Interesting lead article by "M.T." in last week's issue ["AA Unmasked"]. However, the experience of not being able to share about drugs in AA has not been the case for me for the past 23 years, of which I've been clean and sober 17. I've had two major relapsesboth after I quit attending meetings and keeping in touch. Thank God I was welcomed back with open arms after the two years I spent shooting coke and drinking.
"M.T.," the author of "AA Unmasked," clearly hasn't spent much time at AA meetings in New York City. Having attended hundreds of meetings at perhaps 40 locations over a 10-year period in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I encountered antagonism to sharing about drug problems at exactly two of them.
Virtually all AA members younger than 50 whom I have met have had both alcohol and drug problems, and they spoke about these problems openly at meetings. AA may not be for everybody, but it is certainly a more inclusive program than M.T. made it sound.
It was so good to see the article "AA Unmasked" by M.T. I became addicted to heroin when I was 15 years old. I was never able to stay clean for more than 30 days at a time, and, yes, I have been told to "stop sharing" about drugs at AA meetings. Fortunately, I finally found Narcotics Anonymousalthough not until after I had been arrested, lost all of my friends, pawned all of my possessions, and almost died from endocarditis as a result of injecting with unsterile needles. I have been clean ever since I started going to NA.
It's tragic to see newcomer addicts ostracized in AA. We need to remember that this is a matter of life and death, and get over our pretensions about what chemicals we used.
Editor's Note: Because "AA Unmasked" prompted an unusual amount of reader mail, more letters will be printed in next week's issue. In deference to the practice of AA and other 12-step fellowships, the names of letter writers who are involved in such programs are withheld to protect their identities.
THE GREAT WALL
Thank you for Erik Baard and Rebecca Cooney's article, " China's Kidney Transplant Trade" [May 8]. I was appalled, but not surprised. My husband's family is involved with charity work for an orphanage in Nepal. Our last major donation was not used to bring better food, clothing, or education to the youngsters. Rather, it was used to build a security wall around the orphanage so that "organ thieves" couldn't kidnap the children to harvest their organs. I hope this article reaches people who will be able to help put a stop to this abhorrent practice.
Re Erik Baard and Rebecca Cooney's article: "Harvesting" organs from death-row convicts is extremely disturbing, but what is more gruesome is that children are kidnapped for their organs in China. I am an ethnic Uyghur from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. I have heard many stories of young Uyghur children being kidnapped for their organs. Uyghur children are easy prey because they do not speak Chinese, making it easy to move them around China without being discovered.
Uyghur American Association
Princeton, New Jersey
CROSSING THE LINE
I have just finished Michael Kamber's series on Poblano migrants and the journey from the village to the city ["Crossing to the Other Side," April 17-May 3]. This steady drain, which is brought on as much by U.S. foreign economic policy as by the corruption of the Mexican government, is hardly new. I have witnessed the depopulation of Chignahuapan and Zacatlan de las Manzanas, small towns in the northern sierra of the state of Puebla where my family has lived for centuries. I wonder if the image conveyed of rural southern Mexico does not color the reader's view of a now visible minority of Mexicans in New York City.
I found Kamber's view of the migrants, who are largely indigenous, infantilizing. They are stereotyped as simpleminded and childlike, happy to watch color television and talk of answering machines as strange and magical devices.
Mexican history and culturewhose complexity defies the North American tendency to pigeonhole movements, ethnic groups, and political alliancesis dynamic. I fear that the tone of articles such as Kamber's introduces a new ethnic stereotype to readers of The Village Voice. ¡Que viva Puebla!
Paul Eduard Sweeney Perez
Los Angeles, California
Michael Kamber replies: Over three and a half months, I extensively documented the bravery of Poblanos in the face of physical danger, the loneliness and emotional pain they suffer as a result of this exodus, their perseverance in the face of brutal 70-hour work weeks. Culture shock is indeed a theme in my seriesto not explore this would be dishonestbut nowhere are Poblanos disparaged. I have only respect for those who risk their lives to come north.
Re Peter Noel's article "The 'Wrongs' of 'Mr. Civil Rights'" [May 8]: Of course Reverend Jesse Jackson was immoral for fathering a child outside of his marriage. From what I read in Noel's article, Jackson owes Canaan Baptist Church an apology. However, this is a clear attempt to divide African Americans and create a feeling that Reverend Jackson is no longer worthy of praise for the strides he has made. If black folks let this perception of division go on, making it larger than it really is, they do their race and Reverend Jackson a great injustice. Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker should have kept his disappointment between God, Reverend Jackson, and himself.
Sheila Reed Findlay
TO A TEE
Re "The 'Wrongs' of 'Mr. Civil Rights' ": It's about time! With the revelation by Peter Noel of Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker's overt and specific denunciation of Jesse Jackson's 30 years of duplicity, perhaps the monolithic community of black leaders will finally be motivated to condemn people like Jackson without fear of being called "self-hating blacks," "Uncle Toms," etc. No group can ever gain credibility if they fear and reject any and all self-critique.
I hope that African Americans throughout the country will now realize that the few blacks who've had the temerity to be critical of Jackson and his ilk have been expressing nothing but love for their community and desire for its betterment. They've been demonized much too long, and deserve recognition and acceptance. Kudos to Mr. Noel.
IMITATION OF LIFE
I appreciated Sharon Lerner's article on homosexual conversion therapies and the recent focus on youngsters ["Straightness 101," May 8]. I went through six years of ex-gayness myself, and have met virtually every ex-gay spokesperson mentioned in Lerner's article. I finally came out at age 28. Although I still believe that ex-gayness should be an option for those who have the ability to choose it for themselves, I think that in most cases manipulations that are encouraged by groups like Focus on the Family are damaging.
I grew up feeling loved, but also like a second-class citizen. It was incredibly damaging to my self-esteem and confidence. It is discouraging to read that a more streamlined approach is being taken to masculinize boys who may not be so in the traditional sense.
If I've learned anything in my life, it is that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Imitation is suicide."
David G. Christie
THE ACCEPTANCE WORLD
Reading Sharon Lerner's article "Straightness 101," I was alarmed. Since I direct a gay and lesbian youth center, I am reminded on a daily basis about what gay youth have to deal with.
The pressures of growing up are challenging for all young people, but even more so for young gays. Gay youths are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. In addition, the overwhelming majority of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths report feeling isolated from not only their friends, but their families as well.
In our area, we provide a safe environment for these youths to be themselves. Despite the uneducated ignorance referenced in Lerner's article, it is acceptable to be gay. People should not try to change these youths. They must be accepted for who they are.
Jack Bishop, Executive Director
The Phoenix-Rainbow Youth Center
I'd like to thank Sinclair Rankin for the story on the New York City Yo-Yo Open Tournament at NYU ["The Kings of String," May 8]. As a yo-yo judge described by Rankin as a "sort of ambassador for the sport," I thought the article did a decent job of re-creating the laid-back atmosphere of the event. Although there were quite a few points where Rankin went out of his way to be mean, the article was interesting, and maybe because of it more folks will know about yo-yoing and be able to embrace its geekiness.
Brian Roberts ("Dr. Popular")
BACK TO BRECHT
In the April 17 edition, the Voice published a letter from Ngo Than Nhan stating his opinions on the long-standing conflict between the SoHo Alliance and the Asian produce merchants on Broome Street. The letter was headlined "Brecht on Broome," and was signed by Mr. Nhan as "Member, Board of Directors, The Brecht Forum," giving the strong impression that this was an official organizational position.
The Brecht Forum is proud to have been recognized in the Voice's "Best Of" issue [October 3, 2000] as "the best place to start thinking about the revolution," in part because of the many activists on our board. However, as a board, we have not taken a position on this particular controversy, and in this instance, Mr. Nhan was speaking solely for himself. The letter should have made it clear that Mr. Nhan's signature was for identification purposes only, and did not represent a formal position taken by the board of the Brecht Forum.
Nan Rubin, Co-Chair
Board of Directors
The Brecht Forum
The film reviews in the article "Smackdown" by Ed Park [May 15] are truly swell. Gawd . . . I sure have been missing that most invertebrate of textual fun . . . you know, wit. Blessed by St. Dorothy Parker, he is.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Re "Banned in the U.S.A.: Annals of Dicks, Drugs, and the Devil" [May 8]: While mentioning the Mentors in print is always a good thing, getting the facts right is even better. The song Tricia Romano quotes ("bend up and smell my anal vapor/Your face is my toilet paper") is called "Golden Showers," not "Anal Vapor." It is on the disgusting but mildly amusing album You Axed for It. The late El Duce thanks you for your diligence.
GONNERMAN WINS BERGER PRIZE
Staff writer Jennifer Gonnerman has won the Mike Berger Prize for her article "Life on the Outside," which appeared in The Village Voice of December 26, 2000. The prize committee noted that the article reported on a seldom seen side of life in New York: a family coming to grips with the legacy of imprisonment. The 18,000-word piece followed Elaine Bartlett for a year after her release from Bedford Hills prison in Westchester County, where she had spent 16 years.
This is the second consecutive year a Voice writer has won the Berger prize. Last year, it was won by former staff writer Guy Trebay. Trebay also won the Berger award in 1982.
FEINGOLD NAMED ARTS FELLOW
Theater critic Michael Feingold has been named a senior fellow of the National Arts Journalism Program. Feingold is one of four senior fellows named by the NAJP for 2001-2002. The fellowship is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and awarded by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in association with the Columbia School of the Arts.
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