Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

"Django" Both Flash Point, Free-for-All

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Updated January 3

For Every Virtue, an Opponent Finds a Vice

Al Jazeera Expands With Purchase of Current TV

Is "White Knuckle" Like "Flesh"-Colored Bandages?

Unity Officially Picks "Journalists for Diversity"

Cornish to Remain NPR Co-Host; Norris Returns

Rhonda Lee Hair Critic Said He Had Dementia

Ex-Journalist in Thick of It as Emancipation Is Hailed

N.Y. Rifle Association Urges Boycott of Gannett


Reporter Was Activist in Wilmington 10 Case


Short Takes

Jamie Foxx, with Kerry Washington, says he wants the black audience.

For Every Virtue, an Opponent Finds a Vice

"Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' has become embroiled in the second major controversy of awards season," Steve Pond wrote Wednesday for the Wrap. "The director's liberal use of the N-word, and his temerity in tackling the issue of slavery, has drawn fire from some prominent African-Americans and impassioned defenses from others.

"Like the turmoil stirred up by the depiction of CIA-sponsored torture in Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty,' the 'Django' fuss has been caused by a filmmaker tackling a hot-button issue.

"Ishmael Reed wrote at Speakeasy . . . that the movie 'was the talk among blacks during two Christmas parties that I attended,' comparing African-Americans who said they wanted to see 'Django' to 'When Time Ran Out: Coming of Age in the Third Reich' author Frederic Zeller, who said that as a child he applauded the Aryan characters in pre-World War II German cinema.

" 'Django,' he wrote, is an 'abomination' that distorts history: 'It's a Tarantino home movie with all of the racist licks that appear in his other movies.'

"On The Root, . . . writer Hillary Crosley said she was one of only about 10 African Americans who attended a screening of the film that was followed by a Q&A with Tarantino moderated by director Peter Bogdanovich.

" '[A] black woman interrupted their conversation, saying, "A lot of black people are not going to like this movie. I'm about to have a heart attack,'" wrote Crosley, who defended the film. 'Then a few audience members began to heckle Tarantino from the balcony, shouting: "This is bulls---." ' Tarantino, she said, offered to speak to the hecklers later.

"The movie has become both a flash point and a free-for-all, and the issue is particularly sensitive among African-American viewers — not a large audience for the film, but a key one for principals like Jamie Foxx, who plays the title role.

" 'If this movie does what it does and black people hate it, that doesn't do nothing for me,' Foxx said on BET. 'Because I feel like the reason I exist is the black audience.' "

Released on Christmas, "Django Unchained" ranked second in weekend box office receipts, behind "The Hobbit."

Black writers were of several minds. Every point raised in a given discussion — that "it's only a movie," that it's really a love story, that it's like a cartoon, that the use of the 'n' word is historically accurate — could find someone taking an opposing position.

[William C. Rhoden, New York Times sports columnist, tweeted Saturday, "...I walked out...is this what we've come to?" while Touré, who opines on MSNBC and in Time magazine, messaged Thursday, "Watching Django for a third time. Won't be my last."]

On Facebook Wednesday, Darren Sands, 29, a digital producer/reporter at Black Enterprise, garnered amens when he wrote, "Django commentary by most of the black intelligentsia cannot, for all of its brains and gifts of critical analysis, fathom a fantastical film with an artistic license ... so the analysis comes off as drivel; baseless assumptions about what is lost on our conscience and about what is acceptable and accurate about a bygone era that we must hold dear lest we embarrass our ancestors. Please. At worst, it's grandstanding for attention. At best, it's not knowing how to have a good time at the movies."

By contrast, in a piece posted Wednesday by the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb, 43, recalled teaching a course on American history at Moscow State University and being confronted by Russian students questioning Tarantino's portrayal of World War II in "Inglourious Basterds."

In that film, ". . . The movie's lines between fantasy and the actual myopic perspectives on history were so hazy that the audience wasn't asked to suspend disbelief, they were asked to suspend conscience," wrote Cobb, an associate professor of history and director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. "With 'Django Unchained,' Tarantino's tale of vengeful ex-slave, what happened in Russia is happening here.

". . .The film's defenders are quick to point out that 'Django' is not about history. But that's almost like arguing that fiction is not reality — it isn't, but the entire appeal of the former is its capacity to shed light on how we understand the latter.

". . . It seems almost pedantic to point out that slavery was nothing like this. The slaveholding class existed in a state of constant paranoia about slave rebellions, escapes, and a litany of more subtle attempts to undermine the institution. Nearly two hundred thousand black men, most of them former slaves, enlisted in the Union Army in order to accomplish en masse precisely what Django attempts to do alone: risk death in order to free those whom they loved. Tarantino's attempt to craft a hero who stands apart from the other men — black and white — of his time is not a riff on history, it's a riff on the mythology we've mistaken for history. . . . "

Al Jazeera Expands With Purchase of Current TV

"Current TV, the small cable news channel that was co-founded by former vice president Al Gore, has been sold to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based media company," Joe Flint reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

"The acquisition gives Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatar government, the opportunity to establish a footprint in the United States, where it already has an English-language version of its Qatar service — called Al Jazeera English — but only limited reach.

"Just buying Current does not guarantee instant distribution, however. Time Warner Cable, which offered Current in roughly 10 million of its homes, is dropping the channel. Without Time Warner Cable, which is the largest distributor in New York City and Los Angeles, Current TV is in only about 50 million homes."

Saturday's Washington Post reported 'white-knuckle' street racing, stunts and crashes across the Capital Beltway.

Is "White Knuckle" Like "Flesh"- Colored Bandages?

The front page of Saturday's Washington Post carried a subtle reminder that the inventors of the English language — and most of today's arbiters — have a certain skin tone as a frame of reference.

"Street racers put their terror on tape," it said, followed by "White-knuckle stunts by D.C. area group 'a tragedy waiting to happen.' "

What does the term "white knuckle" mean? Yahoo's Answers site's "best answer": "The act of clenching your hand shuts off the blood flow to your knuckles, so they turn white. You clench your hand on a steering wheel or roller coaster bar when you are scared. So, white knuckles = scared."

But what if your skin isn't the shade that turns white? It could put you in the same category as those who are "tickled pink," but not really, become "red-faced" or once were given "flesh"-colored Band-Aids that didn't match their particular flesh.

Last year during Black History Month, Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer of the Chicago Tribune compiled "10 things you might not know about skin color."

"Crayola once had a color called 'flesh,' which was the color of Caucasian flesh," they noted as their second point. "After complaints from civil rights activists, 'flesh' became 'peach' in 1962. A similar controversy involved 'Indian red.' Crayola said the color was based on a pigment found near India, but some thought it was a slur against native Americans, so the company solicited consumer suggestions for a new name. Among the ideas: 'baseball-mitt brown' and 'crab claw red.' But 'chestnut' was chosen in 1999."

Journal-isms asked Liz Spayd, a managing editor at the Post, about the "white knuckle" headline. She replied by email, "...i think of 'white knuckled' as a common term for something that pumps up anxiety and fear. i've never heard the concern you raise about it."

Crayola didn't give up on crayons that mimicked skin tones; it adapted to a multicultural world. Its website now says, "Crayola Large Multicultural Crayons come in an assortment of skin hues that give a child a realistic palette for coloring their world. These thick crayons are easy to grip — perfect for little hands. The crayon colors are: black, sepia, peach, apricot, white, tan, mahogany and burnt sienna. Each crayon is 4" long and 7/16" in diameter."

Unity Officially Picks "Journalists for Diversity"

"Over the final weekend of 2012, UNITY Journalist's board of directors voted to change the organization's name to UNITY: Journalists for Diversity," outgoing Unity President Joanna Hernandez reported Monday on Unity's Facebook page.

 Now 'Journalists for Diversity'

George Kiriyama, departing Unity representative of the Asian American Journalists Association, and Michael Triplett, president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, reported the emailed vote as 12 for "Unity: Journalists for Diversity," three for "Unity: Journalists of Color" and one not voting.

Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote, "Mekahlo Medina, Yvonne Latty and I voted as the majority of our members did: Unity: Journalists for Diversity. Peter Ortiz voted for Unity Journalists of Color."

Separately, Janet Cho of AAJA told Journal-isms she voted for "Unity: Journalists of Color" and Michaela Saunders of the Native American Journalists Association said she chose "Unity: Journalists for Diversity." Cho had previously voted against the change from "Unity: Journalists of Color" and Saunders had abstained. "I still strongly disagree with those who find 'UNITY Journalists of Color' offensive," Cho said.

There were a actually two votes, Hernandez explained to Journal-isms by email.

"An extra step was added to the process because the board wanted to ratify the name-change vote via a motion.

"The original step was that the board of directors would vote on the name via ballot, which they did, and that is where 12 voted for the name UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, 3 voted for UNITY: Journalists of Color, and 1 board member did not vote.

"So after the board received the results of their name-change vote, Sharon Chan, UNITY VP at the time, put forth a motion (seconded by then-Secretary Patty Loew): I hereby respectfully move that: UNITY Journalists change its name to UNITY: Journalists for Diversity.

"The tally for the motion was 9 yes, 1 no, and 6 board members did not vote.

"UNITY will not be releasing how individual board members voted."

The name of the coalition became an issue after the National Association of Black Journalists left the alliance in 2011 over financial and governance issues, and Unity invited NLGJA to join.

In December, members of NAHJ, AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA — the four journalism associations in the reconstituted Unity coalition — each voted to replace "Unity: Journalists of Color" with "UNITY: Journalists for Diversity." The final decision was then made by the Unity board of directors.

Tom Arviso of NAJA succeeded Hernandez this week as Unity president.

Cornish to Remain NPR Co-Host; Norris Returns

"NPR News is announcing new appointments for three of its newsmagazine hosts: Michele Norris returns from a leave of absence to take on an expanded new role as a host and special correspondent; Audie Cornish will stay on as co-host of All Things Considered; and Rachel Martin anchors the week as host of Weekend Edition Sunday," the network announced on Thursday.Michele Norris

"Norris returns to the air fulltime in February; Cornish and Martin have been serving as interim hosts of their respective programs."

"Taken together, these three represent the journalistic depth and power of NPR News,' Margaret Low Smith, senior vice president of NPR News, said in a release. "We're incredibly lucky to have such gifted journalists. Each of them has extraordinary range and the ability to connect with audiences in meaningful ways. I'm looking forward to this next chapter for all three."

Audie Cornish The announcement continued, "As host and special correspondent, Norris will produce in-depth profiles, interviews and series, and regularly guest host NPR News programs. One of her focuses will be 'The Race Card Project,' an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race in America that Norris began after her 2010 family memoir The Grace of Silence. . . ."

Cornish replaced Norris as co-host of "All Things Considered" in November 2011 while Norris took a one-year leave from her hosting role. Norris' husband, Broderick Johnson, had accepted a senior adviser position with President Obama's reelection campaign. The move kept an African American woman in the co-host slot. Cornish had begun hosting NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday" just two months earlier. [Added Jan. 3]

Rhonda Lee Hair Critic Said He Had Dementia

Emmitt Vascocu, the viewer whose questioning of meterologist Rhonda Lee's short Afro hairstyle helped set in motion events that led to Lee's firing, wrote on his Facebook page in October that he was brain damaged.

"To all in ciber land (cq)," Vascocu wrote in an Oct. 29 posting.

Emmitt Vascocu"I have Dementia an also brain damage to my temprealobe. so in saying this if i say something that hurts someone bare in mind that i have this problem.For this is not a good thing ive lost alot of good memoreys.it effects my spelling it effects my mood and many othier things.

"So there it is i ecept that i a a major problem an my othier conditions. But im Blessed By Jesus Christ to still be here to see all of my children to become groun an to see my 9 grandchildren grow."

On Oct. 1, Vascocu wrote on the Facebook page of KTBS-TV in Shreveport, La., that "the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq)."

Lee responded on the same page the same day, in part, ". . . "I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. . . ."

She was fired on Nov. 28, the station said, for responding to viewers in violation of the station's social media policies. The case created an uproar, with most siding with Lee.

In a Christmas posting, Jack Hambrick, identified as former television reporter with KPRC-TV in Houston, WFTV-TV in Orlando, WFOR-TV in Miami and WSFL-TV in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., charged that "Lee launched her media crusade by humiliating and assaulting the character of Emmitt Vascocu, a 57-year-old white KTBS viewer, whom she knew full well was mentally ill.

"Lee had known it for two months before she was fired. . . . "

" 'Hi Emmitt. Thank you for the heartfelt response. I’m very sorry to hear about your Alzheimer disease,' Lee wrote to Vascocu on October 7 in a private message on Facebook.

"But evidently, Lee's sympathy evaporated after she was fired by KTBS on November 28. She brought out the long knives for Emmitt Vascocu," Hambrick wrote on the Digital Texan, a website of which he is publisher and editor.

Asked her response, Lee messaged Journal-isms, "I have seen the article and this 'investigative piece' really doesn't warrant a comment."

However, Lee, who is 37, later responded to Hambrick's statement that she had exaggerated the amount of time she had been in the business. "I never said I was forecasting at a TV station since I was 12. I'm not sure where he got that information. I have always maintained that I been in the business since I was a teenager — which was 25 years ago," she said.

A'Lelia Bundles speaks during the three-day showing of the Emancipation Proclama

Ex-Journalist in Thick of It as Emancipation Is Hailed

When the Emancipation Proclamation went on display at the National Archives in Washington for three days ending New Year's Day, and 150th anniversary commemorations were similarly held around the country, A'Lelia Bundles, former journalist, was out front.

Bundles, a former director of talent development for ABC News and producer for ABC and NBC News, became chairman and president of the board of the Foundation for the National Archives a year ago. She is also the biographer of entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, Bundles' great-great-grandmother.

"The things that we learned in elementary school and high school about the Emancipation, was not quite the whole truth," Bundles said Tuesday on NPR's "Talk of the Nation." "In fact, only the slaves who were in states that were in rebellion, where Lincoln actually really had no jurisdiction, were technically freed. But it did open the door and create a wedge for freedom to finally come with the 13th Amendment."

J. Freedom duLac reported in the Washington Post, "On Sunday, as the Emancipation Proclamation went on display, several hundred people were lined up outside the Archives, trying to avoid becoming human statuary in the raw winter wind."

Bundles explained to Journal-isms by email, "I joined the Foundation for the National Archives board in 2006, having been invited at the recommendation of Cokie Roberts, my former ABC News colleague, who was familiar with my writing and research on Madam C. J. Walker. Through the years I'd done research at the National Archives (officially known as NARA for The National Archives and Records Administration), so generally was familiar with the institution, but not with the Foundation.

"NARA is the repository for the records of all federal agencies (from military records and census records to Congressional documents and treaties) and the White House. In addition to the main building in DC and another large building in College Park [Md.], it oversees more than 40 regional facilities and the presidential libraries.

"As a federal agency, its budget is determined by Congress and it can not raise private funds. As a result, the Foundation was created as a private sector partner to raise funds for exhibitions, online educational materials, publications, programs and other initiatives to assist the National Archives in increasing civic literacy and making the records of the agency more accessible to the public."

"I became chairman and president of the board of the Foundation for the National Archives in January 2012 and will serve a three year term."

N.Y. Rifle Association Urges Boycott of Gannett

"The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association is calling for a nationwide boycott of the advertisers of the suburban New York newspaper that published online maps revealing names and addresses of people with pistol permits," Mackenzie Weinger reported Monday for Politico.

"The association on Monday announced it was urging people to stop patronizing any business who advertises with Gannett — the White Plains-based Journal News' parent company — until the map is removed. On Dec. 22, the Journal News published interactive maps showing the pistol permit holders in the state's Westchester and Rockland counties. The decision sparked an uproar among conservatives and gun rights advocates, but the paper says it will continue adding names to the map."

Separately, the Journal News hired armed security guards to man the newspaper's Rockland County headquarters in West Nyack, Dylan Skriloff reported Tuesday for the Rockland County Times.

In addition, state Sen. Greg Ball and two Putnam County officials said that they would refuse to release the names and addresses of residents with pistol permits, data requested by The Journal News, which sought the records under the state Freedom of Information Law. John W. Barry of the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal quoted Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, saying the law is clear. "The name and address of any gun licensee are public," he said.

Reporter Was Activist in Wilmington 10 Case

When North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue Monday pardoned the group known as the Wilmington 10, accused of firebombing of a white-owned grocery store in a black neighborhood in 1971, Cash Michaels celebrated. He was more than simply a journalist covering the case.

Cash Michaels

"I was coordinator of The Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, which was a special justice outreach effort of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the Wilmington Journal newspaper, for which I am a staff writer," Michael messaged Journal-isms on Wednesday. "This was an historic accomplishment for the civil rights movement (I'm told), and huge victory for the Black Press!"

Michaels also thanked his supporters on Facebook. "Yesterday was overwhelming, especially, after waiting all morning, to finally get a call from the Governor herself, telling me what she was going to do, but I had to keep it to myself for 15 minutes," he wrote. "Needless to say, I naturally told my wife and Kala, and they made sure I didn't tell anybody else until the Governor's Office made it public.

"These last seven months since we filed the pardon petition papers have taught me a few things for sure — FIRST, that whatever you do that's worthwhile, you must do it by GOD. I've seen things happen during our campaign that could only be His work, things that that didn't happen when we wanted, but certainly when we needed them, the NY Times editorial for one. — SECOND, the incredible teamwork and partnerships we created, especially with the NCNAACP, the NAACP, Change.org and others.

"My job was to know what to do, and when to do it. But I had incredible wisdom and talent from the great people working with us, and I'm eternally grateful to them. Teamwork is a jewel, in my book. And FINALLY, the scariest part of this whole experience was knowing that six human beings, and the families of four who had deceased, trusted us, and were counting on our efforts, to bring justice and truth to the fore. It was hard work just to earn that trust. Once earned, it was even harder to build on, because the way forward was not easy. GOD allowed us to stay focused on what this cause was all about from the very beginning, and because of that, and His blessed guidance, we were able to make HISTORY!

"So thank you, everyone. We have a few loose ends to tie up, but now I can go back to being only a journalist and troublemaker. I'll never, ever forget this experience, and the many lives we touched with it.

"And I'll never forget a courageous Governor, whose heart has always proven to be pure when it comes to issues of justice."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Comments

Fictional Slavery Film has Value

I have as a Black activist been ridiculed, dismissed, insulted whenever I advocate for the complete liberty of my community to express and achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our country's ugly racist legacy has made my mission often very tough. To have a slavery film simply augments my efforts and I applaud all of those involved in this film. Fiction has value even in a world of reality.

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