Janice Mirikitani | Publish the news group

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Complain about the media portrayal of Oakland all you want. Last week in national media, Oakland was described as a great place to live, work, and dine, with restaurants where people come to your table and greet you like a long lost neighbor.

This Oakland. You know? It’s the backdrop to a profile in New Yorker magazine about Ishmael Reed, novelist, playwright, poet, and Oakland resident. Hills ? Oh no, the apartments. Reed is a jazz guy; There is a downside.

Hopefully Reed’s joker laughs at that pun. It is thanks to Reed that I am a writer. But let me not forget Flossie Lewis, my high school English teacher and current Oakland resident. Lewis set me up. Reed punched.

I first met Reed in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was “Artist in Residence” for the University of Washington’s inaugural Writer’s Program. Destined to become Iowa’s best writers’ studio, it all had white writers like William Gass and Stanley Elkin. Reed was the token-in-resident. I was the graduate student of the symbolic minority. When a writer told me to stop writing about my Filipino family, Reed was there to tell me to get them back.

This is what Ishmael did for me.

The New Yorker profile posted on July 19 forced me to pull Reed’s work again. “Mumbo Jumbo” (1972) re-read during the pandemic is obvious and funnier than ever. People with a virus that makes the boogie dance? He was a finalist for the National Book Award and considered for the Pulitzer Prize.

The New Yorker also details Reed’s life with his wife, dancer / choreographer / director Carla Blank, and their daughter, poet Tennessee Reed. And you’ll learn how the writing got started – as a black press jazz columnist for the Buffalo Empire Star.

This is the enduring value of ethnic media, the black press, and newspapers like the Oakland Post. It is always a place where diverse voices can express it all.

Asked about his heritage, Reed was simple and humble. “I made American literature more democratic for writers from different backgrounds,” he said. “I was part of this movement to be heard.

I heard that.

Van Jones’ $ 100 Million Speech

Ishmael Reed is one of the only MacArthur Genius Fellows I know of.

But Van Jones is the first recipient of the Courage and Civility Award, which he received on July 20. Yes, this Van Jones from the Ella Baker Center. Long before CNN. Hope he remembers being a guest on my old ethnic media roundtable TV show over 20 years ago on KCSM-TV.

Because the Courage and Civility Prize is $ 100 million Unattached – by Jeff Bezos.

I wasn’t crazy about Richard Branson’s flight, so you know I’m not out of this world about Bezos’ 63 mile getaway, which I call the neo-space-age white flight. . You can go beyond the suburbs.
Bezos has been hammered at not paying his taxes, and how spending billions of dollars on space travel during a time of real humanitarian need on Earth is at first glance a word – obscene.

To his credit, he did what all rich in money do when they push the boundaries of tasteful behavior.

They use their money by giving it away. This is how the Rockefellers, Fords, Sacklers, Mellons, etc., etc., can live with themselves. Although far from everyone. Hence the Prize for Courage and Civility.

Jones was kind about the gift from the Hun Mill.

“I wasn’t always brave,” Jones said. “But I know people who are. They rise up every day in the front line of grassroots communities. They don’t have much. But they are good people and they fight hard. And they don’t have enough support.
It is all true. And then he delivered penance for the sins of Bezos.

“Can you imagine,” Jones said. “People from the base of the Appalachians, from the Native American reservation, having enough money to be able to connect with the geniuses who disrupted the space industry, taxis, hotels and bookstores. Let’s start disrupting poverty. Let’s start disrupting pollution.

“Together, start disrupting the $ 90 billion prison industry. You take people on the front lines and their wisdom, their genius and their creativity, and you give them a chance. They are not going to change neighborhoods, they are going to turn this nation upside down. This is what will happen.

Then Jones got this for Bezos. “I appreciate you raising the ceiling of people’s dreams,” Jones said, then turned to us. “Don’t be angry when you see someone reaching for the heavens, be happy to know that there is much more heaven to be reached. And we can do it together.

Bezos’ $ 100 million doesn’t buy much in the space business. But hand it over to Jones? Let’s see the disruptive good he can do on Earth.


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