Friday, October 18, 2013

Claiming Culture, Telling Your Story, Nigerians in Northeast Ohio

Political Correctness didn’t start in the 1960s

A close friend of mine surprised herself recently when she pulled off a feat at work on deadline with great aplomb.

I wasn’t surprised. Not only did I know she is incredibly talented; her situation evoked the maxim that “necessity is the mother of invention”.

I see evidence of this truism all around, and increasingly so when it comes to African Americans and the economy. Black people have always had to be resourceful and inventive in order to survive and prosper in a land that was both contemptuous and confiscatory of their labor and yet hostile towards efforts at self-sufficiency.

Back when America still found public education a useful means of instilling common core values in youthful minds, public school curricula were structured to encourage foundational faith in patriotism, Manifest Destiny, and American exceptionalism. Some stories, especially of the American Revolution, were told so often that the mere mention of certain terms or places — King George, Bunker Hill, the Midnight Ride — evokes a common narrative. For example, just writing these words calls to mind Johnny Tremain, a novel I read in elementary school. Was it taught as history or as literature? Either way the effect was the same.

Much of this cultural indoctrination was reinforced by shared religious experience and imagery. I don’t remember whether I learned the Battle Hymn of the Republic in church or in school. In some ways there was little difference between the two. Through the magic of Hollywood, the accepted narrative has been reinforced with incredible special effects, in such films as Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, Johnny Tremain [Walt Disney, of course], and virtually every Western up through mid-20th century.

While this indoctrination continues today at many mega churches, which in some instances seem indistinguishable from Broadway, popular culture is no longer so unilateral in its messaging. Creative artists — musicians, writers, poets, painters et al., — have always found ways to express counter cultural views. Today, abetted and accelerated by the proliferation of technology — iPods, smartphones, iPads, Xboxes, digital readers, hundreds of television channels, a world wide web that facilitates all sorts of individuated information streams — we are each our own disc jockeys, movie distributors, television networks and schedulers, and gamers.

All this is happening as Americans go to church less often, read or watch the same news sources less, and are increasingly victims of or escapees from an increasingly fragmented, pulverized, discredited and disintegrating public school system.

So if we didn’t know about Black Wall Street [see here and here] or Greenwood or Mound Bayou, Mississippi, before, the chances that we can the lessons therefrom are reduced to near nil.

 All of this came to mind when a friend told me earlier this week that Nigeria is the world’s third largest producer of feature films. That probably comes as a surprise to most Real Deal readers, sophisticated though ye be. I mean, tell the truth, in free word association, “Nigeria” is more apt to evoke fraudulent email schemes, rampant bribery, and military government than most anything positive. 

Why doesn’t that free word association evoke “one of the world’s largest populations” and “one of the world’s largest oil producers”, Nollywood, and home to some of the world’s brightest and most energetic minds
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
. [Americanah, by
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is the best novel I’ve read in a very long time.]

Short answer to the previous question: the history of the Wild West will be different when Native Americans tell it instead of the cowboys.

The curious can get a taste of the vibrant cultural mix that is Nigeria with a visit to Akron tomorrow, Saturday, October 19, where NIMAS [Nigerians in Metropolitan Akron and Surroundings] has organized a Nigerian Independence Day celebration. The former British colony achieved independence October 1, 1960.

The featured guest will be Kene Mkparu, founder and CEO of The Filmhouse.
Kene Mkparu
Pre-event activity will kick off at 4:30 PM with a free screening of one of his films.

The main event kicks off at 5:30PM and will run to near midnight. Music, dancing and Nigerian cuisine will be featured as part of the evening’s “cultural bonanza”, according to NIMAS president Gertrude Mkparu [no relation to Kene Mkparu].

The celebration venue is Tadmor Temple, 3000 Krebs Drive, Akron.  For more information: 330.265.5712 or 440.263.5584.

You can sample a recent Nollywood movie here. You can sample a Nigerian dance here.

NEWS BULLETIN: Ohio Supreme Court's Disciplinary Counsel comes down hard on Cleveland Municipal Judge Angela Stokes

Discipline, psychiatric exam recommended by Supreme Court counsel

Cleveland television station WOIO is reporting “the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court has recommended that Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Angela Stokes be disciplined for what it calls abusive treatment of nearly everyone that comes into her courtroom. “
Judge Angela Stokes
A report from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel obtained by the station claims that Stokes continues cases 300% more often than any other judge, that she has had 21 bailiffs since 1995, and that court personnel rotate through her courtroom more often than others because of "burnout" and the abusive treatment they receive. 
The ODC report, finding that she "may be suffering from a mental illness that substantially impairs her ability to perform her duties as a judicial officer," recommends that Judge Stokes be given a psychiatric examination.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nonprofit Thursday: The Gathering Place • Black Professionals Assn. Charitable Foundation • Cleveland Tenants Organization •

Cancer in the African American Family
Oftentimes we don’t know what we don’t now. This is especially true of children. It seems that for so many of them — and once upon a time, us — their presumption is that their lives are normal, no matter how golden, bleak, weird, blessed or hexed their surroundings or conditions actually are.

I grew up at a time when cancer was the great unmentionable. No one used the word in polite company, it was taboo in popular magazines, and it did not exist on television. Some people looked upon “The Big C” as disapprovingly as if it were a venereal disease.

Cancer certainly intruded into my home, though it went unacknowledged by my parents whenever I was underfoot. It was discussed in euphemisms delivered in the hushed tones that people still reserve when referencing skeletons in the attic.

Of course such odd silence was at direct counterpoint to what my young eyes saw: trips to the doctor, daily struggles with a shoulder to palm rubber glove that my mother wrestled with daily to control the swelling that resulted from lymph node removal following her double mastectomy when I was a rug crawler. I couldn’t make sense out of what I saw from that low vantage. I just rationalized it as normal.

These thoughts stirred when I learned that The Gathering Place, a true community resource, is hosting a discussion next week on “Cancer in the African American Family”. The ninety-minute guided discussion is designed to help families learn ways to improve how to communicate about our feelings, hopes, fears, and needs while on the cancer journey.

The gathering will take place at TGP’s wonderful eastside facility, located at 23300 Commerce Park in Beachwood, next Thursday, October 24, from 6:30-8PM. There is no charge but advance registration is required for planning purposes. To attend, call 216.595.9546.

TGP’s mission is to support, educate and empower individuals and families touched by cancer through programs and services provided free of charge. When you need them, they are there.

My mother lived until I was 21. I think that might have been one of her goals, since I was the family caboose. She was extremely able, articulate, determined, faithful, generous, and hard working. Today she would be known as a survivor. Had she had the time and energy, she probably would have wanted to be a volunteer at The Gathering Place.

CORRECTION! The Bayard Rustin film screens today, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2013.


The Greatest will be at The Cleveland Museum of Art this weekend

Of course that’s what CMA enthusiasts insist is true every day at the Cleveland Treasure House, aka The Cleveland Museum of Art. Saying it has
special meaning this weekend, when the new documentary, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, will be shown. Times are Friday at 7PM and Sunday at 1:30PM. Admission is $9 [$7 for seniors, students, and CMA members].

The film chronicles the pivotal years during which the “The Greatest!” converted to Islam, changed his name from Cassius Marcellus Clay, and refused to fight in Vietnam. He was banned from boxing, convicted for his refusal and his case went to the United States Supreme Court.

This week’s showing is a Cleveland premiere. You can view the compelling trailer here.

For more information, including tickets, visit here.

Black Professional of the Year Gala is this Saturday

Few nonprofits in town do an annual gala as, well, professionally, as the Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation. This year’s event, set
for this Saturday, October 19 at the new Cleveland Convention Center, salutes Dr. R. A. Vernon as the Black Professional of the Year.

This year’s general chairs are Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. and Jerry Kelsheimer, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank. The Honorary Co-Chairs are Pamela Marshall Holmes, Valerie McCall, and Myrna Lee Corley.

For more information, call 216.229.7110.

This year’s BPACF Scholarship Class:

Gary Baker, Case Western Reserve University
Paige Bobbitt, Towson University
Lamar Burns Jr., Kent State University
Nicolette Carson, Eastern Michigan University
Kymeron Carter, Berklee College of Music
Damian Cowan, Walsh University
Eric Dowery Jr., Muskingum University
Moses Ford, University of Toledo
Jailyn Greenwood, Eastern Michigan University
Gabriann Harris, Cuyahoga Community College
Stephanie Harris, Miami University
Theo Hike, Central State University
Jaelin Johnson, University of North Carolina
Morelle McCane, Clark-Atlanta University
Elisha-Grae Peoples, University of Toledo
Kevin Pettit, Howard University
Sierra Reid, Cleveland State University
Miranda Richmond, Case Western Reserve University
Anthony Simmons, Morehouse College
Faith Speight, Ohio Dominican University
Shannon Suttles, Butler University

Murder Mystery Theater Company featured at CTO Benefit Dinner

The Cleveland Tenants Organization is hosting its annual benefit dinner next week, October 24, at Windows on the River, 2000 Sycamore in the Flats, Cleveland. Dinner and show start at 6:30PM, preceded by a cocktail hour.

The night of ghoulish fun to further CTO’s mission will feature Cleveland’s Murder Mystery Theater Company.

For ticket information visit