Aug 17, 2005
Before getting into anything else, I want to talk about the four guys at the retirement home that I'm now visiting twice a week. As readers know, this started because my preacher wanted us to be reaching out to people in our church. If you have a place of worship, you may notice that some people come in and they've been coming for years. My preacher was concerned that some people, due to age or handicaps, didn't get the attention that they should. He also spoke of how we had groups that knew each other and supported each other within the congregation but we needed to reach beyond those groups and support the entire congregation.
When he first addressed the issue, I was one of the few people under forty who agreed to assist. There's a group of twins, 26, that are now taking part too. But still there's not a lot of committment from the younger congregation members. I get asked questions like, "But it's weird, right, talking to those old guys?"
It's not weird at all. I've probably had better conversations and more fun talking to them than most of my conversations since I started doing this. I've also found out that one of the men isn't just sick with a cold. I'm pretty sure my preacher knew that and that might be part of why he wanted us to get out and make real efforts. When this man passes, the group will be down to three. They're already isolated because they have very little family that lives remotely near. They get on the bus each Sunday morning to attend church and the rest of the time they're pretty much at the retirement home where they at least have each other.
But I keep thinking about how we are all in groups and we get our support and feedback and acknowledgements from that set of peers. Probably thirty years ago, this group of men were part of a larger group in the congregation. Illness and age and mobility has decreased the size of their group and now it's down to four. I don't know why it is that we all carve out our places to sit, we all have the pews we've got to sit in and the nods and hellos we make a point to always do.
Some of us will get married and/or have kids and some of us won't but having kids doesn't mean you're set in old age in terms of not being left alone. One of the guys has six kids. They visit at holidays for a few hours. One son, who lives in another state, calls twice a month and his daughter writes him regularly. But I don't think that's how, when he was my age, he saw his old age - kids keeping in touch via phone and mail, living in a retirement home.
These guys are great guys and I don't want to make it sound like they sit around staring at paint peeling. Just the four of them together is filled with loud laughter and warm memories. But this isn't how they saw their later years.
That's not something that came up at the start of this. It's nothing I asked about it. But it is something that they now bring up in a sentence here or there now that they know I'm coming by at least twice a week.
I go to a big church but I always thought we were a pretty tight group that really knew each other. So I could let doing my part slide. If I saw guys their age I'd just assume that there were other people at the church that really knew them and were stopping by and checking on them and just go about my business. But that's really not been the case and that's what others are finding out if they're taking part in this.
If you don't go to church then think of it as your neighborhood. What I'm getting at is that there are a lot of connections that we could be making with one another but aren't. If you need a "self" reason for thinking about this and maybe doing something, here it is, that could be you. You can have six kids, you can have a ton of friends, but as time progresses, things get thinned out.
People ask me what we talk about and we talk about pretty much everything. We've talked a lot about John H. Johnson, for instance. We talk about how things are and how things were. The first Sunday I went, I took a paper because I figured they'd be snoozing and I'd read the paper. They didn't snooze but they devoured the paper and now I bring Ebony
or The Progressive
and they get a kick out of those.
They like their nursing home. There's no abuse going on there. But there aren't a lot of frills. And what I see is that their children send them sweaters and stuff like that. But they want to stay mentally active too. The oldest of the four has a grandkid who's teaching herself to crochet and she made this horrible blanket or afghan thing out of the ugliest yarn I've ever seen. But that's the guy's favorite thing in the world because of the time she put into it. He'll make a crack about the way it looks but he loves it. So if you have family or friends in a retirement home, don't think "I'm too busy and I'll do something later." You're busy, okay, and your life is marching on but on their end they're waiting for some sort of acknowledgement that you remember them and anything will mean a lot to them. If you've got some magazines or some books lying around and you're not doing anything with them, put them in a box and do a quick note. It really mean a lot to them.
I get asked by my friends, "Isn't it depressing hanging around those guys?" The guys aren't depressing but it is depressing when I think about it after and think that will probably be me. I think maybe that's one reason people don't like to take part because they want to avoid reality.
Sunday, the second oldest guy had talked about how his kids loved Viewmaster and he was sure things had changed and Viewmaster wasn't even around anymore. So I went to a toy store and looked around and Viewmaster is still around. I started to get individual Viewmasters but ended up getting this thing called Show & Tell Projector.
And if someone doesn't know what a Viewmaster is, it's a device that you look a pictures or animated cells on. The pictures or cells are on a round card and you click and work your way through the photos or cells. They didn't have too much of a selection of Viewmaster cards at the store so I ended up getting a package of the Justice League
and something called The Fairly Odd Parents
just because I thought the colors were different in those animated cells.
So we ended up going into the 2nd oldest guy's room and I pull it out of the sack and the thing does look like a flashlight. I heard about how the Sears catalogue used to have a thing you could show them on that was this bigger item. One of the guys got it for his kids and said it was hard blue plastic and everyone was excited to see how the flashlight thing was going to work and if it would project. So we ended up going through all the cards, there are three in each package, and it was pretty cool.
Green Lantern is black in this Justice League and we talked about that and how there weren't a lot of black superheroes. The second oldest guy, I'll ask them if I can use their first names before I write about them next time, says to me as I'm getting ready to leave that I'll have to bring it back on another visit and was really surprised that I was leaving it with them. It meant a lot to him.
Now he's not been wanting anybody to buy him kid's toys but he's one of the ones that really doesn't get visitors or a lot of mail. I'm sure if he was asked to make a list of a million things he wanted that a Viewmaster wouldn't even be on it. But it meant something to him because we'd all talked about it Sunday and he saw I was listening and not just nodding my head or looking at my watch.
My cousin Vernon swears that we'll all be plugged in in the future and won't need to be face to face for anything. If that's true, I think we'll miss out on a lot. And I'm not real sure that those connections are that strong. Vernon's always got some "best friend" from online one week and someone else the next. The last guy he was chatting with didn't think highly enough of Mike Jones for Vernon's tastes so he just quit writing him.
But if we're really interested in changing our society and improving it we need to know what's going on around us and I don't know that we'll find that out from a computer. The guys I'm visiting don't have a computer but even if they did, I don't think that would replace the face to face and I don't know that they'd get excited about e-mails and chats the way they do about visits.
I'm tired tonight and wanted to write about John H. Johnson but I think I'll just swipe from C.I. I want to say something on The Common Ills
too while I'm at it. I'm a member of that community and I know I've said this before but it's not a site that says one thing and does another. It would have been real easy to have said nothing about the mass media ignoring the death of John H. Johnson. Having noted Johnson's death and having talked about how the media was pushing it aside, C.I. could have just dropped it and moved on to other things because there is a lot going on in our world. But instead, it's noted again today and that's the sort of thing that makes people like me know The Common Ills
isn't just for a certain type of people or a certain skin color. When a lot of people have been silent or dismissive, I really appreciate C.I.'s pushing this story and keeping it alive.
ROLAND MARTIN: Understand something, Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of South Africa, stated that when he was beaten up by a white mob, that he looked over and saw an issue of Ebony in the gutter; and he picked it up and he saw Jackie Robinson on the cover, and he saw black doctors and lawyers, and he really began to understand that he could go beyond simply the slums there in South Africa. John H. Johnson in many ways funded the civil rights movement. Those folks who were being bailed out of jail. Food was being sent, paying house notes and car notes. John H. Johnson, A.G. Gaston, they were writing those checks.
He also created the black consumer market. He also created – I mean, helped the bottom line of Fortune 500 companies. It is embarrassing, Amy, at the Wall Street Journal, the most that they have done on his death was a one-line sentence the day after. Yet here was a man who created an entire consumer market, who forced Fortune 500 companies to advertise in his magazine to respect the black consumer. And so, his impact goes beyond.
You know, Peter Jennings died the day before John H. Johnson, and there have been so many different accolades for Peter Jennings, and, trust me, I grew up watching Peter Jennings. But I think when you look at the impact of one individual who was able to connect Africa with African Americans, who was able to present a picture of African Americans that to the date was -- at that point had not been seen, who founded Ebony on the basis of Life and Look, yet those two magazines are no longer in business, yet he is still the number one magazine in his industry. I mean, I -- It is so difficult to capsulize John H. Johnson. And so it is so important that we know his history, we know his story. And he started the company with $500, borrowed against his mother's furniture, and today that company generates $500 million annually. An amazing, amazing legacy.
The above is from Democracy Now!
today, from "Media Giant John H. Johnson Paved the Way for Black-Owned Press
." Usually we go with two or three headlines. Today members had selected their choices for headlines and those weighing in were e-mailed to make sure they were okay with us instead pull quoting from this feature. John H. Johnson's death has been treated as an aside by the mainstream press. One visitor e-mailed, "Are you going to keep harping on Johnson forever?" I don't think we've devote enough space to Johnson that would take up two hours of prime time television without commercials here (I could be wrong) but if noting the way one death leads to mainstream tributes and rememberances and another is shunted aside is "harping," I can't think of a better purpose for this site. Members weighing in included Eli
("always worth watching," as Marcia
Headlines for August 16, 2005
- Fighting Breaks Out in Gaza Between Israeli Troops & Settlers
- Iraq Lawmakers Fail To Agree on Constitution
- Papers Show John Roberts to be "Forceful Conservative"
- Marine of the Year' Faces Attempted Murder Charges
- Atlanta Moves to Ban Homeless People From Downtown
- Reward Offered for Info on 1951 Civil Rights Activist Killings
Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish
Jewish Settlers Receive Hundreds of Thousands in Compensation for Leaving Gaza While Palestinians Working for Them Get Nothing
As Israel's disengagement from Gaza enters Day 2, we go to Gaza City to speak with leading Israeli journalist Amira Hass. A majority of the Jewish settlers have accepted a compensation package - in between $150,000 to $400,000 - from the Israeli government in return for leaving Gaza. Hass reports that the thousands of Palestinians working for the settlers are receiving nothing. [includes rush transcript]
Voices in the Wilderness Ordered to Pay $20K for Bringing Aid to Iraq
A federal judge has ordered the human rights group Voices in the Wilderness to pay $20,000 for violating the sanctions against Iraq. A decade ago, Voices in the Wilderness began openly violating the sanctions, bringing in symbolic amounts of medical, educational and humanitarian aid to Iraq on a regular basis. We speak with the group's founder, Kathy Kelly. [includes rush transcript]
Groups Launch "People's Petition for an Iraq Peace Plan"
Anti-war groups in the United States are announcing a campaign today to build support for a peaceful exit strategy from Iraq. We speak with the primary author of the "People's Petition for an Iraq Peace Plan," longtime activist Tom Hayden. [includes rush transcript]
Media Giant John H. Johnson Paved the Way for Black-Owned Press
On Monday, thousands mourned the death of publishing and entrepreneurial pioneer John H. Johnson. He founded Ebony and Jet magazines and seared the image of the brutalized Emmett Till into the nation's consciousness. We speak with the editor of the Chicago Defender, the nation's only black daily newspaper. [includes rush transcript]
e-mails to note Karen E. Pride's "Mr.Johnson Goes Home
" (Chicago Defender
The funeral service for Johnson Publishing Company mogul John H. Johnson Monday had all the trappings of a state funeral.
Streets around the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel were blocked by blue, wooden police barricades, limousines and small motorcades made continuous stops on two sides of the chapel and Secret Service agents stood silently and discretely around the grounds.
Local and national news outlets, including Black Entertainment Television's Nightly News anchor Jacquie Reid, as well as a horde of photographers, converged on the scene, documenting the crowds and noting the arrivals of celebrities and dignitaries.
And arrive they did.
Among the numerous VIP's in attendance, former President Bill Clinton; Rainbow/PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.; Lerone Bennett, Ebony's executive editor emeritus; Motown founder Berry Gordy; Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan; Rev. Al Sharpton; PBS radio show host and commentator, Tavis Smiley; legendary boxing promoter Don King; Bishop T.D. Jakes; radio's Fly Jock Tom Joyner and his wife, fitness guru Donna Richardson Joyner; comedian and activist Dick Gregory; record, film and television producer Suzanne de Passe; Time Warner president and CEO Richard Parsons; BET founder Robert Johnson and current CEO, Debra Lee; Black Enterprise founder and publisher Earl Graves Sr.; Christie Hefner, CEO, Playboy Enterprises, Inc.; television producer and former WBBM-TV/Ch. 2 anchor Bill Kurtis; Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and wife, Michelle; Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd); Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.); Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st); Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th); Gov. Rod Blagojevich; ambassador and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; state Senate president Emil Jones Jr. (D-14th); state senators Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) and Mattie Hunter (D-3rd): state Representatives Mary Flowers (D-31st) and Connie Howard (D-34th); Mayor Richard M. Daley; Cook County board president John Stroger Jr.; Alderman Dorothy Tillman (3rd); Timothy Evans, chief judge, Cook County Circuit Court; Valerie Jarrett, managing director, Habitat Company; Desiree Rogers, president, Peoples Energy; John Rogers, CEO, Ariel Capitol Management; former state comptroller Ronald Burris; Marv Dyson, communications consultant for City Colleges of Chicago and former general manager of WVAZ-FM/102.7 and WGCI-AM/FM; and Rainbow/PUSH board member Rev. Willie Barrow.
also notes Leslie Jones McCloud's "'He gave our community and world hope': Overflow crowd participates in Johnson funeral
" (Chicago Defender
Strains of the spiritual, Amazing Grace, could be heard resonating for blocks on the campus of the University of Chicago.
Chairs were set up on the sidewalk under a throng of trees to accommodate those who were unable to get a seat inside Rockefeller Chapel for the funeral of media magnate John H. Johnson.
Others stood behind police barricades in mild weather along 59th and University Street, listening by loudspeaker to luminaries such as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), President Bill Clinton, and broadcasters Tom Joyner and Tavis Smiley, pay tribute to Johnson.
Most were dressed in their Sunday best, but many stopped to take in the tributes to a man who many said put a human face on the Black community, gave them their first job and changed the way corporate America viewed Black consumers.
Standing outside of the church seemed to put no damper on attendee's feelings. Whether they knew Johnson personally or not, many said they hold his memory very near to their hearts.
Josephine Robinson said she felt President Bill Clinton's comments were reflective of Johnson's monumental contribution to the community.
"We take it for granted because we now have so much Black press, but then, you didn't have so many. A lot of people don't know they have choices sometimes people don't make good choices he helped them see continuously what the possibilities were," Robinson said, also remembering WJPC, Johnson's radio station where Joyner used to work. She said it impacted her life even though it signed off earlier than then other urban radio stations.
We'll also note "ROLAND S. MARTIN: We must support Black media now more than ever
" (Martin is executive-editor of The Chicago Defender
and the person we quoted at the top of this entry, via Democracy Now!
As we waited for the funeral of Ebony and Jet magazine founder John H. Johnson to start Monday, Marsha Eaglin, a fellow member of the National Association of Black Journalists, pulled out a copy of the 1968 edition of Jet that covered the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I perused it, simply amazed at the images of King, his murder, and the breathtaking reporting of his death. I got a sense of the story that clearly was different than what I would have read in any other magazine.
That, folks, is what happens when African Americans are able to tell our story without apology or regard for the sensibilities of others.
But just today, while looking at CNN, I came across the Associated Press's report on the public viewing of Johnson. They reported that "hundreds of people filed past the Ebony and Jet founder's casket on Sunday, six days after his death at age 87."
But if you read the Chicago Defender's Monday edition, we reported that more than 2,000 mourners paid their respects to the legendary media giant.
Same story. Different set of eyes. Different mission. Different result.
If you read the Wall Street Journal since Mr. Johnson's death, you would have read this one line at the end of their Aug. 9 news briefs: "Died: John H. Johnson, 87, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines, in Chicago."
The man spent 60 years building a business from $500 to $500 million, donated personally and through his companies more than $100 million, and all he could merit in the one national newspaper dedicated to business is one funky line?
e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "Gagging Workers off the Job
" (The Progressive):
Noam Chomsky likes to refer to corporations as dictatorships, and while that might seem a little strong, your rights as an employee are few and far between.
And they just got fewer and farther.
The National Labor Relations Board issued an order on June 7 that upheld a policy of a security company called Guardsmark. That policy tells workers they cannot "fraternize on duty or off duty" or become "overly friendly" with fellow employees.
The union there, the SEIU, challenged this policy on the grounds that it might ban workers from discussing labor issues on their own time.
The Republican-dominated board didn't go along with that, saying this wouldn't be a "reasonable" interpretation of the language banning fraternizing.
But there's an even larger issue here than union talk, which should be guaranteed by the Wagner Act, anyway. What right does a company have to make a broad ban on the "fraternizing" of employees off duty? What, exactly, does "overly friendly" mean?
e-mails to note Dave Lindorff's "The Inquirer's Minds Don't Want to Kow
Only recently, at an editorial session, the matter of Cindy Sheehan and her remarkable campaign to meet with President Bush came up, and the news editor was heard to fret, "How can we cover this story without appearing biased?" The comment raised howls of protest from some staffers present, but it points out the news managers' thinking clearly enough.As one staffer grouses, "I used to think news stories were decided on their own merits. If it was news, you ran it. Now a story, no matter how good, has to be considered in the context of other stories the paper is running. It's a question of the mix."
This new crabbed concept of what a newspaper is willing, or dares, to present to its readers is, I'm certain, not unique to the Inquirer, though among major metropolitan dailies, this once a proud standard-bearer of muck-raking journalism, today stands apart for its shabbiness and timidity. The mix--the day's paper taken in its entirety--must now adhere to a comfortable standard of centrist conformity, so as not to offend any group of readers (or at least any group of well-heeled readers). If there is an article critical of the president's Social Security plan, there has to be another article that presents the president in a favorable light, or that embarrasses his political rivals. If there is an article about things going badly in Iraq, there needs to be another in a more positive vein, or at least some other brighter foreign report.
This same kind of thinking about "mix" has long been common in television newsrooms, where "balance" has been a fetish for decades. But I know that in my days as a daily newspaper reporter, which ended in the late '70s, the term "mix" never came up. Stories were assigned and run, and given their placement in the paper and on the page based upon their intrinsic importance, not on how they fit politically with the rest of the issue. There might have been concerns expressed about the "balance" in an individual story, but I never heard anyone talk about :"balancing" one story against another.
e-mails to note Christine's "Dissecting Roberts' Documents, Newspapers Choose Different Paths
" (Ms. Musing
) which Tracey urges everyone to read for "the best run down:"
The release Monday of a limited amount of Judge John Roberts' papers is a front-page story everywhere today, but a look at some major dailies shows how varied the coverage is.
"The bulk of the files released Monday contained neither the writings nor the views of Roberts. Instead, they consisted of court opinions, speeches, letters and memos written by others and collected in files held by Roberts while he served in the White House counsel's office, beginning in 1982, when he was 27," write David G. Savage and Henry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times -- the only paper to lead with Roberts' arguments in favor of the White House keeping internal files and memos secret:
As a young lawyer for President Reagan, John G. Roberts Jr. argued strongly that the White House should keep its internal files secret and refuse to release them to the Senate to win confirmation for a presidential nominee to a senior government post.
"We should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the general opening of files to Hill scrutiny ... does not become routine," Roberts said. "I would hope that ... we would be in a better position to resist committee demands." He also denounced as "pernicious" the Presidential Records Act of 1978, in which Congress called for the future public release of files housed in a president's library.
Most stories address Roberts involvement in an anti-abortion memorial service and his views on school prayer and a move to increase women's wages. In a rallying cry to conservatives, Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said in a statement that "those who try to paint Judge Roberts as a squishy moderate will not find any supporting evidence in these documents."
No argument there.
e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "People's Petition for a Way Out of Iraq
" (The Nation
A campaign is being launched this week by a host of groups including Progressive Democrats of America, Peace Action and others to demand an exit strategy from Iraq. A central part of these efforts is a new petition which lays out a way to get out of Iraq and will be presented to Congress in mid-September.
This comes at what could be a tipping point moment. The country is waking up to the truth that Bush's decisions have led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 1,800 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, while making the US, the world and Iraq less secure. A majority of Americans now understand that we were deliberately misled into war; a majority recognize that the US made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq; and a majority believe that no matter how long US troops remain there, they will not be able to establish a stable, democratic government.
Cindy Sheehan's dignified and defiant stance in Crawford has highlighted the callousness of a President who lacks the compassion to grieve or mourn for those he sent into battle. As E.L. Doctorow wrote last year, "I fault this president for not knowing what death is...He does not feel a personal responsibility for the thousand dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be."
President Bush should meet with Sheehan. But, even more important, he should listen to the grieving mother, and to the growing number of military families and citizens who are demanding an end to the disastrous occupation of Iraq. Bush should also listen to those who will testify at informal Congressional hearings--now expected on the eve of the September 24 to 26 antiwar demonstrations--designed to explore possible exit strategies. It is anticipated that leading US academics, opposition politicians, civil society activists and Iraqi parliamentarians seeking an end to US occupation will testify.
And for those interested in an honorable and speedy exit strategy, please read, circulate and sign the petition published below. The petition is a response and challenge to the charge that peace and security advocates have no plan. The truth is that Secretary Rumsfeld has no exit strategy--only a "victory strategy." The truth is that the leadership of the Democratic Party has offered no alternative to Bush's policies beyond invading Falluja, adding more American troops, training more Iraqis and providing better body armor. All these policies are failing and will continue to fail. But there is another option: adopting a framework of conflict resolution as the alternative to permanent war and occupation.
Two things to note. First, many members will probably be wondering "Katrina vanden Heuvel . . . (The Nation)"? Yes, most members know Katrina vanden Heuvel's the editor of The Nation. But there are visitors and some members who don't and won't go to links. I was on the phone Sunday night with a friend who comes to this site and she had a list of questions about who wrote for what, etc. She says when she watches The Daily Show
(Comedy Central), she's not then going online to find out more about the things mentioned and offered this should be more "self-contained." Knowing how many members have written in that they don't have the time for links and want the pull quotes to give them what they need (and give them that quickly), I think my friend has a point and I'll try on my end to note, even with obvious people such as Matthew Rothschild or KvH, where the link takes you. (And Cindy
e-mailed yesterday to state that her browser now just informs her, when she rests the mouse on a link, "shortcutto" and usually cuts off before she knows where the link is going to.) We've tended to do that here with Jude ("Jude of Iddybud
"), Delilah (Delilah of A Scrivener's Lament
), etc. But even then we haven't always done that. ("We" is largely me though it may include Ava
as well as others who do their own entries that are up here.) So if you notice that and wonder about it, that's why.
(Sidebar: Read in full before going to link. Matthew Rothschild has piece on the violent reaction on the part of the fright wing to Cindy Sheehan. While worth reading, LANGUAGE WARNING. He quotes what they've posted about her and it may not pass the work safe environment guidelines. For those using home computers or libary computers and interested in reading it, click here
Second item. Michael
e-mails wondering if there will be a book review of any sort at The Third Estate Sunday Review
this Sunday? Probably. Due to problems with postings for them (as well as for me, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts
would not go up and the UK Computer Gurus
worked like crazy to fix that), time was short last Sunday. The books that everyone's completed or started (intended for this Sunday) are Edith Wharton's The Custom of the County
, Norman Solomon's War Made Easy
and Tariq Ali's Street Fighting Years
. A "Five Books, Five Minutes" feature will depend upon whether there's time on Saturday and whether everyone's had time to read the books.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org
Note from Ava: This post would not go up so I'm posting it for C.I. I'll follow up on the above about The Third Estate Sunday Review
by noting that in addition to hopes for the "Five Books, Five Minutes" feature, we're also hoping to do something similar on music.