Links To Truth

Thank you to Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway for the article "Democracy in Chains" [December 5]. I have been searching the media for coverage of what to me is the most important aspect of the election in Florida: the systematic disenfranchisement of people of color. I am dismayed that the Democrats have latched onto the butterfly ballot—an inadvertent irregularity—and ignored racist tactics that are among the ugliest legacies of our system, which we all need to work to change. Thanks for covering this important story when our officials and the rest of the media are letting us down.

Kelcey Jacobsen
Santa Rosa, California

Well-written article by Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway. Let me tell you a story my mother told me when I was starting first grade. She said that our great-great-great uncle had been a slave. One day, the slave master came to him and told him to take a note to a neighboring slave master's plantation. Suspicious of the note, he stopped by a slave woman's cabin and asked her to read the note. It said, "Kill this nigger." Hearing the story, I understood that my life depended on learning how to read. It was not my enemy's job to ensure my survival—it was my mother and father's job, and they did it well.

Black people have been lulled into complacency by the Democrats. Until Black folks in Duval County recognize that they are living on a psychological plantation, they will remain disenfranchised.

Media Wright
Reno, Nevada

Back To Florida

Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway's article on black voters being thwarted at the polls contained some shortcomings. In particular, the statement that the creation of majority-black districts would partly fulfill "the prediction of Marcus Garvey, who argued the only way for black people truly to be free was to found a nation-state of their own" does not seem logical. All-black districts would actually waste votes by clustering black citizens.

If blacks represent a certain percentage of voters in a district, then the fairest representation would be maximum turnout. If you are not the majority, then you must turn out. Why not have the black voice heard in all districts and as loudly as possible?

In addition, the authors seem to have gotten carried away with showing how well versed they are in black studies and missed providing solutions for the problems mentioned. How about less rhetoric and more substance?

Daniel Sheets
Athens, Georgia

Re the piece by Laura Conaway and James Ridgeway: Why blame white people for the fact that blacks in Duval County have a low reading level? I grew up in the inner city and chose to not be a functional illiterate. There were no white people holding me back from pursuing my education. We must stop making excuses for failure. Blaming the evil white man is unacceptable.

Christopher Oliver

Snow Job

I was disappointed to see James Ridgeway print ridiculous rumors about Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris [Mondo Washington, December 5]. Whether she was Snow White in a Disney parade in the '70s or can stick her entire fist in her mouth is irrelevant to her ability to perform her duties. She should be judged by her job record.

Denise Scott


Peter Noel, in the article "Fear of the Williams Sisters" [November 14], discusses the book Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It by Jon Entine. Entine believes that people of African ancestry have a genetic advantage in sports. Everybody has African ancestry. As an indication of how absurd the argument is, according to Andrea Dworkin's brave new book, Scapegoat, pseudo-scientists in Nazi Germany regarded the Jews as a separate "dark" race; Entine describes himself as a liberal Jew.

Ishmael Reed
Berkeley, California

Sisterly Advice

Reading Peter Noel's article "Race and Class" [November 28] about Yaa Asantewa Nzingha, I was deeply disturbed by the methods she used to supposedly empower her African American students. As a high school teacher, I try my best to teach my students to question what they see and read without giving my opinion. If they ask for my opinion, I am honest with them, and I explain that they have every right to disagree with me.

As an English teacher, I want my students to think and question for themselves and to form legitimate arguments to support opinions that they have. Although Nzingha has her own opinions about how African Americans should identify themselves, true empowerment comes from allowing young people to express themselves, without preaching to them. As an African-Latino American, I support any teacher who takes students beyond the constrictions of what society has embedded in their minds.  

I am not going to deny what my ancestors have done for this country, or my connection to what my ancestors built. However, if I had children, I would not want to have a teacher telling them that they are African and not American. To Ms. Nzingha: Get your shit correct, sister. You know how people think we still abide by CP (Colored People) time. If you are going to make some noise, make sure they have absolutely nothing against you (i.e., latenesses and absences).

Mercy Tullis

Required Reading

Peter Noel's article "Race and Class" should be read and addressed by public school officials nationwide.

Africans in America (in contrast to African Americans) are "Americans" geographically and legally but not "Americans" psycho-spiritually, the latter reflecting the highest connotation of nationhood. In essence, we Blacks, as a distinct ethnic group, have not been permitted to "belong" to America, denying us a "basic need" as identified by the late renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow. And the entire racist, oppressive history of America supports this fact. Accordingly, those "educators" who are persecuting our beautiful Black sister are grossly misguided in their efforts. For she is being blamed for teaching a fact that, at least in part, has been created and sustained through public and private policies in this sick, racist society.

Minister Dr. Gyasi A. Foluke
Charlotte, North Carolina

'Discovering' Harlem

Re Chris Nutter's article "Home Boys" [November 21]: It's amazing (though not surprising) how the gay white community continues the long and undistinguished history of what we call "discovery and appropriation" so often exhibited by their heterosexual counterparts. In this instance, go to a place that's predominantly black, move in, act like it was nothing before you "discovered" it, and then claim that you are bringing some kind of culture to the area.

Most same-gender-loving men of color do not identify with a "gay" white culture, and the infestation of gay white men in Harlem is not increasing the number of "gay faces" visible on the streets, as some would like to believe. It is simply adding some "gay white faces" to an already thriving culture that Nutter will never see or understand. The brown, olive, black, and mahogany faces of Harlem's same-gender-loving community have been here all along. You just don't see us. You never have, and you never will.

David Malebranche

'Boys' to Men

Living in the former P.S. 157 since it opened in 1993 and acting as secretary of its tenants' association for four years, I found the labeling of it as "the Gay Building" by a man quoted in Chris Nutter's article "Home Boys" not only offensive but untrue.

The original "faces" of the building changed quickly. When it opened, 90 percent of the residents were African American professionals. Some had the finances to live elsewhere, and chose to do so after numerous problems with the management of the building. Now, it seems, if you are a person of color, you need not apply. Some wonder what happened to waiting lists for people in the community to be awarded future vacancies. How are so many people being displaced in Harlem and in the black community at large when, as Nutter points out, the city has invested over $300 million to create housing?

In addition, I am certain that African Americans who happen to be gay, as well as those who are not, have more important concerns about the African American community of Harlem than whether one can hold his partner's hand or kiss in public, or put his hand on his hip or "sway and strut" down the street.

Dennis J. Kyle

Speaking of Graffiti

Great graffiti article by Richard Goldstein ["The Joy of Bombing," November 28]. It showed another side of the issue for me. I'm an announcer for a radio station in Montreal and have been researching the graffiti-tagging phenomenon, which hit here recently. Ten years ago, there was little. Today it has grown out of control. The city council has proposed ways to curb it, but these artists are still bombing and tagging anything in sight. This is a shocking new trend that most people here do not favor. Listening to talk shows, it is clear they want it contained.  

Before I visited New York recently, I heard the Giuliani administration had done a fair job of containing graffiti. I found most of lower and midtown Manhattan cleaned up, but other areas are wall-to-wall. They seem to have concentrated on tourist sites and neglected other areas.

Marty Lamarre
Montreal, Canada

On Liberty

My compliments to Richard Goldstein for his well-conceived and accurate article "The Joy of Bombing." When I was a young kid in Brooklyn during the early 1980s, I remember quite clearly seeing a streak of bright pink spray on a train window made translucent by the light. When asked by my grandmother, who was riding with me, what my favorite color was, I inevitably replied "pink." I recall how visible graffiti was during that time on all the subway train cars and in P.S. 225, where I went to school. What a status symbol it was for the boys to go up to the el tracks and write graffiti!

John Stuart Mill wrote that the overall health of a society is dependent on how many eccentrics it has. In terms of graffiti, and contemporary society, I would add, how many "dissidents."

Brandie Fitzgerald

Broom Shtick

I would like to add something to Kyle Gann's review of my piece Rama Broom, which was premiered by pianist Kathleen Supové at NYU ["Resignating With the Audience," December 5]. Mr. Gann was unsure of the sentence that Ms. Supové was speaking and "permutating." I don't blame him, as nobody can be sure until the end of the piece, when the sentence is finally spoken in non-permutated order (although one knowing chuckle was heard about a minute before the end from a listener who presumably caught on earlier). The phrase, derived from a homicidal fantasy of Ms. Supové's, is, "Ram a broomstick 400 times up."

Nick Didkovsky

The Best and the Brightest

Thanks to Tom Robbins for a splendidly accurate portrayal of my brother, Lars-Erik Nelson ["He Was the Best of New York," December 5]. His family is comforted by the love, admiration, and respect shown by his colleagues in the newspaper business.

Nils-Peter Nelson
Martinsville, New Jersey

Memorial Service For Pat Hearn

A memorial service for Pat Hearn, one of Manhattan's leading art dealers during the 1980s and '90s, will be held on Thursday, December 14, at 2:30 p.m. at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery, Second Avenue and 10th Street.

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