Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Before I loved you, love, nothing was my own:
I wavered through the streets, among
nothing mattered or had a name:
the world was made of air, which waited.
I knew rooms full of ashes,
tunnels where the moon lived,a
rough warehouses that growled 'get lost',
questions that insisted in the sand.
Everything was empty, dead, mute,
fallen abandoned, and decayed:
inconceivably alien, it all
belonged to someone else - to no one:
till your beauty and your poverty
filled the autumn plentiful with gifts.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Masculinity, the New Woman, and Power in 1910s Popular Media
by Carolyn Kitch, Northwestern University
ABSTRACT: During the 1910s, the final decade of the suffrage drive, women's social, economic, and professional opportunities seemed to broaden dramatically at the same time that political leaders and psychologists decried the "feminization" of manhood. The spectre of a world in which domineering women emasculated powerless men inspired a visual motif that ran throughout popular culture: the pairing of large women and tiny men. Through humor, explosive notions were discussed but then dismissed. This rhetorical analysis, which draws on hegemony theory, explores the symbolic cultural work of such imagery in mass media, especially magazines, at a pivotal moment in American gender relations.
During the early decades of the twentieth century, American women's social, political, and economic opportunities seemed to broaden dramatically. More and more young women entered higher education and the professions (1), while Progressive-era reform work and the women's-club movement offered a chance for married women also to enter the public sphere.
At no time did lasting change in gender roles seem more likely than in the 1910s, the final decade of the suffrage drive. The vote was not the only potential gain for women during this era: radicals who called themselves "feminists" pushed for reforms in the institution of marriage, the American popularity of the works of Freud prompted a public acknowledgement of women's sexuality, and a new birth-control movement enabled women to express that sexuality more freely and safely.
The same period saw extensive public discourse on the role of men in American society as well. This national preoccupation with masculinity--what historian John Higham called "a muscular spirit" in America (2)--was a response partly to women's advances and partly to racial and ethnic population changes due to massive waves of immigration. New organizations such as the Boy Scouts embraced President Theodore Roosevelt's vision of the "strenuous life" to help boys and men avoid becoming "over-civilized." Experts in the new social science of psychology believed that athletics and outdoor adventure would help to remove young men from the "feminizing" influence of overbearing mothers and female schoolteachers. (3)
During the 1910s, Americans' hopes for, and anxieties about, changing gender roles were frequently debated in magazine and newspaper articles. These concerns also provided a recurrent theme for visual communication. The spectre of a world in which domineering and destructive women emasculated weak and powerless men inspired a distinctive motif that ran through various forms of popular culture: the pairing of large (though usually beautiful) women and little, often tiny, men. While this motif was always presented as a joke, it never was only a joke.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
CREATES WORLD’S LONGEST MAD LIB®
Dayton, Ohio – Call me Ishmael. Or Marsha Brady. Or, maybe, Mr. Potato Head.
Using the literary classic Moby Dick, nearly 200 writers registered for the upcoming University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop (www.HumorWriters.org) have created the world's longest ''Mad Lib®." A Mad Lib is a story with blank spaces where words have been left out. The leader asks the other players to provide words to fill in the blanks but doesn’t tell them what the story is about. The result is humorous story with lines such as, “Call me Mr. Potato Head.” Mad Libs is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc..
Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry will give the opening address at the sold-out writers’ workshop, which is held every other year to teach and encourage humor and human interest writers. The world record will be announced at the 5:30 p.m. dinner before his 8:15 p.m. talk on Thursday, March 23, at the Dayton Marriott Hotel, 1414 S. Patterson Boulevard.
A typical Mad Lib has 10 to 20 blank spaces and is played with three to four players. The Moby Dick Mad Lib features more than 1,100 blanks and is believed to be the longest Mad Lib ever created. The blanks were filled in by 197 attendees of the March 23-25 workshop.
“I think Herman Melville would approve of using Moby Dick as the base for the world’s longest Mad Lib,” said Tim Bete, director of the workshop. “After all, Melville wrote, ‘A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing.’”
Some of the funniest lines in the Moby Dick Mad Lib include:
• “Tonya Harding, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant rottweiler.”
• “My going on this whaling sissy, formed part of the sultry bobblehead of Antonio Banderas that was drawn up a long time ago.”
• “Fifty years ago did Viagra kill fifteen whales between a sunrise and a sunset. And that Brad Pitt -- so like a corkscrew now -- was flung in Microsoft seas, and run away with by a whale, years afterwards slain off the Cape of Blanco.”
Price and Stern are both well known for their comedy writing. In the1950s, Price developed cartoons called “Droodles,” which were turned into a television show. He also worked with Bob Hope on a newspaper humor column. Stern was a successful television writer, who worked with Jackie Gleason on scripts for the “Honeymooners.” He also wrote for the “Phil Silvers Show” and “The Steve Allen Show,” and he wrote and produced the original “Get Smart” television series.
Why create the World’s longest Mad Lib?
“We wanted to give workshop attendees something to write about and what could be a better cure for writer’s block than helping set a world record,” Bete said. “The attendees have an incredible combined vocabulary, suggesting words such as ‘bodacious,’ ‘flammable’ and ‘aardvark.’ And I think Dave Barry would agree that the “Bodacious, Flammable Aardvarks” is a great name for a rock band.”
Humorist Erma Bombeck graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949 and credited UD with preparing her for life and work, for making her believe she could write. Her syndicated column, "At Wit's End," appeared in more than 900 newspapers. She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times' bestsellers list. Bombeck also appeared regularly on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" for 11 years. She was still writing her column for Universal Press Syndicate and developing a new book for HarperCollins Publishers when she died from complications of a kidney transplant on April 22, 1996.
“This is probably the first and last world record for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop,” said Bete. “The largest simultaneous whoopee cushion sit is 3,614 participants and we can’t compete with that – but we could create a Mad Lib about it.”
Download the blank Moby Dick Mad Lib (Word file)
Download the filled-in Moby Dick Mad Lib (Word file)
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Friday, February 24, 2006
Tsze-chang asked Confucius, saying, "In what way should a person in authority act in order that he may conduct government properly?"
The Master replied, "Let him honor the five excellent, and banish away the four bad, things;-then may he conduct government properly."
Tsze-chang said, "What are meant by the five excellent things?" The Master said, "When the person in authority is beneficent without great expenditure; when he lays tasks on the people without their repining; when he pursues what he desires without being covetous; when he maintains a dignified ease without being proud; when he is majestic without being fierce."
Tsze-chang said, "What is meant by being beneficent without great expenditure?" The Master replied, "When the person in authority makes more beneficial to the people the things from which they naturally derive benefit;-is not this being beneficent without great expenditure? When he chooses the labors which are proper, and makes them labor on them, who will repine? When his desires are set on benevolent government, and he secures it, who will accuse him of covetousness?
Whether he has to do with many people or few, or with things great or small, he does not dare to indicate any disrespect;-is not this to maintain a dignified ease without any pride? He adjusts his clothes and cap, and throws a dignity into his looks, so that, thus dignified, he is looked at with awe;-is not this to be majestic without being fierce?"
Tsze-chang then asked, "What are meant by the four bad things?"
The Master said, "To put the people to death without having instructed them;-this is called cruelty. To require from them, suddenly, the full tale of work, without having given them warning;-this is called oppression. To issue orders as if without urgency, at first, and, when the time comes, to insist on them with severity;-this is called injury. And, generally, in the giving pay or rewards to men, to do it in a stingy way;-this is called acting the part of a mere official."
The Master said, "Without recognizing the ordinances of Heaven, it is impossible to be a superior man.
"Without an acquaintance with the rules of Propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.
"Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men."
Thursday, February 23, 2006
National study finds Americans value, see future need for public libraries
(CHICAGO) A new national study from the American Library Association (ALA) finds that Americans overwhelmingly are very satisfied with their public libraries, agree more public library funding is needed and believe public libraries will be needed in the future. Two-thirds of adult Americans (roughly 135 million people) visited their public libraries last year.
KRC Research & Consulting conducted the study, which interviewed 1,003 adult Americans in a national random-sample telephone survey conducted January 3-13. The estimated margin of error is +/-3.1 percent.
Libraries and librarians – as well as the services they offer – are clearly valuable to Americans. Findings show that:
* Seven out of 10 Americans report being extremely or very satisfied with their public libraries – up 10 points from 2002.
* More than 8 in 10 Americans (85 percent) agree that their public libraries deserve more funding – including 58 percent who strongly agree.
* More than half of survey respondents (52 percent) believe $41 or more should be spent. Americans currently provide, on average, about $25 per year per person in local tax support for public libraries.
* Ninety-two percent of survey respondents believe libraries will still be needed in the future – even with all of the information available on the Internet.
* More than one-third of Americans put the benefits of libraries at the top of the public services list – as compared to schools, roads and parks – up 6 points from 2002.
The more frequent the user, the more satisfied she or he is with libraries. In fact, Americans’ use of library services has grown in almost every category – from taking out books (up 14 points) to consulting with librarians (up 7 points) to taking out CDs, videos and computer software (up 13 points) to attending cultural programs like speakers or movie showings (up 8 points).
Nearly all Americans (96 percent) agree that because public libraries provide free access to materials and resources, they play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed.
“Because libraries offer free access to all — with help from professional librarians — they bring opportunity to all and are a vital part of a civil society,” said ALA President Michael Gorman. “Investment in libraries is an investment in education and lifelong learning.”
Sixty-one percent of library users report using the computer in some way – including checking the online catalog, connecting to the Internet and writing a paper or preparing a resume – when they visited the library. African American and Hispanic adults are significantly more likely to use their public library for job searches or writing resumes than Caucasian adults.
“Public libraries are essential components of vibrant and educated communities,” Gorman said. “There are more than 16,000 public libraries in this country. I encourage everyone to check out his or her local library in person or online. Your library card is the smartest card in your wallet.”
Nearly two-thirds of Americans own library cards and report that taking out books and using computers/Internet are the top services they use in public libraries. The most frequent library users are women, younger adults (ages 25 to 44), college-educated adults and parents of younger children. Adults in the Midwest and West are more likely to have visited their public library than their counterparts in the South and Northeast.
For more information on this study, please visit www.ala.org/ala/ors/reports/2006KRCReport.pdf.
The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world with more than 66,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to another of Al Jazeera's most prominent journalists, Ahmed Mansur. He was in Fallujah in April of 2004 during one of the bloodiest assaults by U.S. forces in Iraq. He reported from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. He was brutally beaten while covering the elections in Egypt just months ago. He's author of 17 books and is the host of a prominent talk show on Al Jazeera called Without Borders. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
AHMED MANSUR: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: It is good to have you with us. People in the United States have not heard very much about Fallujah, either what happened in November of 2004 or before that—April 2004. You are one of the journalists who were inside. What happened?
AHMED MANSUR: A lot of things happened. I think all of the people around the world don't know, maybe only one percent about this has happened in Fallujah. When I was in Fallujah and Al Jazeera team in April 2004, I hoped that in this time thousands of journalists is there for every street, every house, everywhere to introduce some of the truth or part of the truth to the people around the world. I think I stay one week, but all of the things I did in Fallujah, all of the things I introduced to the world via pictures and reports, maybe one percent only from this things happened there.
AMY GOODMAN: What did you see inside during that week that you were there, and what was the response of the U.S. forces to you reporting from Fallujah?
AHMED MANSUR: When I try enter Fallujah, every road to Fallujah closed. I try from maybe seven roads going to Fallujah. Everything is closed. United States force was closed everything. But when -- I lost in hope to go inside Fallujah. But I have a chance. I saw someone come within desert -- desert between Fallujah and outside. I asked him: ‘Where you come?’ He told me, ‘I come from Fallujah this way. American forces don't know this way.’ I asked him to take me and my crew to inside. He refused in the first, but he agreed after that. We talked with him a lot of time. He agreed.
Within 20 minutes we become inside Fallujah. It is good chance for us. And we are only our media team inside Fallujah. American forces, you know, don't allow to anyone to go out or go inside Fallujah, this siege around the city. It was there in Fallujah on this time more than 300,000 people -- women -- people -- this is population of Fallujah inside this. And after two, three days, everything become little—food and petrol, and everything for life become -- electric from the streets, and this is -- crafts destroy a lot of houses because a lot of people fight against the United States force. Around the city, they destroy everything. Everything was destroyed -- houses and a lot of things. Everything were introduced via pictures and report to the people
AMY GOODMAN: Everything you filmed?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. Everything we saw, everything we can -- everything -- every places we can go. A lot of places we can't go because this is battle between -- this is guerrilla people and United States. In some parts of the city, we can't go. But every place we can go to this place we have pictures for children, women, old people, and houses destroyed and a lot of injured people and the people killed—everything were introduced by Al Jazeera. But I remember, this is third day for siege, family, 25 person, women, children, old people killed via rocket. The rocket destroyed the house, and all family killed, only one survived We have the picture and introduce it to the world. Everyone saw it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your –
AHMED MANSUR: But it is only – it is only one case. You can imagine how a lot of people happening this on – more than [inaudible] houses on Fallujah.
AMY GOODMAN: So your images were countering what the U.S. military was saying about only killing insurgents. Your pictures ran counter to that. They told a very different story.
AHMED MANSUR: Yes, I think daily maybe we send from 30 to 50 minutes pictures from a lot of places from Fallujah. I have two cameramen and me. And we can’t go to everywhere, but when some people told us some rocket or tank has destroyed some houses, we try go to this place and take some pictures and send it to Al Jazeera. And this is broadcast to the world. I don't -- some of our cameramen went to some places and have some footage and some photo for this battle between insurgents and American forces. But this plane was destroy a lot of things, and rockets destroy a lot of houses and people.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Ahmed Mansur, one of the leading journalists of Al Jazeera, was there covering the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, covered the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, and then the invasion of Iraq, was in Fallujah in April 2004. I have a question to ask about a man, an Al Jazeera reporter, who is being held at Guantanamo, Sami al-Hajj. Now, do you know him?
AHMED MANSUR: I know him like anyone. I don't meet him at all.
AMY GOODMAN: You have learned that in the interrogations of this Al Jazeera reporter, they have questioned him about you?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. The lawyer told me, “They asked Sami about you one hundred times, more than one hundred times.”
AMY GOODMAN: Sami al-Hajj's attorney told you?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. Not Sami al-Hajj. Sami al-Hajj told his lawyer, and the lawyer told me. I had interview with him. And he told me, “They asked Sami about you more than one hundred times.” I don't know why, but I think they angry, they very angry. The United States, they very angry with me from this Fallujah battle. When at April 8, this spokesman of United States forces, a general -- I remember him. I know him very well. He accused me on – lie, Ahmed Mansur is lie and all his report is false. Spokesman of United States Foreign Ministry talk about me a second time, maybe April 17, and told, Ahmed Mansur, all his words from Fallujah is false.
So, I become a number one of – they maybe put me -- if Bush says that anyone not with us is against us, maybe they put me against them. But I was in Fallujah to introduce the truth to the people. This is my job, and this is my work. I introduce picture to people to see what is United States forces doing on civilian people in Fallujah. So I think they try to destroy me, destroy my job, destroy my life, because only I am only there.
I don’t know why they ask Sami about me more than one hundred times.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed Mansur, you also covered the elections in Egypt –
AHMED MANSUR: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: -- this past – was it – November. Can you describe what happened to you?
AHMED MANSUR: I should have an interview with – this is opposition leader in Egypt, Dr. [inaudible] I go down to Al Jazeera office to meet him outside. A lot of people come to me and shake hand me, and some of the people ask me photo, like any star working on TV. And another one come to me – I was talk Dr. -- to my guest on phone. I asked him why you are late?
Someone come and asked me, “Are you Ahmed Mansur? I don't answer him. And I asked him to wait to finish my phone. After that, when I finish, he back again. “Are you Ahmed Mansur?” I told him, “Yes.” He began hit me on my face, and another one was behind me, butt me on my head, too, and they -- before he hit me, he told me, “Why you talk about Al-Qaddafi on your program, bad words about Al-Qaddafi?” I think it is message to [inaudible], who sent them to hit me. Within 30 seconds only, they hit me and run.
AMY GOODMAN: So your face was very bruised.
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. My face and my hair and my head, too. I stay maybe three weeks under treatment.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet you went on the air?
AHMED MANSUR: My program was after 20 minutes only. I go to my program and --
AMY GOODMAN: Completely a mess from being --
AHMED MANSUR: Yes, yes. I appear live on my program. I introduce -- complain to Interior Ministry. I told him this is two people try kill me maybe, because they strong -- too strong, and everything was blending very good.
AMY GOODMAN: So you issued a challenge on your program that night and demanded that the Egyptian authorities investigate who beat you?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes, they investigate, but everything is closed. Because I -- this is week after before this interview my guest should be Ministry of Parliament on the government.
AMY GOODMAN: You believe that the Egyptian government was behind the beating?
AHMED MANSUR: Yes. I don't believe -- I don't accuse anyone, but this is part of this story because some newspapers write about it, maybe some people don't like Ahmed and the government and they do that and this is some journalists around the world listen to Egyptian government asked him about this.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we're going to have to leave it there, though we will continue certainly to cover your story and to bring you tomorrow more on Al Jazeera. I want to thank you very much, Ahmed Mansur, for joining us.
AHMED MANSUR: Thank you.
Ali Fadhil is perhaps best known for his documentary film on the aftermath of the US siege on Falluja in November, 2004. In the assault, American and Iraqi forces surrounded Fallujah, expelling the city’s residents, bombing hospitals and shelling buildings. We broadcast excerpts of the documentary, produced last year by Guardian Films for Channel Four News.
Whole neighborhoods were attacked and relief workers were denied access. When the dust had settled, 10,000 buildings were destroyed with thousands more seriously damaged. At least 100,000 residents were permanently displaced and over 70 U.S. soldiers were killed. The Iraqi death toll remains unknown, but is well into the hundreds. Ali Fadhil compiled the first independent reports from the devastated city, where he found scores of unburied corpses, rabid dogs and an embittered population. In a Democracy Now! U.S. exclusive, we air an excerpt of the documentary. It was produced last year by Guardian Films for Channel Four News, it's called "Fallujah - The Real Story."
AMY GOODMAN: In a Democracy Now! U.S. exclusive, today we air an excerpt of this documentary. It was produced by Guardian Films for Channel 4 News in Britain. This is Fallujah: The Real Story.
ALI FADHIL: Fallujah has been closed as a city for two months. Rahena is one of the first Fallujans to go back home since the Americans occupied the city. She wanted to show me what had been left behind.
RAHENA: Look at it! Furniture, clothes thrown everywhere. They smashed up the cupboards and they wrote something bad on the dressing table mirror.
ALI FADHIL: She doesn't speak English, so I explained to her what the words mean.
RAHENA: I knew it. I knew those words were insulting.
ALI FADHIL: Every Fallujan knows this song. It was written after the war and is full of hatred towards the Americans. It is impossible to live in the city at the moment. There is no water, no electricity, and no sewage. It's almost a city of ghosts. Most of the 350,000 people who used to live there now live in refugee camps. I wanted to get inside the city, but it was closed. So I started by looking for Fallujans in the surrounding villages and camps. I began my journey in Habaniya, 35 kilometers west of Fallujah. This place used to be a tourist resort. Saddam’s own son, Uday, used to come here for his holidays. People here are cutting down trees and making fires to keep warm. Abu Rabiyah has been living here for two months now.
ABU RABIYAH: We’re meant to be the country of oil, aren’t we? But look at me. I'm measuring the kerosene for this lamp by the drop. We have no heat here. We're using wood for the fire.
ALI FADHIL: These people are freezing. They have received no food aid for three months. They are meant to be voting on January the 30th.
FALLUJAN REFUGEE: We won't vote. We just won’t vote. They must take us back to our houses first.
ALI FADHIL: Inside one of the tents, I met Hamid Allawi. I asked him if he had received his voting papers.
HAMID ALLAWI: No, I didn't receive them, and I don't want them anyway. None of the Fallujans here got their voting coupons.
ALI FADHIL: Suddenly, we were told that some people were unhappy that we were filming. It felt dangerous, and we had to leave. We go straight to Saklawiya, a village just north of Fallujah. At Friday prayers, the talk is all about the elections.
SHEIKH JAMAL AL RAHAMIDI: When they hand out food rations, they should give out voting papers as well. Why isn't the government giving the people their vote?
ALI FADHIL: Sheik Jamal al Rahamidi is a powerful man. Many Fallujan refugees come to listen to his sermons. He gets very emotional when he talks about last November’s attack.
SHEIKH JAMAL AL RAHAMIDI: And I saw, with my own eyes, the Holy Koran thrown on the floor of the mosque by those sons of pigs and monkeys. The Americans were treading on the Holy Koran, and it broke my heart.
ALI FADHIL: I wanted to speak to the sheikh, because back in November, the Americans had asked him to remove bodies from Fallujah. I wanted to know what he had seen.
SHEIKH JAMAL AL RAHAMIDI: The Americans had marked the houses that had dead bodies with them with a cross. That’s where we found the martyrs. In my opinion, these people were civilians, not terrorists. They were men who had stayed behind in the city to protect their homes. I say this because we found the bodies in groups of two or three or four. It was Ramadan, and people would naturally gather together for Iftar, the first meal after fasting. We found the bodies right behind their front doors. It looked to me as if they had opened their front doors to the Americans and had been immediately shot dead. That's how we found them.
ALI FADHIL: Sheikh Jamal took me to a cemetery on the edge of the city. He showed me where he had buried the bodies. He claimed none of them had weapons with them and that he had found an old man of ninety who had been shot dead in his kitchen. The gravestones had no names, only numbers. I counted 76 of them. The Americans claim they killed 1,200. So even if these people were insurgents, where are the other graves? I wanted to get inside Fallujah itself, but to do that, I have to get the new Fallujah identity card. Everyone who wants to return to the city now has to get this I.D. from the American military. To most Iraqis, this seems crazy. It's the only place in Iraq where you need an I.D. in order to get into your own city.
MAJOR PAUL HACKETT: This card will allow them to get back into the city in a controlled, organized manner.
ALI FADHIL: But the men queuing for the card told me they saw it as another punishment given to them by the Americans. Fallujans have always been so proud of their city. Concepts such as honor and dignity matter a lot here, so to be fingerprinted by an American soldier just to go home is embarrassing. That's why these men are covering their faces.
FALLUJAN: This is just another humiliation for people of Fallujah. I think they're doing it on purpose just to humiliate us.
MAJOR PAUL HACKETT: My understanding is ultimately they can hang their card on a wall and keep it as a souvenir, but eventually, not too distant in the future, that card is going to be unnecessary for access to Fallujah.
ALI FADHIL: Finally, we made it into Fallujah. The first thing we noticed was graffiti saying “Long live the mujahedeen!” I couldn't believe it. The whole city is destroyed. It was a big shock. I wasn't prepared for this much destruction. I was here just before the American attack. It's hard to believe this is the same city. Fallujah used to be one of the few modern Iraqi cities, and now there is nothing. The only people I see are Fallujans trying to work out where they used to live, people like Abu Sallah. This is all that remains of his home.
ABU SALLAH: Look at these mattresses here. These were from my son's wedding! This was my son's room. And look here, this was our kitchen. This is the sugar bag that we left in the kitchen right here. If Allawi really wants us to vote in the elections, then let him come here first and look at the state we're living in.
ALI FADHIL: I could smell bodies beneath the rubble. I went to the old city of Fallujah. This was the place where the four American contractors were brutally lynched last March. The Americans don't allow anyone to go here. They say it's not safe. It is a scary place, but these Fallujan people insist on taking me somewhere. They want to show me something really gruesome. I counted four dead bodies. They were rotting. It looks like these people were shot while they were sleeping. It's very common for friends in Iraq to sleep in this way together. There are no signs of a gun battle, no bullet holes. I could not see any weapons, no obvious signs that they were insurgents. I'm told they were civilians. Nearby, in another house, another dead body. But here, there were definite signs that this was an insurgent. There is an R.P.G. launcher on the roof of his car and a booby trap bomb by the door. In both cases, the corpses have been eaten by hungry dogs. I see a lot of dead dogs in the city. There is a serious outbreak of rabies.
FALLUJAN DOCTOR: We have seen in our hospital many, many cases suspected to be rabies. You know we have no toxin or vaccine in our hospital, so most of the patients die. About 50, 50 cases.
ALI FADHIL: Dr. Chichen and his colleagues are living in Fallujah’s main hospital. This city is empty so they have no patients. Their only job is to recover the rotting corpses and to bring them for burial. When I went to the main cemetery in Fallujah, they were still burying their dead. Two months after the fighting started, we still don't know how many Fallujans died. But we do know the American casualty figures. 51 U.S. soldiers were killed and over 400 were wounded.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Fadhil's documentary, Fallujah: The Real Story, produced by Guardian Films for Channel 4 in Britain. This, a U.S. exclusive, an excerpt of that film. Ali, your conclusion at the end of the film, which we are not playing right now?
ALI FADHIL: Yeah, it's about the defeat of the insurgency that the U.S. forces had claimed at that time, because they said ‘This is a big win for us against the insurgency in Iraq,’ which actually wasn't true. With the time of the raid on Fallujah, there was exclusive and enormous military operations in different areas in Iraq, especially, for example, Baghdad and Mosul. There were, for example, the raid -- the explosion, the suicidal explosion inside one of the military camps -- big American military camps in Nineveh, north of Iraq, and everywhere actually. So, the conclusion was that this is not true. The Americans -- the insurgents, sorry, they just separated out from Fallujah. They just fled Fallujah a few days before the invasion, the American invasion on Fallujah.
AMY GOODMAN: You won the Foreign Press Association award for this, Amnesty International’s award, as well as others, and you've come here with a Fallujan I.D. Now, it was talked about in the film by an American major, American Major Paul Hackett who is now running for Senate in Ohio. He's who you interviewed there.
ALI FADHIL: Yes, well, I didn't know, actually. But I met him there in Fallujah, in a camp where they do these I.D.s. American soldiers sitting beside computers and having computer machines and printers. So they print kind of I.D.s, where they take the print of the iris, they take the print of your – the ten fingers, and then they give you this I.D., which is -- you can't get in or out of Fallujah without it. It's with a picture and you can say until now, this very day, Fallujans can't get in or out of their city without this I.D.
AMY GOODMAN: And it’s a photograph of you with a bar code at the top, with your name written in English.
ALI FADHIL: Exactly, so it can be read by the computer, and -- of course, I'm not a Fallujan. And I had it by coincidence. I don't know how; it was very exclusive. You can see here the type of the Fallujah -- of the personnel holding this I.D. is “C,” which is contractor. So I was allowed to get in as a contractor inside Fallujah with the cameras and everything. I -- before I come to America, for a few days, I met two Fallujans, friends of mine I made through this film, in Amman in my way to America. And I asked them about the situation there. And they just said it's just the same when you left it. It's a siege, nobody allowed to get in or out without this I.D. And they're having problems with the Americans, the Iraqi forces and with the insurgents. So nothing changed, actually.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you get these images, for example, the bodies at the end, in their homes, dead? How did you get in?
ALI FADHIL: Well, the thing is, that was the north part of the city, which is known in Fallujah as the Souk. It was banned, and there were tapes, yellow tapes saying, ‘Danger Don't Cross!’ These were areas announced by the military forces. If you cross it, then it's a green light for anybody to shoot you. So some Fallujans actually said, “You have to come to this place. You have to. Come with us. We'll get you, don't worry. We'll take care of your safety.” Some of the few Fallujans who got in these days because these were the first days where Fallujan civilians were allowed to get in to see their houses. So they took me and they sneaked me through the small alleys and rows, and I found myself in these places and this house, and actually, I got a shot from a sniper on me on the top of one of the buildings when I got the shot for the mosque, the dome of the mosque.
AMY GOODMAN: You're an un-embedded journalist.
ALI FADHIL: Un-embedded. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Compare that situation to the other reporting you're seeing from there?
ALI FADHIL: Well, if you remember, at that time, all of the reports came about Fallujah it was from the journalists embedded with the military forces, because they didn’t allow anybody to get in -- any media to get in. And everyone who wants to get in, he has to be embedded with the U.S. forces. So I would say this film is really, really something. It means a lot of things to me, and it's kind of exclusive in the way it's been done, in the way the access we got inside the city, because it was dangerous, not only from the military forces, from the American forces, but also from the insurgents inside.
AMY GOODMAN: We only have 30 seconds. But you're a general practitioner. You were a doctor in Iraq. Why did you put that down to pick up a camera?
ALI FADHIL: The main reason is because, while I'm sitting in 2003, I returned back to Iraq. I was in exile in Yemen, practicing also medicine. When I returned back, I found myself just writing death certificates and doing nothing to my patients. So I decided to – I mean, I was in a total despair, so I was ready to do anything. When I was visited by a Guardian reporter, he asked me to work as a translator with him. When I started that, I found that the media is much, much stronger than medicine.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ali Fadhil, I want to thank you for being with us. Now coming to the United States to go to journalism school at New York University with your family. Welcome to the United States.
ALI FADHIL: Thank you.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Democracy is masochistic
because Government is unnecessary
Get rid of the unnecessary
and you are free
of that which taxes you to vote
... whether you want to or not
... Rid of Government
you get the bankers off your back
and the deficit goes begging
instead of a job hunter...
blacks gain most (?):
they don't have to suffer
that police protection
which they never have...
Monday, February 20, 2006
AMY GOODMAN: This is an excerpt of my on-stage interview with Alice Walker.
AMY GOODMAN: I was just saying to Alice that I think one of the last times that I saw her was right before the invasion. It was International Women's Day, March 8, 2003. She was standing in front of the White House with Maxine Hong Kingston, Terry Tempest Williams, and a number of other women. It wasn't a large group, about 15 or so women, and they stood there, arms locked, and the police told them to move, and they said no. And they all got arrested. We were trying to get their message out on community radio. I was interviewing them on cell phone. The police didn't appreciate that. So, really, the last time that I saw her was in the prison cell with her. But, Alice, you said that day, as we were in the paddy wagon or in the police wagon, that it was the happiest day of your life. Why?
ALICE WALKER: Well, you were there. I have so much admiration for this woman and so much love for Amy. She is so incredibly wonderful, and she is doing such good work in the world. And I feel so proud of her. So I was very happy that she had appeared to talk to us about why we were there. Nobody else was asking. And so, there we were, arrested in this patrol thing, and actually I did feel incredibly happy, because what happens when you want to express your outrage, your sorrow, your grief -- grief is basically where we are now, just bone-chilling grief -- when you're able to gather your own forces and deal with your own fears the night before, and you arrive, you show up, and you put yourself there, and you know that you're just a little person -- you know, you're just a little person -- and there's this huge machine that's going relentlessly pretty much all over the world, and then you gather with all of the other people who, you know, are just as small as you are, but you're together, and you actually do what you have set out to do, which is to express total disgust, disagreement, disappointment about the war in Iraq, about the possibility of it starting up again, all of these children, many of them under the age of 15, about to be just terrorized, brutalized, and killed -- so many of them -- so, to be able to make any kind of gesture that means that the people who are about to be harmed will know that we are saying we don't agree, just the ability to do that made me so joyful. I was completely happy. And I think that we could learn to live in that place of full self-expression against disaster and self-possession and happiness.
AMY GOODMAN: You have had a continued relationship with the police officer who put handcuffs on you.
ALICE WALKER: Yes, because he really didn't want to do it. And I could see that they really did not want to arrest us. And he, this African American man, truly did not want to arrest me. And I totally understand that. Would you want to arrest me? No. No, no. You would not. So even as they were handcuffing me, they were sort of apologizing like, oh, you know -- because I also thought that you put the handcuffs like that, you know, your hands in front, but they put them behind you. I hadn't really noticed that before. And so, there was some amount of apology.
And then later, after we were released, you know, they take your shoes, so he was – I was there trying to put my shoes back on, and he came over and he got down on his knees, and he said, “Let me help you.” And I said, “Sure.” And I put my foot out, and he helped me with my shoes, and we started talking about his children. Well, first of all, he told me about his wife. He said, “You know, when I told my wife that I had arrested you, she was not thrilled.” And so, then I asked him about his family, and he told me about his children, and I told him I write children's books. And so he said, “Oh, you do? Because, you know, there's nothing to read. The children are all watching television.” I said, “That's true.” So it ended up with me sending books to them and feeling that this is a very good way to be with the police.
And can I just extrapolate a little bit on the police and us? Because I realized fairly recently -- I went to Houston to the Astrodome to take books and other things to the people, and the police, a lot of them also African Americans, but, you know, many other kinds of people, as well, they came over. And it was very clear that they, like the people who had lost their homes, really wanted some books. But they felt like they, as one of them said to me, “I really would like a book, but I'm not the people. I'm the police.” And I said to him, and then some of the people said that, too, they said, “You know, these people are the police, they're not the people.”
However, I said to the people and to the police that the police are the people, and we have to remember that the police are the people as well as the people. And so, you know, there they were, these big guys who probably had not had anybody offer them a book to read in years, if ever. They had gone into the army and into the police force because they did not have an education. That's part of why they're police. And so, I really feel very strongly that as we go into this activity, more of it, which we will undoubtedly have to do, that we remember even when the police are acting really, as we used to say down South, ugly, that we remember that they are also the people and that this is – you know, that we understand how they got to be the way that they are, and to try to hold that place of seeing them as the people, no matter what is happening.
AMY GOODMAN: I was reading Evelyn White's biography of you, called Alice Walker: A Life, and she goes back to 1967, and you had just come to New York, and you were submitting an essay to American Scholar. It was 1967, so you were about, what, 23 years old. And it was entitled “The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?” And you include it in your book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. You wrote it in one sitting. You won first prize. It was published. “The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?” Can you talk about the Civil Rights Movement to the antiwar movement? The antiwar movement, what good is it?
ALICE WALKER: Well, as I was saying about the Civil Rights Movement is that sometimes you can't see tangible results. You cannot see the changes that you’re dreaming about, because they're internal. And a lot of it has to do with the ability to express yourself, your own individual dream and your own individual road in life. And so, we may never stop war. We may never stop war, and it isn’t likely that we will, actually. But what we're doing as we try to stop war externally, what we're trying to do is stop it in ourselves. That's where war has to end. And until we can control our own violence, our own anger, our own hostility, our own meanness, our own greed, it’s going to be so, so, so hard to do anything out there. So I think of any movement for peace and justice as something that is about stabilizing our inner spirit so that we can go on and bring into the world a vision that is much more humane than the one that we have dominant today.
AMY GOODMAN: Alice Walker speaking in Oakland, California. We'll continue with the interview in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to our interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking about movements, Rosa Parks just died. It was the 50th anniversary, December 1st, of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The corporate media, in describing Rosa Parks, talked about her as a tired seamstress who sat down on that bus, and when the white bus driver said, “Get up,” she simply refused. She was tired. She was no troublemaker. But Rosa Parks, of course, was a troublemaker. Can you talk about the importance of movements and what it means to be an activist, why it doesn't diminish what you do, but actually adds to Rosa's lifelong dedication? It adds to her reputation and her legacy.
ALICE WALKER: I was thinking about Rosa Parks, because I was in Africa when she died, and I missed everything.
AMY GOODMAN: Where?
ALICE WALKER: I was in Senegal in a little village South of Dakar. I was visiting this great African writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, who wrote a famous and wonderful book called 2,000 Seasons, which I recommend to everyone. He's a great, great writer, but when I got back and I realized that she had died, I didn't actually feel like doing anything. I waved. I waved to her.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: [inaudible]
ALICE WALKER: What? And what I remembered about her was when -- the last time that I had seen her, which I would like to talk about, because there was the public image, and one of the reasons that I wrote a book like Meridian is that I lived through that period of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, and a lot of the images were just that: they were images. But there was a lot happening behind the scenes.
So with Rosa Parks one day in Mississippi, we happened to be at the same event. I think she was being honored for, you know, everything that she had given us, and we were at the same table, and I think that I may have offered to escort her to the restroom, and I was in there with her. And she -- while she was getting herself together to go back out into the reception or whatever the thing was that we were doing, she suddenly took down her hair, and Rosa Parks had hair that came all the way down to her -- you know, the lower back, and she quickly ran her fingers through it. And I was just stunned. I had no idea. She then twisted it up again, and she put it the way you’ve seen her, you know, always with the little bun, very neat, and I said to her, “My goodness, what's all this, Miss Rosa?” And she looked at me, and she said, “Well, you know, I'm part Choctaw, and my hair was something that my husband dearly, dearly loved about me. He loved my hair.” And she said, “And so, when he died, I put it up, and I never wear it down in public.” Now there's a Rosa.
So, I then, as, you know, writers are just -- you know, we live by stealth, and so I immediately had this completely different image of this woman, the little, quiet seamstress, you know, sitting on the bus, even the activist who was so demure and so correct. And I thought, this woman, hallelujah, was with a man who loved her and loved her with her hair hanging down, and she loved him so much that when he died, she took that hair that he loved, and she put it up on her head, and she never let anyone else see it. Isn't that amazing?
So, to answer your question, for me to be active in the cause of the people and of the earth and just to be – is to be alive. There is no compartmentalization. It’s all one thing. It’s not like I just exist to go into a little room and write. People have that image of writers, that that's how we live, but it’s not really accurate, not the kind of writing that I do. I know that what I write has a purpose, even if it’s just for me, if I'm just trying to lead myself out of a kind of darkness. So it broadens everything, being active in the world. You see the world. It’s like, you know, I'm learning to paint now, and what I realize, learning to paint, is that I'm learning to see. And activism is like that. When you are active, and you must know this so well, that the more you are active, the more you see, the more you go to see. You know, you are curious. One thing leads to another thing, and it gets deeper and deeper, too. And there’s no end to it.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you write?
ALICE WALKER: What do you mean?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Isabel Allende said that she starts each new book on the same day of the year. I can't remember the date. Maybe it was January 9, something like that.
ALICE WALKER: Mm hmm, I think it is.
AMY GOODMAN: What about you? What is your process? How do you focus?
ALICE WALKER: I start each book when it's ready and never before. And what I do is I try to find -- if it’s forming, you know, and if I'm attentive to my dreams, I know that it’s coming and I know that it’s time to take a year or two, and in the early days the big challenge was finding the financing to do that, because, you know, for many years I was a single mother. I was, you know, lecturing and making a living that way or teaching, and so I had to think hard and plan, and some of my early journals are just pages of additions of, you know, how much this costs and how much that costs and how much is left at the end of the month and whether I can afford this and that. So that was the challenge, to find the time, because what I understand completely is that you -- in order to invite any kind of guest, including creativity, you have to make room for it. You have to, have to make that room. And so when I learned that, and I learned that partly through meditation, which I have done for many years, that you can really clear yourself of so much that's extraneous to your purpose in life, so that there is room for what is important to your spirit, something that has to be given space and something that has to be given voice.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you start The Color Purple?
ALICE WALKER: I got a divorce. I got a divorce, because I really knew that I could not stay in my marriage and write about these wild women. And also, I left New York. And I – and it started really just because one of the characters, while I was walking through Manhattan, said through my consciousness, “You know, it’s not going to work here. We are just not the kind of people who would come forth in Manhattan.” So, they basically carried me through, you know, all this incredible anguish of divorce, because I, unlike many people who divorce out of hatred or anything, I actually loved my husband very much. He's a very, very good person, but I needed to write this book, and he claimed that the hills in San Francisco made him nauseous. So I came here, and I ended up in Boonville, because I needed to be in the country, and so I had enough money to work on it for maybe a year, because I got a Guggenheim grant, $13,000, and I just headed for the hills. We rented a little cottage in an apple orchard, and I didn't know how long it would take, but it took just about a year.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever envision then the kind of impact it would have on the world? Did you think about the people you were writing it for?
ALICE WALKER: Oh, I thought about the people I was writing it for. The people I was writing it for are the people who are in the book. That's who I was writing it for. It never crossed my mind to really be that concerned about the people who would be reading it now, and that’s still true. I mean, I'm happy that people relate to it and love it. I think it’s worthy of love. But my contract was always really with the people in it and whether I could make them live in the way that they deserve to live, and it was a very high, very high experience to be able to do that, and when I wrote the last page, I burst into tears just from gratitude and love of them and of being, you know, there's a –
I don't know how many of you know the work of Jean Toomer. He's just a wonderful writer. But he talks about how in every generation, there is one person -- or he puts it, the metaphor is there is one plum left on the tree, and all of the other plums are gone with the wind and so forth, and there is this one plum, and that plum with one seed, that’s all you need, really, to start it all over again, and that's another reason for us to be more hopeful about life. So I really had that feeling of being this one plum with this one seed, because from what I could see, there wasn't anybody else who had the same kind of love for these particular people that I had or the capacity to be faithful to the vision of them that I held. So I felt very blessed and very chosen, in a way, you know, like my ancestors were really present with me the entire time I was writing. They never went away. They were just really there, and I have felt their caring, and I still feel it. And it means that I never feel alone. It’s impossible.
AMY GOODMAN: For someone who hasn't read the book, for a young person who is wondering why they should bother picking up a book, let alone The Color Purple, what would you say it’s about?
ALICE WALKER: Well, I was just in Molokai last week. I just got back a few days ago, and Molokai is the island that is least known among the islands, and it’s because it used to be a leper colony, and there are actually lepers who still live there. And I was looking through a book about Molokai and about Kalaupapa, which is where the lepers are, and there was a photograph of this man who had leprosy, and leprosy had eaten away his nose and most of his mouth and his ears and a lot of his, you know, face, and he just had this incredibly beautiful beaming face. What was left of his face was just completely aglow. And what he said he had learned from living in this place of lepers all of his life was that the most horrible things can happen to people, and they can still be happy.
So, I feel that when you read The Color Purple, no matter what is happening in your life or how difficult the whole huge miasma of sorrow that seems to be growing, there's a way that you can see through the life of Celie, that if you can continue and if you can stay connected to nature and also to your highest sense of behavior toward yourself and toward other people, if you can really keep that struggle going -- you may not always win it. You remember how Celie said to Harpo at some point that he should beat Sofia, that he should beat his wife, well, that was a low point, but she was still struggling to be someone who would outgrow that kind of thinking. And so, what you learn is that life can be really hard. People can abuse you, people can, you know, take advantage of you in terrible ways, but there is something in the human spirit that’s actually equal to that and can actually overcome that, and that is the teaching of The Color Purple.
AMY GOODMAN: You write in The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult, “What I have kept, which the film avoided entirely, is Shug’s completely unapologetic self-acceptance as outlaw, renegade, rebel and pagan.” Do you see yourself that way?
ALICE WALKER: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Why wouldn't I be? Why wouldn't I be? I know I'm very soft spoken, but I have endeavored to live my life by my terms, and that means that I am a renegade, an outlaw, a pagan. What was the other thing?
AMY GOODMAN: A rebel.
ALICE WALKER: A rebel, oh yes. Oh yes, and there is no reason not to rebel. I learned that really early. There is no reason whatsoever. You know, I don't look at television hardly at all, although now I’m going -- I'm saving it for my old age, but when I do see it and I see how relentlessly we are being programmed, and I see how defenseless our young are, I realize all over again that rebellion, any way you can manage it, is very healthy, because unless you want to be a clone of somebody that you don't even like, you know, you have to really wake up. I mean, we all do. We have to wake up. We have to refuse to be a clone.
AMY GOODMAN: Alice Walker, speaking in Oakland last month, poet, author, activist. We'll come back to this conversation in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to our conversation with author, poet, activist, Alice Walker. I asked her to talk about the making of The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, into a movie.
ALICE WALKER: It was a great risk. It was a great risk, but I grew up in Eatonton, Georgia, actually not even in the town, way out in the beautiful, luckily beautiful countryside. But our entertainment was on Saturday night to, you know, bathe and get dressed and go to see a film. Now, these were all, in retrospect, really pretty awful films. They were all shooting and killing each other, you know. But that was all that we had really in the way of entertainment that wasn't the church and our own entertainments. So that's what I grew up with. And my mother who worked so hard and never left the house or left the fields, you know, she would sometimes be able to go, but after eight children, it was sometimes difficult to even move, but she enjoyed these things, these movies.
And so, the risk that I took was in a way to offer to my mother and people like my mother something that they could identify with, something that they could, you know, have some real connection to. I mean, my mother never met Tom Mix and Lash LaRue. These were all these characters that were, you know, always shooting and killing. So I thought about, you know, the segregated theater. You know, when I was growing up, we had to be up there in the balcony, and the white people were down here and, of course, the seat were better down here. So I wanted to change that to the degree that I could do so. And so that’s why -- that's part of the reason I wanted to make a film.
And I think -- you know, I had never heard of Steven Spielberg when he appeared. I think that, for many people, that's amazing, given how famous he was, but I had no idea who he was. And that’s the other thing, when you are working on your work -- and I think it’s really important that I talk to you about this a little bit as an elder -- when you are working on your work, you really don't have to be concerned about what other people are doing. And when -- you know, there's an expression, everything that rises must converge. At some point, if your work is as true as you can make it, it has its own luminosity and it inevitably brings to you and your work all the people that you need. So enter Steven Spielberg to make the film, which turned out to be a very good thing. People thought it was a terrible choice, but what I looked for in him and in other people is the willingness to listen and the willingness to grow, to learn, and he had all of that.
AMY GOODMAN: The questions that were raised, here you had written it, deeply out of your own experience, then having a white producer produce it and going onto Broadway, well, that's just repeated over and over. What were your thoughts of having your experience, your writing, your art, channeled through them?
ALICE WALKER: Well, I have fallen in love with the imagination. And if you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything. So your job is to find trustworthy companions and co-creators. That’s really it. And if you find them – and I don’t know how you -- I can only go by how I feel about people. And so with the play, this young man, Scott Sanders, who is the primary producer, went to great lengths to woo me, because I was not interested in doing a musical, partly because of the suffering that had occurred after making the film. There was so much incredible controversy after the film, and a lot of it excruciatingly hurtful. And even though I had ways to buffer myself and even though by nature I can continue to function and do things that I need to do, it was still very painful. So I didn't really want to go back to that.
And I understood later that that’s an Aquarian thing, that we can take almost anything, but don't misunderstand us, because we feel deeply wounded by that. And I felt that anybody reading The Color Purple or seeing the film, actually, that they could read it and see the film and still think that I hated, actually, anybody, but hated my father, my grandfather, my brothers, my, you know, uncles, just because they were black men, and, you know, this would mean that I hated Langston Hughes or Jean Toomer or Richard Wright or, you know, Ralph Ellison or -- it felt so incredibly mean. It felt very mean, it felt very small, and it was very painful.
AMY GOODMAN: And so how did you get through it? How did you weather this storm?
ALICE WALKER: Well, I came down with Lyme disease in the middle of all of this, and I experienced it actually as a spiritual transformation, even though I didn't know that was going to be the result. It was very frightening. But I came out the other end of the bashing that I had received, the physical debilitation from Lyme disease, the breakup of my relationship with a partner at the time. I came out of all of that with a renewed sense that life itself, no matter what people are slinging at you, no matter what is happening, life itself, basic life is incredibly precious and wonderful and that we are so lucky to have that, you know, that we wake up in the morning, that we hear a bird, that we -- you know, just if you think about little things, they seem little, but they are so magical, you know, like eating a peach. I came through that period understanding that I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way. And being this way, The Color Purple is the kind of work that comes to me. I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to.
So there was this marvelous feeling, you know, that I had already been through a kind of crucifixion by critics. And that -- and I understood so many things. For instance, you know, in the Gnostic gospels, they say that when Jesus was crucified, he was not really crucified, that he -- in the body, that what happened was he understood that it was all rather laughable. And not to compare myself with Jesus, but I really got it. I got it that there is a point at which a certain kind of crucifixion leads to a certain kind of freedom, because you cannot be contained by other people's opinions of you. You will always, I think, after you go through this kind of thing, feel somewhat removed, as I do. You know, I basically stopped reading reviews. And it's fine. I have realized I don't need them. I really feel that if more people could pay less attention to other people's opinions of them, they would be so much happier.
AMY GOODMAN: Alice, I wanted to ask you about the Sisterhood. Who was this group of women writers in the 1970s that you gathered with?
ALICE WALKER: Well, the Sisterhood was the brainchild of myself and June Jordan, because we looked around one day -- we were friends -- and we felt that it was very important that black women writers know each other, that we understood that we were never in competition for anything, that we did not believe in ranking. We would not let the establishment put one of us ahead of the other. And so, some of us were Vertamae Grosvenor, Ntozake Shange, Toni Morrison, June Jordan, myself, and I think Audrey Ballard, who was at Essence, and several other women that I don’t tonight remember.
The very first meeting was at June's apartment because it was the larger of -- I had moved out of my marriage house into basically two small rooms. And so June had this beautiful apartment with lots of space, and the women gathered there, and I remember on the very first gathering, at the very first gathering, I had bought this huge red pot that became the gumbo pot, and I made my first gumbo and took it to this gathering of women, all so different and all so spicy and flavorful like gumbo. And we have this photo. There is a wonderful photograph that someone took of us gathered around a large photograph of Bessie Smith, because Bessie Smith best expressed our feeling of being women who were free and women who intended to stay that way.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked about criticism earlier and how you decided never to read reviews. Can you talk about it in terms of Toni Morrison’s early work and what it meant to champion her then, and what was the response of the critics?
ALICE WALKER: Well, I thought that her writing was beautiful. I had read The Bluest Eye and, in fact, was passing it out to people. And I was very upset that it didn't get much of a long life. I think -- I don’t know if it went out of print, but it certainly was sort of below the surface. And then I read Sula, which I just fell in love with. And I remember that there was a review of it in the New York Times by Sarah Blackman [sic], I think, anyway, someone who basically said that in order for Toni Morrison ever to, you know, be anything in the literary world, she had to get out of this notion of writing about black women, and she had to broaden her horizons and that way, she would, you know, maybe connect. And I was just completely annoyed. And I wrote a letter to the Times, reminding her and them that we will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful.
AMY GOODMAN: Here is the letter. Alice, here is the letter.
ALICE WALKER: Oh, okay. Okay, it says: “Dear sir: I am amazed on many levels by Sarah Blackburn's review of Sula. Is Miss Morrison to ‘transcend herself?’ And why should she and for what? The time has gone forever when black people felt limited by themselves. We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
AMY GOODMAN: Could you read "Be Nobody's Darling”?
Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
With other impetuous
Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
But be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.
AMY GOODMAN: Alice Walker speaking last month in Oakland, California.
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