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Sunday, September 14, 2014

America Celebrates Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell (1900 - 1949)
This year marks the 75th celebration of the film, Gone With the Wind, an adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel. 

The University of Texas at Austin is presenting an exhibit titled The Making of Gone With The Wind (September 2014 – January 2015). The exhibit covers movie rights, the search for Scarlet, fan mail, hair/make-up and costumes. From the online exhibit:
Gone With The Wind was an unparalleled film production at the time of its 1939 release. It was the longest American sound film of its time, one of the first major films shot in Technicolor, and the highest-grossing film for 27 years following its release. The film's producer, David O. Selznick, was rigorous about production aesthetics. He required extensive research from his employees on Civil War fashion, including clothing, hair, and makeup. Selznick expected sensational costumes and vibrant appearances.

In 1999, Leonard J. Leff, writing for the Atlantic, wrote an extensive article about Gone With the Wind. His article covers David O. Selznick, the word nigger, The Pittsburgh Courier, The NAACP, and screenwriter, Sidney Howard, who in a letter to Margaret Mitchell wrote of her black characters: 
. . .the best written darkies, I do believe, in all literature. They are the only ones I have ever read which seemed to come through uncolored by white patronising. . . , 
as well as Mitchell’s written language, including the description of her character, Big Sam: 
. . .his watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled, and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff.

Controversy surrounded the making of the film. Earl Morris, the motion picture editor for the Pittsburgh Courier wrote articles in 1938 about Hollywood’s indifference to non-white actors. The book, Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement, edited by Danielle L. McGuire, documents some of Morris’ articles including, Hollywood Ignores Black Americans; Hollywood Overlooking Sepia Goldmine; Major Film Companies Must Recognize the Negro; and Should Negroes Ban White Motion Pictures.

Morris wrote editorials in the Pittsburgh Courier demeaning the film, and was appalled by the certain use of the “hate word,” and, says Steve Wilson, curator of the University of Texas exhibit: 
Selznick ultimately decided to take that word out of the script....And I think it's really important that Selznick took that word out, because if it had stayed, I think we would be so embarrassed and offended by it that we would not be watching that movie now. We wouldn't be here talking about it today. (NPR
However, removing the word nigger from the script proved complicated and transitioned through many considerations. For example: 
The movie industry's censors ruled only that nigger should not be put in the mouth of white people…[and to] give some consideration to the use of the word darkies…Selznick agreed…certainly, he thought, the black characters could use nigger among themselves. (Leff) 
In the end, darkies and inferiors remained. Nigger was out.

Margaret Mitchell proved to be as complicated as the removal of the word nigger. In a letter to Kay Brown, Selznick's New York representative, Mitchell wanted: 
Three hundred massed Negro singers standing on Miss Pittypat's lawn waving their arms and singing Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home,' while Rhett drives up with the wagon. (Leff) 
Another interesting figure is Susan Myrick, hired as the dialect coach whose mission was to teach black actors how to speak like "the middle Georgia Negro of befo-de-wah days." 

On Butterfly McQueen, Myrick commented, she is "nigger through and through."

Butterfly McQueen (1911 - 1995)


Read the full article, Gone With the Wind and Hollywood’s Racial Politics, by Leonard J. Leff, The Atlantic Online, December 1999.

For perspective, rent Robert Townsend’s 1987 film, Hollywood Shuffle, a satirical (yet accurate) look at the relationship between Hollywood and nonwhite actors, Hollywood’s requirement that black actors perform according to Hollywood’s definition of "black," and the modern, classroom educated, condescending, slave character hidden in title, rank and status, without decision making power.

Visit The Making of Gone With The Wind, the Ransom Center, University of Texas, at Austin through January 2015.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beginning Tarot, Level I

Radiant Rider-Waite Deck
Beginning Tarot, Level I (BTLI), is an introductory course into the magic of Tarot. Not hocus/pocus magic, rather, the intelligent release of mystery through scholarship, intuition and meditation. Participants realize destiny, and gain insight into charting individual goals.

Using both the original and Radiant Rider-Waite Decks, students will investigate each Card, its meanings, gradations and distinctions. The ultimate goal is that participants observe and understand how these elements converge into a cohesive conversation or Reading.

BTLI is hands-on. We will:
  • touch all 78 Cards,
  • observe and practice one reading per class,
  • play with Celtic Cross and Four Card Spreads,
  • discuss care and feeding of our Cards,
  • explore Spirit Table meaning and construction,
  • understand card placement before and after Readings, and
  • consider divination protocol. 

BTLI begins January 2015 and class dates are January 10, 17, 31; 
February 14, 28; and March 14, 21, 28.

We will meet eight (8) Saturdays at my Pittsburgh 
studio from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Class size is limited to eight (8) students.
Snacks and beverages provided.

Tuition is $160, with full payment due at registration. 
Payment receipt confirms registration.

Refund Policy 
No refunds after January 10, 2015.
Missed classes are non-refundable.

Materials and Location 
Class syllabus, supply list, directions and phone 
number provided after payment. 

If there are questions or concerns not addressed here,
please email me at [mailcrb10 at gmail dot com]

Radiant Rider-Waite Deck

The "fool" or uninitiated steps into the unknown. He has packed light, oblivious to the warnings of his trusty dog, waves crashing, and his precarious next step. He holds one bloom, yet, the sun shines at his back. What will his future hold?

Mystery: the skills, lore, or practices peculiar to a particular activity or group, and regarded as the special province of initiates.

[From Latin and Greek: secret rite, an initiate, to close the eyes]

Radiant Rider-Waite Deck

I look forward to meeting you so that I can encourage your journey into mystery.

Register Here

Margaret Maynard -- Lela Bennett Richardson
About The Instructor
I am Cathleen Richardson Bailey, Olóbàtálá (priest of Ọbàtálá), initiated into the Yorùbá/Lùkùmí spiritual tradition as Ala Ofun (the white cloth of Ọbàtálá)
on July 7, 2001.

My maternal grandmother, Margaret Maynard (1856-1942), was born a slave in Fitzgerald Georgia. She became a HooDoo worker and spiritualist.

My paternal grandmother, Lela Bennett Richardson (1800's - 1958), was a spiritualist and Tarot Card Reader. Her business card is faded. The address and phone number look to be 517 West 146 Street, Apartment 5A, Harlem, New York, TO 2-8799.

I inherited my grandmothers' gifts. My grandmothers encourage and teach me through vision, dreams and whispers.

I love HooDoo, respect its flavor, necessity and ritual. I have been studying and reading Tarot cards for 14 years. Yorùbá/Lùkùmí saved my life and sanity.

Although separate and apart, and each practiced alone and in their own time, all of these spiritual entities define me, make me better.

Ephesians 6-13: Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Real or Blasphemy?

…no one in the New World whose one God is advertised as dead can believe in innumerable gods of another life. Those gods would have to be an anthropomorphic variety of his will. 
I am an insecure creative, which means to me that vulnerability is a necessary tool for good writing. My insecurity comes from abandonment, even as I lived among people who failed to see me. I am grateful though, because without my flaws and past feelings of powerlessness, I would not be able to self truth-tell, today. 

In the process of writing, doubt enters gladly in a questioning, re-questioning, digging, self-discovery garb, a literary flagellation of sorts. The good news is, it is our own insecurity that finally locates certainty, that marches in wielding the machete that quells doubt.

Insecurity also comes from believing deep inside that any artist can create anything. Back to doubt, this questioning and re-questioning, even though Spirit talks in many languages: poetry, prose, fiction, memoir, theater.

I'm interested in rules, and the possibilities hidden within the slips and slides of language, in spite of rules. I want to know the best writers and why, as well as the not so good writers and why.

Our poets and actors would have not only to describe possession, but to enact it, otherwise we would have not art but blasphemy, and blasphemy which has no fear is decoration.
One thing I continue to notice is that the language of African religions is still regarded as other, a kind of exotic rendering, African continental bits dusted on literature, worthy of clamor, but not penetration, value or esteem.

The most disturbing element is when intellectuals perpetuating this fraud are themselves African-American, Americans.

What does exotic mean, and should blasphemy enter the discussion?

Most black children from my day were raised with adages like, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, as in good God, or oh my Lord, and the quick phrased Jesus, if you pricked your finger or stumbled in the jump rope game. 

So now we are entering the “African” phase with our pathetic African carvings, poems and costumes, and our art objects are not sacred vessels placed on altars but goods placed on shelves for the tourist. The romantic darkness which they celebrate is thus another treachery, this time perpetuated by the intellectual.

Perhaps it’s different today. Perhaps sprinkling scripts and poems with catchy  Òṣun and Ẹlégbá phrases, for example, is 
Dancing for Òṣun
groovy because to the offending writer, Òṣun and Ẹlégbá are not quite holy. Maybe imitation holiness has inspired the rise in this kind of irreverence, excused and accepted because of a perceived ancestral privilege infused with schizophrenic-like voice-over schisms. What must writers do then, when the roots of inherited cultural languages are/were enemies? What of creative privilege as relates to sacrilege? What is the root cause, the intention behind a writer's appropriation, sprinkled with the verbose of overdosed cinnamon on French toast?

This. A further example. This video. You cannot write this without first knowing this, feeling this, understanding this. Serving this.

…for us Afro-Christians, the naming of [Ògún] estranged him. Ògún was an exotic for us, not a force. We could pretend to enter his power but he would never possess us, for our invocations were not prayer but devices. The actor’s approach could not be catatonic but rational; expository, not receptive. However, Ògún is not a contemplative, [He is] a vengeful force, a power to be purely obeyed. 
Cloth for Ògún (2009)
Cathleen Bailey, artist
Photo by Karen Gregory

Inspiration: What the Twilight Says, Derek Walcott

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where Is The Urgency In This Abominable Now?

This post is about non-white Americans of African descent, and the police who terrorize them.

There are many examples of police misconduct with other Americans.

This post is about non-white Americans of African descent. That history. That urgent now.

America is at war with itself again, and no other nation will send troops to rescue nonwhite citizens of African descent from tyranny (absolute power, esp. when exercised unjustly or cruelly) perpetuated by local police forces and security guards.

Neither will foreign governments petition The United Nations demanding that the United States government discontinue this unfair and abominable behavior. Abominable meaning: unequivocally detestable; loathsome, as in the killing and crazed exploitation of power that is happening on any street, in any black community in America.

Community Oriented Policing
Writing this, I wondered about police departments and mission statements. What does policing rest upon?

In Pittsburgh, the Bureau of Police invites its citizens to attend The Pittsburgh Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA), a community oriented program that:

. . .brings the police and the community close together…[so that participants] experience…and are exposed to…the basics of criminal law, search and seizure, patrol tactics, firearms…the processing of a crime scene [and] how police canines are used….

It is entirely possible. Many people may not know how canines are used. 
Jordan Miles

Personal opinions are rampant on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and in comment sections at the ends of articles. One comment stands out because of the high incidence of its use, and that is, why are black people not up in arms about black-on-black crime? That question may seem relevant to some, or stupid to others. But it deserves discussion. In my opinion, the answer is the same reason white people are not up in arms about white-on-white crime. Edward Wyckof Williams writes that black-on-black crime is a "false media narrative," and that among other things, according to Department of Justice statistics, whites are "just as likely to be killed by other whites [and that] all races share similar ratios."

Further, not every community or group has experienced consistent (over time and centuries) murder. For example, the people who attend Pittsburgh's Citizen's Police Academy probably have never been chased by slobbering, snapping canines, or have their community invaded by police in riot gear, patrol tactics, neighbors unlawfully shot, maimed and killed, relentlessly.

What is American history as relates to non-white Americans of African descent? I looked for answers in governmental responses to mayhem in cases that most Americans might be familiar with. I wanted to know. Did our leaders exhibit negligence? mercy? reticence? integrity?

According to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, on September 2, 1955, The Chicago Defender forwarded a telegram to President Eisenhower stating in part:

A Chicago boy. Emmet Louis Till 14 was kidnapped and lynched in Mississippi this week, would you let us know if your office has plans to take any action with reference to this shocking act of lawlessness.

On September 29, 1955, W. Beverly Carter, publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, wrote a letter to E. Frederick Morrow of the White House. Carter writes, Dear Fred:

…My concern is that from what I have been able to ascertain, not one denunciatory statement has been issued by anyone high in the Federal Government.…but it would be of untold political advantage, insofar as the Negro vote is concerned, if someone at the level of Mr. Brownell or Sherman Adams, or even the Vice President, made clear that the Federal Government looked with dismay on this incident. I need not point out to you that this has made us look like a veritable “jackass” in the eyes of the rest of the world, and we must use such public relations tools as are available to make sure that the pendulum of world opinion and of the opinion of many liberal and fair-thinking people in America does not swing back against the Federal Government in Washington because it remains silent on this score.…

President Eisenhower and E. Frederick Morrow

In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was known as “Bombingham.”

Center Street, located in the Smithfield neighborhood, was called “Dynamite Hill.” 

On Sunday, September 15, members of the Klu Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair, were killed.

According to the Kennedy Presidential Library, Reverend J. L. Ware of Trinity Baptist Church forwarded a telegram to President Kennedy, “God only knows what shameful holocaust may result,” if the President does not “act soon.”

President Kennedy expressed “deep outrage,” and later personally met with Dr. King and others, and on another occasion with Birmingham’s white leaders.

Fast forward 2014. The following is an excerpt from President Obama's statement concerning Michael Brown, Jr.:

I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.

Vice President Biden, Dr. Gates, Officer Crowley, and President Obama

If I were granted an audience with President Obama, I would remind him of his swift response (the officer acted stupidly) and hands-on reconciliation moment with beer in the Rose Garden when his friend and Harvard professor, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, was arrested outside the home he lives in, owned by Harvard University. The Huffington Post reported: 
At the time of the incident, Gates had demanded an apology from [officer] Crowley and called him a "rogue policeman." After Obama's "acted stupidly" comment [in a press conference], Crowley said that, while he supported the president, Obama was "way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts."
If granted an audience with the President, I would remind him of his passion and love for the murdered children of Sandy Hook and their families. At the Newtown prayer vigil, President Obama said:
. . .I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we've pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown — you are not alone.
Martin Luther King, in a speech addressing the debacle of Vietnam said:
[The Vietnamese people] question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?
It is from this speech that President Obama quotes Dr. King who said, "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now."

If I were given an audience with President Obama, I would say, prayer, yes, but reflection on what and understanding of who? Are we to muddle through current events like Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon credited with being the first to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head, who suggests an understanding of police because police have feelings too?

I would remind the President that our tomorrow is today, and I would ask, where is your fierce urgency in this abominable now?

Lastly, modern technology allows for a remarkable flooding of information and public listings of names and video of victims. The technology is an Ògún generated forging ahead energy demanding, through the hype of entertainment, that we must hold each murdered victim in the palms of our hands.

Other Sources

(This site includes profiles of the girls; e.g. Addie liked to play hopscotch, sing in the church choir, draw portraits, and …loved to pitch while playing ball, too. "I remember that underhand," said older sister Janie, now Janie Gaines.

(Includes information on J. Edgar Hoover’s involvement in blocking evidence.)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Grandassa Model - Thank You Elombe Brath, RIP

Recently my friend, Helen Phillips, posted an image to facebook. The image was of a New York street sign honoring The Young Lords. I was unaware of this part of our history and asked Helen to guest blog about the group and her memories of that time.


The Young Lords

On Saturday, July 26, 2014, a sign was added to the 111th Street and Lexington Avenue street sign proclaiming that corner Young Lords Way.


I was blessed to have witnessed history in the streets. The date was December 28, 1969. It was an exciting time. It was the ending of a decade that had seen much social and political change. James Brown was singing Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud. It was a time of Afro, dashiki, buba and lapa wearing brothers and sisters, and an era of cultural awareness developed because of the heightened struggle for civil rights.

The decade saw the fiasco in Vietnam, the formation of the Black Panther party, and our leaders becoming more vocal in their criticism of non-violent tactics to secure our fundamental rights as human beings used by Dr. King and others.

We saw and heard the oratory and ideas of Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammed, Stokley Carmicheal, H Rap Brown, Leroi Jones and The Last Poets. In the East River Houses or the Projects where I grew up, some of us were undergoing our own cultural/political evolution.

The East River Houses are situated between 102nd Street and 105th Street between the East River and First Avenue. I was 21 with a two year old daughter. My afrocentrism was growing. Ralph McBurney, on age with my older brother, was wearing African clothes, talking about the need for us to have our own religion and God, and us needing to protect ourselves from the man. He was a Yemonja priest who attended the Yoruba Temple on 116 Street. Everyone in the projects thought he was crazy, but by that time, I had Ìlèkè, was in an African dance group and dressed in African inspired clothing (thought I was a Grandassa model..thank you Elombe Brath, RIP, but that's a whole notha history).

1963 Grandassa Models:  Clara Lewis, Nomsa Brath,
Brenda Deaver  and Jean Egyptia Gumbs.

Three days after a snowy Christmas in 1969, the news hit that a church had been taken over by a group of militants. My Mom agreed to watch my daughter while several friends and I walked the ten blocks to the church. We stood outside in support of this group of Puerto Rican activists, known as the Young Lords, who were brazen enough to commandeer The First Spanish United Methodist Church located on 111th Street and Lexington Avenue in East Harlem, aka Spanish Harlem, aka El Barrio. During those days El Barrio was the area from 96th Street to 130th Street between the East River and 5th Avenue. Today, the area starts at 110th Street, rezoned due to gentrification.

The Young Lords

The Young Lords began as a group of Puerto Rican young men from Chicago, who over time re-formed into a political activism party. A branch of the Young Lords began in New York City under the leadership of Felipe Luciano, who was also one of the original Last Poets. They held that church for 11 days. During the takeover, free breakfast, clothing, liberation school, and day care center programs were formed.

On January 8, 1970 the police arrested 106 Young Lords and supporters. Even though the Lords were active in Chicago where the group originated, the church takeover was a defining moment for the group and catapulted the Young Lords into national attention. 

News Conference, January 1970

After the takeover, the Lords continued as community activists in Latino areas of New York as well as Chicago and the West Coast. The party disbanded in the 1970s. With the installation of the new street sign on 111th Street and Lexington Avenue, the Young Lords are ensured a spot in the history and hearts of the residents of Spanish Harlem and beyond.

I am grateful that I grew up on the streets of East Harlem. The experiences shaped me, and many others, into wise adults.


Helen Phillips was born and raised in New York and is now living in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. 

She attended Hospital for Special Surgery School of Practical Nursing, received an AS degree and RN diploma at Bronx Community College, a BS in nursing from Medgar Evers College of CUNY and in 1988 received an MS in nursing with a clinical specialty in midwifery from Columbia University.

She has worked as a Certified Nurse Midwife since 1988.
Follow Helen on Facebook

Elombe Brath

Grandassa models

Last Poets (patience, large gaps in recording)