April 2008 Archives

Obama Denounces Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Below are videos and a transcript of Obama's denunciations of Rev. Wright

29 April 2008 (1:29)

March 2008 (3:40)

Transcript of Senator Obama Comments on Rev. Wright
Winston Salem, North Carolina
29 April 2008


Before I start taking questions I want to open it up with a couple of comments about what we saw and heard yesterday. I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That’s in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That’s who I am. That’s what I believe. That’s what this campaign has been about.

Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.
His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I’ve already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, he’s built a wonderful congregation, the people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministry’s reach beyond the church walls. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States’ wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me, they rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this, I — we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided; that, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past. I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country; that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments. What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about, it is not what I think America stands for, and I want to be very clear that moving forward Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign’s about, I think will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point, I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It’s never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It’s not about Reverend Wright. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children, and that’s what we should be talking about. And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me. So with that, let me take some questions.

Yeah, go ahead.

Q and A:

Q: Why the change in tone from yesterday when you spoke to us on the tarmac yesterday –

BO: I’ll be honest with you, because I hadn’t seen it yet.

Q: That was the difference?

BO: Yes.

Q: Have you heard the reports about the AIDS comment?

BO: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was that he had given a performance and I thought, at the time that it would be sufficient to re-iterate what I had said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a — it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that — that’s — that contradicts who I am and what I stand for and what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion, somehow, that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I’m about knows that I’m about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the commonality in all people. And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakahn is — has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs. Jeff?

Q: What do you expect or what do you plan do about this right now, to further distance yourself? Do you think you need to do that? What does that say about your judgment for superdelegates who are trying to decide which democratic nominee is better? Your candidacy has been based on judgment. What does this say?

BO: Well, look, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years. I understand that I think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously during the first stage of this controversy. I think he felt vilified and attacked, and I understand that he wanted to defend himself. You know, I understand that, you know, he’s gone through difficult times of late and that he’s leaving his ministry after many years. And so, you know, that may account for the change but the insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his performance in the question and answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me. It surprised me. As I said before, this is an individual who has built a very fine church and a church that is well-respected throughout Chicago. During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted. And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church. So, you know, I think what it says is that, you know, I have not — you know, I did not run through — run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years, but I don’t think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

Q: What affect do you think it’s going to have on your campaign?

BO: That’s something that you guys will have to figure out. Obviously we’ve got elections in four or five days. So we’ll find out. You know, what impact it has. Ultimately, I think that the American people know that we have to do better than we’re doing right now. I think that they believe in the ideas of this campaign. I think they are convinced that special interests have dominated Washington too long. I think they are convinced that we’ve got to get beyond some of the same political games that we’ve been playing. I think they believe that we need to speak honestly and truthfully about how we’re going to solve issues like energy or health care and I believe that this campaign has inspired a lot of people. And that’s part of what, you know, going back to what you asked, Mike, about why I feel so strongly about this today. You know, after seeing Reverend Wright’s performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for what — for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems. You know, now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together, and that’s what we’ve been doing in this campaign and you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.

Q: Did you have a conversation with Reverend Wright?

BO: No.

Q: What’s going to happen with the distraction?

BO: I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed, as a consequence of this. I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. I don’t — more importantly — I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people and with the American people And obviously, he’s free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that — well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.

Q: I’m wondering, I don’t know what — I’m wondering — [inaudible]

BO: Well, the new pastor, the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful, young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community. This — I’ll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss, but because this has become such a spectacle. And, you know, when I go to church, it’s not for spectacle, it’s to pray and to find — to find a stronger sense of faith. It’s not to posture politically. It’s not to — you know, it’s not to hear things that violate my core beliefs. And so, you know, and I certainly done want to provide a distraction for those who are worshipping at Trinity. So as of this point, I’m a member of Trinity. I haven’t had a discussion with Reverend Moss about it, so I can’t tell you how he’s reacting and how he’s responding. Okay? Kathy?

Q: Senator, I’m wondering to sort of follow on Jeff’s question about why it’s different now. Have you heard from some of your supporters, you know, you have supporters who expressed any alarm about what this might be doing to the campaign?

BO: Look, I mean, I don’t think that it’s that hard to figure out from if it was just a purely political perspective. You know, my reaction has more to do with what I want this campaign to be about and who I am. And I want to make certain that people understand who I am. You know, in some ways what Reverend Wright said yesterday, directly contradicts everything that I’ve done during my life. It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I’ve worked on politically. It contradicts what I’ve said in my books. It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I’ve been saying on this campaign trail. And what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part, and we’re all a part, and try to make something constructive out of it. But there wasn’t anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was, was a bunch of rants that aren’t grounded in truth. And you know, I can construct something positive out of that. I can understand it. I, you know, the — you know, the people do all sorts of things and, as I said before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a leader in the South Side. I think that the church he built is outstanding. I think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons. He provided, you know, valuable contributions to my family. But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough. That’s a show of disrespect to me. It’s — it is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.

Q: Did you discuss with your wife after having seen Reverend Wright …

BO: Yeah, she was similarly angered. Joe?

Q: Reverend Wright said it’s not an attack on him but an attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that? Second of all, the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, can you explain something about the anger and the sentiments, how important a strain is liberation theology and why …

BO: Well, the – first of all of all, in terms of liberation theology, I’m not a theologian. So I think to some theologians there might be some well worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation theology. I went to church and listened to sermons, and the — in the sermons that I heard — and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches — there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness, a social gospel. So a lot of people would, rather than using a fancy word like that, simply talk about preaching the social gospel and that — there’s nothing particularly odd about that. Dr. King, obviously, was the most prominent example of that kind of preaching. But you know, what I do think can happen, and I didn’t see this as a member of the church, but I saw it yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed that you lose sight of what we have in common, that it overrides everything else that we’re not concerned about the struggles of others because we’re looking at things only through a particular lens, then it doesn’t describe properly what I believe in the power of faith to overcome but also to bring people together. Now, you had a first question that I don’t remember.

Q: do you think [inaudible]

BO: you know, I did not — I did not view the initial round of sound bites that triggered this controversy as an attack on the black church. I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was. And, you know, more than anything, something that piqued a lot of political interest. I didn’t see it as an attack on the black church. I mean, probably the only aspect of it that probably had to do with specifically the black church is the fact that some people were surprised when he was shouting. I mean, that is just a black church tradition. And so I think some people interpreted that as somehow, wow, he’s really hollering and black preachers holler and so that, I think, showed a cultural gap in America. The sad thing is that, although the sound bites I, as I stated, I think, created a caricature of him and when he was in that Moyers interview though there were some things that, you know, continued to be offensive, at least there was some sense of rounding out the edges. Yesterday, I think he caricatured himself and that was — as I said, that made me angry, but also made me sad. Richard?

Q: [inaudible] talk about giving the benefit of the doubt or the Philadelphia speech and trying to create something close to that. Did you consult with him before the speech or after the speech in Philadelphia to get his reaction?

BO: I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia. Wasn’t able to reach him, because he was on a — he was on a cruise. He had just stepped down from the pulpit. When he got back, I did speak to him and the — you know, I prefer not to share sort of private conversations between me and him. I will talk to him perhaps someday in the future. But what I can say is that I was very clear that what he had said in those particular snippets, I found objectionable and offensive. And that the intention of the speech was to provide context for them but not to excuse them because I found them inexcusable.

Q: on Sunday you were asked to respond [inaudible]

BO: There’s been great damage. You know, I — it may have been unintentional on his part, but, you know, I do not see that relationship being the same after this. Now, to some degree, you know, I know that one thing that he said was true was that he was never my, quote/unquote spiritual adviser, he was never my spiritual mentor, he was my Pastor. And so to some extent how, you know, the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think was inaccurate. But he was somebody who was my pastor and married Michelle and I and baptized my children and prayed with us when we announced this race. And so, you know, I’m disappointed. All right? thank you, guys.

Rev. Wright's Remarks to the National Press Club
Monday 28 April 2008

Pt. I (10:00)

Pt. II (10:00)

Pt. III (7:00)

Pt. IV (9:00)

Pt. V (10:00)

Pt. VI (7:00)

30 April 2008


As the Reverend Wright controversy continues to dominate media attention, we host a debate with two guests. Melissa Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University. A Barack Obama supporter, she was a member of the Trinity United Church, and Reverend Wright was also her pastor. And Adolph Reed, Jr. is professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He makes the case against voting for Senator Barack Obama in the latest issue of The Progressive magazine.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell,
Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. She is a contributing writer at TheRoot.com and a Barack Obama supporter. She attended the Trinity United Church, and Rev. Wright was also her pastor.

Adolph Reed Jr.
, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books, including Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene and Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. He makes the case against voting for Sen. Obama in the latest issue of The Progressive magazine.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m joined now by two guests to discuss Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Senator Barack Obama.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell is associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University and the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. She is a contributing writer at theroot.com and a Barack Obama supporter. She was a member of the Trinity United Church, and Reverend Wright was also her pastor. She joins us now from Princeton, New Jersey.

And joining us on the phone is Adolph Reed, Jr. He’s a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books, including Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene and Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. He makes the case against voting for Senator Barack Obama in the latest issue of The Progressive magazine.

Welcome to both of you.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Thank you. Nice to be here.

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Hi. Good morning. How’s everybody doing?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Good. I’d like to begin with Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Your reaction to the three appearances of Reverend Wright over the weekend and on Monday and to Senator Obama’s speech yesterday in reaction to his comments?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I suppose more than anything, I find it shockingly painful. I’ve found this painful since Trinity United Church of Christ, a church where I was not a member but where I did attend for the seven years during the time that I lived in Chicago—since it’s been mischaracterized, since I’ve heard Jeremiah Wright sound-bited and spoken about in such harsh ways. This has been a difficult process, I think, for all of us who love and care about Jeremiah Wright, but also a difficult process for all of us who are supporters of Barack Obama, who watch these two men, both of whom we care about, trying to figure out how to work out their personal, theological and political differences in public.

What I think ultimately is that most of what Jeremiah Wright said, while speaking, while actually speaking during these appearances, are things that I agree with and things that I think represent the very best of who Jeremiah Wright is. But in his question-and-answers, he indicated a kind of egoism and a defensiveness that this is really about him. As much as he said this is not about him, it’s about the church, there was this sense of defensiveness that I think ultimately undid so much of the important work that he’d done in the talks themselves.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And his saying that the attacks on him are in essence an attack on the black church itself?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it certainly is an attack on Trinity United Church of Christ. And over the past month as this has been in the news, many of the members of Trinity have experienced really awful hate mail. They’ve experienced bomb threats at their church. I mean, it has been an attack on that church.

I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that Jeremiah Wright stands in for the entire African American religious experience. Certainly, the prophetic tradition, the liberation tradition, the transformation tradition that he spoke about are an important element of African American religious thought, but there are lots of other elements. There’s no one black church to which we all go on Sunday morning. And so, I think it is unfair for him to imagine that he stands in for the whole black church and for the entire black religious experience.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Adolph Reed, I’d like to ask you, again, your reaction to both the appearances of Reverend Wright at this particular time in the campaign in these very public appearances and of Senator Obama’s reaction?

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Well, hi. Yeah, I guess the first thing I should say is, I certainly agree with Professor Harris-Lacewell’s last comment. I think the tendency both on—well, it’s an understandable one as a political move or a move of political rhetoric. I think the tendency to extrapolate from what is clearly a dog pile-on campaign at the national level against Wright and, by implication, his own parish, to extrapolate from that to—of taking that as a representative of an abstraction called the black church is problematic.

But I also—before I say anything else, I want to correct something in my column. It turns out that I mistakenly identified my old friend Katha Pollitt as one of—you know, the journalist—and others who had linked her support for Obama to her daughter. She was not, actually.

But anyway, I guess what I’d like to do is take a little bit of a step back from this and to rehearse a question that a colleague of mine, you know, another longtime black political scientist, posed about this issue, which is—and the question is, why should we be in a debate about whatever goes on in the church that a presidential candidate attends in the first place? And I think that that question, since—you know, because that question sort of speaks to what—you know, one of the things that’s happened in our politics and the way we talk about politics, and one of the reasons that I think that the Obama campaign is doomed to go down in flames either against McCain—and frankly, I don’t think that Clinton has a better chance of beating McCain, either.

But the answer to the question is that Obama opened himself to this by leaning to—on the premise that he can appeal to Republicans and to conservatives and by parading his personal faith around. And frankly—this is, I guess, the crux of my argument in The Progressive column—that this is precisely the tact that has been the undoing of every Democratic candidate since Dukakis, and I would frankly even include Clinton in that, were it not for the fact that Ross Perot siphoned votes away from the Republicans each time. I mean, this is what happened with Gore in 2000, it’s what happened with Kerry in 2004. You present yourself as electable because you can appeal to conservative voters, and then the Republicans attack you for not being a true conservative and can characterize you as someone who’s trying to put something over on the American people.

And when you stir the race factor into the Obama campaign—I’m sure, as Melissa knows as well as I, probably better, since she’s closer to that kind of political science—you know, I mean, not only have there been only two black people elected governor ever in the United States, none reelected, only three elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction and only one of those, a Republican from Massachusetts, reelected—and from what we’ve seen in gubernatorial and other statewide campaigns—Bradley’s campaign for governor in California, Andrew Young’s campaign in Georgia, you know, Harvey Gantt campaign—is that, you know, about this far out from the electorate, you know, where we’ve seen a number—a significant segment of white voters who sort of like the idea, like to savor the idea in their heads, like the sound of it in their mouths, that they’re prepared to vote for a black candidate, the closer it comes to the election of a black candidate being a reality, the more likely you’re going to find people finding ostensibly nonracial reasons to bail and to find him unlikable.

And I think that’s—frankly, I think that’s—from the standpoint of the national political race, I think that’s the most significant aspect of the Wright contrast now. I mean, I also agree with much, if not the vast majority, of what he had to say, frankly. And I think he’s also correct—Wright, that is—I think he’s also correct that Obama couldn’t embrace him, couldn’t do anything except distance himself from that largely astute analysis of American power and other contradictions of the governing regime of both parties, because of the warrants of trying to win an election in which the discursive center of gravity is much farther to the right.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Melissa Harris-Lacewell, precisely, the Obama campaign, from the beginning, has represented this viewpoint that America could unite and move beyond race and class divisions, beyond the bitter political divisions of the—that have separated Americans in the past. But now you have this reality that no matter how much he espoused moving beyond race, racial contradictions have become a centerpiece now of this campaign, and to some degree, his pastor has helped to keep that now in the public eye. Your response to how this whole controversy, in essence, is disproving Obama’s original premise?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I need to disagree with many of the things that my colleague has said. I do agree with Adolph’s points about—I mean, how could one disagree, they’re historical facts—about the difficulties that African Americans have had in winning statewide office and obviously the possibility of the American presidency. But I think that’s precisely why it was so important for Senator Obama to talk about his religious faith. I mean, after all, there had to be some reason that he believed in the possibility of America being a different place.

I actually don’t think it’s a matter of parading around and pretending that he has the capacity to bring together different groups of people. He has built a national, multiracial, intergenerational coalition of men and women, working class and wealthy people. That is what has happened, whereas the other two candidates, John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have mostly built largely, vastly predominantly white coalitions. And yet, they’re not having to answer questions on race. So I think that, in fact, Barack Obama’s campaign demonstrates, in its capacity to pull voters from New York to Oregon to Philadelphia, the very capacity of black and white and brown Americans to come together.

I also think that when Barack Obama began this process and had to talk about why would he have the audacity of hope to believe that it was possible in this moment to bring together this coalition, regardless of what looked like a bitterly partisan, divided country, he had to talk about his faith in God, because it is exactly that, which I think Jeremiah Wright was leaning towards in his best moments as a minister, is to say that the amazing thing about black America has been that African Americans could look out into a world as enslaved people, as Jim Crowed people, as people who saw no empirical evidence that God in fact loved them, and believe anyway that God loved them, that they had a right to be citizens in this country.

There is never a moment on questions of race in America where things are better before they get better. We always have to walk through the difficult process. That was true in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It is true in the Barack Obama campaign. I hate watching this happen. I know that this is about race. Yet I also know, if you’re going to be the first black president of the United States, whether it’s Barack Obama or some other person later on, you are going to have to learn to govern in the context of racial storms. It is never going to happen that the media and the rest of the country is all going to stand up and give you a standing ovation: “Good job for getting past race.? You’re going to have to walk through race to be on the other side of it. So I actually think the connection of race and religion are fundamental to how African Americans have the hope to engage in American politics.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Adolph Reed, you’ve been critical of the progressive credentials of Senator Obama and of everything from his community organizing experience to some of his political views. Could you explain your views on that?

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Well, yeah. I mean, I want to say a couple things. I mean, one is, yeah, I don’t think that what Obama—well, I tend much more to Doug Henwood’s view, that what Obama has put together is not so much a coalition as a fan club, right? I mean, you don’t build a movement around a political campaign. I know I’ve heard people say that, well—you know, Kool-Aid drinkers have said that, well, you know, this could be—he could set in motion forces like those that moved FDR in a progressive direction, those that moved JFK in a progressive direction. But as Will Jones, the historian at the University of Wisconsin, has pointed out, you know, that comparison fails, because in each of those cases there were dynamic, rooted social movements that had been pushing for progressive agendas with popular bases on the ground prior to the election of the president. You know, you can’t compare—frankly, I think the comparison of the Obama coalition to either, you know, the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the Greensboro sit-ins or the Gastonia textile strike, you know, just fall completely flat, because this is a candidate- centered politics.

I think it’s also the case that—well, I mean, the connection of race and religion, I think, also very much disturbs me. I mean, there’s no intrinsic black American religious experience. I think there are a lot of us who don’t have any religion whatsoever and don’t really care about it and don’t especially want to see it in public life. And I think that’s a—you know, that’s a stance and a mood and a disposition that’s as culturally authentic among black people as anything else, if there were such a thing as cultural authenticity, which I don’t believe.

Finally, you know, the premise that our politics is—at the national level somehow has been characterized by partisan division just flies in the face of everything that we’ve seen over the last twenty-five years. I mean, what have progressives been complaining about, right? That we have basically two wings of a single party, right? It was the Clinton administration and the Democrats who have led—who have polished off the destruction of the federal government’s sixty-year commitment to direct provision of income support for the poor, to direct provision of low-income housing, that led to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, that opened up the dotcom boom, and so—and so on, that’s been as committed to a regime of public advocation and service provision as Republicans have.

And if anything, the contention that the candidate can bring us all together despite our partisan differences is the same thing that the Democrats have been claiming consistently since at least, you know, Dukakis, to be post-partisan, to be post-political. And frankly, I think it appeals—it’s an appeal that gets greatest traction among people who want to take politics out of politics, ultimately.

And I should say, Juan, too, I mean, that I realize that my response was not directly responsive to the question that you put. And that’s primarily because I don’t think that Obama—you know, that the questions about his character and his biography are all that meaningful. I mean, as I said in the same column, you know, I don’t think anybody who aspires to an office like that is going to be somebody you want to have for your brother-in-law or for your sister-in-law. I mean, I think that ultimately those character questions are misplaced. I mentioned this other perspective in my column partly just to deflate the sense that this guy could walk on water and was a whole new kettle of fish. He’s not. He’s another Democratic politician, as capable of good as the rest of them and as capable of bad as the rest of them.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Melissa Harris-Lacewell?

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I do agree with Adolph that there is no question, Barack Obama does not walk on water. It’s not even clear to me that that would be the standard by which we would choose a president. I do think that there is a very easy place to stand as a progressive intellectual, and that is on the sidelines of American politics, shaking an angry fist at how the process works. And I understand and respect it. I—I mean, no one is a more beautiful, critical writer than Adolph Reed. I appreciate the ways in which he pushes us and hopefully drags us towards the left in this country.

On the other hand, here are our options: John McCain, a conservative Republican who has moved to the right in order to win his party’s nomination; Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is part of this Clinton administration, which Adolph Reed has just told us was part of this kind of entire process of moving the Democratic Party towards the right and who has ruthlessly deployed race and gender in this campaign towards her own benefit; and then there’s Barack Obama. Does he walk on water? Certainly not.

But are those of us who have decided to be part of the process, to engage in the questions of American electoral politics, simply hoodwinked and bamboozled and drinking the Kool-Aid? Absolutely not. We’re making a choice about what we believe is possible in our country. And my only point is that, of course, it is an authentic African American experience to stand without hope on the sidelines, angry about the choices, but it is also an authentic African American experience and an authentic—

ADOLPH REED, JR.: I resent that characterization by—

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: —American one to make a choice to be part of the process to choose a candidate, for good or for evil, and to support a campaign, believing that it is the best option that we have within a difficult, difficult American process.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Adolph Reed, last word, about a minute?

ADOLPH REED, JR.: Yeah, well, look, in the first place, I mean, I find that characterization unacceptable, alright? The only two options aren’t, you know, nothing or accept the two sorry choices that one has at one’s disposal. I mean, I think it’s possible to put the electoral domain in its proper place and to do what everyone has to do in that context, however frequently one has to do it, without losing sight of the fact that what we need to be trying to do at the same time is building beyond the election cycle—


ADOLPH REED, JR.: —for the kind of movement that we need in this country.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: I would agree with that. I would join with you in that, absolutely.

ADOLPH REED, JR.: And frankly, I mean, you know, I think that the game is over at this point. I don’t think that either one of these candidates actually is going to be able to beat McCain. I think they’re both vulnerable in precisely the same ways and that if Clinton gets the nomination, she’s going to be undone by McCain in the same way that Obama will be. I think that the question really is which one we’ll be worse off with as a failed Democratic nominee. And I think partly because of the sort of racial narratives that are likely to attach within rightwing circles in the Democratic Party of an Obama defeat, as well as the subsequent role that he’d be likely to play in public life, that from the standpoint of progressive interests, we will ultimately be worse off with Obama as a defeated candidate than with Clinton as a defeated candidate.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Come on, Adolph. You need a little hope. Come on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: On that note, we’re going to leave the debate. I want to thank Adolph Reed, Jr., professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University.

Rev. Wright on Hillary Clinton


Amiri Baraka "Somebody Blew Up America"


Police Acquitted in Sean Bell Case

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"Sean Bell Verdict Sticks to Script"
NY Daily News
Friday 25 April 2008

It is the nightmare that keeps recurring.

Whether its Amadou Diallo and the 41-shot barrage in the Bronx, or Timothy Stansbury opening the roof door of his public housing building only to be gunned down without warning, or the 50 shots unleashed on Sean Bell.

It's all become predictable - after much public fanfare, sometimes even a trial, our courts say no crime was involved in these heart-breaking shootings of unarmed black men.

Anyone who spent time in the Sean Bell trial knows the prosecutors were only going through the motions. The absymal New York Knicks had a better game plan this season, and far more desire, than the prosecutors of Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper.

You couldn't help feeling they mailed it in, and Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman only stamped it.

It does not matter whether Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield were choir boys or thugs. The simple fact is they had no guns.

There was an altercation outside a strip joint. Words were exchanged. Bell and his two friends were clearly filled with alcohol, but they walked away. Whether one of them said he was going to get a gun or not was never conclusively proved.

As they got into their car, they were confronted by a man waiving a gun at them. Witnesses, even cops who took the stand, contradicted each other as to whether Isnora identified himself as cop.

An unmarked police van with no lights flashing drove up the street into the path of Bell's car. Ask yourself for a moment: If you had just left an argument with some stranger and you suddenly see a man rushing at you with a gun, and then some van drive up and block your exit, what would you do?

Would you wait around and ask some polite questions? Or would you try to speed away from the scene as fast as possible - even if it meant your car hitting the stranger with gun?

I know what I would do - and I'm not trained to react instantly in life and death situations.

Neither was Sean Bell, who was drunk, and who no doubt wanted to be alive for his wedding.


The only ones on Liverpool Street that morning who had professional training in such situations were Isnora, Gescard, Cooper and the other members of their team.

Isnora claimed he thought Guzman was reaching for a gun, only there was no gun. Diallo was reaching for his wallet. Stansburry was merely opening the door.

The people who are trained made a mistake. The civilians who are not trained ended up dead.
Throughout the black and Latino neighborhoods of this city, the anguish has been mounting for years from these periodic "mistakes."

That anguish is made far worse by a court system that always seems to devise some legal wording or excuse to declare there was no crime.

Now everyone is speculating about violence or rioting. Just another way of blaming the victim.
The greatest threat of all is loss of faith in our judicial system.

In some parts of this city, many are more convinced than ever that there is one law for them and another for the police.

At least with the Knicks, we can hope the nightmare will end next season.

"Surveillance Film Shows Police, Passengers Diving For Cover as Bullets in Sean Bell Shooting Hit Train Station"
14 December 2006

"In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we air for the first time surveillance footage connected to the shooting of Sean Bell. The video from the Port Authority’s Jamaica Avenue Air Train station reveals that one of the bullets fired by the five cops at Sean Bell and his friends narrowly missed striking a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station’s elevated platform. Bell was the unarmed African American man killed by undercover police in a hail of 50 bullets in Queens New York two weeks ago. He died hours before he was supposed to be married and two of his friends were seriously wounded."

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Of course Obama Lost . . .
I want to begin this post by saying that of course Obama lost the Pennsylvania primary. In the weeks between primaries, the Clinton campaign threw up Rev. Wright, threw up Bill Ayers, and forced Obama into defending ideas and associations that in reality were in no need of defense. The barrage of accusations made Hillary Clinton and her associations virtually invisible. Forgotten and negated was a recent history of association with Clinton's own life partner, Bill Clinton. In the 1990s, Hillary Clinton stood by as Bill Clinton dismantled welfare in the U.S.; waffled about the definition of "genocide" regarding Rwanda's war by machete and rape; passed NAFTA and thus, opened the door to CAFTA. Bill Clinton pushed through the federal Three Strikes You're Out law and thereby ensured, ironically for these campaign times, "thirteen percent of the black adult male population . . . lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws"(1).

About Bill Ayers and Obama . . .

I am honored to have Bill Ayers as my friend. Through him; his heart; his critical work with under-resourced schools; his advocacy of all youth, especially poor and working class kids; through his past efforts to wrestle with the tangled complexities of life in the U.S.; and through our meetings in Chicago over coffee in some corner cafe, I have learned about what it means to keep one's dreams in line with acts of integrity that are not self-centered, with acts that maintain a wide frame encompassing more than just one's self. Bill Ayers is not a "terrorist." The acts he committed in the '60s as an ally to poor/working class folks of color were extreme, yes. But were not the times extreme? The U.S. was in the midst of Vietnam; the country was post-Jim Crow and many whites were actively resisting that fact; African American leaders were being openly assassinated (e.g., Fred Hampton, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Jr.) or being taken as political prisoners; African American women were being forcibly sterilized; and there was, too, the FBI's COINTELPRO . . .

FBI's War on Black America (53:00)
By Denis Mueller & Deb Ellis

Bill Ayers is kind, he is generous, he is compassionate, and he is humbly forthright, which in his case is no contradiction. Bill is a a social intellectual. Every step he and his wife Bernardine take is an effort to connect their daily lives with acts that encourage and demand respect and equity for poor and working class people in the U.S. and worldwide. Bill and Bernardine try to compel everyone around them to live up to the supposed egalitarianism this country purports, but never provides.

At one time, I had made a decision to stay out of the discussion regarding Bill and Obama. I felt, Why should I defend someone I love who needs not to be defended, who demonstrates his regard for community and people, kids, teachers, and schools each time he opens his classroom door to teach? Why add to this ridiculous fray batted about by republicans and democrats alike? But this Thursday, after seeing the documentary, The Weather Underground, Bill will speak with my undergraduate "Intro to Social Justice" class and other invited guests. So, I'm providing my comments to counter the backhanded slap (of seeming support?) Doug Rossinow (in a recent Star Tribune article posted below) and others have recently given Bill regarding Obama. I want my students to know who Bill is and I want them to see the kind of mediated nonsense produced by the weapons this insane political campaign for the presidency erects in the name of a fallacious notion of truth. And, I don't do this because Bill needs my comments. His community work around education and his work outside of this country speak for themselves. I do this because I feel this is just what you do when folks call your friends out of name.

Last year, Bill spoke with my Intro to Social Justice class after viewing The Weather Underground. And, never, not once did a student question the violence (re)presented through the film--neither the violence of Weatherman nor the local and global violence of the state to which Weatherman was responding. After watching the film students asked questions like, How did you have the courage to stand up for what you believe? Or, Would you do it differently in response to the atrocities committed by the state today? In response to the latter question, Bill responded with an emphatic Yes, because today's times necessitate a different kind of response yet one that stills needs to be provided by youth. The students asked Bill questions about their world and how to be responsible for and to it. They asked him, what can I do that is just? What can I do that is non-violent? What can I do that will make a difference? The students asked these questions because they have not and do not negate the past and they know the present isn't working for them and it isn't working for others either. Never did a student call Bill a terrorist. Never did a student question his commitment to social justice. Instead, my students sought Bill out to discover how they can do and make the present better.

What my students sensed in Bill and Bernardine through the film is their profound commitment to allied behavior; their promise to lay down their lives to make things right; to make things equal. There is a moment in the film when Bernardine discusses how she is going to stand side-by-side Blacks and others who haven't been allowed the same economic and social privileges as she. It is a moment in the film when my students literally said aloud, particularly the white ones, WHOA. And later, inevitably, they asked Bill something like How did you have the humility and the courage to admit who you were as a white person, what you came from, and what white folks needed to do to make whiteness, to make power see itself?

Bill Ayers believes in equity, voice, access, and justice--he always has. Sometimes our beliefs take us into acts of war. Unlike Bill, Bush II has allowed the extremity of his beliefs in American exceptionalism to produce multiple global wars. Our personal social "acts of war" should be more like Bill's and Bernardine's acts today: We should daily find ways to create small and large moments of justice that do no harm, that raise awareness, and that forthrightly shine the light on power and the ways in which it works in and through us.

Below is a video of the Obama-Clinton debate in Pennsylvania. The clip captures the point at which Stephanopoulos joined the bandwagon of democrats and republicans alike to produce fear and drive the campaign away from real issues like the war, the economy, education, health care, and our inadequate social relationship to each other in this country. Important to note is the fact that Stephanopoulos was Bill Clinton's campaign communications director in 1992 as well as President Clinton's press secretary. You will notice that Obama's friendship with Bill runs so deep that he calls him "a professor of English." Those who work with Bill or those who are actually his friends know that Bill is Distinguished Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at University of Illinois at Chicago. His work at UIC and as co-founder with Mike Klonsky of Small Schools Workshop focuses on urban school change and critical teaching practices.

The following articles by Lynn Sweet of the Sun Times and Doug Rossinow of Metropolitan State University are the ones to which I referred earlier in this post. Both provide, as mentioned before, an obviously backhanded wave of support to both Bill and Obama by discussing the true non-issue quality of their association. Neither are profound exemplars of journalism or objectivity, but they do serve as good examples of the kind of mediated, seemingly progressive discourse that is shaping this discussion. I encourage you all to read Bill's books, to read his blog, and to understand his work past and present better. In so doing, I'm sure you see what I see.

"Obama's Ayers Connection Never Bugged Anyone"
18 April 2008 - Chicago Sun Times

PHILADELPHIA --GOP mastermind Karl Rove, commenting on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show on Thursday, chastised Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for "hanging around" William Ayers. The Daily News, one of the papers in Philadelphia, referred to Ayers as a "1960s radical" in a story about the Wednesday Democratic debate.

The debate vaulted Ayers from being a side matter in the presidential campaign to center stage just before Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. "The Clinton campaign has been agitating to try to get this in the bloodstream for some time," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Thursday. But it was ABC News' George Stephanopoulos who pressed Obama in the debate to explain why his association with Ayers would not be an issue if he were the Democratic presidential nominee.

Who is Ayers?

For Obama, perhaps a problem, because of Ayers' extremist past -- which has never bothered anyone in Chicago. That's why back in the day when Obama was starting his political career -- making a visit to the Ayers home while running for a state Senate seat, and then agreeing to being on panels with him and serve on a foundation board together -- it was no big deal, or any deal, to any local political reporters or to the editorial boards of the Sun-Times or Tribune.

Once Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, and wife Bernardine Dohrn, also in the group -- surfaced after years on the lam, they settled easily in to the village known as Hyde Park-Kenwood in Chicago, fitting into the highly political, supremely philosophical community anchored by the University of Chicago. For outsiders, it's Cambridge, Berkeley and Evanston --without a lot of chain stores. It's also the place the Obamas call home.

But Ayers, who became a scholar at the University of Illinois-Chicago, was also eventually embraced by a pragmatic son of blue-collar Bridgeport desperately trying to upgrade Chicago's chronically troubled schools: Mayor Daley, whose father's legacy was tarnished because of anti-Vietnam War protesters getting clobbered in the 1968 convention and the "Days of Rage" the next year.

Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf knew Ayers in the 1960s and re-met Ayers and Dohrn decades later. In the 1960s Wolf said he and Ayers were on opposite sides of the use of violence to effect social change. Then, Ayers thought it useful. Wolf came out of the school of nonviolence.

Wolf now is rabbi emeritus at KAM Isaiah Israel, coincidentally located across the street from the Obamas' Kenwood home. (The synagogue welcomes Obama's Secret Service agents inside to use the facilities.)

Ayers is "wonderful, compassionate, thoughtful, serious," Wolf said. I asked him to help reconcile the past and the present. "What we want is not to let bygones be bygones, but to transform ourselves into the kind of people we want to be and ought to be," Wolf said.

Obama made it seem at the debate he hardly knew Ayers. Besides serving on the Woods Fund board, in 1997 he and Ayers were to be on a University of Chicago panel organized by Michelle Obama, then an associate dean. And Ayers could reinforce Obama as an elitist: In 2002, Obama and Ayers were scheduled to be on a UIC panel with this lampoon-able title: "Intellectuals in Times of Crisis."

"Mayor Daley Defends Obama, Vouching for William Ayers"

PHILADELPHIA, PA.--Mayor Daley vouched for William Ayers on Thursday, praising the educator--and former radical-- for his work on Chicago public school reform programs and sending a strong message of reassurance to voters who may be worried about Ayers association with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), which is a non-stop topic lately on Fox News.

Daley press secretary Jackie Heard said Daley decided on his own Thursday morning to issue a statement, after seeing Ayers' name surface in the Wednesday Democratric debate, portrayed as an unrepentant former member of the Weather Underground. Daley's brother, Bill, the former Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton is an Obama backer; Daley's media consultant is David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist.

'I don't condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep re-fighting 40 year old battles," Daley said.


There are a lot of reasons that Americans are angry about Washington politics. And one more example is the way Senator Obama's opponents are playing guilt-by-association, tarring him because he happens to know Bill Ayers.

I also know Bill Ayers. He worked with me in shaping our now nationally-renowned school reform program. He is a nationally-recognized distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois/Chicago and a valued member of the Chicago community.

I don't condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep re-fighting 40 year old battles.

"Flash: '60s Activism Predated Obama"
20 April 2008 - Star Tribune

Is it 2008 or 1992? When Bill Clinton ran for president, Republicans suggested he had betrayed his country when, as a student traveling in Europe in 1969, he protested against the Vietnam War in England and visited Moscow and Prague. Conservatives called Hillary Clinton a dangerous radical feminist forged in the furnace of the late 1960s.

Now, Barack Obama's association with one-time far-left militant Bill Ayers, his Chicago neighbor, is the target of attacks. But this time the attacks, while they have been nurtured in the right-wing media, have been voiced not by a Republican opponent, but by Obama's fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Irony of ironies.

I wrote a book about the "new left" radical movement of the 1960s, a story in whose closing scenes Ayers' group the Weather Underground played a violent and destructive role. I've always tried to say as little as possible about the "Weatherpeople," since there were only a few hundred of them -- amid a radical movement that numbered in the six figures -- and since they've always gotten more attention than they deserved.

The Weatherpeople were clowns who played with fire. They hoped that if they looked tough enough, a revolutionary legion from the Third World might overwhelm America and greet them as comrades. Their specialties were property damage and profanity. The emptiness of their insurrectionary slogans eventually became a line of defense: They gave warnings of when their bombs would explode; the only people they killed in that era were three of their own number.

Ayers and other Weatherveterans may have become wholesome, productive citizens since returning to polite society. If they want to support a decent, supremely realistic man like Barack Obama, then good for them. Just as Obama says, he was a kid when Ayers was doing stupid things.

Hillary Clinton -- at long last, having no shame -- suggests that Ayers' comment that "we didn't do enough," in an interview published on 9/11, was an endorsement of Al-Qaida's attack on America. She certainly knows that Ayers' interview was done before 9/11. Whatever he meant, the timing of the interview's publication was simply unfortunate.

It's actually not so ironic that Clinton is attacking Obama for associating with Ayers. The charge that the Clintons were late-'60s radicals has always been false. The truth is that there were many different '60s. Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton were young careerists who wanted to do good as they did well and rose in the political system. It was easier for conservatives to link Bill Clinton's loose personal morals to the sexual liberation that many associate with the 1960s than to find evidence of left-wing radicalism in his past.

Obama shouldn't be drawn into another round of culture wars over the memory of the 1960s. Quite possibly, he can't be. He's a post-'60s political figure. The ghosts of the 1960s continue to hover, but they aren't his ghosts.

Doug Rossinow, associate professor of history at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, is the author of The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America.

© 2008 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

(1) Human Rights Watch Report, "United States - Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs" 12.2 (May 2000).


The Poetix Collaborative: Readings by Gabrielle Civil, Kazim Ali, Kao Kalia Yang, and G. E. Patterson
Thursday 17 April, 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Location: Nolte Center 125

Gabrielle Civil

A bilingual poetry reading by GABRIELLE CIVIL, Associate Professor of English, Women's Studies and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity at the College of Saint Catherine. Prof. Civil comes to performance art at the intersection of poetry, installation and conceptual art. Often, she creates environments, walks into them, and makes things happen. Performance becomes then for her a new way to make poetry. More than character or plot, image and interaction entice her - as well as the challenge of being in her own body while being with others in public space.

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Civil will be followed by readings from KAZIM ALI, KAO KALIA YANG and G.E. PATTERSON. Kazim Ali is a faculty member in Creative Writing at Oberlin College. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Far Mosque (Alice James Books) and the forthcoming The Fortieth Day, and the novel Quinn's Passage, named one of the Best Books of 2005 by Chronogram. Kao Kalia Yang is the writer of the film A Million Miles Away to the Place Where We Were Born and author of The Latehomecomer, both works about the Hmong refugee experience. G. E. Patterson is a poet, critic, translator and teacher. He is the author of Tug (Graywolf Press, 1999) and To and From (Ahsahta, 2008), and winner of the Minnesota Book Award.

The Poetix Collaborative: Mark Nowak in a poetry dialogue with writers from AFSCME 3800 18 April 2008, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM Location: Folwell Hall, 108

Mark Nowak

MARK NOWAK is Associate Professor of Humanities at the College of Saint Catherine and his multidisciplinary work includes publications in anthropology, poetry/poetics, cultural studies, and photography. He is editor of the journal Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics which in recent years has brought into print new works by writers and artists such as Amiri Baraka, Lila Abu-Lughod, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Diane Glancy, Kamau Brathwaite, and Gerald Vizenor. Nowak is also editor of Theodore Enslin's Then, and Now: Selected Poems, 1943-1993 (National Poetry Foundation) and co-editor (with Diane Glancy) of Visit Teepee Town: Native Writings After the Detours (Coffee House Press). Two collection of Nowak's poems and ethnographic writings, Revenants and Shut Up Shut Down have also been published by Coffee House Press and work from Revenants has appeared in over thirty literary journals and anthologies.

The Poetix Collaborative: "The Guantanamo Poems" with Mark Falkoff and W. Flagg Miller Friday 18 April, 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Location: Nolte Center 125

David Chiasson, NY Times (19 August 2007)

MARC FALKOFF, is a human rights lawyer and editor of Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak (University of Iowa Press, 2007). W. Flagg Miller is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Davis. He is an anthropologist specializing in Middle Eastern poetics as social practice, who provided a scholarly foreword for the book, and is the author of The Moral Resonance of Arab Media: Audiocassette Poetry and Culture in Yemen (Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2007).


Guantánamo detainees wrote poems on Styrofoam cups. The Dow Corp. came up with Styrofoam in 1942 as part of the war effort. These poems in Arabic or Pashto were recyclable yet they were discarded. The Guantánamo poems neither exist, since the originals are gone, nor do they not exist, since the translations, done by the legal translators involved in their defense, remain. The internment camp was invented in 1896 in Cuba (according to Giorgio Agamben). Guantánamo is in Cuba but it is under no active jurisdiction other than that of the US. It conforms to what theorist Carl Schmitt calls "the state of exception." This is what happens when a legal system is circumvented by force. Schmitt's paradigm was Hitler's suspension of the Weimar Constitution after the burning of the Reichstag. The suspension of a Constitution requires a paradoxical legal space outside of the Constitution. This legal space, which Schmitt calls sovereignty, defines dictatorship.

Excerpts from Poems from Guantánamo (Download file)

The poems themselves, their translation and translators, were all deemed security risks. Only twenty-two poems were approved for publication, at the behest of a human rights lawyer representing seventeen of the captives.

The Poetix Collaborative: "The Collapsible Poetics Theater" with Rodrigo Toscano and reading by Jeff Derksen Friday 18 April, 8 PM - 10 PM
Location: Nolte Center 125

Poetics Theater is a test of poetry. The Collapsible Poetics Theater is an all volunteer effort, one that assembles itself within a given 24 hour period of each performance. Each locale (with its resident poets, experienced actors, experienced non-actors) brings an entirely new set possibilities. It is reminiscent of Commedia Dell'Arte in its traveling, portable, rapid-set up qualities. To be sure, Poetics Theater fits into the poetry scene as a baby does in itchy burlap; it fits into the drama scene as does a little crown, little scepter, little gown, all neatly stored in a metal suitcase (quite literally!). The dings are just dings. The persistent question is: can the poem be tested any further?

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RODRIGO TOSCANO (Labor Institute, NYC), is a poet, founder of Collapsible Poetics Theatre, and author of (among others): The Leveling Swerve (Krupskaya, 2004), Platform (Atelos, 2003), The Disparities (Green Integer, 2002), and The Partisan (O Books, 1999).

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JEFF DERKSEN is an Assistant Professor of English at Simon Fraser University. He is a poet, cultural critic, and author (among others) of: Transnational Muscle Cars (Talonbooks, 2003), Dwell (Talonbooks, 1994), and Down Time (Talonbooks, 1990).

The Annual David Noble Lecture


Prof. Peter Rachleff
Macalester College Labor Historian


Tuesday 15 April 15, 2008
7:00 PM
Minnesota History Center
345 Kellogg Blvd West, Saint Paul, MN


"Hard-Pressed in the Heartland: the Making, Unmaking and Remaking of Minnesota’s Labor Movement in the 20th and 21st Centuries"”

From the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century working women and men from Scandinavia, southern and eastern Europe, and the east coast of the United States formed labor unions that struggled against some of the world's most powerful corporations. They sought economic security, acceptance as citizens, and social respect through these unions and their participation in the political system. The economy that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s tore apart their world, but also brought new immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa to the North Star State. These new immigrants are now struggling to reshape their Minnesota universe, and their struggles change the balance of power and the prospects for other Minnesotans. This lecture will tell the story not only of what happened, but how to think about the future.

This event is FREE. Reception to follow.

Made possible by the Minnesota Historical Society,
The Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, and
The Charles A. Lindbergh Memorial Fund through the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Foundation.

For more information call (651) 259-3000, 1-800-657-3773 or TTY (651) 282-6073

Poet Patricia Smith in Minneapolis

Monday 7 April 2008, 7 PM
Plymouth Congregational Church
1900 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Telephone: 612-871-7400


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From Lollapalooza to Carnegie Hall, the film Slamnation to HBO series Def Poetry Jam, Patricia Smith has taken the stage as the nation’s premier performance poet. On Monday, April 7 at 7 p.m., Smith will read from her newest poetry collection, the National Poetry Prize-winning Teahouse of the Almighty (Coffee House Press), in the Literary Witnesses series at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave. (at Franklin). The event is free, with plenty of free parking available.

Smith’s first book of poetry in over a decade, “Teahouse of the Almighty? has won wide critical acclaim. Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Dazzling... Smith approaches the themes of love, family and violence through accessible, graceful language and often praises her subjects with a simple ‘hallelujah.’? In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly noted, “Smith appears to be that rarest of creatures, a charismatic slam and performance poet whose artistry truly survives the printed page.? Poet Stephen Dobyns assures readers “she will knock your socks off,? while National Poetry Series judge Edward Sanders confides, “I was weeping for the beauty of poetry when I reached the end of the final poem.? Teahouse of the Almighty is also the recipient of the first national Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize.

A four time winner of the National Poetry Slam, Smith is the author of three previous poetry collections, plus the children’s book Janna and the Kings, and co-author of Africans in America: America’s Journey through Slavery. She teaches poetry workshops throughout the country and lives in Tarrytown, New York.

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