance of discrimination and language rights struggles in the US:
On Tuesday, the San Francisco school board passed a resolution stating that the district valued multilingualism, and it established a task force to develop a long-term plan to encourage opportunities for all students to learn more than one language. Such policies challenge the ignorance of comedians like O'Donnell, school board member Eric Mar said Wednesday.
Her remarks are a "put-down of Chinese and various immigrants," Mar said. "There's a whole history of subordinating people who are immigrants."
Asian Americans Must Resist Wedge Initiatives and Divide and Conquer Tactics to Harm Alliances we have built with other communities - But despite our proactive efforts to deal with the larger issues, racist and right-wing organizations and talk show hosts like neocon Michelle Malkin seem to be taking advantage of O'Donnell's ignorance too in trying to drive further wedges between the gay community and Asian Americans. It seems to me that we must continute to challenge O'Donnell's insensitivity and urge her to meet with our organizations while also resisting calculated political efforts to divide us from other communities.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
SFUSD forms new task force to plan pre-K-12th grade language programs
SFUSD Press Release - December 13, 2006 – The San Francisco Unified School District hopes to offer every student the opportunity to graduate from SFUSD fluent in English and at least one other language. On December 12, 2006, San Francisco Unified School District Board members voted unanimously for a resolution that will set up a task force to guide SFUSD in preparing students for success in a multilingual and multicultural world.
"This resolution states that our district values multilingualism – and the benefits of having bilingual people in our diverse communities and our City," said Commissioner Eric Mar.
The resolution presented by Commissioners Eric Mar, Dan Kelly and Norman Yee states "Preparing students for our world of multilingualism and multiculturalism has become an integral and indispensable part of any educational process in most developed countries and in more and more developing countries."
Many studies have proven that young children acquire second and third language skills with ease. Second language acquisition does not interfere with their ability to master their native language. Currently SFUSD graduating seniors are required to take only one year of a second language and kindergarten through eighth grade offerings are available in only some District schools.
"It's an exciting time to be a public school parent in San Francisco . This new resolution outlines the district's commitment to multilingualism where all students K-12 will enjoy some language enrichment whether it's immersion or another program," said SFUSD parent Maria Aldaz.
"Speaking as a parent of a 5th grader at Buena Vista , the city's oldest Spanish immersion program, I've experienced first hand the great education public schools offer in multiculturalism and multilingualism."
The 21 member Blue-ribbon Task Force will include parents, language experts, teachers, school planners, employee groups, business and civic leaders.
More info - http://www.sfusd.edu/
Board OKs Sweeping Language Initiative
In an ambitious plan backed by the school board Tuesday night, SFUSD will aim to give very student in the district the opportunity to be a bilingual or multilingual graduate.
The board passed a unanimous resolution calling for the superintendent to draft a 21-member Blue Ribbon Task Force comprising parents, teachers, school planners, language experts, employee groups, business organizations and civic leaders to develop models for achieving this goal. The resolution also calls for the superintendent to use these findings to develop a plan for multilingual education, which will be presented to the board by Oct 1 of next year.
"This would not necessary be an all-immersion model," said Commissioner Dan Kelly, who authored the resolution along with Commissioners Norman Yee and Eric Mar. Immersion programs are expected to play a big part, however. The resolution builds on one passed earlier this year that called for expanding the district's popular two-way immersion programs and creating programs that could serve upper as well as lower grades.
The initiative approved Tuesday seeks not only to serve native English speakers, but also to help non-native speakers become English proficient while receiving a level of instruction equal to that of their English-speaking peers. The task force will work in concert with the district's Bilingual Community Council, which recently issued a report saying that English language learners are not being adequately served by the district's programs.
The move, board members said, could be an opportunity for the district to create a model for multilingual instruction with wide-ranging influence. "This is really cutting against the grain of an English-only wave that is going on in this country," Mar observed.
An obvious obstacle is funding such a large-scale effort at a time when the district faces dire budgetary constraints. "We're going to aggressively seek out external funding sources," Mar said. "We'll use every means at our disposal to find funds to pay for this program."
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Who are your HEROES? I often begin and end my Ethnic Studies classes with those questions to my SF State Students. One of my heroes - Ms. Yvonne Scarlett Golden passed away on Tuesday of cancer in Daytona Beach Florida where she was Mayor. Ms. Golden was a longtime teacher, principal and African American social justice leader in San Francisco. I met her some 20 years ago when I was working with KPOO 89.5 fm [poor people's radio in the Filmore District] as we fought together against Apartheid in South Africa and in American schools as well. More on her amazing life: Rep. Barbara Lee. Nanette Asimov's Obit from the SF Chronicle.
In his article "Unsung Heroes," Howard Zinn discusses the need for us to find alternative heroes.
Should we not replace the portraits of our presidents, which too often take up all the space on our classroom walls, with the likenesses of grassroots heroes like Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi sharecropper? Mrs. Hamer was evicted from her farm and tortured in prison after she joined the Civil Rights Movement, but she became an eloquent voice for freedom. Or with Ella Baker, whose wise counsel and support guided the young black people in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the militant edge of the civil rights movement in the Deep South?... Our country is full of heroic people who are not presidents or military leaders or Wall Street wizards, but who are doing something to keep alive the spirit of resistance to injustice and war.
Friday, December 08, 2006
9:15 a.m. - 3:45 p.m
More info - http://www.oaklandea.org