Adamma Ince's cover article "Why the Slave Reparations Movement Has Ignored the Hip-Hop Generation" (May 28) prompted an unusual amount of reader mail. Some of the letters follow.
Adamma Ince's article was timely, sad, and true. As Stevie Wonder wrote in his song "You Haven't Done Nothin' ": "We are amazed but not amused by all the things you say that you'll do. . . . " I am not amused, or surprised, that many of our people are oblivious to reparations. I see it and deal with it every day.
We, as a people, have a lot of work to do. In order to get younger people to understand the reparations movement, we must resort to guerrilla tactics. We can't go to a lot of our brothers and sisters in Brooks Brothers suits; we have to rap to them on their level. I work with kids at risk, and I challenge them in every aspect of their lives, but it is not an easy battle. I have to contend with lack of pride, low self-worth, and poor education, as well as the self-gratifying, self-centered impressions with which the media hypnotizes our youth daily.
New Haven, Connecticut
I never thought I would see the day when the lessons I learned in my politically radical upbringing would cause me to so disagree with a movement spawned by my own people. With reference to Adamma Ince's article, one need look no further than the responses of the people the author spoke to on the street to see that the hip-hop generation is brain-dead. I'm just a couple of years removed from the demographic that Ms. Ince references, and I loved hip-hop in the early days. But as the artists became younger and more removed from any sense of a black nationalistic struggle, the music and its listeners pulled the collective cloak of ignorance over their heads.
These people will never have a coherent opinion on a matter as serious as reparations. Furthermore, the author is playing a dangerous game by resorting to classism to conceal blatant ignorance. I know that professional blacks are known for their aversion to the 'hood and causes that jeopardize their status, but Ms. Ince should keep in mind that the audience she speaks of has access to all types of information that previous generations never had. She would have been hard-pressed to get the same type of vapid responses from their marching, beaten, dog-attacked grandparents in the '60s. Back then the ghetto was where you lived, not what defined you.
Durham, North Carolina
As a Filipino, after reading Adamma Ince's article "Why the Slave Reparations Movement Has Ignored the Hip-Hop Generation," I'm surprised to find out that I have more knowledge about reparations than many in the black community.
In Kwame Ture's book Black Power, he states that there are two types of racism: the outright and the subliminal. In the politically correct world in which we live, a politician can kill his career by saying something racistyet when he rejects a bill providing government funding for low-income housing, there is little coverage. Of course some people are aware, but not enough.
Underground hip-hop listeners get the message through groups such as Dead Prez, who dare to reveal the devilish actions of the American system, but the typical Jay-Z listener doesn't get it. To me, Russell Simmons's donating money to the effort seems more like charity than wholehearted dedication. Rapper Nas, in his song "One Mic," tells us: "The time is Now!"but I don't see him picketing. What is needed is action.
It comes down to this: It is the responsibility of artists to set an example for the youth. Instead of encouraging young people to buy another throwback jersey and matching outfit, they should holla at the system that thinks that putting people in chains can be forgotten.
Piscataway, New Jersey
Don't blame black lawyers and intellectuals for the ignorance of some on the reparations issue. Blame the sociopolitical lightweights like Russell Simmons, P-Diddy, and Jay-Z, who instead of discovering the next Chuck D, KRS-One, or Paris, promote performers (as opposed to artists) who disrespect black women and worship material possessions!
The average black teenager in Bedford-Stuyvesant can memorize the words to every rap song in BET's Uptown Top 20 Countdown in two afternoons! How come the same teenagers and other young people cannot process reparations information covered ad nauseam on BET's nightly newscasts and Lead Story program?
Thank you for Adamma Ince's article. To this 51-year-old African American woman, these whispers of a reparations movement have been growing since 1990. Thank goodness it is getting more public attention. It is good to be informed that the "masses" are unaware of the issue, and that few people read for information. However, the media have been effective in communicating other values, information, and beliefs about black people. Why shouldn't the promoters of "reparations" use the same outlets? There is no magic formula to correct hundreds of years of destruction. So let us strategize by holding forums, publishing articles, and using music videos, ads, and Internet communication. Let us work together and support each other.
San Diego, California
Adamma Ince raises some interesting points about the inability of the reparations movement to catch on in the inner-city neighborhoods in which it is most needed. However, she seems to miss the fact that the general definition of reparations remains vague and that class issues, not racial issues, remain the most significant stumbling block to achieving real social reform. When slogans like "40 Acres and a Bentley" are seriously discussed, it is no wonder that a majority of middle-class America is suspicious of reparations.
How would reparations help schools? How might they foster economic opportunities for the impoverished? The answers to these questions are crucial. The idea of issuing a check to every African American is a notion as ridiculous as it would be ineffectual.
There should be little argument about the devastating cultural consequences we as a nation have suffered as a direct result of slavery. Legal action to help reverse centuries of discrimination is perhaps the best strategy. But as Ince suggests, the refusal of the well-to-do, both white and black, to get involved weakens the movement's political potential. For reparations to work, class barriers must be overcome. Given the the "earn your way" ethos of our middle class, it will be some time before reparations and real social reform is a reality for African Americans.
GRAVES END, HEBRON
Thank you, Sylvana Foa, for pointing out the eerie prevalence of Brooklyn accents in the hills of the West Bank [Letter From Israel, May 28]. Last summer, while working in Israel, I met a group of young Orthodox girls from Brooklyn who had been sent by their religious community back home on a covert mission. This mission involved the "reclaiming" of the supposed grave sites of Judaism's foremothers and forefathers.
Hosted by various Jewish settlements, these young zealots, protected by Israeli soldiers, would enter the Palestinian town of Hebron and attempt to clean up the desecrated grave sites, which had been graffitied in Arabic and were a common site of burning tires. The girls hardly understood the political ramifications of what they were doing, yet they were highly praised by the Brooklyn Orthodox community for their "courageous" actions. How a group of Brooklyn teenage girls ended up in a shooting zone in a Palestinian town under IDF protection is a question that has been gnawing at me since I left last summer, and I appreciate Foa for raising the issue.
A THORN GROWS IN BROOKLYN
I've found Sylvana Foa's writing about Israel and the Middle East conflict to be honest and balanced, not to mention refreshing and witty. However, I found her Letter From Israel titled "Blame Brooklyn" to be missing some important facts.
It is true that fundamentalist settlers from Brooklyn have been nothing but a plague on Israel and its efforts to make peace with its neighbors. I agree that the settlers' attitudes and actions are a danger to Israeli democracy and regional stability. But one has to ask: Did these people show up uninvited?
The answer is no. Successive Israeli governments, both Likud and Labor, encouraged them to come to Israelcynically manipulating them and their land-grabbing zealotry for their own agendas. The settlements may be a thorn in the side for the average Israeli, but for many Israeli politicians they have been a strategic bargaining chip with neighbors, a religious fig leaf for secular territorial ambitions, and a rallying point for right-wing and ultra-Orthodox constituents.
I applaud Foa for educating American readers about Israeli resentment toward the settlers. Mainstream media, with its inability to report complexity and its anti-Israel bias, will never tell this story. But you can't blame it all on Brooklyn: Foa should also tell us who brought these schmucks to Israel, and why.
OUR MAN IN PALESTINE
Although depressing, Kareem's Fahim's "Letter From Jenin" [May 28] and "Letter From Palestine" [June 4] mark a refreshing change from the skewed coverage prevailing in our media and from the censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech that students increasingly face at universities across the nation. I really appreciate the effort that the Voice is making to provide balanced coverage of the Mideast conflict. I hope that your paper continues to strive for balance.
Bloomfield, New Jersey
I am enjoying the articles by Kareem Fahim. Can these weekly "letters" giving us a glimpse of day-to-day life in Palestine continue indefinitely?
IRE ON THE MOUNTAIN
R.C. Baker's article on Yucca Mountain was right on target ["Deep Time, Short Sight," June 4]. The science (hydrology and geology) show that site doesn't workit leaks. So the politicians have suggested an "engineered" solution. The best current solution is to leave the waste at the point of generation and not expose thousands of people to radiation during transport and the possible risk of terrorism.
St. Louis, Missouri
I am a New York native who was in the Yucca Valley, California, library when I read R.C. Baker's article about the nuclear threat to Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
Have you ever sought shade beside a Mojave yucca? These shrublike trees with bayonet leaves can grow 16 feet high, and often develop in clusters that are joined at the base, as a desert survival strategy. That this large plant survives at all in the desert is awesome to me.
Not coincidentally, this magnificent regional species is being destroyed, like Yucca Mountain, because some people think the open spaces are an endless resource. Sadly, they are not.
There should be an investigation into the environmental destruction of the Southwest.
Joshua Tree, California
CLOSE-UP ON ARTHUR AVENUE
In Robert Sietsema's article "And 20 Things to Eat: 10 Summer Food Destinations" [June 4], he writes about "pair[ing] a visit to the New York Botanical Garden . . . with a southward trek to the Bronx's famous Albanian neighborhood, Arthur Avenue."
Arthur Avenue is a world-famous Italian neighborhood. It has been for the last 100 years. You can find references to it in movies such as The Godfather and A Bronx Tale. Ask any guy on Mulberry Street where the best Italian food comes from besides Little Italy and he will say two words: "Arthur Avenue."
The Albanian neighborhood is centered along Pelham Parkway, where I live, on the other side of the Botanical Garden.
Robert Sietsema replies: In 2000, I reviewed three self-identified Albanian restaurants in Belmont, two of them on Arthur Avenue. As documented in the Times and elsewhere, the Albanian takeover of Italian businesses in the neighborhood was then pervasive, and has continued in the intervening years. This represents the natural immigrant succession in the neighborhood. My intent in calling Arthur Avenue a famous Albanian neighborhood was facetious, but the assertion is, in fact, accurate.
DEFAULT IS IN OUR STARS
I love your Free Will Astrology column. I read it every week. But why does Rob Brezsny always skimp on Capricorns? He seems to disregard us. Perhaps I am exaggerating, but there appears to be more compassion for the other signs!
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