‘NATO has always been at war with Eurasia, err, Eastasia, err Iran, err …’


This video, based on the book 1984, is called 1984 – The War among Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.

First, a quote from the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell. The book is set in a fictional year 1984 (still in the future in 1948 when Orwell wrote the novel), in the dictatorial superstate Oceania (roughly, the USA plus Britain). Oceania is perpetually at war against another superstate; either Eurasia or Eastasia.

On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy. …

Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound-tracks, photographs — all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere.

Today, in 2014, Oceania does not exist. NATO and its member states come closest to it.

Eurasia and Eastasia do not exist. However, NATO states are close to being at war perpetually, including ‘Hate Week’ like propaganda in Rupert Murdoch’s and other corporate media.

Objects of ‘Oceania”s hate and war are often not big states, but states which are neither really big nor very small. States like, sometimes, Iran. Not that small; not that big; but lots of oil.

Minutes ago today, the BBC reported:

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague: Iran can play a positive role in the region

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said plans to re-open the British Embassy in Tehran are an “important step forward” in relations with Iran.

This about a country, where very recently it seemed like the British colony Diego Garcia might be a starting point for war on Iran.

Let us have a few looks at the history of Iran and Western countries.

This video from the USA is called 1953 Iran Coup – CIA Finally Admits Role.

In 1953, there was a democratically elected government in Iran. According to British and US oil tycoons, and the CIA, that democratically elected government ‘threatened the flow of oil to the free world‘. So, the CIA deposed the democratically elected government; replacing it with the dictatorial rule of a shah (emperor). Sixty years later, in 2013, the CIA at last admitted their role in that coup.

Who was that dictatorial emperor, helped to his throne by the CIA, Shah Reza Pahlavi?

He was an anti-Semite.

Shah of Iran interview, including his belief in a ‘Jewish conspiracy‘: here.

He had many oppositionists tortured and/or murdered by his secret police, the SAVAK.

He wanted nuclear plants for Iran.

Shah of Iran nuclear propaganda

He wanted nuclear weapons for Iran.

This video says about itself:

Interview with the late Shah of Iran (circa 1975-76) regarding the need for Iran to acquire Nuclear Weapons.

Finally, the Iranian people were sick of the shah’s dictatorship. In 1979, they overthrew it. Of the various oppositional factions, Shiite Islamic religious leaders came out on top.

Oil tycoons and the CIA hated the overthrow of their old ally the shah. They helped to start a war against the new regime in Iran. Not a war with US soldiers; a war with the soldiers of the dictator of neighbouring Iraq, Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was an ally. He had ‘always been an ally’ of ‘Oceania’.

In this video, Donald Rumsfeld, later George W Bush’s Secretary of War ‘Defense’ during the Iraq war, greets Saddam Hussein.

From the (Conservative) Daily Mail in Britain in 2003, just before the start of the Iraq war:

Rumsfeld ‘helped Iraq get chemical weapons

By WILLIAM LOWTHER

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld helped Saddam Hussein build up his arsenal of deadly chemical and biological weapons, it was revealed last night.

As an envoy from President Reagan 19 years ago, he had a secret meeting with the Iraqi dictator and arranged enormous military assistance for his war with Iran.

The CIA had already warned that Iraq was using chemical weapons almost daily. But Mr Rumsfeld, at the time a successful executive in the pharmaceutical industry, still made it possible for Saddam to buy supplies from American firms.

They included viruses such as anthrax and bubonic plague, according to the Washington Post.

The extraordinary details have come to light because thousands of State Department documents dealing with the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war have just been declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act.

At the very least, it is highly embarrassing for 70-year-old Mr Rumsfeld, who is the most powerful and vocal of all the hawks surrounding President Bush.

He bitterly condemns Saddam as a ruthless and brutal monster and frequently backs up his words by citing the use of the very weapons which it now appears he helped to supply.

The question is: Why has he never said anything about his role in the negotiations?

Donald Rumsfeld has some explaining to do,’ a senior Pentagon official said last night, while Congressional sources said that a Senate Committee was considering opening hearings to investigate exactly what happened.

The documents could hardly have been released at a worse time for Mr Rumsfeld, who is building up troops in the Gulf in preparation for a war with Iraq that is generally expected to start in about a month.

They will also embarrass Tony Blair as he attempts to build international support for military action.

And they will cause a headache for the Foreign Office, because the news will be seen by Islamic countries as a prime example of American hypocrisy over the issue.

For years Middle Eastern countries have accused the US of double-talk over Iraq. They are bitterly critical that the American government helped arm Saddam during the 1980s in a war against Iran, which at that time Washington regarded as its biggest enemy in the region.

America’s critics are now disgusted by the way the administration has performed a somersault, and now expects them to agree that Saddam’s regime should be treated as a pariah.

This will make it even harder to persuade neighbouring states to offer Western troops bases and landing strips vital for such an onslaught.

But one thing was clear last night – President Bush will not let the embarrassment prevent him from forging ahead with his plans to attack Baghdad, and if that does happen Mr Blair will have no choice but to join him in the attack.

It was in late 1983 that Ronald Reagan made Mr Rumsfeld his envoy as the Iranians gained the upper hand in their war with Iraq.

Terrified that the Iranian Islamic revolution would spread through the Gulf and into Saudi Arabia – threatening US oil supplies – Mr Reagan sent Mr Rumsfeld to prop up Saddam and keep the Iranian militants within their own borders.

The State Department documents show that Mr Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad where he had a 90-minute meeting with Saddam followed by a much longer session with foreign minister Tariq Aziz.

‘It was a horrible mistake,’ former CIA military analyst Kenneth Pollack said last night.

‘We were warning at the time that Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State Department.’

On November 1, 1983, a full month before Mr Rumsfeld’s visit to Baghdad, Secretary of State George Shultz was officially informed that the CIA had discovered Iraqi troops were resorting to ‘almost daily use of chemical weapons’ against the Iranians.

Nevertheless, Mr Rumsfeld arranged for the Iraqis to receive billions of pounds in loans to buy weapons and CIA Director William Casey used a Chilean front company to supply Iraq with cluster bombs.

According to the Washington Post, a Senate committee investigating the relationship between the US and Iraq discovered that in the mid-1980s – following the Rumsfeld visit – dozens of biological agents were shipped to Iraq under licence from the Commerce Department.

They included anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare programme.

The newspaper says: ‘The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare.’

At the time of his meeting with Saddam, Mr Rumsfeld was working for Searle – a company which dealt only in medicinal pharmaceuticals.

Both he and Searle made all their money from the distribution of a cardiovascular drug.

And no one in the US has ever suggested that Mr Rumsfeld had any personal interest at stake in the Iraq meetings.

The Defence Secretary was making no comment last night.

There was not just the Rumsfeld-Saddam scandal during the US Reagan administration. There was only the Iran/Contra scandal; in which the Reagan administration sold weapons to the regime in Iran (illegal under United States law), using the money to arm mercenaries of the overthrown Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua (also illegal under United States law).

And now, to a colleague of Rumsfeld in the Reagan administration and later in the George W Bush administration: Dick Cheney.

This video from the USA is called Cheney ’94: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire.

Dick Cheney’s corporation Halliburton sold Iran key nuclear reactor components, as turned out in 2005.

Like Rumsfeld’s selling of chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein later did not hinder Rumsfeld at starting a bloody war in Iraq, where meanwhile there were no chemical weapons any more; Cheney’s selling of nuclear components to Iran later did not hinder Cheney in advocating war on Iran, recently and while he was Bush’s Vice President. Iran, which was supposedly close to getting nuclear weapons (which Cheney’s own intelligence services denied.)

Not so long ago, hardliners in the government of Israel, proxies of hardliners in Washington, had plans to start a war against Iran; though most Israeli people and quite some generals in Israel opposed that.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (not her real name, but that is another long story), neoconservative Islamophobic pro-war ideologist, said, when interviewed on Dutch TV in 2008, that George W Bush had invaded Iraq. OK. He had invaded Afghanistan. OK. But Ms Hirsi Ali said she was not really ready to call George W Bush a good president of the USA as long as he had not invaded Iran yet.

What will Ms Hirsi Ali say now: ‘Iran is an ally. Iran has always been an ally’? I would not be that surprised.

“Nearly 300 armed American forces are being positioned in and around Iraq to help secure U.S. assets as President Barack Obama nears a decision on an array of options for combating fast-moving Islamic insurgents, including airstrikes or a contingent of special forces.” John Kerry has said the U.S. is open to discussions with Iran and considering drone strikes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that Washington was willing to talk to Iran about collaborating to beat back a Sunni insurgency led by the Al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has already gained control of most of Iraq’s Sunni regions in northern and central Iraq and is threatening Baghdad: here.

The threat to Iraq’s unity from a rapid Islamist advance is another disastrous consequence of the 2003 invasion, writes ANDREW MURRAY: here.

How US policy on Iran came to be based on fabricated documents: here.

DEPUTY Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs Ali Majedi has voiced Iran’s readiness to speedily replace Iraq oil in the world market if Baghdad was forced to stop its exports due to its security crisis. Making this attempt to curry favour with the USA he told IRNA on Saturday that Iran could replace Iraq oil in the world market in a short time: here.

US President Barack Obama has indicated that he favors extending the six-month interim nuclear agreement the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China entered into with Iran at the beginning of the year: here..

Louis Armstrong in jazz history


This music video says about itself:

Louis Armstrong – Black And Blue. Live in Berlin 1965.

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

Satchmo at the Waldorf in New York: The life and times of jazz great Louis Armstrong

12 June 2014

The one-man show currently playing at the Westside Theatre in New York City, Satchmo at the Waldorf, makes effective use of hundreds of audio recordings by jazz great Louis Armstrong, one of the iconic figures in American musical history, to reveal something of the man behind the myth.

The audio tapes are now stored at an archive in Queens College, not far from Armstrong’s modest former home, which was opened about a decade ago as the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Playwright Terry Teachout—the theater critic for the Wall Street Journal and the author of a biography of Armstrong published five years ago—has used the tapes to fashion a lively and moving memoir of the great jazz genius, largely in his own words.

Using a simple but effective set, the play places Armstrong (played by John Douglas Thompson) in a dressing room at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York a few months before his death in July 1971, about a month short of his 70th birthday. This was to be the last public performance for the man known universally as Satchmo, a shortened version of “satchelmouth,” a nickname referring to his large mouth.

As Armstrong reminisces, the main biographical details emerge: his birth in the notorious Storyville section of New Orleans—the “red-light” district, his mother 15 years old; his father’s abandonment of his family; Armstrong’s early years of abject poverty; and his arrival at the Colored Waifs’ Home for Boys before he reached the age of 12.

Alongside the deprivation and degrading conditions faced by Armstrong, there were also some brighter moments and opportunities. At the age of seven he did odd jobs for an immigrant Jewish family, the Karnofskys, who owned a small junk-hauling business. They would welcome the fatherless boy into their home and offer him meals with the family as well as encouragement, later lending him the money that enabled him to buy his first cornet. Afterward, in the unlikely circumstances of the Waifs’ Home, Armstrong received formal musical instruction and soon became the leader of the Home’s band.

All this and much more is covered in the 90-minute show, with Thompson in an excellent performance, which for the most part does not attempt to impersonate Armstrong so much as bring out the essence of his life, his emotions and his experiences.

Necessary drama and contrast are added with the introduction of two other characters, each also portrayed by Thompson. This theatrical technique, by no means unique in recent years, is extremely effective here, as swift lighting changes mesh with Thompson’s rapid shifts in style and delivery to depict the relationship between Armstrong and his long-time manager, Joe Glaser.

Making a briefer but still important appearance is Miles Davis (1926-1991), the trumpeter and musical genius a generation younger than Armstrong. Davis, one of the pioneers of bebop and later developments in jazz, also became known for his bitter denunciations of Armstrong as an Uncle Tom, “jumping around and grinning for the white man.”

The playwright allows these three main characters to speak for themselves. His enormous respect for Armstrong is unmistakable and understandable, but the man is also portrayed honestly, as he presented himself in his candid and at times angry and bitter reminiscences. The play begins with rueful comments such as “How’d I get so old?” Of course there is plenty of profanity from Armstrong, directed at himself as well as others.

Glaser, the tough-talking Jewish manager from Chicago (and one-time associate of gangster Al Capone) who guided Armstrong’s career for 40 years and died about 18 months before Armstrong, emerges as a ruthless businessman who nevertheless understood and respected Armstrong’s genius.

The New Orleans-born musician had found wide recognition for his work with King Oliver’s band in the early 1920s, and a few years later through the superlative recordings of Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five or Hot Seven on Okeh Records. During the 1920s he worked with Fletcher Henderson, Sidney Bechet, Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, among other extraordinary talents. It was Glaser who helped make Armstrong a wealthy man, however, after the musician turned in some desperation to him for help when Armstrong was threatened by Chicago gangsters.

Glaser is portrayed as savvy but cynical. He declares with some astonishment that Armstrong does not care about money, and “gives away $1,000 a week.” According to the manager, it is Armstrong’s renowned gravelly voice that made him famous, not the horn. “You’re like Jolson, or Sophie Tucker,” he says, and that is where the big money is.

Armstrong makes no apologies for showcasing his vocal abilities. Speaking of his much later rendition of “Hello Dolly,” he confides to his tape recorder, “Dolly ain’t much of a song, but I made it what it became. Dolly knocked the Beatles off the charts”—an event whose 50th anniversary was marked a month ago, on May 9.

Armstrong “replies,” however, as the lighting changes to shift the scene from Glaser to him, rejecting the idea that his horn was less important. His relationship with his horn has shaped his entire life, he declares. They are one and the same. “The horn done save me.”

Glaser, himself answerable to the mob and threatened by them with the exposure of a 1928 statutory rape charge that involved a 14-year-old girl, signed over 50 percent of the business to mob lawyer Sidney Korshak and left nothing to Armstrong. One of the strongest moments in the show comes when Armstrong, who left all the business dealings to Glaser and trusted him his whole life, bitterly notes that “I was the business, but he left nothing for me. I felt like he used me up and threw me out.”

Nor was Glaser free of racist prejudices, as evidenced in the play’s portrayal. Armstrong points out that in all their decades of the closest possible professional collaboration, he was never invited to Glaser’s home.

Another theme emerges in Armstrong’s resentment over the clashes between the rival generations of jazz musicians. “That Dizzy Gillespie, he didn’t treat me right,” he angrily declares. When Time magazine put Armstrong on its cover and Gillespie was asked for his reaction, he said, “us cats, we study,” and disparaged Armstrong for supposedly possessing only “soul.”

Armstrong, reminiscing, brags of his musical credentials and experience. He read music and his playing reflected real training. “I played country music with Johnny Cash,” he declares. “And the St. Louis Blues with Bernstein….I played classical too. Like Caruso. Caruso or the blues–soul is soul. I love that grand opera–love that Pagliaccio.”

There were undoubted tensions between the early jazz pioneers and big bands of the 1930s, on the one hand, and the young generation of musical innovators that introduced bebop. As Armstrong claims, “You want to please the people. You can’t get too far out in front like the goddamn beboppers did.”

As time passed, however, passions cooled and collaborations took place between Gillespie and Armstrong, although that is not referenced in the play.

Miles Davis introduces another controversial subject: the relationship between jazz musicians and the bitter struggle for racial equality that gathered steam in the post-World War II period.

Satchmo at the Waldorf gives Davis some eloquent words, while also highlighting Armstrong’s self-defense. Armstrong complains bitterly over being called an Uncle Tom, and is resentful over the fact that he lost much of his African-American audience in the last years of his career.

“I told off President Eisenhower over Little Rock,” says Armstrong. “I said Eisenhower ain’t got no guts. And that John Foster Dulles, he’s another mother–….I played down South with a mixed band. I said if you can’t stay [at a hotel] you don’t play.”

While Armstrong’s comments are heartfelt, he was also a man of his time, born barely 35 years after the end of the Civil War, and the product of a period when open resistance to Jim Crow segregation and the brutalization of African-Americans, particularly in the South, was rare.

A younger generation, influenced by wartime experiences and also decisively by the mass movement of industrial workers that built the CIO, was far more militant and inevitably criticized many of its elders. …

These issues cannot be looked at in isolation from their whole social and political context in the postwar period. This was a period of rising militancy among black workers and youth, and of combativity and confidence among trade unionists as a whole, then at the peak of their numbers as a percentage of the labor force. It was also the period, however, of the Cold War, the grip of the reactionary union bureaucracy and the witch-hunt against those who sought to fight Jim Crow on the basis of a class struggle socialist program. These conditions created circumstances in which nationalistic views at times were looked on as the alternative to “accomodationism.”

A significant feature of Satchmo at the Waldorf, and no doubt a conscious one, is the almost complete absence of Armstrong’s music. There is a solo from the classic “West End Blues” and a few other snippets, but nothing more substantial. Undoubtedly, the playwright felt anything more would detract from the story told by the tapes.

This may well be true, but this play is nevertheless a wonderful introduction to the life and times of Louis Armstrong, and those who want to experience the music of this genius do not have very far to look.

The author also recommends:

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (Gennett, April 5-6, 1923 Session)

West End Blues – Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, 1928

Bessie Smith – St. Louis Blues, 1925

Louis Armstrong, His Hot Five – Muskrat ramble

New prehistoric crocodile discovered, named after Tolkien’s balrog


This video is called Lord of the Rings – Gandalf vs Balrog.

From Sci-News.com:

Anthracosuchus balrogus: Giant Prehistoric Crocodile Discovered

June 4, 2014

Paleontologists have discovered a new species of crocodile-like reptile that swam in the rivers of what is now Colombia during [the] Paleocene, about 60 million years ago.

The newly discovered prehistoric monster has been named Anthracosuchus balrogus.

The specific epithet, balrogus, derives from the Balrog, the name of a ferocious fictional creature that appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and dwelled deep in the middle-Earth ‘Mines of Moria.’

Anthracosuchus balrogus belongs to Dyrosauridae, a family of now-extinct crocodyliforms that lived from Late Cretaceous to the Eocene.

Originating in Africa, these crocodile-like reptiles swam across the Atlantic Ocean to South America about 75 million year ago. The family somehow survived the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs and persisted to become a top predator.

Four specimens of Anthracosuchus balrogus were unearthed in the Cerrejon coal mine, northern Colombia.

“It quickly became clear that the four fossil specimens were unlike any dyrosaur species ever found,” said Dr Alex Hastings from Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, who is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Historical Biology.

The crocodyliforms that lived in the Cerrejon ecosystem during the Paleocene, when temperatures were higher than today, thrived and grew to enormous sizes.

“This group offers clues as to how animals survive extinctions and other catastrophes. As we face climates that are warmer today, it is important to understand how animals responded in the past. This family of crocodyliforms in Cerrejon adapted and did very well despite incredible obstacles, which could speak to the ability of living crocodiles to adapt and overcome,” Dr Hastings said.

Anthracosuchus balrogus was about 5 meters long, weighed 410 kg, and had an unusually blunt snout for species in the dyrosaurids family.

“The species’ short snout paired with large jaw muscles typical of dyrosaurids, would give it an incredibly powerful bite,” Dr Hastings said.

It lived in freshwater rivers alongside the famous giant Titanoboa snake (measured up to 18 meters long), ate turtles and fish.

“We couldn’t believe it had such a boxy, short skull and that it was still a dyrosaur. It really busts the mold for these animals. It is such a completely different looking beast than we’ve seen for these crocodile-like animals,” said co-author Dr Jonathan Bloch of Florida Museum.

“The study of dyrosaurids in Cerrejon is providing a better understanding of the early history of crocodiles in the Neotropics,” concluded senior author Dr Carlos Jaramillo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela


This video from the USA is called His Day is Done – A Tribute Poem for Nelson Mandela by Dr. Maya Angelou.

The text is here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Paying tribute to Maya Angelou, a civil rights heroine

Saturday 31st May 2014

Maya Angelou, one of the foremost African-American writers, thinkers and activists of our time, has died in her North Carolina home aged 86. Peter Frost pays tribute.

The respectable Establishment will mark her passing as a poet, writer and broadcaster but will be less keen to celebrate her record as an early and fierce civil rights champion.

Let us celebrate Dr Angelou — she always liked to be called by the title, probably because she never went to any university — as a true global renaissance woman.

She was a celebrated poet, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actor, historian, filmmaker, broadcaster as well as a leading political activist.

Above all this amazing woman was a courageous freedom fighter. Her greatest achievements were in the civil rights movement.

She was close to two giants, both martyrs of that struggle, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

Prior to his assassination, she and Malcolm X had plans to start a new movement to advance African-American rights. Together they planned to found the Organisation of African-American Unity.

They both intended to speak out on issues plaguing black people in the US to the United Nations. UN support, they believed, would cause the US real political embarrassment. In 1965 Malcolm was cut down by assassins. One dream ended.

For a number of years Angelou was a key leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This organisation, founded by Martin Luther King, was an important body in the early struggle for civil rights in the US.

The SCLC preached non-violence and organised protests, boycotts, marches and voter registration drives. Again King’s political assassination hit hard but couldn’t kill that dream.

Angelou offered her support to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, writing sympathetic articles when he was most hated by the US Establishment. This had the predictable result that she was branded a communist. Her response was truly poetic.

“Wasn’t no communist country that put my grandpappa in slavery,” she declared. “Wasn’t no communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.”

Angelou was born into typical black poverty as Marguerite Ann Johnson in St Louis, Missouri, on April 4 1928. At just eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.

When the rapist was beaten to death after Angelou testified against him, she cruelly blamed herself for his death. She thought her voice, her testimony, had killed him and she didn’t speak again for almost six years.

In 1941 Angelou, aged just 13, won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labour School. The school was close to the Communist Party (CPUSA) and was blacklisted as subversive by various state and federal bodies.

The school gave the young Maya a good grounding, not just in music and dance but also in radical politics.

By the age of 14 lack of money forced her to drop out of school and take a job as a conductor on San Francisco’s famous cable cars. She was the first African-American woman to hold such a job.

Later, and by now pregnant, she returned to finish high school, giving birth to her son Guy just a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported herself and her child by working as a waitress and cook.

In her late teens continuing poverty forced her into dancing in strip clubs and even into prostitution to augment the earnings from the career she was beginning to build as an actor, singer and dancer.

Slowly recognition came and by 1954 she was touring 22 countries in Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess.

She studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced on TV and, in 1957, wrote and recorded her first album Miss Calypso.

In 1958 she moved to New York, where she acted in the historic off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom to raise funds and awareness for the civil rights movement.

James Baldwin and the Harlem Writers Guild helped her to develop her literary talents and her poems, novels, plays and — best known — her autobiographical books, which would make her famous and give her the voice and authority to speak out against injustice and inequality.

In the early ’60s, Angelou, always an internationalist, supported the young anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. While working in Egypt and Ghana as a journalist and editor she met and became lifelong friends with Nelson Mandela.

Mandela read aloud Angelou’s poem Still I Rise at his 1994 presidential inauguration. In January this year after Mandela’s death she published His Day Is Done, a poetic tribute to her great hero.

Angelou gained respect and fame for her writing. She produced seven books of semi-autobiography — most famously, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in 1969. It became an instant bestseller despite attempts to ban it from some reactionary quarters.

In 1993 president Bill Clinton asked Angelou to compose an original poem, titled On The Pulse Of The Morning, which she read at his inauguration.

In 1994 the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) presented the writer and filmmaker with the prestigious Spingarn Medal — the African-American Nobel Prize. It meant more to her than her Pulitzer Prize nomination, three Grammys and her many other awards.

In 2011 President Barack Obama awarded her with the Medal of Freedom, the US’s highest civilian honour. However neither respectability nor getting older silenced her strident voice in support of valuable causes.

Last summer Angelou spoke out about the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white man who had shot and killed a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin. She told the media that “the jury verdict showed how far we still have to go as a nation.”

She was a staunch advocate for marriage equality and was always ready to speak out against homophobia and religious bigotry.

She told New York state Senator Shirley Huntley: “To love someone takes a lot of courage. So how much more when the love is of the same sex and the law forbids it.” Her argument convinced Huntley to vote for the same-sex marriage bill before the legislature.

Just a few days before her death she made a strong case for action to recover the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. She tweeted: “Our future is threatened by the robbing of these young women’s future. We must have our darlings back so that we can help them to heal.”

The struggle for freedom and equality in the US, and indeed the rest of the world, has yet to be won. Recent advances by the forces of racism and reaction on this side of the Atlantic mean the world needs voices like Maya Angelou’s more than ever.

She may be dead, but her writings, her poems, her powerful ideas and principles live on. The bird may have flown the cage, but we can all still hear her song.

Maya Angelou’s voice gave life to the struggle for equality and gave many people the confidence to confront sexism and racism, says Moyra Samuels: here.

Writer, singer, dancer and actor Maya Angelou died on the morning of May 28 at the age of 86 in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While the exact cause of her death has not been announced, Angelou had been in poor health for some time: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

African American author Maya Angelou dies


This video from the USA says about itself:

Maya Angelou – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (part 1).

And this video is part 2.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Maya Angelou, celebrated US poet and author, dies aged 86

Angelou, who was also prominent in the civil rights movement, died at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Obituary
Interview: ‘I’m as fine as wine in the summertime’
Book extract: my terrible, wonderful mother

Jessica Glenza in New York

Wednesday 28 May 2014 18.06 BST

Maya Angelou, the American poet and author, died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Wednesday. She was 86.

Her son, Guy B Johnson, confirmed the news in a statement. He said: “Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Johnson said Angelou “passed quietly in her home” sometime before 8am on Wednesday.

Bill Clinton, at whose inauguration Angelou read her On the Pulse of the Morning, said in a statement: “America has lost a national treasure, and Hillary and I a beloved friend.”

Angelou’s failing health was reported as recently as Tuesday, when she canceled an appearance honoring her with a Beacon of Life Award because of “health reasons”. The ceremony was part of the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon, in Houston, Texas, part of Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Games.

Last month, forced to cancel an appearance at a library in Arkansas, she wrote: “An unexpected ailment put me into the hospital. I will be getting better and the time will come when I can receive another invitation from my state and you will recognize me for I shall be the tall Black lady smiling. I ask you to please keep me in your thoughts, in your conversation and in your prayers.”

Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson, in St Louis, Missouri, in 1928. She described in an NPR interview how her brother’s lisp turned Marguerite into Maya.

She survived several personal trials: she was a child of the depression, grew up in the segregated south, survived a childhood rape, gave birth as a teenager, and was, at one time, a prostitute.

She wrote wrote seven autobiographies, including the 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and was a playwright, director, actor, singer, songwriter and novelist.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was an indictment of the racial discrimination she experienced during her childhood. “If growing up is painful for the southern black girl,” she wrote, “being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has had a wide appeal, particularly to younger female readers and continues to appear on school and university reading lists in the US and the UK.

Actors, writers, directors, activists and politicians shared thankful and mournful notes in response to Angelou’s death.

JK Rowling called her “utterly amazing”; Lena Dunham thanked Angelou for “your power, your politics, your poetry. We need you more than ever.”

Angelou had lived in North Carolina since the early 1980s, when she became a professor at Wake Forest University, a private liberal arts college. A statement from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem called Angelou “a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world”.

The mayor of Winston-Salem, Allen Joines, said the town would probably remember Angelou best for her commitment to health and theatre.

She supported the founder of the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, and eventually became its first chairperson in 1989. In 2012, the Maya Angelou Women’s Health and Wellness Center opened in the city. A street in Winston-Salem is named after Angelou.

Despite her many accomplishments, the mayor said small moments seemed to touch the poet.

In April 2008, the town threw Angelou an 80th birthday party. Despite entertainers and speakers present at the party, the mayor said, “The thing that seemed to touch her the most was a group of little kids.”

Enhanced by Zemanta