Author Archives: velma1955

Robert Glasper: Messenger of Love, Evolution and Freedom

It’s often said that we’re inspired to action by what we feel. Not coincidentally, the combination of events, circumstances, hopes, dreams, loves and losses in life, provide a potent poignancy to our association of, feelings and music.

Who among us doesn’t link special people, times in our lives, with particular music or music genres? It is not unusual that the poetry and prose of music enhances our experiences, or that certain experiences are profound because of how music reflects their meaning.

So here we are in the midst of Valentine’s Day, celebrating the enduring spirit of love and it’s possibilities. If we’re fortunate, we have fond memories of loves won, lost or desired, that are inextricably linked with certain music or songs. Certainly such confluences are not limited to pleasure. Valentine’s Day also happens within the framework of another enduring commemoration, Black History Month.

Music and struggle for social change, are viscerally and importantly linked in ways that speak to the souls of the affected. Often, such music can also penetrate the defenses of the uninterested. Anyone who walks through Central Park’s Strawberry Field’s, will undeniably find that John Lennon’s “Imagine” or “Give Peace a Chance” are quintessential anti-war songs, that influenced the politics of millions. Black History Month had its beginnings in 1926 in the United States, when noted historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”. This week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson created the holiday with the hope that it eventually be eliminated when black history became fundamental to American history. Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.[1] Wikipedia, (

When compared to the depth and breadth of the unprecedented atrocities of the African-American Holocaust and their ongoing effects, a mere month seems wholly inadequate and diminutive. Certainly music has been and is, a necessary expressive inspirational outlet. Depending on how old one is, particular artists or songs may resonate with a particular generation in the struggle. Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”, John Coltrane’s “Alabama”, or Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” may be favorites.

But how do these two enduring frameworks, Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, intersect in terms of musical expression?

In my view, that process must be founded with the legacy of struggle, while infusing it with a contemporary passion for freedom and creativity. A background in classic Jazz and Blues, blended with an application of hip-hop and pop, and a tasteful sensibility of how to reach diverse cultural audiences, would be a start. Add to the mix, a touch of genius virtuosity and you have pianist, Robert Glasper.

I recently saw The Robert Glasper Experiment perform at The Harlem Stage. His approach to expression is superbly attuned to address the complexity of struggle while embracing a visionary diversity that is aptly described as, emancipatory love.

Mr. Glasper is a winner of the 2012 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, “Black Radio”.

Submitted for your consideration is “Enoch’s (Inaugural) Meditation”

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A Generation Hobbled

I found this article  an interesting confirmation of the times we live in. According to to ”A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”, by Andrew Martin and Andrew W. Lehren, 94% of students who earn a bachelors degree borrow to pay for higher education. For all borrowers, the average debt was $23k, with 10% owing more than $50K.

According to the article, Ohio Northern and many of Ohio’s more than 200 colleges, its graduates carry some of the highest debts in the country. Rajeev V. Date, Deputy Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau compares excessive to risky mortgages that helped bring the economy down.

College marketing targets the hopes, dreams and desires of students and families looking to education as a leg up, with strategies not terribly different from banks who bet against borrowers by securitizing mortgages. And despite that enrollments are up in state colleges, public subsidies have been cut, which threatens the idea of education being a foundation for low and middle class people.

Higher profile private schools, with a better capacity for financial aid are also leaving an untenable gap for potential students. NYU, my alma mater, was recently cited for rendering attendance at its Tisch School of the Arts a near impossible dream for middle class students.  One student hit the lotto of qualifying for admission, but found it impossible to attend.

People who do actually graduate from NYU join the ranks of the most heavily indebted graduates in history. ($11k higher than the national average) One such graduate, Lindsey, found that she will be 54 years old before her debt is repaid.

So the question is, can a basic college education, even from a prestigious school like NYU,  catapult a student into a higher socioeconomic register?

The simple answer is, not so much right now and very likely not at all going forward, because of two reasons. First, most low and middle income academically promising students, can’t get over the initial hurdle of cost. According to Thomas B. Edsall’s, “Production of Privilege”, scholarships and grants based on need have dramatically declined relative to costs. According to Education Week, Pell grants have gone from covering 99% at a community college and 77% at a private college to 36% and 15% respectively. Further, according to a 2005 College Board study,  there has been a distinct shift by colleges to attract more affluent students who score high on standardized tests, rather than rewarding students with high scores, but who come from lower income groups. Second, as Lindsey the NYU Film graduate who incurred $156k in debt found, the current job market which has downsized and outsourced jobs and wages, requires 2 jobs to barely make ends meet.
Many college graduates who form a core constituency in the Occupy Wall Street movement now realize that their grasp on “The American Dream” has been significantly diminished.  Not only are there barriers to entry to higher education, but now, even being armed with a college degree represents a clear burden when facing diminished job prospects and lowered wages. Over time these circumstances will, despite studies that show college educated people are significantly better paid, diminish the hope for upward mobility through education in low and middle income demographics.

Not mentioned in this conversation, are the forgotten efforts to encourage underachieving students to excel. In effect, our higher education system and our funding priorities seems to reinforcing class stereotypes against those seeking upward mobility.

Clearly this is not the America I grew up in.

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“A House is not just a Home”

That “A House is not just a Home” resonates for more reasons that the wonderful Luther Vandros song. The house we live in, is often far more than a location to which mail is delivered. It creates memories that will ultimately last a lifetime along with family, friends and the communities surrounding the places we call home.

Of course, a significant back story typically begins long before one can idealize about the benefits of owning one’s own home or renting. Issues like kids having their own rooms, wanting room to entertain or having relatives or friends staying over, being financially stable, finding the right house in an affordable neighborhood are factors. Being able to secure financing and a mortgage is key. Honest and sustained financial sacrifice is where it starts.

These are the circumstances, often known as the “rights of passage” along the path to having a share of “The American Dream”. Once a share of The Dream is secured, it often becomes a matter of managing the accrued resources of home ownership to make The Dream manifest.

Home ownership can be a commitment to strengthening families and good citizenship, because it provides people with more responsibility and control over their living environment. The individual and local incentives to maintaining property and public spaces become clear with the qualitative and financial benefits of attending better schools and having higher aspirations, amongst people who share the same goals.

Home value appreciation, mortgage interest deduction, property tax deductions, low interest equity loans, capital gain exclusions and preferential tax treatment add up to far more than a current year financial gain.

These are the essential starting points to passing on wealth from one generation to the next. The current financial stress we all face does not make this an easy task. However, our parents didn’t have a “walk in the park” and they still managed to overcome, in order to help our generation achieve some of our goals. Despite the ongoing housing mess, the current low interest rates makes ownership a compelling opportunity to create wealth for the next generation. Accordingly, I think the legacy our parents left us informs our responsibility to make similar or greater efforts, on behalf of our kids and their kids.

Ultimately, the decision to rent or own are individual choices that have their own consequences. Nonetheless, the following is a bit of a historical primer that applied yesterday, as much as it does today, on how some helped create opportunities for those to come. For those who have wondered about this issue, this is a worthwhile look:

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Who’s Afraid of Reality Politics

Who’s afraid of Reality Politics?

Inequality sucks, Who's Afraid of Reality PoliticsThe GOP Presidential primary has been quite an interesting sideshow of personalities. First the shadow of Sarah Palin preceded the comedy of Herman Cain. Mixed amongst Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, we were also treated to the intellectual distraction of Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry.

Now that were are left with Santorum, Romney and Gingrich its clear that there is something very wrong with the party of Abraham Lincoln. The recent Republican debates reveal ideals that run counter to the social and financial interests of most people. Sadly, most of the candidates supporters seem to applaud policies that further separate people from maintaining or attaining a portion of The American Dream.

Case and point, Mitt Romney says that when these points are raised, its because people are guilty of “envy or class warfare”. When these questions are posed at debates, GOP candidates have been allowed to brush aside these issues with crowd-pleasing one liners that have no substance in fact. Citizens paying for government sponsored corporate bailouts seems to have obscured the fact that corporations, ought to have a government mandated responsibility to citizens. Certainly this issues should warrant more courage on the part of moderators at debates and the media in general.

As per Bill Moyers suggests, inequality isn’t something that simply happens by accident.
“America has woken up to the Reality: Inequality Matters” is a worthwhile look:

Another issue that is the elephant in the room is the matter of Newt Gingrich’s race baiting narratives on food stamps. Utilizing tried and true tactics from the Southern Strategy that generally targets people of color, stokes the fears of right wing conservatives, while undermining initiatives and programs that benefit society as a whole. No matter that most recipients of food stamps, housing assistance, etc. are not people of color. A large majority are, in fact, retirement age seniors and children. Republicans have succeeded in creating racial stereotypes of the beneficiaries, to the detriment of the entire country. Fundamental economic issues such as downsizing and outsourcing are not addressed, simply because our media pundits and journalists are not willing to call out Gingrich or his apologists. “Gingrich won’t win the Presidency, but he may always be the GOP’s #1 Racist” is a worthwhile read:,_but_he_may_always_be_the_gop%27s_%231_racist/

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Hmmn…where are the Churches?

Given the rampant record of corporate crimes and sins committed against humanity across the world…why doesn’t the Church speak out on behalf of its flock? Chris Hedges article is a worthwhile look…

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Dedication to horizontalism is real…and it needs to taken seriously

To say that mainstream media has been perplexed by how to report on the Occupy Wall Street Movement methods is an understatement, especially if you haven’t seen it in person. The AlterNet article from Sarah Seltzer, “Blatantly Biased Tabloids and Clueless Mainstream Media Keep Missing the Obvious Big Story at OWS”, is a telling chronicle of the divergence of participating in media and reporting it.

This excerpt is revealing “how quickly the Internet has allowed the horizontal, leaderless, goal-less ethos of the movement to catch on, so that first-timers marching to Times Square or Foley Square were already using the human mic (they’d seen it on YouTube) and carrying signs that said “The Movement is the Message.” Newcomers at GAs are embracing hand-signals. If all these people can understand and accept the direct democratic ideals of the movement, surely the media can.

The parallel to Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” is striking. What also is striking is that this model has worked to energize a movement in ways that vertical reporting and information dissemination has long yielded diminished activist mobilization. This is a worthwhile look:

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Traditional media types and activists learn lessons from Occupy Wall Street

Many tried and true media operatives were amazed, in 2008, at the speed and breadth of how the Obama campaign energized its base thru non-traditional media channels. While it was thought that the issues themselves would be enough to motivate a movement, the Obama campaign gave significant credence to the Marshall McLuhan phrase, “the medium is the message”. McLuhan’s 1964 book, “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”, suggests that the medium affects society, not simply because of the nature of content, but also because of the framework of the medium itself.

In the midst of the worldwide financial distress directed at the feet of lower and middle class people, many traditional media types, organizations and activists have been amazed at the energy and effectiveness of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. While the narrative content of Occupy Wall Street has not been materially different from information offered from traditional activists, unions, or even progressive tv or radio talk shows, the medium has been radically different. Utilizing social media via mobile communication has created an energized, horizontal participatory model activism that has eluded the traditional organizations.

Clearly the talking head, top down approach to communication and message creation has its place. However in today’s environment, multiple hands-on mediums serve as an obstacle and filter for old style forms of communication and activism. Facebook, Twiiter, Tumblr and other social media are the order of the day for those who want to create a movement of change.

As such, many media activists, and unions in particular, have been quick to emulate the use of new age tactics to re-energize their base and invigorate their messages. Not only do they recognize the wisdom of having a new, younger level of participation, but they also see the threat of becoming irrelevant if they don’t adapt. This article from the NY Times speaks to some of these issues, and is a worthwhile look:

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The symptoms are real, but its the root causes that need focus…

An excerpt from The Nation, “This has been a year of agitation, from Wisconsin to Ohio to Washington. It has seen some of the largest demonstrations in recent American history in defense of labor rights, public education, public services. But all those uprisings attacked symptoms of the disease. Occupy Wall Street named it. By aiming activism not at the government but at the warren of bankers, CEOs and hedge-fund managers to whom the government is beholden, Occupy Wall Street went to the heart of the matter.”

A worthwhile look.

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Middle Class being held hostage by Corporatists unemployment statistics being reported today come as no surprise to most people. As a 55 plus male, educated with multiple degrees and formerly employed in the IT industry, I know what many of my contemporaries understand.

Nearly, 7 out of 10 people in the 50 plus age demographic have been downsized, layed-off or forced into early retirement. Further, corporate downsizing and outsourcing has been going on, in earnest, for the past 15 years during both up and down markets. Armed with incentives for globalization, tax cuts and technological advances, domestic corporations have been operating with virtual immunity. Rather than providing work and business taxes to the communities that give them permission to do business, corporate oligarchies have become the norm.

People in the primes of their careers, typically at the top of the wage scale and before retirement benefits kick in, are typically cut first. Sadly the insatiable corporate vampire no longer sleeps during the day, and younger workers in their mid 20’s to early 40’s are also being targeted. If people are rehired at all, it is often at an unsustainable wage, despite education and experience. We are in the midst of all out re-definition of the middle class and an assault on the American Dream.

The unhealthy relationship of corporate interests and our elected officials has reached epic proportions. However, it appears that our citizenry has yet to fully respond with activist reactions. Clearly, party-line divide and conquer strategies are at work. It will be interesting see how long the Democratic party believes it can sustain interest in a symbolic, but ineffective, leadership that does not respond to the real needs of the country.

As such, this is a worthwhile read:

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With enemies like this…who needs friends?

I’m not going to get knee deep in the slime of Anthony Weiner. Beyond the obvious deception to his wife and constituency, the loss of Weiner’s rabid voice on behalf of progressive issues will be incalculable. With enemies like this, the right-wing doesn’t need friends….

Per Alternet’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, “Weiner has been an ally, open and progressive on issues such as abortion, taxes and foreign policy. Most importantly, he’s been an important advocate of Medicare, of health-care reform, of the single-payer option when it was still afloat.”

Read the entire article here:

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Corporatism gives rise to a Corporate Police State?

Interesting thoughts from David Sirota, who analyzes the progression of events and statues that have enabled corporate entities to operate far beyond the framework of “equal protection”.  Paradoxically limiting corporate liability for fraud and unlawful activity, while dis-proportionately penalizing the citizenry has become an alarming anti-democratic norm.

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Despite Corporate Media, GOP Backlash Reported

Its not often that real mainstream sentiment is reported these days. However, the attacks on unions, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid have begun to take toll on what the media can effectively muzzle. Apparently, the GOP media machine has not been able to contain the backlash to the Proposed Republican budget.

Take a look at an article from The Huffington Post

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Ridiculous or Racist?

I’ve read, heard and seen some of the latest Donald Trump bufoonery, but have also been amazed at the media coverage of his self-promoting talk concerning President Obama.

No doubt that were well past the notion that we’re living in a post-racial world because of the election of President Obama. Certainly much of the rhetoric that is heard about “taking our country back” is understood to be racist coding, despite attempts to frame it within ideas of economic prosperity or good old American values.

However, it is amusing and sad to see the media treat the Trump musings as either serious news or a spectacle sideshow. For the most part there has been no attempt to question his clear racist implications. Frankly, our country needs to have substantive ongoing policies in place to address historical, institutional and contemporary racism. For instance, despite the symbolism of President Obama, has any major news media reported on the pattern of racial demographic exclusion in college and graduate schools over the past 30 years? At least this article, confronts in a small way what major media is deathly afraid of….

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Thought Control Beyond the Boob Tube

We’re all familiar with the power of suggestion and the insidious nature of subtle and overt advertising on television. Sadly, were also painfully aware of the bloviating that masquerades as fair and balanced news reporting on cable networks.

However, its recently come to light that unchecked mind control has now crossed over into the workplace. Imagine being made to act and speak in ways that violate your sense of right and wrong because it’s required to keep the lights on, or your grocery bill paid.

Take a look:


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