Assata Shakur’s autobiography, new book


This video is called Eyes Of The Rainbow – a documentary film with Assata Shakur.

By Carlos Martinez:

Inspiring account of a black activists struggle

Monday 1st August 2014

Assata: An Autobiograhy

by Assata Shakur

(Zed Books, £8.99)

ASSATA SHAKUR remains an essential text for understanding both the prison-industrial complex and the state of race relations in the US, as well as providing a profound insight into the successes and failures of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Born in 1947, Shakur — then Joanne Deborah Byron — grew up between North Carolina and New York, experiencing the intense racism that prevailed, and still prevails, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

As a black, working-class woman she became acutely aware of the special oppression she and others like her faced. When a college student, she came across activists — especially from newly liberated Africa –— who challenged her anti-communist prejudices and her internalised stereotypes.

They encouraged her to get involved in the struggle for black power and against capitalism and imperialism. This led to her membership of the Black Panther Party and, later, the Black Liberation Army.

The larger part of the book is devoted to documenting Shakur’s experiences with the US “justice” system in courts and prisons between her arrest in 1971 and her escape eight years later.

Few readers would fail to be shocked at the extent to which this human being, whose real “crime” in the eyes of the state was to be a loud campaigner for justice and equality, was tortured and abused in prison — often at the hands of openly fascistic prison officers.

Her account also serves as a crucial reminder that there remain many political prisoners in the US, languishing behind bars for decades on trumped-up charges and that international pressure must be maintained and intensified until Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners are freed.

As the book demonstrates, it’s a fight that must be maintained against a phenomenally unjust prison system which disproportionately targets poor and non-white people.

This is not restricted to the US — a recent study showed that black people in Britain are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to be imprisoned.

Shakur’s profound and thought-provoking reflections on the decline of the black power movement deserve to be studied and discussed, as they could help illuminate a path for the current generation of organisers and activists.

Apart from the FBI’s large-scale covert assault on the Panthers and others, she focuses too on subjective elements —adventurism, sectarianism, amateurishness, the failure to consistently raise levels of political consciousness and alienation from the masses — which hampered the movement.

Shakur’s continuing relevance is not lost on the FBI. Last year it added her to its list of “most wanted terrorists” and she is the first woman to enjoy this honour — good to see US imperialism doing its bit for gender equality.

Thankfully, she is safely in exile in Cuba, a country she describes as “one of the largest, most resistant and most courageous palenques (palisades) that has ever existed on the face of this planet.”

Essential reading.

Bird book exhibition in The Hague, the Netherlands


Birds: Thousand years of birds in hundreds of books

Translated from Meermanno museum in The Hague in the Netherlands:

Birds: Thousand years of birds in hundreds of books

Royal Library and Museum Meermanno show special bird books

From August 29th, 2014 till January 4, 2015, the Royal Library (KB) and Museum Meermanno have a major exhibition on birds in books. The exhibition takes place at Museum Meermanno in The Hague.

At this special exhibition, rare bird books will be on display from ten centuries of book history, in six large rooms in the historic building of Museum Meermanno. The books are from the rich collections of the KB and Meermanno Museum.

The exhibition shows a broad overview of birds as the subjects of books, artwork and band decorations. From a tenth-century illustrated medieval manuscript, via a beautiful seventeenth-century scientific publications to books on falconry, pet birds and birds in literature and poetry.

There are also cookbooks to see about tasty fowl and curious books on various aspects of the birds: first aid for birds, sport with birds and travel books to bird colonies.

All types are covered: Dutch birds from chicken to great tit, exotic varieties from flamingos to penguins but also biblical and mythological flying animals.

Masterpieces

The following highlights are included: Der naturen bloeme by Jacob van Maerlant (around 1350), Ornithologia by Ulisse Aldrovandi (around 1600) and Chassidische legenden by Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1943-1944). The impressive book Nederlandsche vogelen by Nozemann and Sepp (1770-1829) was published in October 2014 in facsimile by Lannoo (www.nederlandschevogelen.nl).

Originally, there were plans for a photo opportunity with a bird of prey in the museum. After the The Hague branch of the Party for the Animals pointed out such an event would cause stress for the bird, the plan was canceled.

United States singer Joan Baez interviewed


This music video is called JOAN BAEZ (full concert, 1965).

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Joan Baez: Singer, activist, peacenik, lover, legend

Joan Baez has had an extraordinary life. Ahead of her appearance at the Royal Festival Hall, and at the age of 73, she talks to Lawrence Donegan

Sunday 31 August 2014

Angry wasps are swarming in the eaves of Joan Baez’s Californian home, but otherwise all is as it should be in the life of a woman who has devoted herself to the cause of peace. The breeze is warm, the incense sticks are billowing out smoke and the conversation is mellow.

Ask her about songwriting (she hasn’t written a song of her own for 25 years) and she says: “So I called Janis Ian and I said: ‘Janis, I can’t write – what shall I do?’ And she says: ‘It’s very simple. Look around the room, pick an object and then just write whatever comes into your head.’ So I did. And I wrote one of the best songs I have ever written.

“It’s called ‘Coconuts’. I wanted to start performing it, but my manager was horrified. He thought people would really love it and I would become known as the Coconut song woman.”

This video is called Coconuts – Joan Baez at Kidzstock, June 19, 2010.

Then there was the time the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, a near neighbour and a former lover, called to ask if she would give him a piano lesson. “I told him I wasn’t much of a piano player, but I knew where middle C was, but he said, ‘Come on over’ so I did. When I got there it was just Steve in the big, empty rotunda of his house – there was no furniture – sitting behind a Bösendorfer (a particularly expensive make of piano). He couldn’t play a note.”

Baez doesn’t tell such anecdotes to impress but to amuse both the listener and herself. She is aware of her own status – legendaryness, she mockingly says – and finds it vaguely absurd. “I once had this Australian journalist call me and she said to me: ‘Has it ever occurred to you that you are the only woman in the world to have seen both Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan naked?’ I told her: ‘But not at the same time.’”

The notion of Baez the doubt-ridden folk singer could hardly be in greater contrast to her alter-ego, Baez the activist. When it comes to politics, she has always known where she stood. The world has never measured up to her ideas of fairness and equality, not today and not when she was a 15-year-old refusing to salute the American flag. Eight years later, her schoolgirl radicalism had moved on to the national stage. She was one of the principal performers at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the day on which Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. “The influx of people into the city was remarkable, like an ocean flooding in,’’ she says when asked for her recollections of the day. Then when asked about King himself: “What people don’t realise about him was that he was a very funny man.’’

The passing of the Civil Rights Act and King’s subsequent assassination robbed the movement of much of its power, while the onset of the Vietnam war turned the attention of activists towards events on the other side of the world. Baez, again, was at the forefront of a protest movement.

In 1972 she travelled to Hanoi with a peace delegation and was caught in the middle of an American bombing campaign on the North Vietnamese capital that lasted 12 days. “We spent the whole time in the basement of our hotel,’’ she recalls. “I have never been so afraid in my life. I thought I was going to die. But I learned something – when the flames start coming towards you everyone starts praying, even the atheists and the agnostics, but when the flames start fading away we all go back to the structures and beliefs that we had before.” For Baez, the Hanoi experience made her even more determinedly radical than she had been. What kept her going? “The belief that what I was doing was right.”

For Baez, no political leader measured up to King until Barack Obama came along and ran for president. But the reality of his victory has been a disappointment. “I wish that Obama had a different enough personality that he would have stayed on the streets. If he had done that then he would have been the closest thing we ever had to King. He had the attention and support of hundreds of millions of people and now there isn’t much of anything.” …

She sacrificed much, not least in a musical sense. Expending so much time and energy on activism cost her commercially. Record companies were not exactly lining up to invest in an “act” so hell-bent on lecturing America about its failings. …

As for the rest of the world and its concerns, Baez is willing to offer her personal support to causes that are particularly close to her heart, most notably the campaign against the death penalty in the United States. But she is no longer first to the barricades when the cry of radicalism is raised. “People ask me what I’m going to do and I say back to them: ‘No, the question is what are you going to do?’”

British artist Jeff Perks interviewed


This video from the USA says about itself:

Voice of Art – Iraq Veterans Against the War, Pt. 1

29 June 2012

Meet the artists: members Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Chicago chapter. Hear their stories of service and struggle. Learn why they now protest the wars they once participated in.

And this video is the sequel.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Saturday 30th August 2014

Artist JEFF PERKS tells Len Phelan why his stimulating and unabashedly political new show at the Stockport Art Gallery is not ‘a comfy sofa’

IT’S not often that you’ll see a retrospective which packs as political a punch as the one which opens in a few weeks at the Stockport Art Gallery.

Political Furniture, Not A Comfy Sofa is a must-see exhibition of work by the Derbyshire-based artist Jeff Perks, which wittily and provocatively views the world from an unavowedly socialist perspective. These striking, polemical images and constructions are beautifully crafted.

A filmmaker, painter, printmaker, publisher and sculptor, Perks has had his work on show at the Whitechapel Gallery’s Art For Society exhibition, Race Against Time for the TUC at Congress House and he produced the graphics for Michael Rosen’s enormously popular poem on the history of the slave trade.

Perks is also credited with recently producing the largest lino cut ever made, part of his We Will Not Walk Away From Iraq show at Battersea Arts Centre, a sardonic swipe at Tony Blair’s declaration of intent.

At six feet tall and 21 feet long The Training Ground tells the history and horrors of the British army’s involvement in Ireland and it’ll be on show in Stockport along with prints on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and ceramic sculptures which deal with the politics of everyday life in a humorous and original way.

Explaining the exhibition’s title, Perks is at pains to point out that the retrospective is designed to make us think about why the world is the way it is.

“The painter Henri Matisse described his own work as ‘a comfy sofa for the bourgeoisie to relax in’,” he says. “This exhibition is definitely not a ‘comfy sofa.’

“The work will inevitably be called anti-politician. It is, and against all those men who too quickly rush to solve the problems of our nuclear world by military action,” he stresses. And he’s clear too about the committed nature of his work, citing Pablo Picasso’s declaration that he had never looked on painting as an art “for mere pleasure or amusement.”

Perks left school aged 15 with only two qualifications in art and woodwork, which maybe accounts for his use of so much reclaimed material in his three-dimensional work. “Wherever possible the materials I use are either reclaimed industrial wood or steel or from trees uprooted from storms — this helps to maintain the existing native woodlands and landscape,” he says.

“Their shape both inspires me and defines the resulting sculpture.”

After what seems like a hugely active artistic life, embracing work in advertising, publishing and TV — where he made programmes about artists, cartooning, punk and women comics — Perks sees the Stockport show as a return to his first loves of painting and sculpture.

“You could say my life has come full circle and that at last I’ve put my two O-levels to good use,” he says.

Political Furniture, Not A Comfy Sofa runs from September 20 until October 20 at the Stockport Art Gallery, Wellington Road South, Stockport. Free. The exhibition will be opened by poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen on September 19, details: here.