Monday, July 25, 2016

THE LYNCHING: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan, explains the link between hate rhetoric and violence

THE LYNCHING: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan (William Morrow Hardcover) is an exciting and impressive read, a page turner that is also a history of a pivotal event in the Civil Rights struggle. As a Northerner, the Southern attachment to slavery and later segregation, as part of "traditional values" has always been a personal disconnect. I once publicized Klan-Destine Relationships: A Black Man's Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan by Daryl Davis, a Grammy award winning musician, who risked his life on a mission to understand hate. Were these people monsters or would he find a common humanity? Davis found shared ground but didn't address the origins of hate crimes.

In Laurence Leamer's THE LYNCHING, racial hatred is explained in the context of the personal histories of those involved in a horrific hate crime in 1981, when Jim Crow was a fading memory. The incident was sparked by a trial of a black man accused of murdering a white Police Sergeant from Birmingham, Alabama. An almost all black jury (1 white) could not reach a verdict, the match that set off  Alabama's (UKA), United Klans of America, retribution. Two small-time Klansman Henry Hays and James Knowles, set out to find a black man to kill. Lynching often went unpunished in the South, where police were often Klan sympathetizers. The Klansmen cruised around before deciding on 19 year old Michael Donald. He was tortured and hung from a tree on the residential street where Henry's father, Benny, head of the local Klan, owned a house.

The photos of the corpse are shocking. A chance photo also captured Hays and Knowles in a group lounging on a car. From this beginning, Leamer explains the cultural roots of hate crimes, through the histories of these men and their Klan. Hate didn't take much to provoke, when being white or well born, didn't mean you had a viable future. And "uppity" northern blacks in the struggle for Civil Rights, were making their way south. Soon blacks wouldn't sit in the back of the bus, eat at colored lunch counters or use separate restrooms. There was fear and resentment at blacks taking white jobs and places in public universities. Segregation was equated with "traditional Southern values," a righteous cause for Shelton, head of the United Klans of America and Congressional up and comer, George Wallace. Crowds of Shelton's supporters were mesmerized by Wallace's honed hate rhetoric, which sent him to the Governor's mansion. Never would a black enter Univ. of Alabama. He would physically block that doorway! And the first one to try to enter that University, was confronted by such hatred, she had to withdraw.

Morris Dees, a poor sharecroppers son, grew up with a sense of injustice that propelled him to law school. He started out a segregationist, like most southerners, even briefly worked for Wallace. But as he was jostled from the sidelines to center of a Civil Rights Demonstration, he had to become involved. A mail-order millionaire by the time he graduated college, Dees used his money to found The Southern Poverty Law Center. Though he became a Pariah in his town and family, Dees continued to take on Civil Rights cases at no charge.

After the criminal trial that sentenced Hays and Knowles for Donald's murder, Dees filed a civil suit on the behalf of Donald's mother. His objective was to charge those responsible for giving the order, as well as creating an environment where hate speech encouraged violence. Dees sued Benny Hays, the local Klan authority, and Shelton, the national leader and was told he could not win by colleagues, a skeptical judge. Even his staff thought he had overreached. Before it was over, he narrowly escaped with his life. What happened in this case, was a major breakthrough for Civil Rights.

The scope of the U.K.A.'s activities under the Imperial Wizard, included the infamous bombing of a Birmingham Church and the death of four black girls. The story of how the evidence and intelligence was gathered reflects the tenacious work and intuitive genius of Dee and his staff. In the end, he got his Klan crippling $7 million judgment from a jury who had moved into a desegregated future. The most crucial element was a legal precedent that organizations that promote hatred and violence can be held responsible for the criminal actions of their members.

The SPLC lawyers were able to use this to cripple racist organizations from the White Ayran Resistance in 1990 to the Imperial Klans of America in 2008. Read this book in our time,when hate's got big audiences again and Black Lives Matter are on the march. Those who don't know history may be doomed to repeat it, but it never appears in the same form. This book gives a start of recognition. The attractions of hate rhetoric today follow very similar patterns.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Sing along with IRON HEEL! Down w/Capitalism in Jack London's Socialist Dystopia, adapted by Edward Einhorn, JULY-AUGUST NYC

Edward Einhorn has adapted London's novel. New Play Network's synopsis: 
An adaptation of Jack London's 1908 novel, the first-ever dystopia, written as a socialist propaganda piece. It tell the story of Avis and Ernest Everhard, two leaders of an envisioned socialist revolution in the 1920's, when the oligarchy has taken on a totalitarian edge (The Iron Heel). Praised by Leon Trotsky and George Orwell. Set as a "reenactment drama", being told 600 years in the future, in a world that has become a socialist utopia. Using folksongs from the early 20th century throughout, some with altered lyrics.


Jack London's socialist dystopia, IRON HEEL, is rarely read in schools.  Somehow I missed it, thought a student of both utopias and dystopias. I did read Einhorn's adaptation and found it both rousing and quaintly pertinent to today's politics. But the "today" in this play is a socialist dominated future, whose leaders are recounting the revolutionary struggle against the Capitalists in an alternative 20th century. The story within a story is about Ernest and Avis, he the Socialist rebel, she the lovely daughter of a capitalist, a professor and stockholder in the mill.

When Ernest crashes a party at Avis's father's stately house in Berkeley, California, it's the instant attraction of opposites. He's a "trouble maker" dismissed from the mill for "impudence," She's the lovely dutiful daughter. But as his world and hers join, love and politics become a violent clash with the ruling Oligarchy, His Socialist ideals, which have the majority of support by Americans, are focused on ending Capitalism. But it's a nasty fight. Capitalists of the Oligarchy have no mercy.

The righteous heroic struggle leads to martyrdom. This is not Shaw's Socialism, witty and satirical. But there is are folk songs Woody Guthrie might enjoy and stories as true as Erin Brockovich, Sanders' supporters may enjoy this unusual taste of early Socialist ideals. London thought Socialism was a logical progression and perhaps Anarchy. My question for London, if he were around, is his assumption that Socialism was an end result. What would he think about Socialism becoming Communism's "Worker's Paradise?" But in London's story the struggle is enough. The tellers of his story are the present day victors.

I can see how this story may have inspired Sinclair Lewis' IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE, as well as Orwell. In Lewis' dystopia, the U.S. devolves from capitalism to fascism with a glib Ad-Man president. Obviously, this character is far too on target for election 2016.

 My own dystopia, "Paradise Gardens," reverses the passage of Feudal society to Capitalism with corporate business estates underground. It's looking at the corporate exodus in 2050 of the earth's inhabitable surface for the underground (after the dissolution of the Old Fed),  and life on the estates in 3011. More's Utopia is with me yet...

IRON HEEL the production has "People's Rates," even free nights. The play is a must see for idealists, lovers of political philosophy, agit prop theater, folk music or anyone pondering late stage Capitalism. Join the rabble!  This is the good fight!



Many of our shows are limited seating, and for those we ask for advance reservations.  But in the socialist spirit, we provide discounts.  Tickets are normally $20, but can't afford that--pay $15!  Can't afford that--pay $10. Or even just $5 or $1.  The one thing we ask is that you reserve sooner rather than later.  The venues are small, and the reserved seats available even smaller--we need to accommodate press, grant givers, and our own staff.   So reserve your seat now by clicking here.  Audiences of the world, unite!  And buy our tickets while you can.  As you will see on our ticket page, we currently have all payment options.

From the book by Jack London

Adapted & directed by Edward Einhorn

The first modern dystopian novel, written as a socialist
propaganda piece in 1908. An election between a socialist candidate and an oligarch.  What happens if the oligarch wins?  Presented on the 100th anniversary of Jack London's death.

Join us as we gather for light snacks, folk songs, and performance.
Craig Anderson, Kevin Argus, Fred Backus (on Governor's Island only), Charles Ouda, Yvonne Roen, Victoria Rulle, and Trav SD

Costume/prop design: Ramona Ponce
Sound design: Chris Chappell
Stage manager: Blake Kile
Assistant director: Rebecca Silbert
Production assistants: Deonna Dolac, Yael Haskal, and Mark Hunstein

"Audacious...genuinely prophetic"

To buy tickets for pay what you can shows (suggested price $20)
Call 212-352-3101 or  click here
Free performances can be attended without reservation

Sat July 23 1pm (Governor's Island, FREE)
Sun July 30 1pm (Governor's Island, FREE)

Thu July 28 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Fri July 29 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Sun July 31 5pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Fri August 5 8pm (Freedom Hall, Pay What You Can)
Sun August 7 3pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Mon August 8 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can
Thu August 18 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Fri August 19 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Wed August 24, 7pm (Judson Church, FREE)
Fri August 26, 6pm (Jackie Robinson Park, FREE)
Sat August 27 7:30pm (South Oxford, Pay What You Can)
Mon Sep 5 5pm (West Side Community Garden, FREE) 

South Oxford Space, The Great Room, 138 South Oxford Space, Brooklyn
Freedom Socialist Party, Freedom Hall, 113 W. 128th St., Manhattan
Governors Island, House 8B in Nolan Park (part of the Dysfunctional Collective)
Jackie Robinson Park, bandshell, 85 Bradhurst Ave, at 145th St, Manhattan
Judson Memorial Church, Assembly Hall, 239 Thompson Street, Manhattan
West Side Community Garden, 142 W 89th St, Manhattan

Thursday, July 7, 2016

150 YEARS OF OBAMACARE by Daniel Dawes looks at the long history of health care reform in the U.S.

"Everyone has had at least some experience with the health care system, and advocates on either side of the debate are passionate and vocal about their cause. For more than a century and a half there have been bitter struggles over advancing health care access and improving delivery of care in this country. So how did advocates of health reform and health equity in 2010 achieve the most significant milestone in United States health law and policy?"

So writes Daniel Dawes in his preface to his new classic, 150 YEARS OF OBAMACARE, the only book to explain the huge achievement of the Affordable Care Act. While the public may think health care reform is a new concern of one president, it's actually a the culmination of an effort toward health equity that began in 1792, when President John Adams signed into law the Act for Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.

Dawes, a health care attorney and advocate for health equity, says that like most advocates, his "Aha" moment came while working in a S.Florida emergency room. A Haitian immigrant, obviously in a good deal of pain, tried to tell the staff about her problem and was met with blank stares. She only spoke Haitian Creole, and as he saw her try to make herself understood, he thought, what if her condition is life-threatening? Every second would be critical. He saw how vulnerable patients are and how complicated health care delivery could be in the U.S.

From there in this very comprehensive text, he explains the history of advocacy for health care reform and  health equity, reform in mental health. He also discusses the role of the 2008 elections, where reform was a major issue. It was a breakthrough later, when the Tri-Caucus, the CBC and National Working Group health equity advocates were invited to the White House for a stakeholder meeting. Health disparities and health reform was being taken seriously,

Understanding the policy that developed, the fight to get it made into law, the role of legislature and the judiciary give insight into a rare instance of common purpose accomplishing what must happen. But it was touch and go throughout. Would the new law stand or be found unconstitutional? On the way to a flight, Dawes thought all the work had been for nothing, Then, in a reversal, he learned it had been reported incorrectly.

The book's mission is well summed up by David Satcher, 16th US Surgeon General, "150 Years of Obamacare provides an honest assessment of the health care law and an unparalleled explanation of
 its provisions, especially those impacting vulnerable populations. It depicts the persistence, passion and patience required to inform health policy in the United States with the goal of eliminating health disparities and promoting global health equity."

Interestingly, Dawes intends this book for those who will build on the law and improve it. History shows it's far more difficult to build a foundation for change than stymie it. Reform, like the new law, is a work in progress. The next generation can make it their own.

Though obviously no page turner, this lucid, thoughtful book is essential reading for anyone in the field. It is also useful for nonprofessionals, who want to understand the history  and possible future of our health care system. This is an instance, where the adage, "If it's not broke don't fix it," couldn't be more wrong.


  afterand the roles of legislators