Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gang Rape in Richmond Cali: Hispanic teens make their own people look like animals

MSNBC reports here. A history of craziness at this school. And yes--I wonder what professional, educated Hispanics think about this. Same way we feel when black teenagers act like nihilistic animals. Normal kids and families moving out of the school district. Why do we in our ethnic groups protect/excuse the crap? If they were black, I'd hand them over to Glenn Beck or the Klan. They should have never been born. Deepak Chopra says this is an epidemic of emotional retardation in urban communities. That's no excuse, just an explanation. However, the real retardation is of parents, activists (be they black or Latino), politicians, etc. who continuously blame whitefolks or "no jobs" for this. That's way back at the root. This is learned behavior.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Update on my 10/24 blogpost. Check this out: "D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said Monday that any past and current contracts awarded without the approval of the D.C. Council are "legal and binding," three days after he had said the D.C. Housing Authority broke city law by awarding $82 million worth of such contracts, most of them to firms with personal and political ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). "

Now I no longer think Adrian Fenty is an empty track suit. He's Nixon, and Peter Nickles is John Mitchell.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mayor Adrian Fenty: No Corey Booker art thee

[Nat's on tamiflu and quarantined till Monday night...but here's something to chew on till then...]
Been watching "Brick City" on Sundance? It's a documentary series on Newark and its mayor Corey Booker; akin to Season 3 of The Wire without the fiction (sorry The and others, but Nat minted that analogy, not you). Corey Booker--Ivy League mayor, bald-headed and piss colored like yours truly Nat--is the central character, and if indeed fiction scribed by The Bard, he'd be one part Hamlet, one part Henry V. "Once more into the breach/To be or not to be/And Gentlemen in England now a-bed will think themselves accursed and hold their manhood cheap." And he is counterpoint to the Sharpe James paradigm of old school ghettofab urban power politics. Brick City gets its name from, well, bricks of crack, not aging masonry of the projects. Sorry.

Though DC has its bamma chimera, Marion Barry and that old, now inapt moniker "Chocolate City," don't have a Corey Booker. And that's despite all appearances. Nope, no brooding Dane or brave Prince Harry at Agincourt. We have Benedict in "Much Ado About Nothing." That's my photo of Hizzoner, doing what he does best: PR appearances. But hey, he's not Marion Barry. He's not an ACORN boogeyman or slave to "corrupt" unions or homophobic mega-pastors and church ladies hiding their felonious grandchildren in the basement or immigrant activists, right? Nor is he the automaton, slave to the white developers & Congressional Republicans--Anthony Williams, righty-right? And doesn't he and Booker have a sort of siamese twin quality, right-righty-right?
So check out this Washington Post article detailing how DC Attorney General Peter Nickles ("Attorney General" used to be "Corporation Counsel:" an name change artifice designed to make the District appear more like a real state) had to swallow some state-like cronyism and go against his boss, Hizzoner. Seems Fenty's pals have been getting lame-bid city contracts, funnelled through the Housing Authority from the Department of Parks & Recreation. Nickles reluctantly had to fess up that the City Council should have reviewed the contracts, goven their amount. Fenty's choice for DPR, Ximena Hartsock--a young pretty yuppie Latina in the mold of Michelle Rhee (a young, pretty yuppie Korean, as everyone in this Adminstration must be young and pretty and yuppie-like for Da Mayor, who, sorry to say, isn't an Ivy Leaguer like Booker and our President) flipped the contracts through whilst she was "Acting Director." The DC City Council thence refused to confirm her into the Mayor's Cabinet; forsothe, our Shakespearean hero turned around and named her "Interim Director" perpetuity. Now that, fair Mercucio Nickles rubber stamped as conforming to the letter, if not the spirit, of blackletter law. But a silly move nonethless. The City Council was livid. Just as pissed off, if not more, than the mess with the DC Public Schools and Michelle Rhee's recent stupid--NOT Machiavellian--moves with firing new teachers and not pursuing all these bucks supposedly ripe for plucking due to her Teach for America pedigree. See Nat's take in last week's blogpost (and remember fanboys & girls: Nat's downright wingnut when it comes to the deplorable state of the public schools, bamma teachers, Spanish-only classrooms, ghettofab parents and animalistic for me to back the infamous Washington Teachers Union and the City Council, Rhee and her boss must have truly screwed the pooch). Things are bad in Butterscotch City, despite the Obamas, Capitals/resurgent Wizards and bistros/rehabbed row houses in the hood.
Now here's the rub, as Shakespeare would say. Corey Booker has a plan. There's a method to the madness. I don't have a problem with Fenty's method, because I don't see a method at all. He's circumvented the Council to pass legislation and empower his pretty crew. Legislation to do what, however? Build what, engineer where? Improve the life of whom? Lead by innovation, make tough choices, say what might not be popular...indeed sacriledge? Nope. What plan is the prettiest street gang in the District executing? (cricket noise here waiting for answer). Nothing. Empty. Tell me. What he's done is not be Barry, not be (sort of) Williams. Williams at least had a plan: kiss the Control Board's ass, kiss developers' & parking magnate's asses, kiss the Lerner Family's ass and build a sterile baseball stadium so white Virginians & lobbyist clients can watch AA level play from skyboxes...then retire to Belgian beers and savory mussels at Granville Moore's on a gentrified H Street NE. But hey, at least he had a method, a plan. Look, Williams and Barry were opposite sides of the same rusted, crusted coin. Fenty's now showing us that you can indeed have something like a three-sided dice, and when you land on any, you loose.
He's a lot more like Barry than we think. First, just because your cronies are bourgies, go to Rehobeth or the Vineyard and attend First Fridays doesn't mean they aren't like Barry's "Dawgs and Deputy Dawgs." Second, some folk wipe the crack haze from their eyes and pine for the days when Barry "helped" the citizens of DC. Again, you have to point to--what? The Summer Jobs "program" (which Fenty has likewise abused or allowed to be abused). He's about PR. Show up, look accountable. It works for the white folks, but when Nat polled a neighbor or two, and some yuppies over in Cleveland Park where Nat & Mrs find the koi's grub: "Look, he's not Marion Barry." What a positive thing to put on a resume. As for the schools, "I'm starting to have second thoughts. I was impressed with Rhee but things still seem dysfunctional." As for crime, "[Chief Kathy] Lanier is cool, but the cops seem reactive, not proactive. They seem to be depending on snitching but that's not helpful when I am walking my dog with my son, and rounds start flying between teenagers and Central Americans." Okay then. Lose the yuppies, lose the election. You know damn well Titus Andronicus (Council President Gray) is making himself more visible among the gentrifiers...

Yea and alas, fair Adrian is indeed Benedict in Much Ado. Remember what they called Obama--and empty suit? Well Barack ain't an empty suit, and he appears to resist Fenty's repeated attempt to be associated with his a sort of lightskinned JFK-RFK-esque ressurection of 1961-63's "vigga." Obama's a part-time athlete; Fenty's a for-real triathlete. Perhaps that yearning for vigor should be spent on the HIV/AIDS population, suffering under shameful corruption in city program or nonprofit oversight and downright Third World conditions. Adrian Fenty is an empty track suit.
Booker has similar policy conflicts and problems...and a similar millieu--like rapid gentrification in both residential and commerical. But again, there's a method, a program. Power struggles, fiefdown fights--hell yes. But there's an order, a pace, a plan. Bourgies, Section 8 folks, yuppies, gray haired Republicans in Short Hills, Corzine/Christie in Trenton, criminals, Ricans, Dominicans, old school Sopranos at Satriale's Meats, car thieves and even Newark denizen Redman himself seem to get the program, whether they agree or not. You feel like Booker's doing something. He's on stage, circling the muddy battlefield of Agincourt, or agonzing over the usurper-king and momma's murder. He's Corey Booker, not "No-Sharpe James."
Is there a fourth alternative? Beyond Barry-Williams-Fenty. Can't there be something better? Next week, fans: solutions.
Exeunt, Act I

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair: Book News from Der Fatherland

The glam parties are no longer. Celeb authors holding court, Dommy P flowing in lit agent's hotel rooms? Nope. But the mood from Germany and the world's biggest book festival is a tad more upbeat. Why? Are more people reading--and reading more than brain junk food? No. They are giddy over e-books. They are scared about the facing the same "travails" faced by the music industry. Yes, you heard me. Check out the details here. Nothing of substance seems to have arisen. But least no more silly parties, eh? But Nat loves silly parties...

Friday, October 09, 2009

R. Dwayne Betts: it's from stories like this we feel good about Obama's Nobel Prize

R. Dwayne Betts is an award winning poet, scholar, commencement speaker at his 2008 graduation from the University of Maryland, mentor, writing fellow at the Broadleaf Writers Conference in Vermont. Dad. Husband. Profiled in USA Today, on CNN and in The Atlantic. Advocate for incarcerated juveniles. Now author of a memoir. He's also an ex-con, having spent nine years in prison for armed carjacking. He was sixteen going on seventeen when he was arrested.
I had the pleasure of appearing with him at the Capital Bookfest; I had the honor of doing a colloquy with him on the main stage. His memoir, A Question of Freedom, offers no excuses for what he did nor does he wrap himself in his "improvement" and "growth" and "change" and other such "prison to new man" trope. His lyrical voice sings of endurance, possibility and ocean-like motion: ebbs followed by surges. There are no couplets on brutality. As for prison itself there's one chapter with no verbs, adverbs or adjectives. Just names. Men and boys with which he served time. Many are still in prison. They just exist. No motion.
It's refreshing to see he doesn't fall into the almost self-congratulatory, self-centered parable some critics have assigned to writers like Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness. This isn't a "work hard, don't be angry at the white man and you'll succeed" lesson. Nor is this "raw street pain, then triumph." It's a life story, truly--where everything is connected yet unexpected. Like the dingy copy of Dudley Randall's iconic Black Poets which found it's way into his prison cell by chance. And the rest is history.
Of course the Nobel committee will likely ever hear of Betts or his work. But this spirit of possibility is why the President won an Peace Prize. Indeed, what flavors Betts' poetry and A Question of Freedom isn't what he's overcome or where he is now. All are paeons to possibility...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Education Mess in DC--Again?

The Teachers Union files suit (see here in Washington Post). I'm usually not a fan of the WTU, but clearly, this was either an utter lack of planning on the City's part, or a plot. Even the DC City Council is saying um--this just doesn't add up. Indeed, the schools ended up with a surplus when Stimulus funds were added to the pot.

Could it be the only reason we support DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is that we fear going back to the Barry days? It's like choosing between a yeast infection and a bacterial infection...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jesse and Louis at Murdered Kid's Funeral: Problem or Solution

Per the AP: CHICAGO - The funeral of a Chicago teen who was beaten to death on his way home from school drew civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan on Saturday, both calling for an end to youth violence.
OK--how? Where? When? Derrion Albert's savage beating was splashed on Youtube and every TV show from Today to Glenn Beck (for different reasons). Bestselling young poet/author R. Dwayne Betts, himself a ex con, asked at a book festival in Washington, DC: "Did anyone think to jump out the car and help that kid instead of filming a video?"
Jesse and old Louis posturing? Perhaps--nothing real was offered, other than asking what in the hell the city did with the stimulus $$$ aimed at reconstruction in these communities. But that's but one percent of the problem. That's a start. However, the other 99%--the culture and attitudes in these communities.--how do we address that? You've heard it before: "If you don't want to be treated like an animal, stop acting like one."

Beautiful story from Mike Gonzales, Illustrated by Larry Scott

.::literature travel
larry scott

+fiction. michael a. gonzales
+click image to enlarge theking of broadway+story copyright 2005, Michael A. Gonzales+art copyright 2005, Larry Scott

The gray sky over Harlem had been crying since noon.
Swaying from a dead tree inside the stately uptown cemetery, Blaze Garcia was still dressed in his shabby Catholic school uniform and Pro-Keds sneakers the autumn afternoon the fuzz discovered his dead body. Besides the muttering of cops, the only sound heard in the quiet block was his haggard mom’s shrill screams as she stared at her son’s corpse, strange fruit swinging from a thick oak tree branch. Below his dangling feet, Blaze’s black graffiti sketchbook laid open in the brown grass.
Hours earlier, me and the crew had waited for Blaze at Jose’s Candy Store over on 150 th and Broadway. Rowdy as usual we were, in our own minds, a combination of the Wild Bunch without horses, the Wild Ones without motorcycles and the Dirty Dozen without a war.
Clad in our St. Catherine’s monkey suits and rain soaked sneakers, we ruled the candy-shop that had been the crew’s official hang-out spot since forever. Between the flashing lights of the KISS pinball machine and the hypnotic bleeps of the newly installed Space Invaders, shiny quarters flowed like a glimmering river from our hands into the slots. “What’s taking Blaze so long?" Smokey asked, his long fingers flicking the pinball flippers. “I done spent most of my change and I'm 'bout ready to roll."
“He had to finish that damn high school admission essay,” I answered. “Sister Marquez was helping him out.”
In the next few months all of us would be graduating from St. Catherine’s, traveling miles away from home on rickety subway cars or overcrowded buses. No more would we saunter to school together in the chilly mornings, ranting about bony-booty J.J. on Good Times episodes, cool ass Fonzie on Happy Days or riotous Walt Frazier busting butts on the Madison Square Garden court.
Already, I had been accepted into Rice High School, while Voodoo planned to go public domain at G-Dubs and Smokey was going over to Cardinal Hayes to shoot hoops. Crazy about drawing pictures, both Blaze and C.C. had developed elaborate portfolios which they later presented at Music and Art. Of course, we had hoped to occasionally hang-out, playing basketball at the Battlegrounds and popping shit in our favorite movie dive The Tapia. Still, we were well aware that this was the last year our lives would be so simple.
Graffiti comrades Blaze and C.C. often chilled in the scruffy 145th Street station. The sullied porcelain walls were a testament to their personal rebellion. With a small army of virtuoso vandals, they boom box-blasted Grandmaster Dynamite mix-tapes while bombing the underground. In their private world, bombing was the equivalent of breathing; as long as there was a steady flow of paint, the world was a perfect place.
"If you dress flye, you can fool the cops," Blaze advised. "Them pigs think that all graff writers got to look all busted, so ya’ll put on them party clothes and make them walk right past you. While they thinking bombers are bums, we’ll be wreakin’ shit."
Sharply dressed in sheepskin or Corderfield coats, straight-legged Lee jeans and stylish suede kicks, they trooped boldly through the dark, dank tunnel where the subways were laid-up. An underground train yard that extended from 145th Street to a 137th Street, it was where they both painted their first whole car.
With stolen cans of Krylon, Red Devil and Rustoleum, they avoided the 11,000 volts of the third-rail and a loco spic gang that called themselves The Ballbusters. With paint and Pilot markers stashed in their pockets, they inhaled toxic fumes while creating elaborate masterpieces. Caught-up in a desperado mindscape, Blaze and C.C. existed in an alternative universe where aerosol artists were royalty and the rest of the world were merely toys.
Afterwards, chilling at the 125th Street el station, the boisterous boys crowded the splintered platform bench. A few held boxy Kodak cameras, snapping shots of the multicolored pieces when the subway finally roared into the station: Sky High 149, PESO 131, STAN 153, MAG 151, LSD 3, Lee 163, Crash, KOOL AID 131 and countless others. "You watch, one day I'm going to be one of the kings of Broadway," Blaze declared. Dude was pumped with adrenaline during those bench sessions.
"Niggers soon gonna be talking 'bout my style. I'm on some McFadden & Whitehead shit now," he joked. Bugging out, Blaze stood-up and spun on his sneakers like a Soul Train dancer. "No stoppin', no stoppin', no stoppin'!” Everybody laughed. Blaze might have his problems, but that crazy bro always had jokes.
Inside the warmth of the candy shop, I hungrily munched from a greasy bag of Wise chips.
"Maybe Sister Marquez wanted him to do more than make-up that test," Voodoo Ray sniggered, his mouth full of chocolate Hostess Cupcake. Sloppily spraying moist crumbs onto the Space Invaders screen, Voodoo’s teeth were turd brown, but that didn't stop him from shoveling junk food into his trap.
"Have some respect," Smokey snapped. "Don't you know you can go to hell talking bad 'bout a nun?” For a stone cold player, Smokey acted more like a protective priest whenever anyone ranked about Sister Marquez.
Staring at Smokey with amused eyes, Voodoo remained silent. We all knew that dude was like a short fused firecracker, and it didn't take much for him to explode. Crumbling the crinkling chip bag, I said, "You know Blaze could be anywhere.” Everybody nodded. Hell, it wasn't weird for Blaze to drift away on a solo mission, his smooth face lost in a crimson cloud of red spray paint vapors, eyes hovering in front of a blank wall or subway car like a ghetto Picasso.
Blaze and I had been homeboys since the days when we both reeked of spilled milk and soiled diapers, which made me well versed in the sordid history of his bugged-out family. "I’m just tired of all their shit," he once confessed. "I wish I could get away from all the screaming and arguing. You know, do some Huck Finn stunt and just sail down the Hudson on a raft."
On those few occasions when I trooped upstairs to their sloppy sixth floor apartment, angry screams erupted through their dented bedroom door. Over the din of salsa blasting from a battered stereo, Blaze's drunken parents argued about money, the smell of whores on his pop’s body and their two bum sons. Once his bitter mother began ranting that God in heaven was punishing her, Blaze packed his sack and fled the house.
Silently we walked to a 153rd Street, towards Blaze’s sanctuary under the dead oak tree inside Trinity Cemetery. Constructed over a century ago, the gray stones still sparkled under the glimmering sun. Wild ivy scaled the graveyard walls from Broadway to Amsterdam, and a rusty wrought-iron design on top was supposed to keep the riff-raff from climbing over.
Many a twilight, Blaze and I roamed the ancient burial sight, throwing rocks at vicious squirrels and puffing potent bags of Buddha Bless. "Don't you think this is kind of ill?" I asked, as we strolled through the labyrinth of grassy paths. Carrying hefty school bags, we looked for the perfect spot to park our butts. "Why you wanna hang-out in here all the damn time is a mystery."
"You sound like one of those punk kids from a Disney movie," Blaze teased. "Don't worry D., I got a ghost repellent bop gun stashed in my bag," he snickered, squatting next to one of the decayed mausoleums.
"Yo, I'm not afraid. This shit is just weird."
"Chill out," he mumbled, tossing a few new glossy covered comics in my lap. "Shit, it's spookier in my crib than it is in this motherfucker."
"All right, sorry.” Instead of talking, we flipped through the four-color wonderlands of his newest comic books, sharing a taste for the angst-ridden universe that Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack Kirby had constructed. Lately a crew of new jacks that included Berni Wrightson, Jim Steranko, Barry Smith and Neal Adams had taken the graphics to a different level.
Studiously studying their styles, Blaze later incorporated bits of the comic book art into his own pieces. Pulling out his black sketchbook and a pack of magic markers from his bulging book bag, Blaze experimented with different (robotic bubbles, wildstyle characters) letters. The more weed we smoked the crazier were the graffiti theories that tumbled from Blaze’s tongue.
"It's all about style you see," Blaze schooled me, passing me his sketchbook. "Brothers that don't experiment with style just taking up space on the cars. Like that cat Vulcan once told me once, 'Style is the thing that separates the men from the toys.' Maybe all that ordinary shit was cool in the days of Taki 183, but I want to change the world."
"You gonna pass that joint first, ya klingon?" I joked. Although I did my share of scribbling, for me graff writing was not really my can of Coke. Unlike Blaze and C.C., the art thing was lost on me. "Yo, what's up with that scrub Blax 178? Heard ya'll still had beef?" Not that anyone we knew ever saw that dude Blax 178, but for some reason dude had started crossing out Blaze’s tags with his own infantile scrawl.
"Man, that toy scared to surface," Blaze laughed. "He crossed out another one of my pieces on the number one train. Nigga got nerve to put crowns over his name like he thinking he a king or something.”
“Smokey thinks he might be down with the Ballbusters,” I said, referring to the notorious Rican street gang known for jackin’ brothers in the shadowy train stations.
“Man, that punk ain’t down with no Ballbusters,” screamed Blaze. “He just another chump trying to absorb fame off my name.” Blaze beat on his chest like Tarzan. "Man, there can only be one king in this jungle, man. That’s me."
As the sun began to dim, Smokey won another free game of pinball, but passed it off to some goofy kid wearing a Planet of the Apes t-shirt. "Maybe we should walk over to the school and see what the problem is," I suggested.
Moments later, we were standing outside. "It’s freezing out here," C.C. sneered, buttoning his sheepskin coat. “At least the damn rain finally stopped.”
It was almost four o'clock and darkness slowly spread across the dreary sky. Yet, no matter how frosty it might have been, our neighborhood still managed to sustain a festive flavor where hustlers lounged in gaudy rides, grandmothers dragged shopping carts spilling with groceries and sharp dressed corner boys shot dice against a tenement wall. A grisly bum trapped in a trance of intoxication stood next to the Chow Wong’s chicken wing joint, with its sticky bulletproof glass and soiled floor. Bopping in beat-up shoes, the destitute dude weaved in front of a raging bonfire.
"Wait up a sec," shouted Voodoo, stopping in front of the weed spot. His older brother Red had recently moved up in the world from a loose joint hustler hanging in pissy doorways to opening a small black door storefront that specialized in the uptown highs Buddha Bless and Panama Red. It only took a few minutes for him to make the transaction.
"We got that shit now," Voodoo howled, and even Smokey smiled for once. We walked down the street smoking the thick joint as if the shit was legal, yet it was C.C. who first spotted the police cruiser parked on the corner of 153rd Street. A red siren light atop the car rotated in its glass dome.
"What the hell is going down now?" I wondered aloud, and flicked the reefer roach into the gutter. The quiet block was littered with chubby cops and a wagon from the coroner's office.
"Those are his friends!" screamed Mr. Mancini, the Italian janitor from St. Catherine's. “Dese boys…dese boys are his friends.”
Staring at our blood-shot eyes, a baby-faced rookie sternly ushered us through a blue barricade into a surreal circus of chatter and tears. Quietly, as we moved through the whispering crowd, I peeped the swinging silhouette of Blaze's skinny body hanging from the tree. Like one of Smokey's beloved pinball machines, our perfect world slowly tilted.
Vomiting on sight, pieces of potato chip bile splattered on my Pro-Keds.
"My baby, my baby, my baby..." Blaze’s mother babbled madly. “Please God, please God, please God…” Breaking away from her strong husband’s weakening grip, Mrs. Garcia flung herself to the ground, her claw like finger nails scratching the concrete. A few feet away, Sister Marquez stood, silently clutching her rosary beads.
"Get these damn kids over to the side," a gruff black detective snarled. "They don't need to see this shit."
Before we were led away from the rustic gates, a beautiful gold and black butterfly fluttered above Blaze’s head. An exquisite powdery dust shimmered on the bug’s shuddering wings. Indeed, if only for a moment, Blaze had finally earned his shiny crown. "All hail the King of Broadway," I whispered, wiping away the tears.
The End

Harlem native and Brooklyn resident Michael A. Gonzales has written cover stories for Essence, Vibe, XXL, America and Latina. His fiction has appeared in Trace, Russell Simmons' OneWorld, Untold.UK and Brown Sugar: A Collection of Black Erotica. Currently his column On the Corner appears in Newark native Larry Scott currently lives and paints in his adopted home of Maryland. Voted Best Baltimore Visual Artist 2005 by The City Paper, his massive summer show at Sub-Basement Artist Studios entitled The Evolution of Depression was a critical success. Equally at ease with color and simple, spare India ink, Scott is insanely prolific. Larry can be contacted at

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New Book Reviews: Michael Baigent, R Dwayne Betts, John Wasik, Thad Carhart, Frances Kunreuther

Just what you expect from Nat--pertinent, no b.s., honest assessments. Coming soon:

Michael Baigent's (who some accused Dan Brown of plagiarizing) Racing Toward Armageddon

R. Dwayne Betts's inspirational memoir of rising above prison life A Question of Freedom

John Wasik's study on Obama's health care effort The Audacity of Help
Kunreuther/Kim/Rodriguez's text on running nonprofits Working Across Generations

and Thad Carhart's long awaited novel on Sacagewa's mixed blood son (she and him, as a baby, are on your dollar coins!) Across the Endless River