Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Lawrence Ware and Paul Buhle
September 8, 2015
To ignore race, C.L.R. James often said, in many contexts and many ways, was a disaster in any social understanding; only the ignoring of class would be worse. Or to put it in his own words: The race question is subsidiary to the class question, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental, is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental.

C.L.R. James, .,
During the exhilarating and dangerous late 1960s and early 1970s, no world historical figure of older generations had a more militant defense of Black Power than CLR James. But it was always a vision within a context, and after all these years have passed (along with James himself who died in 1989), the context remains crucial.
He told a British audience in 1970, wondering about Stokely Carmichael, the voice of Black Power, "WHAT HE DO, HE WELL DO!" thus adopting the Caribbean patois. He rarely failed to mention that Stokely had been, in his younger years, also a Trinidadian, and that he remained always a son of the Afro-Caribbean people. In 1968, in response to a Canadian college newspaper interviewer's question over Carmichael's insistence that colonization is a special kind of exploitation that robs the victims of their very identity, James insisted upon the bedrock of exploitation.
That is, "When colonialism is carried down to its roots, it is a form of economic exploitation, as well as racial, because it is the mass of the population that is being exploited economically under the colonist's regimes." James had no difficulty with his fellow Caribbean revolutionary Aime Cesaire, and the poet's crucial delineation of "negritude." For James, as for Cesaire, this quality, developed under the worst possible conditions, was a positive and creative contribution to global civilization.
In that moment, with revolutions abounding, Africans seemed to be moving rapidly ahead, away from colonialism and toward a different form of society. James lived long enough to see much of the progress rolled back. The victory of neocolonialist economics meant the defeat of liberation cultures with fresh degradations, both ecologically and socially, including the predatory nonwhite class that James had learned to understand in the Caribbean. ("The light skinned peoples of the cities," better educated and often in the early leadership of independent movements, but in time, most usually, carrying on colonial business in new ways.)
James spoke from another time, but he remained quite clear until the end of his life that the destiny of the super-exploited, the nonwhite peoples, was to lead the way to the rendezvous with destiny. If the events of the recent [past] have shown us anything, this is the lesson. To ignore race, as he often said, in many contexts and many ways, was a disaster in any social understanding; only the ignoring of class would be worse. Or to put it in his own words, from Black Jacobins: "The race question is subsidiary to the class question, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental, is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental." James is articulating what would later be called intersectionalism. Let us briefly define that idea so that we may understand the implications of James's notion of Black power for us today.
Intersectional theory
Kimberly Crenshaw, professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia University, first coined the term in 1989. While she gave it a name, she never claimed that this way of thinking about systems was new:
    So many of the antecedents to it are as old as Anna Julia Cooper, and Maria Stewart in the 19th century in the US, all the way through Angela Davis and Deborah King. In every generation and in every intellectual sphere and in every political moment, there have been African American women who have articulated the need to think and talk about race through a lens that looks at gender, or think and talk about feminism through a lens that looks at race. So this is in continuity with that.
Let's take a look at how intersectionality works. Imagine you are a black woman. If you align yourself with black men to fight racism, you may encounter patriarchy and misogyny. If you align yourself with white feminists to fight patriarchy, you will almost certainly encounter racism. The problem is: if you only consider power systems individually, you will never get to the root of oppression. Black women, queer minorities, they experience oppression that has previously not been addressed by social justice movements. One is not truly free until all that contributes to their personhood is liberated. For example, a black woman living in a world free of racism still faces patriarchy. Myopic ways of thinking about oppression do not address this complexity.
Crenshaw is a legal scholar, so it was inadequacy in the law that got her thinking about these issues:
    The particular challenge in the law was one that was grounded in the fact that anti-discrimination law looks at race and gender separately. The consequence of that is when African American women or any other women of color experience either compound or overlapping discrimination, the law initially just was not there to come to their defense.
James, like Crenshaw, understands that black power must be understood intersectionally. One cannot think only in terms of race. For him, both race and class must be examined. It is to this intersection that we now turn.
Race and Class
James was first and foremost a Marxist. In 1969 he said, "I do not know, as a Marxist, black studies as such . this is the history of Western Civilization, the history that black people and white people and all serious students of modern history have to know." James, much like Du Bois, saw the question of race through the lens of class. He fully understood that slavery in the Americas was fundamentally a capitalist enterprise. For him, if you dig deep enough, capitalism is at the root of all systems of oppression. Yet, unlike many white progressives, James was never blind to the reality of race.
Acknowledging this, he said, "It is over one hundred years since the abolition of slavery. The Negro people in the United States have taken plenty and they have reached a stage where they have decided that they are not going to take any more." James understood very clearly that racism plays a unique role that fighting class alone would not remedy. He further understood that focusing upon class while ignoring race was akin to lighting a match near a powder keg and hoping it does not explode.
Contemporarily, many think that because incidents of overt racism have decreased, then white supremacy is not a part of American life. That is, since no one has publicly said n*gger recently, that Black people have no legitimate reason to discuss racial bias.
We focus too much on individual acts of racism in this country. Changing the heart of one racist does not undo systems of injustice that ensnare black and brown people.  Part of the reason why institutional racism remains intractable is because well meaning white people work to overcome their personal racism without applying the same vigor to undoing systems that affords them white privilege. We need less emotional expressions of white guilt, and more work on policy that rights the wrongs of the past 300 years. It is possible to treat someone like a n*gger without calling them one.
[Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy and diversity coordinator for Oklahoma State University's Ethics Center.
Paul Buhle, the authorized biographer of C.L.R. James, is retired from teaching and has produced a dozen nonfiction art comic books in the last ten years.

Pope Francis’ United States Visit: Thoughts & Reflections 

THE SCHOLARS- UDC-TV E. Ethelbert Miller


E. Ethelbert Miller with Dr. Joyce Ladner


Monday, September 28, 2015


Current Issue

Volume 110, Number 3/4

pl10934-lgIt’s essential to keep in mind that in poetry the music comes first,
before everything else, everything else…. Thought, meaning,
vision, the very words, come after the music has been established, and in the most mysterious way 
they’re already contained in it.
—C.K. Williams (“On Whitman: The Music”)
Cover Caption:  “Halloween, 110th Street, New York, 1968” © Arthur Tress (Web site:

Fall Reading Series

R. Dwayne Betts | Karenne Wood | Yona Harvey

Furious Flower Poetry Center presents four literary scholars on the James Madison University campus this fall. For more than 20 years, we have been bringing lauded writers to Harrisonburg to provide students and the local community with opportunities to experience live readings. All of the readings are free and open to the public.
When and where are the readings? On Sept. 17, Reginald Dwayne Betts visited us, and you can now view his reading on YouTubeBetts, who spent more than eight years in prison, completed high school and began reading and writing poetry while he was incarcerated. Since then Betts’ writing has garnered accolades and awards. He is now a student at Yale Law School, a Cave Canem Workshop fellow, and a Soros Justice fellow. - See more at

Be sure to join us for the next few readings at the following dates and times:
Oct. 6 at 4pm in Grafton-Stovall Theatre | Known for her poetry and for her scholarship in tribal history, Karenne Wood is a member of the Monacan Indian tribe. Her work often explores themes of identity, culture, and language through poetic portraits of historical and contemporary Virginia Indians. - See more at
Nov. 5 at 4pm in Madison 405 | Yona Harvey’s poetry collection Hemming the Water (2013) won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University, and fellow poet Bruce Lowry characterized it as “combustion and passion ... music and poetry ... often about the heart, but also about heartbreak and struggle and resilience of spirit.” Harvey is an assistant professor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh. - See more at
And you will want to attend the keynote at JMU's Africana Conference:
Oct. 30, 2015 at 1pm in the Madison Ballroom | Scholar, educator, activist, and playwrightPeggy Brooks-Bertram lectures on the need to promote the collection and dissemination of African American women’s history and discover those she has called “uncrowned queens.” This event is part of the 7th Africana Studies Annual Interdisciplinary Conference, “Religion, Ruptures, Race and Global Peace.”  - See more at

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Toi Derricotte to Retire as President of Cave Canem Foundation
After nearly 20 years of inspirational leadership, Toi Derricotte will step down as President of Cave Canem's Board of Directors in late September 2015. She will continue to serve on the board as a director. The organization will name a new president in early October.

This past June marked Derricotte’s final year as faculty co-leader of the organization’s iconic retreat, a program she co-founded with Cornelius Eady in 1996. Derricotte shared these thoughts about her changing role: “I feel more complete than ever about Cave Canem and myself. My moving on is an opportunity for other ideas and energy to come forth . . . Langston Hughes said we have to build our own institutions. And we’ve done that. I’m so grateful for my part in this journey.”

Toi Derricotte Tribute Fund has been established to perpetuate her vision of building an enduring “home for Black poetry.” Donations to the fund will help underwrite free retreat tuition for all Cave Canem fellows and supplement a room-and-board scholarship fund benefitting 60% of participants. To contribute,please follow this link or telephone 718.858.0000.

CAVE CANEM FOUNDATION, INC. • • 718.858.0000
20 Jay Street, Suite 310-A, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Friday, September 25, 2015

September 25, 2015
Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW)

Whenever we stop and find time to discuss the humanities a number of things begin to happen.
We are encouraged to look at the bigger picture. We are encouraged to ask questions? 

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The question “What is man?” is one of the most important questions confronting any generation.

Lately, here in our city a few of us have begun to ask another important (and difficult) question –
Who is a Washingtonian?

Issues of identity are what we read about when we select great books of literature. The motion of history is often shaped by the fear of losing one’s identity or the desire to reclaim it.

I think the humanities can help us navigate this period of transformation we are currently living in.
We need to determine if an old city is dying or a new city is being born. A term like gentrification is outdated and often misunderstood because of the cavity of race and race relations.

I think we look to the humanities in order to understand the dynamics of change.  In many ways the humanities represent our shared cultural heritage. It is how we attempt to make sense and find our way in the world.

The humanities are a measurement of our past and a blueprint for our future.

How we should live, our quality of life, is shaped by our laws and our beliefs. The humanities in many ways shapes our moral vision and determines how we define the Common Good.

Quite often we view the arts as performance and celebration. A poem, a painting a musical composition is a way of expressing feeling and creating beacons of light when there is darkness surrounding the human spirit.  Art gives us hope.

The humanities provides us with a reason for civic responsibility and a manual for ethics and governance.

Today there is renewed interest in space travel and a growing fascination with robots.
Maybe now more than ever we need to uphold the importance of the humanities.

Who are we – not just here in Washington DC but in this universe?
If a robot bumps into me one day and uses the N-word, how do I explain this to an African American child?  Is the problem simply one of technology?

Maybe the question once again is -what is man?

When I walk around this city and see homeless people I need to know why this is happening.
When I see old buildings being knocked down and new ones emerging from the earth I need to know why this is happening.

The present continues to be a dangerous place to live and perhaps this is why we need the humanities.
We need to preserve our memories so that the future does not succumb to amnesia.

Money and support is needed to document ,study and to preserve that which is precious.

Each life is precious.  Each life has meaning. Each person must have the ability and desire to dream.

The humanities in many ways represent the vessel in which the known and the unknown is placed.
Our responsibility is to hold this vessel in our hands  knowing how fragile it can be at times.
The vessel is what we cherish. It is the blessing we past from hand to hand.

Organizations like Humanities DC are vital because they chart the pathway. They shape the road.  They lead us to the river  where the water is deep with wisdom.

At the river we stare at our reflection knowing in our eyes there is more work to be done.

This is why we are here this afternoon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


I got a chance to drop by Michelle Herman's studio this afternoon. She's including me in a project that will be held at the WPA (new location in Shaw) next month. Look for my smiling face in the window.

Here is a link to her website:


Hearing Pope Francis mention the name Thomas Merton made me go back and turn the pages of my memoir. Here is what I wrote in FATHERING WORDS:

I guess it started around the corner, behind the doors of St. Margaret Episcopal Church. Richard was an altar boy who held incense and candles for Father Kruger. The organ music would touch the top of the ceiling and press against the stained-glass windows. The Bible stories were better than cartoons and Dell comics before Marvel pushed them aside with the Metal Men. Somewhere between J.H.S. 52 and Morris High School, Richard would catch the faith like a cold. He joined the Catholic Church and ran the streets with his friend Ignacio. Ignacio was from Cuba and his family must have left the country when Fidel came to power. I would not even think about this until much later. My brother meanwhile was reading the writings of Thomas Merton in much the same manner as Julius Lester and Ernesto Cardenal. Around the world men were listening to their inner voices, leaving homes for solitude and the embracement of degrees of grace.

You're invited!
Please join us Tuesday, October 6
Carnegie Institution for Science
1530 P Street NW | Washington, DC 20005
5:30 PM Reception
7:00 PM Program

This year's award recipients:
Domestic Awardee: Daryl Atkinson and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, for their leadership in building a broad-based movement for criminal justice reform, and in empowering those with criminal records to uphold their right to a second chance.

International Awardee: Almudena Bernabeu and the Center for Justice and Accountability,​ for their successful prosecution of several of the worst Latin American perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Purchase tickets and find more information at or call 202.787.5272.

Our annual memorial service for Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt will be held at Sheridan Circle on September 13 from 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM.

Institute for Policy Studies | 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20036 | 202.234.9382

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Sometimes some things simply amaze me.  I have never wanted to be a tightrope walker.  Imagine being between earth and sky. Do you think it’s like coming from the Vatican?  Pope Francis visit to Washington  has created an interesting discussion about transportation. The media focus seems to be more on how the holy visit will create problems for residents. Maybe we should all stay home and keep out of the way.  This is the distraction we are fed like soma in a Huxley book.  The message of Pope Francis is first reported like a labor strike. We learn first about how the strike might simply disrupt things. The focus is never on why the workers are striking in the first place. We have to reach for the high shelf to discover what the Pope is selling us.

At times Americans tend to go with the buffet instead of what’s on the menu. In other words we select the words of the Pope we like and try to fit it into our political diet. Climate change, poverty, abortion, and countless other issues can be hidden under the Pope’s robe. After ever speech we try to disrobe him. What did he say?  Did he reveal the naked truth?

At the end of the day, the Pope’s visit will have no immediate impact on our lives unless we embrace what is his central message.  One can find it near the end of the Encyclical. The Pope is calling for a change in one’s lifestyle.  He wants us to overcome our individualism and consumerism. He wants us to become good ecological citizens. None of this can be achieved without a change inside our hearts.  How do we begin to practice civic and political love? 

The Pope’s message underscores how we are all connected. The poor, the migrant, the rich, the mountains, trees and birds. There are no borders or boundaries surrounding the heart when we remove the fences and bars of racism and hatred, when we push back the darkness of fear.

Pope Francis is a messenger of light, revealing the tenderness of beauty. He is a man who has not abandoned his faith in man. His trip to America is a blessing and a reminder that we have difficult work to do. We must never give up on love or this earth we find each day beneath our feet. God’s gift is discovered with each breath we take – let us not waste it – or suffocate the rest of our days.


Monday, September 21, 2015


Today I had a couple of meetings on the campus of The George Washington University. My friend Jane Levey gave me a wonderful tour of The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. These institutions are located at 701 21st Street, NW. Along with being a consultant to the museums, Jane is the Managing Editor of WASHINGTON HISTORY, a publication of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

More about Levey:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

We interview poet and performer Saul Williams, who has been called “hip-hop’s poet laureate.” Williams is the author of four books of poetry, has recorded five albums, and has been a major influence on modern poetry since the release of his film  Slam, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at Sundance in 1998. 


from Word Problems

By TC Tolbert

We're excited to announce that TC Tolbert will serve as a guest editor of the PEN Poetry Series beginning in October 2015. Read an interview with Tolbert and an excerpt of his poem "Word Problems."   Read more »



PEN DIY with Marisa Marchetto

In a talk titled “How to Use Death as Your Life Coach,”  The New Yorkercartoonist Marisa Marchetto draws on her experiences as a woman in the male-dominated industries of advertising and cartooning to illustrate what led her from being a “cancer victim" to the author of the bestselling graphic memoir  Cancer VixenListen »


Absurdity ad Absurdum: On Translating Gaston de Pawlowski

By Amanda DeMarco

The Offing translation editor and 2015 PEN/Heim Fund Grant Recipient Amanda DeMarco on translating the French satirist and science fiction writer Gaston de Pawlowski.Read More »


PEN Mingle with La Casa Azul Bookstore

Wed., Sept. 23, 6:30pm 
La Casa Azul Bookstore
143 E. 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029

Join us for an evening of drinks, conversation, and updates on PEN's work defending free expression at home and abroad. With co-hosts Michele Carlo, Llanos Figueroa, Vicky Grise, and Sergio Troncoso.This is a free event.RSVP »



New Inventions and the Latest Innovations

By Gaston de Pawlowski; Translated by Amanda DeMarco

Published in French in 1916, Gaston de Pawlowski’s book is a catalog of imaginary gadgets and “improvements,” an early satire on consumer society and the cult of the inventor.  Read more »


PEN at 2015 Brooklyn Book Festival

Sun., Sept. 20, 2015, 10:00am–6:00pmOver 40 PEN Members will be participating in talks, readings, and special events at theTenth Annual Brooklyn Book Festival. Stop by our booth #202, or attend one of our panel discussions on banned books and translating books for youth. Read about our full programs here »

Friday, September 18, 2015


Sat 3:30pm – 4:30pm Poets with a “Capital” P


Oh D.C.  So much like Baltimore with your beltway, and your river, and your sports teams.  We hear you even have a Washington Monument. Can your poets match ours?  Check out three of the district’s best!  Lineation with representation!

Sandra Beasley is the author of Count the WavesI Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize; and Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a memoir. 

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies. Miller is the author of several collections of poems and two memoirs. His collected poems edited by Kirsten Porter will be released this spring by Willow Press. Miller was inducted into the Washington, D.C., Hall of Fame in April 2015.

Richard Peabody is the founder and co-editor of Gargoyle Magazine and editor (or co-editor) of twenty-three anthologies including A Different Beat: Writings by Women of the Beat Generation. Peabody taught at Johns Hopkins University for fifteen years. His new book is The Richard Peabody Reader published by Alan Squire Publishers.

Thursday, September 24, 7:00 PM

An event to honor the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, who passed away in February. Participants include Kate Daniels, Toi Derricotte, Edward Hirsch, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dorianne Laux, Mari L'Esperance, Paul Mariani, Jane Mead, Tomas Q. Morin, Sharon Olds, Tom Sleigh, Gerald Stern, and David St. John. The event will also feature the 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Juan Felipe Herrera. This event is free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by Academy of American Poets; Cave Canem Foundation; Cooper Union; NYU Creative Writing Program; Penguin Random House; Poets House; Poetry Society of America; Queens College; Unterberg Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y.

Location: Cooper Union (The Great Hall) 7 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003
Contact: (202) 707-5394

Last Sunday, IPS held the 39th annual memorial for Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, two colleagues who were assassinated by agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The memorial service was held at Sheridan Circle, the site of the car bombing that killed Orlando and Ronni in 1976.

This year’s program was especially moving because it included Chilean Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes, who worked with Orlando at the time of the assassination. Dr. Frank Smith, another former IPS staff member from that era, explained how he thought he’d “left bombings behind” when he started at IPS in 1968 after working for several years as a voting rights organizer in Mississippi.
“What I realized was that people who fight for justice are in danger wherever they are."
— Dr. Frank Smith
The program also included poetry from Split this Rock Director and Co-FounderSarah Browning, and remarks by Gavin Weiss, a member of Ronni’s family, and Cristian Letelier, Orlando’s son. The service closed with the traditional laying of flowers on the memorial marker commemorating Orlando and Ronni on Massachusetts Avenue.

Cristian Letelier and Chilean Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes lay flowers on Orlando and Ronni's memorial marker.

The 39th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards

Join us on Tuesday, October 6 for this year’s Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards, where we remember the legacy of our fallen colleagues by honoring and celebrating new heroes of the human rights movement from the United States and the Americas:
This year's award recipients:
Domestic Awardee: Daryl Atkinson and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, for their leadership in building a broad-based movement for criminal justice reform, and in empowering those with criminal records to uphold their right to a second chance.
International Awardee: Almudena Bernabeu and the Center for Justice and Accountability,​ for their successful prosecution of several of the worst Latin American perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
Tickets are going fast! Please purchase yours today. Visit call 202.787.5272.

P.S. If you are a student or underemployed, please contact Christina Curtin at202.787.5272 or We are extremely grateful to those whose additional contributions make this event and its accessibility to others possible.

Washington National Cathedral
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Evensong Dedication and Forum

Evensong with Dedication of Jonathan Myrick Daniels Carving — 4pm
Join us for the dedication of a bust of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, the newest stone carving in the Cathedral’s Human Rights Porch. Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist killed in 1965 at the age of 26 while protecting Ruby Sales, a young African-American activist. The Very Rev. Harvey Guthrie, a seminary professor close to Daniels, will preach.
Learn more about Very Rev. Harvey Guthrie »
The Legacy of Jonathan Daniels with Ruby Sales — 5:30pm
Following the Evensong and dedication, Ruby Sales talks about the legacy of Jonathan Daniels and what their work means for our country today. Sales was working alongside Daniels in 1965 when he sacrificed his life to save hers. Today she is a nationally recognized human rights activist, social critic, and founder of the Spirit House Project, an organization that promotes a spiritual approach to racial, economic, and social justice.
Learn more about Ruby Sales »

Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20016
(202) 537–6200

The Significance Of Pope Francis’ Visit To The United States

Pope Francis (Photo Credit: Raffaele Esposito on Flickr)September 17, 2015 – Segment 1

We begin the show with a panel of guests who will discuss the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the East Coast. With: E. Ethelbert Miller, poet and literary activist who serves on the Board of the Institute for Policy Studies; Ralph Moore, Program Manager for Restoration Gardens, a housing and resource development center for homeless youth in Southern Park Heights; and Patricia Shannon Jones, Director of the Immigration Outreach Service Center and leader of Women in Ministry at Baltimore’s St. Matthews Catholic Church.

Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner
The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.