Letter of The Week
Re Andrea Gabor's "Primary Directive" [November 915]: As a teacher who has worked with Lyle Walford, I find Gabor's article to be a misrepresentation of his tenure at P.S. 50. During Walford's time as principal, fourth-grade reading scores increased by 13.8 percent and math scores 17.5 percent from the previous year. Walford was very creative in modifying student behavior; his creation of a student council as a means of peer intervention alleviated the disconnect between student actions and accountability. He has a deep respect for his history and culture, and through the use of multimedia and various forms of art he has broadened the horizons of countless students. As a teacher at P.S. 50 during the time mentioned in the article, I would like Gabor to explain the "problems that soared at P.S. 50."As an African American male, I would like to know exactly what a " 'black power' kind of guy" is. How would Gabor feel if I referred to her as a "white reactionary" kind of woman? Unfortunately, Gabor has taken the tenure of Principal Walford out of context.
Gilbert Knight Jr.
Erased from his-story
Re Greg Tate's "License to Ill" [50th anniversary issue, October 26November 1]: I expected to be written out of Village Voice history by whites, not by you, Greg. In fact, it was Nat Hentoff and Jack Newfield who acknowledged my contribution to the paper in earlier retrospectives on Voice history. I accepted a position at the Voice in 1978 as senior editor, the first time someone Black held such a position. I brought the paper Ishmael Reed, who I assigned the Muhammad Ali Leon Spinks rematch in New Orleans; Clayton Riley, who became my sports guy, writing those pieces you mentioned on basketball and baseball; and Barry Michael Cooper, who I gave his first assignment as a writer (a profile of Frankie Crocker) and later published his first feature articles at Spin because Christgau wouldn't hire him at the Voice. I brought Amiri Baraka to the paper and threatened to quit if his account of being in Rikers was not published. It was offensive to hear you describe Christgau as a one-man affirmative action committee, when I headed that first committee, which exposed the sellout of affirmative action to a "side letter" in the contract, taking the teeth out of it.
I also fought for and helped win Stanley Crouch his staff writer position, and edited and fought for the work of Jose Torres, who wrote about everything from the fight that ended Ali's career (cover story that was the first sold-out issue in Voice history) to the conflicts between white Cubans and Blacks in Miami. There is so much more to Voice history than you will ever know and so much more than your anemic piece recounted. I am very proud of the work I did at the Voice, of the writers who I gave their start and fought to create a place for in the national debate. Clayton Riley's seminal piece "Death of an American Play," on the campaign to destroy Luis Valdez's play Zoot Suit, and Lionel Mitchell's story on how Ed Bullins's former friends at the Voice had turned on him, helping destroy his career, were extraordinary moments in the struggle at the paper for Blacks to define our own agenda. I fought for the writers and art directors, and layout and ad sales people who I believed in. I believed it was opening a way for others. You, even. I never thought that when you came along you would show gratitude by erasing me from that effort.
West Hollywood, California
While I appreciate the work of an organization like Friends of the High Line ["Paradise Lost" by Amy Braunschweiger, November 16] to preserve and grant public access to our open space, it's a shame that its representatives, such as Joshua David, are still parroting the official line of "don't go up there," especially since I'd be quite surprised if David had never visited the High Line himself. As Braunschweiger points out, it's not the future High Line with landscaped walkways that has captured the imagination of the publicit's the High Line as it is now, a "remote natural habitat" and remnant of New York's industrial heritage. Not all of us are senators, or are friends with famous actors and fashion designers who have the ability and connections to go visit the High Line officially. Yet as citizens of New York, we deserve the right to visit the High Line and any of the other interesting and harmless "off-limits" places in the city.
I thought J. Hoberman's review of Walk the Line ["Lovesick Blues," November 1622] was exemplary. He aptly compared the film to other musical biopics (such as Ray) and discussed the lack of fervor in a modern love story. I agree with the idea that some films take away from the story of particular people, and maybe Johnny Cash deserves not to be mimicked but presented in documentary form. I am a cinema studies major at NYU; it is rare that I come across reviews that impress me, as I find most to be summaries under the guise of reviews. Hoberman's work is precise and addresses films not within the bubble of their worlds but in the greater context of cinema.
I thought Hoberman's comments about the late, great Bobby Darin (perhaps one of the most gifted people we will ever see in this lifetime) were uncalled-for and wrong. Why did Hoberman feel the need to express such extreme negativity toward Darin personally? To review a film is one thing, but to attack a man who is gone from this earth and who has been greatly overlooked in the industry is another.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Pit-y the owner
David Shaftel's article about pit bulls ["Man's Best Defense," August 2430] was recently brought to my attention. It saddens me to read such an article. When people read this type of story, it simply makes the pit bull hysteria worse. If Shaftel had done any research on the breed before doing this piece, he would have found that Tyler Eison is the exact opposite of most pit bull owners. Most of us get pits because we value their loyalty and phenomenal temperaments. My pit feels that everybody in this world was put here to love her. She loves people, dogs, and cats. Granted, there are monsters such as Eison out there, and somehow they and their vicious pits are always the ones making the news. I wish that just once the majority of pits, the gentle ones that are great with babies, would get some hype.
I find this article about pit bulls very disturbing, and if I knew where that mean owner Eison lived I would take his pits from him. I realize that he wants protection, but this is the wrong breed to do this with. Pit bulls have a very bad name because of people like him and the people in his surroundingslow-life people who want to fight their dogs and treat them like they don't have feelings. I have pit bulls and I care for and treat every one of them with love and respect. Pit bulls only have the name they do because of the people who own them. Why write a story about a person who wants to make pit bulls mean instead of a story that is trying to help the breed? Help people understand that pits are not vicious unless you make them that wayjust like humans who have mean parents end up being mean too.
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
Re Rebecca Raber's "TV's Last Taboo" [November 1622]: Since when is dropping out of high school to work construction and raise a child while you are still basically a child yourself considered doing the right thing? Since when is conceiving a child, then killing it, the right thing to do? Showing abortion as a nonchalant choice is not something that should be encouraged. Whether it is legal or not, it is the killing of one's own child and shouldn't be taken lightly. Claiming that abortions should be abundant on television simply to keep up with other immoral subjects that are becoming less and less "taboo" is ridiculous. Art has never accurately reflected society anyway. I realize that abortions are legally performed in this country every day. That, however, is not a valid argument for putting it on every TV show. These shows are not news, but rather art and entertainment. As you admitted, there is enough upsetting content on television already.
North Adams, Massachusetts
Last week's review of the movie Rent misidentified the theater presenting the original Broadway production. It is the Nederlander Theatre.
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