Been in the Storm Too Long — David Hinckley in the NY Daily News

[This film, directed by Jonathan Demme, aired on PBS Wednesday evening.  Daniel Wolff, essayist and poet, whose work How Lincoln Learned to Read has been featured on this blog, helped produce this film. — Lew Rosenbaum]

Tavis Smiley’s ‘Been in the Storm Too Long’ focuses on life after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans

David Hinckley

Wednesday, July 21st 2010, 4:00 AM

Mathew Imaging Rocker Lenny Kravitz (l.) and PBS host Tavis Smiley discuss hurricane Katrina woes that have beset New Orleans as its citizens fight to rebuild their homes.

“Been in the Storm Too Long,” Wednesday night at 8 on PBS

Tavis Smiley does everything short of playing the theme from “Rocky” in “Been in the Storm Too Long,” this pugnacious and inspiring look at the people of New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina almost washed their city off the map.

Smiley portrays its residents as perpetual underdogs who compensate for a lack of resources with pure spirit.

He had finished most of this special when the BP oil well blew, piling more trauma onto the Gulf region, and he addresses the spill briefly in an early segment. The heart of the special, however, lies with the people who have refused to let Katrina chase them away.

Speaking mostly to black residents and musicians like Branford Marsalis, Smiley comes across as an unapologetic advocate and cheerleader, pulling for New Orleans to resurrect itself despite debilitating indifference from the government and insurance companies.

He cites the battle of Lower Ninth Ward residents to get their schools restored, recognizing that if returning families can expect no decent education system, rebuilt housing has far less value.

To compound the problem, New Orleans schools didn’t function that well before Katrina. So Smiley focuses on a charter school, emphasizing how hard school officials pushed to get a decent building and operating cash.

He notes that some government officials seemed to discourage rebuilding in the Lower Ninth Ward, suggesting the land be turned into parks or sold to developers.

Community resistance short-circuited those plans.

Meanwhile, in the more affluent Ponchartrain Park neighborhood, Smiley’s subjects point more to insurance companies as the obstacle to repopulation. Many residents there say they were not paid enough to rebuild and come back.

Not surprisingly, Smiley both endorses their struggle and plants himself in the middle of many segments. Yes, that’s Tavis frying up crawfish and wiggling into a massive Mardi Gras costume.

He does something riskier but effective when he ties the post-Katrina struggle to the turmoil created in 1960 when New Orleans had to integrate its schools.

A single black child, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, was escorted into the Frantz school by U.S. marshals. All the white parents withdrew their children, leaving Ruby alone with just her teacher, Mrs. Henry, for the entire school year.

That’s not the most flattering historical side of New Orleans. Nor is the fact that many of those parents demonstrated outside the school throughout the year, holding props like a small casket with a black doll inside.

Smiley talks with Bridges, still a New Orleans resident, and she suggests things in general are better today though far from ideal.

She says that in retrospect, her mission was to raise hope and possibility, and Smiley’s special underscores the point effectively: Those remain the test and the trial for New Orleans today.

[Here is a link to Daniel Wolff’s guest blog on the Tavis Smiley Reports site; “Why I’m Dedicated to New Orleans.”]


R.I.P.: Four Giants Laid to Rest. Their Contributions Are Our Legacy

From The Guardian comes this report.  [That he was an “uncompromised and uncompromising communist” is not the only reason I appreciated Saramago’s work.  The inventiveness of his form always advanced the complexity of his content.  For myself, the sadness that I can not look forward to a new Saramago novel is tempered only by the gratitude for the many I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy — Lew Rosenbaum]:

José Saramago obituary

Saramago at his home in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. Photograph: Martinez De Cripan/EPA

Nobel prize-winning author whose popular works addressed heavyweight themes

José Saramago, who has died aged 87, won the Nobel prize for literature in 1998 and was Portugal‘s most prolific and best-known 20th-century writer. More widely read in Europe and Australia than in North America, and with print runs of 150,000 in Portugal and Brazil, these supposedly difficult and unarguably heavyweight works, on ponderous themes, have become major sellers.

Saramago once said that: “If I had died when I was 60, I would have written nothing.” While this effectively glosses over his first major success in fiction (with the novel Manual de Pintura e Caligrafia – A Manual of Painting and Calligraphy – in 1977) and a number of volumes of poetry, plays and essays, there was little in Saramago’s background, or even his early career, to suggest a flowering of success at the age when many are contemplating retirement.

He was born into a humble rural household in the small village of Azinhaga. The family moved to Lisbon when he was two, and Saramago left school early to contribute to the household bills by working as a mechanic. Gradually, he progressed through numerous jobs towards his central literary interest. He worked as a draughtsman, publisher’s reader and freelance translator, and in the editorial and production departments of a publishing house. He also worked on several newspapers, including a stint as a literary reviewer for Serra Nova and, after the death of the dictator António Salazar in 1970, as political commentator on the Diário de Lisboa.

Political wranglings, and Saramago’s own uncompromised and uncompromising communism, were at least partly responsible for his being fired in 1975. The following year, he devoted himself exclusively to his books. “Being fired was the best luck of my life,” he said. “It made me stop and reflect. It was the birth of my life as a writer.”

He had, of course, been writing since his youth, but literature had seemed a pretentious option for a child from an illiterate background.  Click here to read the rest of this story.

More links on Saramago:


From the Associated Press:

By FRANK ELTMAN (AP) – 2 days ago

Tuli Kupferberg, a founding member of the underground rock group and staple of 1960s anti-war protests, the Fugs, has

FILE - In this July 16, 2003 file photo, 1960s anti-war rocker Tuli Kupferberg is seen in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York. A founding member of one of the first underground rock groups, the Fugs, Kupferberg, died Monday, July 12, 2010, in a Manhattan hospital at 86. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, File)


Kupferberg, who had suffered strokes in the past year, died Monday in a Manhattan hospital, said his friend and bandmate Ed Sanders. He was 86.

“I think he will be remembered as a unique American songwriter,” Sanders told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. “Tuli had an uncanny ability to shape nuanced lyrics.”

Sanders, who is writing a new memoir about the Fugs, said he visited his friend in the hospital on Thursday. Although Kupferberg was clearly ailing, he leaned into his ear and sang him the lyrics to a Fugs classic, “Morning, Morning,” Sanders said.

“And then I said, `goodbye,'” he said.

Kupferberg’s contributions were recognized in January when Lou Reed, Sonic Youth and others appeared at a benefit concert in Brooklyn to help pay for some of his medical expenses. He was too ill by then to attend the show, but recorded a 10-second video message, according to the New York Times, thanking the audience.

“Now go out there and have some fun,” he said. “It may be later than you think.”  Click here to read more.

Click here to read the New York Times article on Kupferberg.


The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Harvey Pekar, Cleveland comic-book legend, dies at age 70

Published: Monday, July 12, 2010, 11:05 AM     Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 11:44 AM

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Harvey Pekar’s life was not an open book. It was an open comic book.

Lonnie Timmons III, The Plain DealerCleveland comics legend Harvey Pekar was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. today. He was 70.

Pekar chronicled his life and times in the acclaimed autobiographical comic book series, “American Splendor,” portraying himself as a rumpled, depressed, obsessive-compulsive “flunky file clerk” engaged in a constant battle with loneliness and anxiety.

Pekar, 70, was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. Monday by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, said Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Pekar and Brabner wrote “Our Cancer Year,” a book-length comic, after Pekar was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990 and underwent a grueling treatment. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and also suffered high blood pressure, asthma and clinical depression, which fueled his art but often made his life painful.

“American Splendor” carried the subtitle, “From Off the Streets of Cleveland,” and just like Superman, the other comic-book hero born in Cleveland, Pekar wore something of a disguise. He never stepped into a phone booth to change, but underneath his persona of aggravated, disaffected file clerk, he was an erudite book and jazz critic, and a writer of short stories that many observers compared to Chekhov, despite their comic-book form.  Click here to read the entire story.

The Guardian reports:

Carlos Monsiváis obituary

Popular Mexican writer admired for holding his country’s political elite to account

Mexican writer, critic and essayist Carlos Monsiváis was frequently interviewed for his wit and near-encyclopedic knowledge, often while at home surrounded by clutter and cats. Photograph: Saul Lopez/EPA

The writer, critic and activist Carlos Monsiváis, who has died at the age of 72, made Mexico understandable to Mexicans – or at least helped them laugh about it. He was admired for the intelligence and the intricate ironies of his prose, recognised for his principled support of leftwing causes, and famed for his crumpled appearance and adoration of cats. It is a measure of how popular he was that even the favoured targets of his acerbic wit rushed to include themselves among his admirers upon news of his death. Felipe Calderón, the country’s rightwing president, announced: “We Mexicans will miss his critical, reflective and independent vision.”

Born in Mexico City just nine years into the 71-year-long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Monsiváis belonged to a generation of writers that includes Carlos Fuentes and José Emilio Pacheco. He was less well known than them internationally, but arguably even more revered at home. Part of his appeal was the ease with which he entwined highbrow references with frankness, sincerity and a fascination with popular culture. His rejection of airs and graces endeared him further to an audience far wider than the one usually enamoured of the intelligentsia.  Click hear to read the entire story.

July 4 Automation and Robotics News — Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–July 4, 2010

Highlights: Robot lifeguards, automated spa, dealing with budget cuts through automation, robot spies, robotics virtual summit, upswing for robotics industry…

All articles are available by clicking Archives:


It's Emily to the rescue... (Credit: Hydronalix)

Robot lifeguard Emily is no ‘Baywatch’ babe

Leslie Katz ·  Tue Jun 29 2010

Remote-controlled contraption called Emily can locate distressed swimmers and ferry them back to shore–or give them something to hold onto until human help shows up.

Robotics meet origami in self-folding sheets

Leslie Katz ·  Tue Jun 29 2010

Thanks to scientists at Harvard and MIT, programmable electronic sheets can now fold themselves into shapes that any origami aficionado could appreciate.


China labour unrest to accelerate automation trend – Jun 28, 2010

“The automation equipment industry is growing very, very fast. Sensors, frequency converters, conveyor belts, pneumatic systems, power tools — you name it …

Salem Public Library moves to more automation

By Barbara Curtin • Statesman Journal • July 2, 2010

The Salem Public Library plans to buy two DVD dispensers and one additional self-check machine in order to serve the public with a smaller circulation staff. The City Council approved the purchases in hopes of increasing library efficiency,

Riverton residents question library automation

Press Herald -Kelley Bouchard – Jun 22, 2010

PORTLAND – Riverton residents pleaded with city officials Monday night to keep a staffed Portland Public Library …

Automation takes over spa services at My Resort

Cathryn Creno – Jun. 21, 2010 The Arizona Republic

If Jane Jetson had been a spa girl, the 1960s cartoon character probably would have frequented someplace like My Resort Tanning and Spa.  All of the pampering at the Ahwatukee Foothills and Scottsdale salons is automated. Massages, facials, teeth whitening and full-body steam treatments are done by machine. There’s no need to chitchat or appear in your underwear in front of anyone. And no one at My Resort hints around for a tip.

Automation’s Future

Automation World -Gary Mintchell – Jul 1, 2010

Well, we have a number of companies that develop, manufacture and sell products and services in what could be called automation. There are magazines that …

Iran unveils human-like robot: report

AFP – 12 hours ago

TEHRAN — Iran has developed a new human-like walking robot to be used in “sensitive jobs,” government newspaper Iran reported on Sunday. …

New era of “robot” spies will test privacy

Reuters UK -Myra MacDonald – Jun 25, 2010

“Once you go over to data mining you are essentially handing the process over to robots, who roam through this material looking for patterns of suspicious …


Adept Technology Furthers Commitment to Sustainable and Green Production With Validation of Adept Quattro Energy Savings

Adept Technology, Inc. Posted 07/02/2010

Adept Quattro™ s650HS Robot Provides Significant Energy Savings and Sustainable Manufacturing Practices for Critical Production Processes

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Adept Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq:ADEP), a leading provider of intelligent vision-guided robotics and global robotics services, today announced it has further demonstrated its commitment to green and sustainable manufacturing through developing energy conscious solutions such as the Adept Quattro robot for production systems ranging from safely processing food to reducing the costs associated with manufacturing solar cells. Energy consumption has consistently ranked as a top consideration when companies select and implement capital equipment. Recent benchmark tests validate that the Adept Quattro, which was originally designed with energy conservation in mind, consumes up to 35% less power over delta or SCARA robots.


Lizard robot swims through sand
by Markus Waibel » 02 Jul 2010, 08:38
In a video reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, researchers at Georgia Tech in Atlanta have shown a robot that can swim through sand. Like the salamander robot you may remember from previous interviews with Auke Ijspeert (including an earlier Talking Robots interview), this robot’s morphology and locomotion pattern are modeled after that of a real lizard. However, while previous research for movement in water or air could rely on detailed dynamic models, no such models exist for sand which can behave as both, a solid and a fluid


Robotics Virtual Summit Available On Demand

Access to online exhibit hall, resource center, keynote addresses and feature presentations available at no charge.

By Robotics Trends 06.30.2010

Access to online exhibit hall, resource center, keynote addresses and feature presentations available at no charge. Event focused on autonomy, mobility and navigation in robotic systems. Robotics Trends announced that access to the inaugural event in the Robotics Summit Virtual Conference and Exposition Series, Autonomy, Navigation, and Mobility Solutions, is available on demand and at no charge at <>

Getting Back on Track: Service Robots 2010

The robotics industry is getting back on track!

Sales slump in 2009 – Strong recovery in 2010 – Further growth expected in 2011 and 2012. The IFR Statistics Department presented the preliminary results of the annual statistics on Industrial Robots on Wednesday, 9 June 2010, in Munich at the AUTOMATICA. In 2009, with about 62,100 industrial robots shipped, the number of units sold worldwide slumped dramatically by about 45% compared to 2008, one of the most successful years. But in the first quarter 2010 the sales skyrocketed worldwide by more than 50% compared to the first quarter 2009.

NYT: Supply Chain for iPhone Highlights Costs in China


A Foxconn factory in Guangdong Province. The company, a major Apple supplier, is looking to cut costs.

Published: July 5, 2010 in the New York Times

SHENZHEN, China — Last month, while enthusiastic consumers were playing with their new Apple iPhone 4, researchers in Silicon Valley were engaged in something more serious.

They cracked open the phone’s shell and started analyzing the new model’s components, trying to unmask the identity of Apple’s main suppliers. These “teardown reports” provide a glimpse into a company’s manufacturing.

What the latest analysis shows is that the smallest part of Apple’s costs are here in Shenzhen, where assembly-line workers snap together things like microchips from Germany and Korea, American-made chips that pull in Wi-Fi or cellphone signals, a touch-screen module from Taiwan and more than 100 other components.

But what it does not reveal is that manufacturing in China is about to get far more expensive. Soaring labor costs caused by worker shortages and unrest, a strengthening Chinese currency that makes exports more expensive, and inflation and rising housing costs are all threatening to sharply increase the cost of making devices like notebook computers, digital cameras and smartphones.

Desperate factory owners are already shifting production away from this country’s dominant electronics manufacturing center in Shenzhen toward lower-cost regions far west of here, even deep in China’s mountainous interior.

At the end of June, a manager at Foxconn Technology — one of Apple’s major contract manufacturers — said the company planned to reduce costs by moving hundreds of thousands of workers to other parts of China, including the impoverished Henan Province.

While the labor involved in the final assembly of an iPhone accounts for a small part of the overall cost — about 7 percent by some estimates — analysts say most companies in Apple’s supply chain — the chip makers and battery suppliers and those making plastic moldings and printed circuit boards — depend on Chinese factories to hold down prices. And those factories now seem likely to pass along their cost increases.

“Electronics companies are trying to figure out how to deal with the higher costs,” says Jenny Lai, a technology analyst at CLSA, an investment bank based in Hong Kong. “They’re already squeezed, so squeezing more costs out of the system won’t be easy.”

Apple can cope better than most companies because it has fat profit margins of as much as 60 percent and pricing power to absorb some of those costs. But makers of personal computers, cellphones and other electronics — including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and LG — deal with much slimmer profit margins according to several analysts. “The challenges are going to be much bigger for them,” Ms. Lai said. Most other industries, from textiles and toys to furniture, are under considerably more pressure.

One way to understand the changes taking shape in southern China is to follow the supply chain of the iPhone 4, which was designed by Apple engineers in the United States, sourced with high-tech components from around the world and assembled in China. Shipped back to the United States, the iPhone is priced at $600, though the cost to consumers is less, subsidized by AT&T in exchange for service contracts.

“China makes very little money on these things,” said Jason Dedrick, a professor at Syracuse University and an author of several studies of Apple’s supply chain. Much of the value in high-end products is captured at the beginning and end of the process, by the brand and the distributors and retailers.

According to the latest teardown report compiled by iSuppli, a market research firm in El Segundo, Calif., the bulk of what Apple pays for the iPhone 4’s parts goes to its chip suppliers, like Samsung and Broadcom, which supply crucial components, like processors and the device’s flash-memory chip.

In the iPhone 4, more than a dozen integrated circuit chips account for about two-thirds of the cost of producing a single device, according to iSuppli.

Apple, for instance, pays Samsung about $27 for flash memory and $10.75 to make its (Apple-designed) applications processor; and a German chip maker called Infineon gets $14.05 a phone for chips that send and receive phone calls and data. Most of the electronics cost much less. The gyroscope, new to the iPhone 4, was made by STMicroelectronics, based in Geneva, and added $2.60 to the cost.

The total bill of materials on a $600 iPhone — the supplies that go into final assembly — is $187.51, according to iSuppli.

The least expensive part of the process is manufacturing and assembly. And that often takes place here in southern China, where workers are paid less than a dollar an hour to solder, assemble and package products for the world’s best-known brands.

No company does more of it than Foxconn, a division of the Hon Hai Group of Taiwan, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.

With 800,000 workers in China alone and contracts to supply Apple, Dell and H.P., Foxconn is an electronics goliath that also sources supplies, designs parts and uses its enormous size and military-style efficiency to assemble and speed a wide range of products to market.

“They’re like Wal-Mart stores,” Professor Dedrick said. “They’re low-margin, high-volume. They survive by being efficient.”

The world of contract manufacturers is invisible to consumers. But it’s a $250 billion industry, with just a handful of companies like Foxconn, Flextronics and Jabil Circuit manufacturing and assembling for all the global electronics brands.

They compete fiercely on price to earn small profit margins, analysts say. And they seek to benefit from tiny operational changes.

When a company is operating on the slimmest of profit margins as contract manufacturers are, soaring labor costs pose a serious problem. Wages in China have risen by more than 50 percent since 2005, analysts say, and this year many factories, under pressure from local governments and workers who feel they have been underpaid for too long, have raised wages by an extra 20 to 30 percent.

China’s currency has also appreciated sharply against the United States dollar since 2005, and after a two-year pause by Beijing, economists expect the renminbi to rise about 3 to 5 percent a year for the next several years.

“It takes 3,000 procedures to assemble an H.P. computer,” says Isaac Wang, an iSuppli analyst based in China. “If a contract manufacturer can find a way to save 10 percent of the procedures, then it gets a real good deal.”

Contract manufacturers like Foxconn are now searching for ways to reduce costs. Foxconn is considering moving inland, where wages are 20 to 30 percent lower. The company is also spending heavily on manufacturing many of the parts, molds and metals that are used in computers and handsets, even trying to find larger and cheaper sources of raw material.

“We either outsource the components manufacturing to other suppliers, or we can research and manufacture our own components,” says Arthur Huang, a Foxconn spokesman. “We even have contracts with mines which are located near our factories.”

Many analysts are optimistic the big brands will find new innovations to improve profitability. But within the crowd, there is growing skepticism about China’s manufacturing model after years of pressing workers to toil six or seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.

“We’ve concluded Hon Hai’s labor-intensive model is not sustainable,” says Mr. Wang at iSuppli Research. “Though it can keep hiring 800,000 to one million workers, the problem is these workers can’t keep working like screws in an inhuman system.”

This type of low-end assembly work is also no longer favored in China, analysts say, because it does not produce big returns for the companies or the country. “China doesn’t want to be the workshop of the world anymore,” says Pietra Rivoli, a professor of international business at Georgetown University and author of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.”

“The value goes to where the knowledge is.”

Bao Beibei and Chen Xiaoduan contributed research.

Roxanne Amico on Art: Whose Story, What Story. . . & Those Significant Minorities

by Roxanne Amico Friday, June 18, 2010 at 8:34am

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 4 of 5 This was more painting than scratching.... I mostly got the terror painted in...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of my work as an artist and as an activist. I’ve never been able to do one without also feeling pulled to do the other. And fortunately, I learned in the nick of time that I need not do one without the other, and actually should do both. I say this is fortunate because in general, I think we live in a culture in which we learn that a relationship between art and social justice is not possible, a lie which silences our muse and our community voice, which can kill the creative life force. But the role of an artist and an activist are directly related to being a human being —–>Particularly IN the context of a culture that functions to dehumanize us. One of the ways we get dehumanized is by the fact that the stories we hear are primarily the stories of those who have the biggest megaphone (radio / newspaper / TV), etc., and those who have the strongest financial relationship with those forums, dominating the commons.

In a nutshell, mega-corporate mainstream news *gives* us a voice and story, telling us what to think and say and do, in complete disregard for the needs of people (humans and nonhumans) and communities of life. I believe *this* is THE bottom line on the importance of art and social action of *any* kind. Our work to survive, thrive, and shape a new culture is, in large measure, to wrestle back OUR OWN stories of our lives, of our loved ones, of our histories, of the landbases that sustain us and the living communities on those landbases.

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 1 of 5 This was the 1st one I did, which I didn't like, so I started making scratch board....

I think we can see this everywhere, such as the story of the oil hemorrhaging in the sea bed floor being lied about (as those who work to tell about the carnage of the victims are threatened with / arrested), and we can see it with the story of the flotilla murders, and we can see it with Afghanistan’s “newly discovered mineral wealth”, and we can see it in Iraq, and we can see it in every instance in which there are crimes being perpetrated by the state and corporate partnerships, wanting only their version of the story to be told, heard, remembered…. This is pretty basic media analysis 101, but I am often reminded how few people actually understand this dynamic of the importance of story in life… It’s also well expressed here, when Derrick Jensen makes the point that we are all propagandists, but says much more: “…really means reducing us from active participants in our own lives and in the lives of those around us to consumers sucking words and images from some distant sugar tit…”

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 2 of 5 This one and the next one are made from scratch board. (crayon or wax on cardboard, painted with black ink, and then the image is scratched away...)

During an interesting exchange with a friend in another thread in another note, about an entirely different topic, I found a section of a book I’m reading that shows the relationship between creative work and social and environmental justice work… Below is that excerpt, which drove home what the role of art and action are in my life, and what I intend to give to the world as a human being.

From Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery :The Aftermath of Violence — from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, from the chapter on Stages of Recovery:

“Most survivors seek the resolution of their traumatic experience within the confines of their personal lives. But a significant minority, as a result of the trauma, feel called upon to engage in a wider world. These survivors recognize a political or religious dimension in their misfortune and discover that they can transform the meaning of their personal tragedy by making it the basis for social action. While there is no way to compensate for an atrocity, there is a way to transcend it, by making it a gift to others. The trauma is redeemed only when it becomes the source of a survivor mission.”

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 3 of 5

“Social action offers the survivor a source of power that draws upon her own initiative, energy, and resourcefulness but that magnifies these qualities far beyond her own capacities. It offers her an alliance with others based on cooperation and shared purpose. Participation in organized, demanding social efforts calls upon the survivor’s most mature and adaptive coping strategies of patience, anticipation, altruism, and humor. It brings out the best in her; in return, the survivor gains the sense of connection with the best in other people. In this sense of reciprocal connection, the survivor can transcend the boundaries of her particular time and place. At times the survivor may even attain a feeling of participation in an order of creation that transcends the ordinary reality. Natan Sharansky, a prisoner of conscience, describes the spiritual dimension of his survivor mission:

“Back in Lefortovo (prison), Socrates and Don Quixote, Ulysses and Gargantua, Oedipus and Hamlet, had rushed to my aid. I felt a spiritual bond with these figures, their struggles reverberated with my own, their laughter with mine. They accompanied me through prisons and camps, through cells and transports. At some point I began to feel a curious reverse connection: not only was it important to me how these characters behaved in various circumstances, but it was also important to *them*, who had been created many centuries

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 5 of 5 This was the most successful painting of the series of five... More a collage-painting, it's got many layers of paint and transparency and emotion painted and glued in, and this one expresses the grief as well as the fear and rage of imagining being buried in oil and unable to breathe or swim or eat... My painting changed a lot after this experimental period... Oh, and one of the things I was thinking about at the time was how the color red was so narrowly characterized in our culture as a color of violence or anger. I did some research and learned it's not that way in all cultures. In other cultures, red is revered for its associations to sexuality, to women's power, to blood and the life force being given and taken away. I became interested in how, in India, the Hindi culture embraces the Goddess Kali as the feminine force, and so I worked to bear that in mind as I painted the personification of what I was feeling, using my own self-portrait. There's a progression here of five paintings...

ago, to know how I was acting today. And just as they had influenced the conduct of individuals in many lands and over many centuries, so I, too, with my decisions and choices had the power to inspire or disenchant those who had existed in the past as well as those who would come in the future. This mystical feeling of the interconnection of human soul was forged in the gloomy prison-camp world when our zeks’ solidarity was the one weapon we had to oppose the world of evil.”

Herman continues:

“Social action can take many forms, from concrete engagement with particular individuals to abstract intellectual pursuits., Survivors may focus their energies on helping others who have been similarly victimized, on educational, legal, or political efforts to prevent others from being victimized in the future, or on attempts to being offenders to justice. Common to all these efforts is a dedication to raising public awareness. Survivors understand full well that the natural human response to horrible events is to put them out of mind. They may have done this themselves in the past. Survivors also understand that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. It is for this reason that public truth-telling is the common denominator of all social action.”

“Survivors undertake to speak about the unspeakable in public in the belief that this will help others. In so doing, they feel connected to a power larger than themselves….”

You can find Roxanne Amico’s work and passionate writing and you can hear her on the radio through her web site.  About herself she writes: “I’m an artist and an activist: a visual artist, a writer, an independent audio & radio producer, with an online radio podcast… following my heart and using my gifts and resources to save: this planet I love, its people, and this life I love. The reason for life is to share our lives with one another. I want whatever I do to facilitate that for others to do the same. Here is my website, where you can learn more about my art, read my writing, and hear my shows ..: visit

Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman, M.D., quoted above

I Need To Create A New World — Art/text by Diana Berek

Click this link to open the pdf: I need to create a new world

. . .i need to create a new world. . .


In 1865, the US Civil War came to a close when General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the unconditional surrender of General Robert E Lee and the army of the confederacy (Confederate States of America).  With that, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 now applied to all slaveholding territories.  Some two months later, the news reached Texas. The following description comes from the Handbook of Texas on line:

On June 19 (“Juneteenth”), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974).

There has been some controversy about why it took more than two years since the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect (Jan. 1, 1863) for the word to get to Texas.  Here is the way the Juneteenth History site describes this question:

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

The name “Juneteenth” then celebrates the actual, final, de jure end of slavery in the United States.  The end of the war and the end of slavery initiated one of the most remarkable periods of American history: the period usually called “Reconstruction.”  I think it is important to recognize Reconstruction as an extension of the Civil War.  The political defeat of Reconstruction comes down to us as the betrayal of the hopes engendered by the Emancipation Proclamation, the military victory, and first Juneteenth celebrations.

Celebrations have become widespread throughout the United States — not simply in Texas — for two reasons.  First, the Texas celebrations became a matter of pride and accomplishment throughout the Southern Black population; and the migrations out of the South brought enclaves of Blacks to communities from Bakersfield to Bangor.  Second, Reconstruction may have been crushed,  but the drive for freedom could not be so easily quelled.  The celebrations of Juneteenth became a way to recover that celebration of accomplishment, the celebration of a battle for freedom. According to

Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to take their place along side older organizations – all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.
Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing

This year a number of significant events celebrating Juneteenth took place throughout the country.  Here is a link to one scientist’s musing on the meaning of Juneteenth in North Carolina: “What is the Juneteenth of which you speak?” Minneapolis, San Antonio, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and many others hosted celebrations of what has become known as “African American Independence Day” — a substitute for July 4 at which “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” once known as the “Negro National Anthem,” was always sung. (It was sung at the 2008 presidential inauguration). Here is one among many Youtube versions of this stirring music, with Kim Weston singing to 100,000 people, introduced by a young Jesse Jackson.

In Chicago this year, Governor Pat Quinn took part in a Juneteenth celebration at Du Sable Museum, declaring the day Museum’s artist founder Margaret Burroughs day.  It was celebrated at Thompson Center.  Perhaps the most extensive celebration was in Marquette Park, where the music went on from 9 AM to 9 PM:

Chicagoans looking for something to do to celebrate Juneteenth were in for a treat with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network’s (IMAN) “Takin’ It to the Streets” free concert from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Marquette Park, located at 6734 S. Kedzie, had approximately 20,000 people; 200 vendors; 100 artists, including hip-hop guru Mos Def headlining the concert; four stages worth of entertainment; health summits; a prayer area; family-friendly games and rides all in one day.

This post is intended to do three things. First, at the time of the official Independence Day celebration, to recognize the limitation of that  celebration;  second, to explore some of the history that makes Juneteenth such an important date and to show how widespread are the celebrations;  and finally, to understand that under the current conditions commemorating Juneteenth, a celebration of the fight for freedom, assumes an even more important role as the dispossessed of all ethnicities see their economic human rights driven down.