Monday, July 18, 2016


 Richard Wright’s 1940 provocative novel, “Native Son,” could be the narrative for current events as racial strife continues unabated.  Here are the thoughts of the central character, pursued by the law, in Wright’s novel:
“Why should not this cold white world rise up as a beautiful dream in which he could walk and be at home, in which it would be easy to tell what to do and what not to do?  If only someone had gone before and lived or suffered or died—made it so that it could be understood!

(Thank you Janet in the UM OLLI class on civil rights where you provided a bibliography that led to the Wright novel. dz)          

Thursday, July 14, 2016


BLOOMINGTON — Racial diversity is coming to this 150 year old suburb and the city is attempting to update it’s 20-year plan to integrate non-white residents into the community.  Presently almost half of local kindergarten students are non-whites.
At a meeting Wednesday night in the cafeteria of Kennedy High School, city staffers attempted to get feedback from a few residents in a room with tiny backless stools (hard on the back), no air conditioning and no microphone.  Only one person of color attended this meeting.  (I left after 45 back wrenching minutes, straining to hear the presentation.)
From what I gathered they were looking for suggestions that might promote integration.  I suggested the annual Labor Day carnival and classic car show at Bonaventure Catholic Church as the kind of event that would attract a diverse audience.  (I go every year.)
Besides racial diversity assimilation, the outlook is poor for infrastructure with 74 percent of the sewer pipes and almost as many water mains at least 45 years old.  More than half the park buildings need repairs or replacements.

The city sends out a newsletter periodically that non-English readers would find useless.  The city’s cable TV channel might be of interest.  

The main character in the 2012 film “The Master” is reminiscent of today’s headlines where a mentally disturbed man is released from the military and can’t or won’t fit into mainstream society.  It’s about a man lost, lonely and looking for a family, any family.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix plays the obsessed sailor post World War II who drifts into a religious cult where its messiah is portrayed by Philip Seymour Kaufman.  The cult leader is amused by the deranged man whom he calls an animal but other cult members, including his wife played by Amy Adams, see the man as “insane” and a danger.  
The sailor is a poor candidate for cult membership because he refuses to follow the messiah and in the end is rejected.  The story is thin but the character development and acting are great.  If the movie had been made 40 years ago Orson Welles would be the messiah and Richard Widmark would be the crazy guy.

Parts of this book are interesting, but author Gail Lumet Buckley lacks focus and it’s not an easy read.  Buckley is the daughter of African American singer Lena Horne.  The book traces the history of a successful African American family post-slavery with emphasis on Horne’s story and civil rights.  Less would have been more.

Monday, July 11, 2016


After the latest in a series of cop vs. African American shooting this past week, it’s apparent that status quo politics won’t reform police departments or get guns off the street.  While people demonstrated in frustration in front of the Governor’s Mansion, they were preaching to the choir since Gov. Dayton has identified the shooting as being related to racial profiling.  
The demonstrators need to take their act to Isanti County and plea at the home of Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt to pass police reform legislation.  We need to elect people to the Legislature and Congress who support gun control and police reform.
Meanwhile, county and city governments are silent.  The county attorney probably will call a grand jury which never indicts police in these Twin Cities police shootings.  More anger will ensue.
(From Pioneer Press:)  DFL Party African American Caucus board secretary Kelis Houston said “she wants to see a stop to the endless circle of protection for police…The mayor has the power to address the union contract which protects them, and if the mayor doesn’t have the power, the governor does.”  (But the governor needs enabling legislation.)
Although the governor got some money from the legislature this session to address African American poverty issues, more needs to be done to level the playing field.

It’s been almost 50 years since the 1967 violent Plymouth Avenue riot in North Minneapolis, and the road ahead does not look promising unless we get some new voices in positions of power here. 
Stupid whites can be presidential advisors or anything they want to be, an African American woman observes in the 1979 black comedy “Being There” wherein a witless gardener becomes either the new Messiah or the next president.  The mindless utterings of Chauncey Gardiner will resonate with some who are following the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Besides this Hal Ashby masterpiece, have a look at Tim Robbins mockumentary on U.S. politics, “Bob Roberts.”
It’s a long hot summer so have a few yuks.

OLLI member Don Wilkie, a 16mm movie collector, is showing part of his collection of westerns this summer at a local senior apartment complex.  Wilkie has been active in the western movie collectors’ association and is conversant on the history of poverty row studios.  His summer showings are from the LIppert Studio and included “Marshal of Heldorado” (1950) with the handsome James Ellison who was the romantic lead in the 40s Fox musical “The Gang’s All Here.”  
Wilkie has been featured in the Austin and suburban Sun newspapers here.  I thought I was quaint collecting VHS movies, but Wilkie reaches back to a time when you could get 16mm movies from local rental libraries, much like the Blockbusters that went bust.