Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here Are the Christians!

By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t Columnist

MY RECENT column “Where Are the Christians?” drew a bundle of answers in emails from Truthout readers. That piece was about the bigoted remarks of Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) attacking newly-elected Congressman Keith Ellis, a Muslim, for taking his unofficial oath of office with his hand on the Quran - and mindlessly predicting that this would somehow lead to a vast increase in illegal Muslim immigration (unless, of course, we close our borders).

It might be instructive to quote a couple of the emails I received.

Reverend Joy A. Bergfalk, of Life Listening Resources at Labyrinth House in Rochester, N.Y., wrote, “We progressives ... do not have the finances of the Religious Right. We do not have Big Business and Sun Myung Moon to back us, and the oil industry is certainly not with us. That kind of money goes to those who will let the corporate world take over America. Plus, we tend to try to use our finances to change the world by helping it.”

In answer to my “Where Are the Christians?” question, Rev. Bergfalk wrote, “We are in almost all of the places where peacemaking is going on. We are at marches and rallies. We are at our computers writing responses, letters to Congress and whomever we can. I have written a response to Goode’s statements. There was no way to email it to him from outside of Virginia, so I have prepared a letter to be sent to each of his five offices.”

She added, “And we are speaking out in churches and from the pulpits. I think my parishioners now realize that Muslims and Christians worship the same God by different names.”

And she closed with, “We may not be as obnoxious and flamboyant as the Religious Right, but we are here and active. Maybe if people would quit leaving the church in reaction to right wingers, the church would be a stronger force for change in our world.”

Another reader, Rev. Jim Altman, pastor of Cadott, Stanley, and Thorp United Methodist Churches in Stanley, Wis., called my article “a cheap shot.” He explained, “There are credible progressive Christian voices out there who are rarely reported by even the progressive media. My response to Mr. Fisher’s question is that nobody’s asking us. I, for one, would love to give a Christian’s response to Rep. Virgil Goode’s outrageous rant against his fellow congressman Keith Ellison, but media outlets seem only interested in conflating Christianity with the religion of Falwell and Robertson. The majority of Christians in this country do not subscribe to ‘The Old-Time Gospel Hour’ or ‘The 700 Club,’ and do not worship in ‘mega-churches,’ yet when journalists look for the American ‘Christian’ response we get Jerry, Pat, or some blow-dried dandy from the Church of What’s Trendy. Most of the Christians I know would support Rep. Ellison’s freedom of religion and more than a few would argue that the world still has much good to learn from Islam, but in the theater of journalism, inflammation trumps reason and cartoon trumps reality.”

Well, that is exactly the point I was trying to make. I wrote, “You might not be aware of it, but there is a robust community of progressive Christians in America, struggling to get its voice heard. That’s a tough task when you don’t have the deep pockets and the cynical White House connections to effectively drown out dissent. Or change the subject. It’s a lot easier for this wedge constituency to get people worried that if same-sex unions become legal, they’ll all be forced to marry a gay or a lesbian than it is to speak out for the homeless, the poor, those who have no health care, and for religious tolerance to find common ground.”

There are dozens of progressive Christian websites and blogs and many of them have spoken out against Rep. Goode. For example, the simple advice from Rev. Tim Simpson’s Christian Alliance for Progress was, “Stand up for religious freedom, tell Rep. Virgil Goode that America is still ‘one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.’” Cross Left’s admonition to its readers is: “Stand Up for Religious Freedom, Tell Rep. Virgil Goode to Stop Attacking US Muslims.”

The Christian Alliance’s reader response was plentiful and passionate.

One reader wrote, “The attempt to conflate Islamophobia with immigration reform is laughable, except I can only imagine that we’ll only see more of it from the Right. Once they come up with an intellectually unfounded conflation of issues, they tend to use it relentlessly until it takes hold in the minds of enough people for it to enter the cultural discourse (see their attempts to claim that all gays are pedophiles).”

Another wrote, “No matter what nonsense Congressman Virgil Goode spouts, he’ll continue to be reelected by his constituency of good-ole-boys from Franklin County, Virginia. I live in a Congressional district adjacent to Goode’s so I know whereof I speak. Please, please let’s all allow good ole Virge to keep on writing and speaking as he pleases. The more Rep. Goode writes and says to expose his own narrow-minded ignorance, the more progressives will feel emboldened to vote against his willful stupidity.”

And yet another said, “It is truly sad that the people of Goode’s district and believe me, there are many, many good people in that district, aren’t standing up and demanding either a retraction of his remarks or his removal from office ... The former bastion of the Confederacy lingers with those like Goode who have no respect or tolerance for anyone different from them.”

Well, I’m afraid these are voices in the wilderness. The web sites and broadcasts run by “values” groups like Focus on the Family, the 700 Club, and the Family Research Council, attract many more people and, as one of my readers rightly points out, are routinely turned to by journalists in need of a “religious source.”

It is worth noting that Tony Perkins’s Family Research Council website claims it has “led the way in defending religious freedom in the public square,” yet has been silent on the Goode affair. The websites of the other major right-wing “values” groups have either ignored the issue, or presented it as “straight news,” but using code-words such as references to Goode’s opposition from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) or the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Foundation for Moral Law, led by dismissed Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, inveighed that Ellis should not be allowed to take his congressional seat at all.

True, there are some counter-balances with national reputations, like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, the Interfaith Council, and the National Council of Churches, but they attract nothing like the media coverage given to the Religious Right.

All of which suggests that if religious extremism doesn’t really represent the views of most Christians, the more progressive forces within Christianity - and Judaism and Islam - need to become as unified and aggressive and determined as those who have sadly become the public faces of these great faiths by hijacking. They need to do more to organize nationally, to raise substantial funds, and to be much more proactively media savvy.

That’s not an easy task and it won’t happen quickly. But it’s the only way to at least level the playing field of religious discourse.

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world for the US State Department and USAID for the past thirty years. He began his work life as a journalist for newspapers and for the Associated Press in Florida. Go to The World According to Bill Fisher for more.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

10 Gayest Moments of 2006

4. Dreamgirls Is This Year’s Brokeback Mountain. We got a call from a friend on Monday, who gave us this report from a Dreamgirls screening in New York: “The entire audience was gay men and straight women.” Indeed, Dreamgirls (our favorite movie of the year — our being mine, I’ll give the guys a break on this one) is the gayest romp since Heath and Jake zipped their sleeping bags into a single love cocoon. Those outfits! That hair! That weird gay disco dancing scene with the huge red light sabers! An overweight black diva! We only hope this movie is wearing protection as it thrusts its power ballads up into your musical loving ass.

3. Even the Pope is Gay. It’s true – Pope “B16”, as he is known (gay nickname, anyone?) has been accused of carrying on a sordid affair with his secretary, the debonair Monsignor Georg Gänswein. Never did the term “Right Hand Man” ring truer. (Please note: #3 is a shameless attempt to link back to our post worshipping Monsignor Georg Gänswein. It’s not every day we have a reason to use our “umlaut” key.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tis the Season

TO GET all caught up in awards hoopla. I’ve already begun, as you can see here and here. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending how I spin it, awards season coincides with the beginning of the tennis season. I’m probably more obsessed with tennis than with anything else in life, but alas, it’s a healthy obsession that has led me to start my very own tennis blog recently. And tennis fanatics are more demanding than cinephiles. With so much to write about on both fronts, I won’t be sleeping much. It doesn’t help that the tennis season begins in Australia, so I’m going to throw my sleep patterns out of whack in just a few days.

But I digress.

I’ll be taking part in Stinkylulu’s Supporting Actress Blogathan on January 7. At the crack of dawn, I’ll post my thoughts on this year’s most compelling performance by an actress in support of her star. I’ll give you one guess who I’ll be blogging about. But know knows, I might surprise with more than one entry. It should be fun to see who all the bloggers write about and which actresses get several nods.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Concept of God

The Sistine Chapel, “Creation of Adam,” Fresco, Michelangelo, circa 1511
Did God create humankind or did humankind create God?

WHOEVER wishes to become a truly moral human being must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of him.

—James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time

Random House, 1995
© 1962, 1963 by James Baldwin

tags: James Baldwin,
Sistine Chapel, Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Fire Next Time

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

Martins Ogbak, “African Family,” Tapestry, 2005

AS an adoptee and author whose work is largely influenced by the Bible and other books of scripture, I found John G.’s discussion of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy, the Religious Right, and Biblical examples of families over at Gay Spirituality & Culture an especially interesting read. Here are a few excerpts:

What I really want to think about in this post isn’t Mary or her pregnancy, but the reaction from many conservatives and Evangelicals to her and her pregnancy. Specifically, I am trying to think through Biblical examples of parenthood and family life, to determine what the Bible says about how to raise children. I think its an important exercise, because while I would not advocate Biblical parenting techniques unless psychology upheld them, Biblical dialogue seems to be missing from the religious Right’s critiques of families that eschew the “biological father and biological mother who are living together” model. Why is that? Maybe because Biblical examples of parenthood show that God doesn’t mind parenting models that the religious Right bends over backwards to condemn. Moral of the story: it would appear that one can embrace so-called alternative parenting and family models and still be a good Christian....

The Old Testament is rife with families made up of one father, his several wives and concubines, and a whole mess of children between them all. Jacob had two wives, Rachel and Leah. Even though he had more children with Leah, he loved Rachel and her children more. The discord caused by this drove the sons of Leah to sell their brother Joseph into slavery and tell their father he had been killed by a wild animal. One could view this story as an example of how polygamy can go horribly wrong, but the family lived under God’s blessing. Jacob was renamed Israel and one of the patriarchs of Judaism and Christianity....

Its [sic] really quite hard to find a Biblical story of a family that resembles the kinds of families the religious Right seems to think are the best for society and the best in the eyes of God. Even Jesus was raised by his mother and a man who wasn’t his biological father....

Read More

At the end of the day, I’ll take common sense over dogma anyday.

‘Dreamgirls’ Blows Up the Box Office

Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé Knowles perform in “It’s All Over.”

THE producers projected Dreamgirls would open on Christmas to $4.5 USD. It earned $8.4 USD, which was second place to Night at the Museum, which played in almost 3,700 theaters.

But Dreamgirls only played on 852 screens, giving it a whopping $9,836 USD average per screen, which placed it far above any other film (2nd place went to Museum with $3,242 per screen).


Go, Dreamgirls!

My review is forthcoming.

Read: ‘Dreamgirls’ takes holiday box office by storm

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Iowa Governor Might Seek Birth Mother

IOWA Governor and Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack is touched by adoption. The 56-year-old adoptee has recently received information that might allow him to find his birth mother if he chooses to follow it up.

Government Vilsack, open about his adoption, “was adopted shortly after birth and has spoken of growing up in a family where his adoptive mother struggled with alcoholism and his adoptive father had financial setbacks. He has used his past as an example of rising above adversity, but the latest development could add detail to the story.”

Read Article

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Difficult Reunion

REUNITED Dan from over at Search and Reunion posted a link to a 2004 NPR interview where novelist A.M. Homes, whose adoption memoir The Mistress’s Daughter comes out in 2007, speaks about her reunion with her birth mother that turned frightening.

Listen to the Interview Here - Before A.M. Homes was born, she was put up for adoption. Her birth mother was a twenty-two-year-old single woman who was having an affair with a much older married man with children of his own. The Mistress’s Daughter is the story of what happened when, thirty years later, her birth parents came looking for her.

Homes, renowned for the psychological accuracy and emotional intensity of her storytelling, tells how her birth parents initially made contact with her and what happened afterward (her mother stalked her and appeared unannounced at a reading) and what she was able to reconstruct about the story of their lives and their families. Her birth mother, a complex and lonely woman, never married or had another child, and died of kidney failure in 1998; her birth father, who initially made overtures about inviting her into his family, never did.

Then the story jumps forward several years to when Homes opens the boxes of her mother’s memorabilia. She had hoped to find her mother in those boxes, to know her secrets, but no relief came. She became increasingly obsessed with finding out as much as she could about all four parents and their families, hiring researchers and spending hours poring through newspaper morgues, municipal archives and genealogical Web sites. This brave, daring, and funny book is a story about what it means to be adopted, but it is also about identity and how all of us define our sense of self and family.

The Viking Adult hardcover will be available in April.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Your Children Are Not Your Children

AND a woman who held a babe against
Her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s
longing for itself.
They come through you but not from
And though they are with you yet they
belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not
your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not
their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even
in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek
not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries
with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path
of the infinite, and He bends you with His
might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand
be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Alfred A. Knopf, 1988
© 1923 by Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor

INMy Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor” 18-year old Katrina Clark writes about growing up as a self-described “freak” and the search for her donor:

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is con-cerned, everyone focuses on the “parents”—the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his “donation.” As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies—conceived in the late 1980s and early 90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish—are coming of age, and we have something to say.

I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn’t ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It’s hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won’t matter to the “products” of the cryobanks’ service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

We offspring are recognizing the right that was stripped from us at birth—the right to know who both our parents are.

And we’re ready to reclaim it.

...I really, truly would never have a dad. I finally understood what it meant to be donor-conceived, and I hated it.

...Those of us created with donated sperm won’t stay bubbly babies forever. We’re all going to grow into adults and form opinions about the decision to bring us into the world in a way that deprives us of the basic right to know where we came from, what our history is and who both our parents are.

Read more at Bastardette.

Cloudy Diamond

Blood Diamond couldn’t decide if it wanted to be an action flick or a piece of agitprop theater on celluloid. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Hotel Rwanda. While watching, I vacillated between wanting to see a young Harrison Ford play the Leonardo DiCaprio role and needing to hear some overwrought speech from somebody—anybody—in the diamond industry who had a crisis of conscience pushing conflict diamonds. Neither happened. Instead, director/producer Edward Zwick (Glory, Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai) has auteured an uneven, unfocused mess.

Jennifer Connelly’s unconvincing journalist Maddy Bowen (what’s in that name?), who’ll do anything short of sleeping with the devil to get her story, is apparently supposed to represent the film’s conscience, but her performance is so woeful, I couldn’t take seriously her musings on morality. It takes more than a cat’s gleaming eyes to round out a character. Though I didn’t see A Beautiful Mind (I can’t stomach Russell Crow), I still won’t believe Connelly is an Oscar-winning actress.

DiCaprio is believable as Danny Archer, a South African mercenary-cum-diamond smuggler who Deep Throats to Maddy on the amoral diamond industry, but only so he can secure her help in getting closer to the rare and very large pink diamond he so desperately wants to recover in order to buy is ticket out of Africa. It’s been a while since DiCaprio has been this convincing (I haven’t seen The Departed), but the limits of the character as written by Charles Leavitt (K-PAX) didn’t allow DiCaprio to affect me emotionally.

Djimon Hounsou, who plays Solomon Vandy, the fisherman whose life was spared in a village raid so that he could slave for diamonds, provides the film’s emotional center. Solomon wants to recover the rare diamond he buried just before his diamond field was attacked so that he can leverage it to get back his family, in particular his son who was kidnapped and brainwashed into becoming one of the hundreds of thousands of pre-pubescent assassins in Sierra Leone’s mid-90s civil war. He creates Solomon from the inside out, and although his character is rather one-dimensional, Hounsou is able to extract blood from a rock.

Zwick’s heavy-handed direction misses the mark. There’s too much gratuitous violence and a barrage of images of Africans killing and maiming each other in the quest to control the diamond trade. Maddy declares somewhere in the film that not all Africans kill other Africans for a living, though you’d hardly know it from this picture. I nearly lost it when watching extended footage of a group of children celebrating their killing spree by smoking pot, dancing to hip hop, and bedding prostitutes. I know, I know. It’s all true. But so many images of so many savage Africans becomes so redundant, I began to question Zwick’s agenda. I kept waiting for the development of some other part of the storyline.

And I simply could not believe all the times Danny and Solomon are able to escape gunfire unscathed. Everybody wants the pink diamond. Onscreen, enough magazines are emptied to exterminate an entire nation. Yet, neither of the main characters takes a bullet until the third act. Yeah. Right.

The ending is atrocious. Perhaps it was tacked on to respond to test audience critiques or something but it made absolutely no sense and came completely out of nowhere. I mean Hollywood. Zwick had a chance to end the film with the triumph of the human spirit. He had DiCaprio high on a mountain, close to heaven, facing a great choice and an opportunity to atone for his actions. But that woulda been too much like right.

Still, I found myself not missing my diamond wedding and anniversary rings that I’d forgotten to put back on after giving a massage earlier in the day. Found myself wondering if any of the rocks in my rings came from bloodshed. If I’d slip my finger through them once again when I got home. The film served a purpose after all.

FTD Grade: C+

tags: Africa, Blood Diamond, Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio, movie reviews, movies

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What’s in a Name?

MY birth mother Jennifer named me Joseph, which means “God shall add.” When I found her, she had a terrible time calling me Craig. Within the first few minutes of our meeting, she asked my mother, over the phone, if she could call me Joseph. I was perplexed. But I allowed her to slap my mother’s face (and my own) and call me Joseph.

Later, after she told me the story of why she named me, I melted. My coat of sentimental colors shrouded the rest of me and I continued to allow it. Yes, there was something deeply spiritual and artistic about my original name and the journey upon which it took me. But I never felt comfortable being called by it. Still, that didn’t stop me from going against myself completely and even asking my husband to call me Joseph in my birth mother’s presence. I was so caught up in the story, in her pain—in what she wanted—that my true self faded from view. Although I exhibited many of the characteristics of the Joseph for whom I was named, it took a long physical separation from her once more to come back to myself and finally tell her I could no longer allow her to call me by anything other than my name. I tend to find honesty an easy undertaking. I’ve been blessed that way. And I’m eternally thankful. But that was the most difficult thing I had to tell another person in my entire life.

Naming remains a spiritually powerful way to shape character and claim identity. Unless my husband and I adopt children, the only people I’ll get to name are the characters I create or channel in my writing and performance. Sometimes the character determines the name, as is the case with many of the animals I’ve named.

In an African American literature course I took back in college, the professor often lectured about the importance of naming among Black people. Those lectures stuck to me like honey. After college, as I began to devour Black literature like a vulture, I paid attention to naming. Indeed, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has given some of the best names to some of the best characters in the history of literature. In all of her novels, but especially her masterwork Beloved, the characters reveal the literal, spiritual, and metaphorical realities behind naming and renaming themselves.

My mother named me Craig, a Celtic or Gaelic name derived from craeg, meaning “from the crag or rugged rocky mass.” She tells me she had no idea why she named be Craig other than that she really liked the name. She didn’t even know anyone with the name. Well, wise woman that she is, the name she gave me saved my life. Without being made from the minerals of rugged rocks, there’s no way I’d still be here typing these words. Rocks are created by bearing the multi-layered weight of incredible pressure.

Mama, you created a gem.

And even though I still allow a few people to call me JC or Joseph Craig; even though I named myself Isaiah in a few fictional accounts of my life; even though I got all caught up in the rapture and romance of Jennifer’s story, I know that my real name, my true name, is Craig.

Epilogue: Jennifer’s Story

It was like being on death row, son, and I had one last request before they took you away. They weren’t supposed to let me, but I demanded that I have a moment with you in the room with no doctors, no nurses, no brothers, no parents, no technicians, no one. But the laws in the State of Wisconsin forbade such a request. Birth mothers couldn’t see, much less hold, their children after delivery if they had already consented to give them up. But I told them, “Rules were meant to be broken and who would find out about it anyway?” So I held you in my arms and looked you in your eyes and said, “You look just like your father. Someday you will grow up to be a handsome and smart man, son. But I may not get to see any of it because Mommy has to go away now. I have no choice. But I remember the story of Joseph from the Bible. How his brothers sold him into slavery and how he was lost from his brothers and his father for all those years. And then he became the ruler of Egypt. And during the great famine when his brothers came to him to get food, he recognized them, but he didn’t let them know who he was. When he finally let them know, he told them to go and get Jacob because he wanted to be reunited with his father before his father died. And they were. And so I name you Joseph, because I know that someday you will come back to me. Someday you will find me. I don’t know if I’ll be living or dead, but I know you will find me. Just as Joseph in the Bible was reunited with his family, so shall you also be reunited with me. I just know it. Someday.”

Joseph made 2nd-highest leader in Eqypt. Above: Joseph and his coat of many colors.

tags: , , , , , ,

‘DREAMGIRLS’ Sets Record

WITH 11 nominations, Dreamgirls sets record for most nominations in foundation’s history. Noms for best film, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress and more earned by musical. [src]

And the 2006 Black Reel Nominees Are...

Akeelah and the Bee
Inside Man
The Pursuit of Happyness
Something New

Jamie Foxx - Dreamgirls
Derek Luke - Catch a Fire
Will Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness
Denzel Washington - Inside Man
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Beyoncé Knowles - Dreamgirls
Sanaa Lathan - Something New
Keke Palmer - Akeelah and the Bee

Chiwetel Ejiofor - Kinky Boots
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Children of Men
Laurence Fishburne - Akeelah and the Bee
Djimon Hounsou - Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls

Angela Bassett - Akeelah and the Bee
Shareeka Epps - Half Nelson
Claire-Hope Ashitey - Children of Men
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Kerry Washington - The Last King of Scotland

Bryan Barber - Idlewild
Sanaa Hamri - Something New
Clark Johnson - The Sentinel
Spike Lee - Inside Man
Chris Robinson - ATL

BEST SCREENPLAY, Original or Adapted
Bryan Barber - Idlewild
Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois - Glory Road
Tina Gordon Chism - ATL
Tyler Perry - Madea’s Family Reunion
Kriss Turner - Something New

Shareeka Epps - Half Nelson
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Keke Palmer - Akeelah and the Bee
Paula Patton - Déjà Vu
Jaden Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness

Akeelah and the Bee - Aaron Zigman
Dreamgirls - Harvey Mason, Jr. and Damon Thomas
Idlewild - Antwan Andre Patton
Inside Man - Terrence Blanchard
Something New - Lisa Coleman & Wendy Melvoin


Dave Chappelle’s Block Party - Geffen Records
Dreamgirls - DreamWorks SKG
Idlewild - LaFace Records
Something New - Lakeshore Records
Take the Lead - Universal Records

BEST SONG, Original or Adapted
“And I Am Telling You” - Dreamgirls (Jennifer Hudson)
“Idlewild Blues” - Idlewild (Outkast)
“Listen” - Dreamgirls (Beyoncé Knowles)
“One Night Only” - Dreamgirls (Jennifer Hudson)
“People Get Ready” - Glory Road (Alicia Keys & Lyfe Jennings)

The Heart of the Game - Miramax
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party - Rogue
Jonestown: The Life and Death of People Temple - Seventh Arts Releasing

There are more categories, including achievements in independent filmmaking and television. I’ll post a link of the complete list when it’s available.

Awards History

• The Black Reel Awards, inaugurated in 2000, annually recognize and celebrate the achievements of African-Americans in feature, independent and television films, ranging from their character portrayals in front of camera, to their technical artistry behind the camera.

• The FAAAF/Black Reel Awards benefit The Foundation for the Advancement of African Americans in Film (FAAAF), a non-profit arts organization whose mission is to provide educational opportunities to the next generation of minority film executives. Through the FAAAF “Producer’s Institute,” scholarships are awarded to graduate students pursuing a business career in the movie and television industries.

Awards Virgin

Thanks to my obsession with Dreamgirls and Jennifer Hudson, this is the first time I’ve heard of these awards. And I must say, it’s lovely to see so many beautiful Black people appreciated for their contribution to the arts. I’ve never even heard of half the movies on this list and now I’m sure to add them to my DVD’s to rent list.

I’m a bit surprised that Anika Noni Rose doesn’t get a nod for best supporting actress. Lorell was the forgotten Dream in the original Broadway production, and she’s forgotten in the film as well. Which is too bad because the Tony-award winning actress (Caroline, or Change) is simply brilliant.

Related Stories

‘DREAMGIRLS’ DOMINATES AAFCA HONORS: Picture is group’s Best Film of 2006; Whitaker, Spike Lee also recognized.

‘DREAMGIRLS’ wins 4 Satellites; Breaks Box Office Record

tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Birthday!

MY New Plaid Pants says happy birthday to Jake Gyllenhaal. Have mercy. And a fellow Sagittarius, to boot. Oh, how we Centaurs love us some horses. He can ride mine anytime. [via FilmExperience]

tags: astrology, birthday, centaur, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sagittarius

Monday, December 18, 2006


I BELIEVE in growing things,
and in the things
which have grown and died

I believe in people
and in the simple aspects
of human life,
and in the relation of man
to nature.

I believe man
must be free,
both in spirit and society,
that he must
build strength into himself,
affirming the
enormous beauty of the world
and acquiring
the confidence to see
and to
express his vision.

—Ansel Adams

tags: , , ,

A Book Meme

I GOT this from Terrance who got it from Rachel. According to Terrance, neither of them tagged anybody, so I'm going to jump on board.

1. Find the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Go to the fifth sentence on the page.
4. Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
5. Name the book and the author, and tag three more folks.

Here goes...

Once you forgive yourself, the self-rejection in your mind is over. Self-acceptance begins, and the self-love will grow so strong that you will finally accept yourself just the way you are. That's the beginning of the free human.

From The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of my favorite books indeed. My sister-friend Gail called me up and read me excerpts of the book, exclaiming that even though I had found my biological people, she had found my spiritual people. She'd say, "This guy sounds just like you!" and read another section. The book helped me navigate the complex process of relating to my birth relatives. Coincidentally, the hard cover edition of the book, the one I own, was published in 2001, the year I found my birth family.

Now I had three books sitting on my desk and I didn't want to choose (three sentences, three books: why not?), so here's the second:

I feel like I'm drowning. The only way out, the only way to fight the waves, is to move up from under them, twisting and contorting, grasping and reaching. With each movement, a new idea, with each new idea, another phrase...or word.

From o solo homo: the new queer performance, Holly Hughes and David Román, editors. Coincidentally, the above sentences happen to be my own. As Spirit would have it, page 123 includes the artist statement for my solo performance skin & ornaments, which the editors were kind enough to include in their book.

And, finally, the third:

The Church had to preserve its doctrines intact, and, like the pure body of the Virgin Mary, it must remain unpenetrated by the false doctrines of the barbarians (many of whom had converted to Arianism). A deep sadness also informed Augustine's later work: the fall of Rome influenced his doctrine of Original Sin, which would become central to the way Western people would view the world. Augustine believed that God had condemned humanity to an eternal damnation, simply because of Adam's one sin.

The last three sentences are from A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong. Excellent read for those who enjoy the history of religion.

I've no idea who I'd tag next. Not that it matters because I haven't the slightest idea how. But if you want to participate, go for it! If you don't have a blog, feel free to post your quotes in the comments section.

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HBO First Look: Dreamgirls

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

UNTIL I found them, the mirror
reflected only me to me.
The large intense eyes, those tiny ears
with no upper rim,
that protruding bottom lip, the square
jaw and pointed chin,
those eyebrows that arch without effort,
provoking envy in girls and women.
Who do I look like? I asked the mirror.

For 33 years, the mirror had no reply.
Now, it reveals the family's teensy ears,
my birth mother's slightly gapped teeth,
the curl of my uncle's hair,
my birth father's egg-shaped head, the
pug of my nephew's nose,
my brother's flaired nostrils, the point of
my cousin's chin,
my grandmother's under bite, the
reddish hue in my sisters' skin.
I see the future there as well.
Still, some features belong to me
alone, but they command
my focus no more.
For the first time in my life,
I see my people in me.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Letter to a Wisconsin Bureaucrat

June 2001

Thank you once again for your prompt attention to these matters. I received a copy of my original birth certificate via fax this morning and look forward to it in the mail.

Your letter states that my search request is now complete. No, it is not. I still want a clean copy of all the documents about me in my adoption file. I trust that you will coordinate this with Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

In putting together that clean copy, I would also like you to consider the following. Please share this treatise with all the “powers” that be in your neck of the woods.

With all due consideration to your lawyer and your policies, there is no legislation currently on the books in Wisconsin that supports the policy that the Division of Children and Family Services adheres to regarding the deletion of certain information in my adoption file.

First, my birth father is not “alleged.” Simply because my birth mother was not married when she had me does not mean that I am “illegitimate,” nor does it mean that she does not know who my birth father is. Simply because the judge did not bother to ask her under oath who my father was and thereby “adjudicate” him as my birth father does not mean that Frank East is not the man who made love to my birth mother and got her pregnant on Valentine’s Day 1967 on the campus at Oakwood College. Just this past father’s day, I met my birth father, held him, laughed with him, took pictures with him, and I look just like him. I am, indisputably, his progeny. A simple medical test would refute his “alleged” status to the State and the Courts who remain limited by social mores that, as far as I'm concerned, have been outdated for centuries. It is unfortunate that Frank East's name does not appear on my original birth certificate, written in long hand. Unfortunately, this cannot be amended. It would be more unfortunate if his name were deleted from the clean copy of my adoption records as well, especially since Dania, Florida, which is where he also currently resides, was left in full view on the document the first time I received it.

I will challenge such a deletion should I receive my records without it.

I will also challenge the deletion of the names of social workers, foster parents, and any other “indirect” participants in this historical account of my genesis. After all, that is what it is: history. My history. Not yours, nor your assistant’s, nor anyone else’s currently employed by the State of Wisconsin or the affiliated agency, Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin.

There is no language whatsoever in the Wisconsin Statutes calling for these deletions. The law is very clear on what it does include, and very clear on what it does not. I know the names of my birth father and social workers, and my adoptive mother believes she remembers the name of my foster parents, who, given that they were already grandparents in 1967, are possibly still alive, but more than probably dead. Who’s being protected by your policies thirty-three-plus years after the fact? Are you afraid that I am going to bring suit against Miss Gates, Miss Culver or any of the other social workers that handled my case, or bring suit against their heirs or estates, because they did not handle some aspect of my adoption correctly? Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? I cannot imagine the need for protecting their “privacy.” Even though they worked for private agencies, their names should not be deleted from my records.

As for my foster parents, I pose the same question. Is the State afraid that I would bring suit against them and/or their heirs and estates for some lack of care during the sixteen months that I was in their stead? If nothing else, I might like to locate them or their daughters who baby-sat for me in order to thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me during the transition from birth mother to my parents. How can your policies disregard this possibility and remain so inhumane?

I will challenge such a deletion should I receive my records without them.

I have been more than saddened and pained by the treatment I received from the bureaucrats and social workers that handled my adoption search and follow-up requests. It should come as no surprise that I had to complete the search myself. How lucky for me that I had the time, determination, and resources to do so. I feel for those who must leave their search entirely in the hands of the State of Wisconsin. (I’m sure there are some happy reunion stories the State can be responsible for and some compassionate workers who bend the “rules” in order to bring joy and a sense of completion to people's lives, but in my experience searching over the last five years, they seem to be rarer than the rarest gems. I certainly hope that you continue to be one of them.)

I am annoyed that my original request for non-identifying medical and social history included many more deletions than required by Wisconsin law. In fact, I was unable to meet my biological grandfather before he died in 1998 precisely because of this broad, presumptuous, archaic, paranoid, and erroneous interpretation of the Wisconsin Statutes that govern the adoption search program.

The social workers have told so many of us that the law requires that our pasts remain full of secrets and lies when in fact the law requires no such thing.

This madness must end.

Wisconsin bureaucrats treat adult adoptees as second-class citizens who have no right to know anything about their genesis, and this must change even if I die trying to change it.

I look forward to receiving a true clean copy of my adoption file. No more secrets and cover-ups and fear and paranoia. I’m all done with that. Your policies are not founded in ethics, morality, or the law. Furthermore, they protect no one, and they need to be reviewed and changed sooner rather than later.

I can only imagine that the disgruntled, disappointed, depressed or suicidal adult adoptee who does not possess the tenacity or the resources may never complete their search when they have to negotiate within a system populated by bureaucrats and social workers who seem to “get off” on their petty little power trips, controlling what information can and cannot be disclosed when they have absolutely no regard for the law. These bureaucrats and social workers do not know what they are talking about, and they should all be relieved of their duties unless or until they become aware of the law and are able to treat each adoptee as an individual being.

You apologized for my experience and stated that you do not know what happened. Simply put, my request was not read. I submitted my birth mother's notarized letter along with a request to receive a clean copy of my adoption file, and I was given a form-letter response, as though I were someone initiating a new search. If I had already located and met my birth mother, then why on earth would I be interested in a document describing the entire search program to me and requesting up-front money for the state to begin searching? Presumably, the bureaucrats were too lazy to read my letter and too lacking of compassion to see the human being behind the letter.

The paternalistic, arrogant, and erroneous instructions and form letters that searchers are given should be criminalized, and I will spend the rest of my life bringing these travesties into the light so that all of us, including those of us who are adopted, can experience the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness-principles which have been infused into the articles of the United States Constitution. Will we need to go all the way to the Supreme Court?

I look forward to your cooperation in these important matters and I feel sure that I will soon possess an accurate collection of documents regarding my genesis, my history, my life.


Upon reading the letter, a judge in Wisconsin ordered that a true, clean copy of everything in my adoption file be sent to me. I received it in August 2001.

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