What I Disliked About Captain America: Civil War (Mild Spoilers)

 

I write about politics, family, I write poetry and more. I have yet to write about superheroes in film, yet it is here that I am as comfortable as any other genre. I grew up on comic books. Primarily Marvel, but I have a firm grounding in the DC Universe as well. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen Batman vs. Superman and today Captain America: Civil War and find I have something to say.

Batman vs. Superman had its moments. It followed up on the aftermath of Man of Steel and it was interesting to see Batman power up to the point where he could go toe to toe with Superman. I was slightly annoyed that the Superman who watched his Earth father die when he could have saved him in the previous film, suddenly was willing to sacrifice the world to save his Earth mother. What was worse was the feeble efforts to introduce the Justice League. While Wonder Woman was arguably the best character in the film. The “introduction” of The Flash and Aquaman was terribly weak and can’t compare to the juggernaut that Marvel has created with The Avengers which was set up by multiple individual character films. I’m glad I saw Batman vs. Superman for the sake of completism and being able to hold my own in a conversation but all in all, I could have missed it and been alright!

It’s Captain America: Civil War that was disappointing in a different way. Not that it was a bad movie. Like the fawning critics have made known it had a good story, amazing fight scenes and the much-anticipated introduction of Spider-man and the Black Panther did not disappoint. Ant-Man literally played a large role and generally speaking most of the other Avengers played their part and were consistent with their previous appearances and motivations. I get the impression that Falcon and War Machine were afterthoughts in the movies as they were in the comics but that is a relatively minor complaint. What I found disappointing was that the future of the superhero hero film itself looks dim to me. I told a friend that I’ve waited all my life for these characters to come to the big screen in a realistic fashion and Captain America: Civil War and pretty much all the recent Marvel movies not produced by Fox (and the Hulk movie) have done that. The problem is that they have almost nowhere else to go.

I am reminded of a report I once did on Monster movies and their rise and fall within a relatively short period of time. After Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and Dracula had a few successful individual films. Interest started falling and the only way to fill the seats was to put multiple monsters in the same movie. This gave us “House of Frankenstein” which begat “House of Dracula” and when we knew the shark had been jumped was in “Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein”. All three featured Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Dracula along with other monsters and they finally reached the point where there was no point.

The two Avengers Movies, Captain America: Civil War (which was close to a third Avengers film) and Guardians of the Galaxy were all outstanding movies. After the introduction of Doctor Strange, another Thor movie, a Black Panther film, Captain Marvel and another Ant Man movie. We’ll see a two-part Avengers Infinity War which is rumored to contain as many as 67 characters. What saddens me is the thought there’s nowhere for them to go from there.

The concept of a stand-alone hero movie where the hero singularly battles a foe has already gone by the wayside. This the third Captain America installment had at my count 12 uniformed heroes (depending on how you count Bucky Barnes) and there is little hope in the immediate future for a story which isn’t propped up by co-superstars. Thor: Ragnarok will feature The Hulk, Spider-man will feature Iron Man, it appears the Black Panther will bring back Bucky if not Captain America as well, Ant Man will introduce the Wasp. After Infinity Wars 1 & 2 where can they go?

I’m looking forward to almost all the Marvel (not produced by Fox) movies already announced. I’ll also see X Men: Apocalypse and hope to enjoy it. The Fantastic Four was one of my favorite comics but the movies? Not so much! It might seem a little early to be sounding the alarm but for superhero movies… the end is near.

There Were Always Cookies

There Were Always Cookies

 

I have always liked vanilla. I enjoyed it added to warm milk, it helped medicine to go down, I love Vanilla Coke. I never gave it a thought as to how I first came to enjoy vanilla, until I thought about my grandmother.

From when I was about four years old until I left Minneapolis to attend college at Fisk University in Nashville. I lived a few blocks from my maternal grandparents. My grandmother picked my brothers and I up every Sunday and took us across town to Zion Baptist Church where we went to first Sunday School and then the main service. We usually stopped on the way at the car wash where we all got out and conscientiously watched her Chevy Nova go thru the soapy bristles. When we were old enough we could go to her house by ourselves although we were always admonished to watch the traffic when crossing busy Portland Avenue.

We were never required to give notice when visiting. My grandparents were retired and most always home. The one constant was that anytime we visited, ever. There were Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies in a large shoe shaped cookie jar. They were straight from the recipe on the package of chocolate chips. Sometimes we got to help make them and of course lick the spoon and get every last bit of cookie batter from the bowl. The vanilla was one of the last ingredients to mix in. It was only a teaspoon and it was darker than the batter and we stirred it in until it disappeared.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. The matriarch of the family. It was only within the last few years that I discovered from my cousin Jacki that my grandmother picked her and my cousin Buddy up once a week to spend time with her which made it all the more remarkable that the cookies were always there.

In this age of programmable cell phones, many people don’t remember their own cell phone number. I do recall mine but the only other number I know in the universe is my grandmother’s. What I would give to be able to call her once again. She was blessed with long life and when she passed away it was Mother’s Day which was somehow fitting. On some days, I will remember her for her strength. On other days for her wisdom. Today it’s for her chocolate chip cookies.

 

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

 

Nativism: An Excuse to Follow Donald Trump

Nativism: An Excuse to Follow Donald Trump

 

I’ve watched television political commentators try to describe Donald Trump’s brand of racism as “nativism”. This is not a new term in America. It was used to discriminate against the German’s. It was the basis for the “Alien & Sedition Acts” which lengthened the period for gaining citizenship to 14 years in an attempt to limit the influence of new French and Irish newcomers. It’s been an excuse to shut out Catholics and the Chinese. Despite the promise inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, America has never welcomed all immigrants, certainly not the tired, poor or huddled masses. Today legislators struggle to find a way to keep the college graduates, engineers, doctors and tech savvy while looking to exclude others. Another barometer they look for a way to exclude people is by color and religion. Donald Trump has gone where none has gone before, declaring his desire to ban “all Muslims” from our shores.

Nativism as used today is an excuse not to call it what it is… pure, unabashed racism. It is the justification for explaining away policies attractive that are obviously racist without having to say so. That America has a problem with race is not new. America has always had a problem with race and there has never been a shortage of politicians and judges and even Presidents willing to put their thumb on the scale in favor or their white constituents. The irony of the term “nativism” is that it is typically used to describe the protection of the native or indigenous population. Only in America where we constantly rewrite our own history can we conveniently forget that this isn’t white people’s native land. They came and took it from Indians and Mexicans, negotiating with their one-time enemy England as to how to divide it up.

I would love to see someone from the media or the Republican Party simply acknowledge that they are not appealing to nativism, but nakedly to the racist portion of the Republican Party that ascribes a very specific meaning to “Make America Great Again”.The reason that crazy districting within states and gerrymandering and voter suppression and mass incarceration are allowed to exist in America is indeed nativism. It’s also racist to the highest degree.

The History of American (White) Exceptionalism: Chapter Nine

” A movie was made about the destruction of Rosewood, FL. No movie has yet been made about the bombing, machine gun fire, and air attacks that destroyed “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, OK. 10,000 black people left homeless. 35 blocks destroyed by fire, 1,256 residences destroyed. Hundreds murdered and dumped into mass graves and as usual… no justice.”

The Great Migration

 

“Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance…. Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are idential…. There is no help or healing in apparaising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; and an understanding of the facts of the problem–a magnanimous understanding by both races–is the first step toward its solution.”
― Isabel WilkersonThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

 

After the Civil War ended, slaves were freed in several states with literally nowhere to go. While there were institutions like the Freedmen’s Bureau and various Christian groups that attempted to help the newly freed, unemployed, poor former slaves with little inkling of how to make a fresh start. The newly implement “Black Codes” required that blacks be contractually employed at substandard wages, not congregate except for religious purposes without white people present, not vote, not own land in most cases and in most cases still denied a good education. Many followed the call to head North, or West in search of better opportunities. It was only later that they discovered that free blacks were as unwelcome elsewhere in America as they were at home. As always it was an economic need that caused change, in this case, World War One.

Blacks have served in some capacity in all America’s wars including on both sides in the Revolutionary War, the Indian Wars, and the Civil War. In all cases, their service was related to shortages and need as they were hardly welcome members of any force. Although there were over 300,000 black volunteers that served in World War One. Most blacks did not serve and as a result of shortages of white males in Northern industrial cities. Blacks were for the first time actively recruited to move North and receive wages often three times or more than their wages in the South. Often transportation costs were paid and the choice didn’t seem hard whether to stay under purposely slave-like conditions or go to what not long ago had been referred to as “the promised land”.

Between 1915 and 1960 between five and six million blacks moved out of the South to the North and West. The North represented a more predictable opportunity, the West the promise of more freedom and land in some cases. There were black sections within large Northern cities where there were some of the indicators of self-government although that claim would be too strong. Black churches and black schools provided the next generation of black leaders. Black cities sprung up in Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. Some flourished for a time until they were no longer permitted to do so.

Not only did the great migration change forever the landscape of Northern cities. The South lost millions of low paid workers not easily replaced. The South experienced higher wages and therefore lower profit margins and the South which once was the engine of the U.S. economy, was solidly entrenched in the North’s rear. In the West, white and black migrants left Arkansas and Oklahoma for the fields of California. Some Mexicans came north to work the fields to work some of what had once been Mexico but were met with the same fear and resistance then that they are today. It was World War Two that created a shortage of white males and an additional need for laborers. Over four million Mexican migrants were invited to the U.S. under the Bracero Program with the hopes they would go home after the crops were harvested. As you might imagine, many of the Mexican migrant workers had children while in America who were automatically American citizens with no obligation to go with their families to Mexico. Of course, they like other migrant workers and minorities in general, had unequal access to education, health care, were paid poor wages and couldn’t vote.

Migration did not mean acceptance. I don’t know what period Donald Trump has in mind when he says, “Make America Great Again” but there was almost no time in our whole history without race riots. That term is somewhat misleading as one might think it meant racial minorities rising up against their local communities. It more likely meant their communities turning on them. Go to any major city and the dividing line between the black and white sections of town were railroad tracks. This is not a coincidence, but by design so that the army or National Guard could have easy access to the community to quickly blockade the black sections and secondarily protect white property.

If you look at the locations of race riots since the Civil War, it shouldn’t be surprising that they migrated North as well. The first riots even before the war were in Detroit and New York as white people took out their resentment on free black men in retaliation for the implementation of the draft of white men in preparation for the Civil War. After war’s end violence was seen first in Southern cities like Memphis, New Orleans and Pulaski, TN where the KKK was founded. Called riots by those who wrote the history, they were attacks on black citizens for sometimes desiring the right to vote and sometimes protesting the murder of unarmed black citizens. Black lives didn’t matter then either.

Besides the “riots” in larger cities. There were events like the Opelousas Massacre where a dozen blacks in Opelousas, LA tried to leave the Republican Party and become Democrats. It was the Democrats and the Knights of the White Camellia met black protesters with gunfire (blacks were not allowed to own guns). Republicans estimated the number of blacks killed at between 200-300 while Democrats insist it was “only” 25-35. There was general agreement that between 30-50 white people were killed. An investigation by the Freedmen’s Bureau placed the numbed of black people killed at 5.

In 1876, almost the entire state of South Carolina was involved in unrest related to efforts of the Democratic Party to keep blacks from voting. What they couldn’t accomplish through lynching and fear tactics they accomplished by outright fraud. To be fair, race-based attacks were not limited to attacks on black people but also included the Chinese, Irish, and Greek. By naming some of the “race riots” I do a disservice by not mentioning the literally hundreds of race-based mass murders not mentioned, not even considering individual lynching.

After the great migration, riots moved to Philadelphia and Houston and E. St Louis. A movie was made about the destruction of Rosewood, FL. No movie has yet been made about the bombing, machine gun fire, and air attacks that destroyed “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, OK. 10,000 black people left homeless. 35 blocks destroyed by fire, 1,256 residences destroyed. Hundreds murdered and dumped into mass graves and as usual… no justice.

Harlem, Detroit, Harlem again. All these before the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voter Rights Act of 1965, much of which has been undone by the Roberts Court. Going North and West was not the path to the promised land but the realization that for black people in America. Life would be no crystal stair.

Note: A “Black Wall Street” movie is now in production, written and directed by Dennis Delemar. Expected to be released in 2018

The Sins of the Fathers

“He was never arrested. He has nothing to do with this. This never happened. This is nonsense and it never happened,” Trump said about his father in the September 2015 article. “This never happened. Never took place. He was never arrested, never convicted, never even charged. It’s a completely false, ridiculous story. He was never there! It never happened. Never took place.”

The Sins of the Father’s

 

Donald Trump has tried to tie or at least suggest the possible involvement of Ted Cruz’s father in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The “evidence” is a grainy group picture that includes Lee Harvey Oswald and allegedly Pablo Cruz taken sometime in 1963.

I have listened to Pablo Cruz speak and much of the more righteous than thou attitude of Ted… he got it from his papa. There is much to find fault with in the positions of both Ted and his father and how they wish to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. There is nothing about that picture what will influence my thoughts about either in 2016, whether Pablo Cruz was actually in it or not. I turn instead to look at his primary accuser.

It is said that if you live in glass houses you shouldn’t throw stones. Did Donald forget that his father was actually arrested along with others following a violent confrontation with police at a KKK rally in New York? Despite Donald’s claims that it never happened. It was published contemporaneously in the New York Times before Donald was born and before Fred became a big local developer. They listed Fred’s home address and there is no chance of mistaken identity. One might reasonably wonder which side he was on and whether he was just caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time? Then one finds that all seven men were represented by the same attorney which kind of places him with his Klan brethren.

Much like Ted’s attitudes reflect those of his father. Donald has engaged in discriminatory housing practices for which he was sued by and ultimately settled with the Federal government. His own words about Muslims, Mexicans, “the Blacks”, women, LBGT, Asians and almost everyone except white males say more than I could say about him.

In fairness, I’d like to cite Donald Trump’s response to a 2015 interview about his father’s arrest.

“He was never arrested. He has nothing to do with this. This never happened. This is nonsense and it never happened,” Trump said about his father in the September 2015 article. “This never happened. Never took place. He was never arrested, never convicted, never even charged. It’s a completely false, ridiculous story. He was never there! It never happened. Never took place.”

If you’ve ever witnessed Donald’s casual relationship with the truth, you can then decide upon his ability to deny an event that preceded his birth. Pablo and Ted Cruz, Fred and Donald Trump. Like father like son?

WHY VOTE?

I wrote this four years ago before the last Presidential election. It rings as true now as it did then. This was just published in the Inner City News where I am a regular contributor.

 

I have a friend, an African-American single mother of two whose eldest daughter is coming of age to vote in her first Presidential election. As I understand it her daughter has no plans to vote and feels it won’t make a difference. In frustration, her mother asked me if I could speak to her daughter and convince her of the need to vote. I played out the conversation in my mind, as I imagined it might go, wondering what I might say that she hasn’t already heard. I don’t know if it’s a factor in her thinking but she happens to reside in a state that is not in play and indeed her vote won’t influence the Electoral College votes allocated to her state. The conversation in my mind never ended well because I’ve never met the daughter (the mother either in fact), have no ideas as to her goals and aspirations and have no knowledge of her circumstances that could provide a reason to vote specific to her concerns.

For African-Americans of my generation, the question of whether to vote was simply never an issue. We had it ingrained in us the sacrifices that were made on our behalf that allowed us to receive the right to vote. People died… and like Foghorn Leghorn I want to repeat myself… I say people died that I might be able to vote and it would be the ultimate disrespect to my ancestors to not take advantage because of whatever inconvenience it might entail. They gave their lives and I can’t give an hour? I can’t think of a soul in mine or my family’s circle that I could have told I wasn’t planning to vote and not be ridiculed and chastised, not necessarily in that order. By the time I reached voting age I was 6’6” and over 200lbs yet a line might have formed to knock some sense into me if I just decided not to vote. Voting wasn’t something you only thought about or talked about, it was something you did. That generation has passed however. Kids that grew up playing video games instead of playing outside don’t automatically understand the significance of voting. They likely can’t be guilted into voting so what does that leave?

I’ll start with self-interest. Voting is communication, it’s the way you let your government and its leaders know what you’re thinking. If you don’t let them know, what you want won’t be considered. Imagine a new born baby, unable to communicate when they’re hungry, or wet or cold. In the same way, your needs won’t be met except by happenstance if you choose as an adult to remain silent and merely accept the decisions of others.

While yes your vote for President won’t change the outcome of this election. It is evident that decisions affecting you are being made at multiple levels by your Senator’s, your Congressman and your state and local representatives. There is a well funded effort being made to shape the laws that affect you and if you don’t like the direction things are going? The only way to overcome having someone else’s views imposed on you is to say no with your vote.

I understand you’re either 20 or 21 years old. You may have plans to continue your education and those plans may depend on your ability to get school loans. The availability to get those loans and the cost at which you pay them back is directly impacted by those people that your vote will help determine who gets into office.  As a woman, you may have plans to have children one day and your ability to control the factors in that choice will depend on who you vote for. There are those who would affect the cost and availability of many types of birth control. There are those seeking to restrict and even eliminate some of the primary providers of women’s health services. If you need a mammogram or PAP smear or pre-natal education and healthcare. The place you could go today may be shut down tomorrow because you didn’t indicate your preference. Although you have the legal right to an abortion, a choice which hopefully you’ll never have to consider. Some states are looking to make it harder or impossible within your state to elect that option. You might expect equal pay as a man for the same job but there are people protecting the status quo and your vote might be the difference.

Should you have children one day, you may be concerned about the quality and cost of their education. How many will be in their classroom? How effective are their teachers? Will their education prepare them for the jobs available in the future and will they be able to go to college.

You happen to be an African-American. There is a serious effort by some politicians to restrict your vote in order to maintain their grasp on political power as the demographics of the country changes and the voters look less and less like them. If you stand by and let this happen. The gains obtained by our forefathers will be wiped out because you stood idly by and when the results of that choice begin to impact you, it will be long past time to complain.

Hopefully, because the alternative is definitely worse, you’ll reach the age of retirement and you will need the increased availability of health care services and likely want a return on the Social Security plan you will have invested in for many years. How those programs are managed and changed will depend on what elected officials you either put in place or watch while others do so. If you choose not to vote… you are abdicating all the choices affecting you and your family to others whose intentions may not be near the same as yours had you decided to participate.

I must add that not only do you have a responsibility to vote. You have a duty to educate yourself on the issues and the candidates and to know and understand what’s at stake each time you make a choice. When you’re aware of what’s at stake you may choose to speak out and add your voice to others in fighting for what you believe in, or your children’s future or making sure your rights aren’t eroded by others as they seek to put their desires ahead of yours.

I encourage you to look at voting, not as a duty or responsibility. But as an Honor to give recognition to those who suffered much to give you this opportunity. See voting as a way to shape your children’s future and their children’s after that. See it as a way not to get punked by someone who is taking away your rights and laughing at you while doing so. See it as something you look forward to doing each and every time because there is no time in which it does not matter.

There are those who seem to equate removing regulations protecting the environment and ensuring financial protections with freedom somehow. And somehow, restricting your rights as a woman and the right to control your body while not freedom is their moral responsibility. Don’t let someone else define your freedom. Vote!