Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Politics of Justice

The political scientist Richard Fenno, after following Cleveland’s legendary Lou Stokes around our town, noted with astonishment the red-carpet treatment and near hero worship the retired Congressman received from his former constituents. Fenno, considered the dean of Congressional scholars, remarked that he had never seen anything like it.

There is no doubt that Lou Stokes is a walking, breathing political giant in our midst. Still, it does not detract one whit from his stature to wonder whether the adulation he — and to a lesser degree, his beloved successor, the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones — continues to receive, says as much or more about the peculiar makeup of identity politics in Cleveland than it does about him.

In any event, it remains our good fortune to have his continued presence on the scene. Today, he appears as the special guest on “It’s About Justice”, the public affairs radio show hosted by retired Cleveland educator and activist Meryl Johnson.

Stokes was an outstanding trial attorney who won landmark cases before the US Supreme Court before beginning his thirty-year political career in the late 1960s. He likely will share his legal and political perspective on this week’s decisions regarding the Court’s savaging of the Voting Rights Act as well as its latest decision on affirmative action. I hope Meryl finds time to ask him about the Court’s DOMA decision as well.

“It’s About Justice” airs on WRUW-FM/91.1 Saturday afternoons from 1:30-2:30PM. You can hear it online at
• • •
Justice will remain the theme of the week on Mansfield Frazier’s radio show, “The Forum”, which airs tomorrow night from 7-10PM on WTAM-AM/1100.  The show will be dealing with addiction and our country’s phony but devastating “war on drugs”.

Guests will include Cleveland Municipal Court judges Anita Laster Mays and Marilyn B. Cassidy; Debora A. Rodriguez, president and CEO of Recovery Resources; and Peter Christ, co-founder of LEAP [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition]. LEAP’s website says the nonprofit organization is comprised of “criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.”

“The Forum”, known colloquially to wags as “Negro Night on WTAM”, is a call-in show, so listeners can interact with the show’s host and guests.

The program is also streamed at
 • • •
Finally, in keeping with our justice theme, I came across this compelling audio recording of George Zimmerman’s interrogation by the police after he was brought in for questioning following his killing of Trayvon Martin. His attitude is chilling, and begs the question of why it took a national campaign to arrest this menace to society.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nonprofit Thursday: Voting Rights, The Right Wing, Shona Sculpture, studying vacant lots, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and John Patrick Carney vs. Mariama Whyte …

So I woke up the other day, checked the headline news on my smartphone, and saw that Ohio’s supine, reactionary, and corrupt legislative majority had voted to cut taxes on the wealthy, raise the regressive sales tax, ban Medicaid expansion, and continue the fight against modernity, history, and biology by enacting more restrictive measures against women.

So why would I be surprised that the US Supreme Court decided to cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act?

The reality is the forces of money, power and privilege in America NEVER TAKE A DAY OFF. That’s what capitalism means. The forces of democracy, liberty, and justice, on the other hand, seem to think that winning a battle means winning the war. If that were so, Ohio would still have the nation’s best set-aside law, an updated Voting Rights Act would still be intact, and we would not have this continued testosterone assault upon women’s reproductive rights.

You’ve heard it before: eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Better instill that piece of Founding Father wisdom in your soul before these Tea Party legislatures rewrite local public school curricula to excise that bit of Americana the same way they are working on whitewashing George Washington’s slave-holding past from school books.

So if you are upset about any of this, you should get busy at: 
1. Keeping yourself informed about what your elected officials are doing, 
2. Informing your friends, neighbors, and social media family about what your local officials are doing, and 
3. Getting involved on some level in fighting for what you say you believe in.

And if you are one of my Republican friends being courted by Ohio’s governor and the chair of the Republican National Committee, you should seize every audience and opportunity you have to challenge the whack social and fiscal policies their brethren are systemically and systematically advancing across the nation.

It would also help to study a little history so that you can respond with facts when people use superficial labels to claim, for example, that the Republican Party of 1854 is the same as the GOP of today or even the GOP of the 1960s.
• • •

On to more pleasant matters. A couple of decades ago, before the World Wide Web was actually worldwide, there was a print version of THE Real Deal. We tried to cover civic, commercial and cultural affairs of relevance to Greater Cleveland’s 350,000 African Americans and perforce to those astute enough to know that what affected them should be of concern to the entire community.

One of the pieces of which we were most proud was a cover story on an exhibit at Cleveland’s Museum of Natural History written by our ace correspondent Evelyn Castillo. The unforgettably spectacular exhibit was a display of Shona Stone sculpture fashioned by artists from Zimbabwe. Some of the pieces were immense; almost all were gorgeous.

What brings this to mind was receipt of a notice from the Deuteronomy 8:3 Café regarding a limited exhibit and sale of Shona Sculpture this coming weekend. Starting tomorrow the café will host a brief display of Shona Stone sculpture from the Zimbabwe Gallery collection in Philadelphia. Gallery owner Collin Thompson will speak at tomorrow’s 7PM opening reception.

The exhibit will close its brief run on Sunday afternoon, June 30. Deuteronomy 8:3 Café is located at 1464 East 105 St, Cleveland OH 44106 at the north end of University Circle. Exhibit hours this weekend will be 11AM-6PM on Saturday and Sunday. For more info, call 216.376.9695 or visit Zimbabwe Gallery, visit

Selected pieces for purchase are priced between $100 and $1,000.


Learning from vacant lots

Today’s Plain Dealer carried a story on an Ohio State University entomologist who has received a $900,000 grant to study the management of biodiversity in vacant lots, which Cleveland has in abundance thanks to the [unpunished] criminal behavior of those responsible for the housing meltdown and the evaporation of 50% of the wealth of African Americans who, as always, were disproportionately affected.

In any event, the PD headline and story led to the grant from the National Science Foundation being heavily maligned by the usual aggregation of numbskull trollers at

The story does raise eyebrows of course, as the environmental and caretaking cost of vacant lots is higher than one might imagine. So if you want to understand why the grant was made, or just be more knowledgeable about all the vacant lots around us, spend three minutes here.

• • •
Thoughts about Cavs’ draft tonight

The Cleveland Cavaliers have the first pick in tonight’s NBA draft. There is likely no franchise player available so the team needs to go for the surest bet of a frontline player. I would be tempted to take Victor Oladipo of Indiana University. He’s smart, tough, and tenacious, plays hard all the time, and is the kind of guy who will get better and better over time. He would especially fit in with the team’s new emphasis on defense.

I will be ok with the likely selection of Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. Just don’t bring home Nerlins Noel, who is a foot taller than I am but weighs less. And I’m not as out of shape as I thought I was [I overhauled my five year old grandson in a race last week on a steamy Los Angeles afternoon.].

Two events for tonight:

I haven’t made up my mind between going over to the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Community Center [3450 Lee Road, Shaker Heights 44120] at 7PM to meet John Patrick Carney, a state representative who is probably going to run for State Auditor next year, or to head over to Nighttown [12387 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights 44106] for a Society of Urban Professionals event featuring live music from Cleveland native Mariama Whyte [5:30PM-9PM].

I’m sure Carney will be coming around again, so …