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Bard Fiction Prize 

June 15, 2017
Cash Prize: 

E-mail address: 

A prize of $30,000 and a one-semester appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College is given annually to a U.S. fiction writer under the age of 40. The recipient must give at least one public lecture and meet informally with students but is not expected to teach traditional courses. Submit three copies of a published book of fiction, a cover letter, and a curriculum vitae by June 15. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Bard College, Bard Fiction Prize, P.O. Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. (845) 758-7087.






February 23rd, 2014

February 23rd, 2014



crime jazz

When we think of film noir, we tend to think of a mood best set by a look: shadow and light (mostly shadow), grim but visually rich weather, near-depopulated urban streets. You’ll see plenty of that pulled off at the height of the craft in the movies that make up “noirchaeologist” Eddie Muller’s list of 25 noir pictures that will endure, which we featured last week. But what will you hear? Though no one compositional style dominated the soundtracks of films noirs, you’ll certainly hear more than a few solid pieces of crime jazz. Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, writing about Rhino’s eponymous compilation album, defines this musical genre as “jazzy theme music from 1950s TV shows and movies in which very bad people do very bad things.” She links to PopCult’s collection of classic crime jazz soundtrack album covers, from The Third Man to Charade (the best Hitchcock film, of course, that Hitchcock never made), to The Man With the Golden Arm, all as evocative as the music itself.

“Previously, movie music meant sweeping orchestral themes or traditional Broadway-style musicals,” says PopCult. “But with the growing popularity of bebop and hard bop as the sound of urban cool, studios began latching onto the now beat as a way to make their movies seem gritty or ‘street.'” At, Alan Kurtz writes about the spread of crime jazz from straight-up film noir to all sorts of productions having to do with life outside the law: “In movies and TV, jazz accompanied the entire sordid range of police-blotter behavior, from gambling, prostitution and drug addiction to theft, assault, murder and capital punishment.” Get yourself in the spirit of all those midcentury degeneracies and more with the tracks featured here, all of which will take you straight to an earlier kind of mean street: the theme from The M Squad, “two minutes of mayhem by Count Basie and his mob of heavies”; Miles Davis’ “Au Bar du Petit Bac,” improvised by Davis and his Parisian band against Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows; and Ray Anthony’s “Peter Gunn Theme,” a “quickie cover” that “beat Henry Mancini’s original to the punch.”

And finally we have Duke Ellington’s score for Anatomy of a Murder, directed by Otto Preminger in 1959.









photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear



i have the smile of my great-grandmother seeing the end of slavery

& you have the hairline of an uncle/an aunt

who never pressed nor otherwise chemically altered their hair


only fools don’t intimately know ghosts,

the dna of humanity, leaping like porpoises slick out of the sea

and back into our walks, our mannerisms, the way we giggle

when nervous, blush when aroused, or spit fire words

in sputtering ocher anger facing back the cannibalism of capitalism


ghosts are

just spirits fluttering angel breaths thru our corpuscles

the wing hum of hummingbirds motivating us to sound

snatches of remembered songs, lyrics formerly unheard

in this lifetime, psychicly transmuted across eras,

mali melodies maintained, aural treasures from our undying befores


face east young people, face east

imagine each line in your hand an ancestor

how well do you know the thoroughness of yesterday,

the arching influence of the previous century, the retrograde

of rationality, so slow compared to the velocity

of history smashing into the protons of personality


imagine, your voice is the texture of sun yat sen singing

a freedom song, your social erectness the reincarnate posture

of sitting bull standing barefoot his clear eyes kissing dark earth,

imagine, your breath the aroma of emiliano zapata biting the bullet

of revolution and spitting fire on the butts of robber barons

and dark-faced overseers who are the psychological sons

of simon legree in their twisted brutality towards their own people,

the definance of your unsurrendering war stance could be ghana’s

yaa asantewa hurling up the west coast facing down british bullets

confident that the religion of resistance will always outlive

the technology of repression, you could be the heroics of history,

a phantasmagoria of sacred strugglers vivifying the surge

of timeless protoplasm which careens through your veins

and gives substance to the willfulness of your animated engagement

with the omnivorous enemies of the planet earth


ghosts are

sacred illuminations coloring our stratagems and meditations,

they are the realization of sanity, the moment we truly understand

just how wicked the west actually is, the translucent

lights on the front porches of our spirits beckoning, guiding our

soft footsteps on the path, heading back homeward bound

dancing into the social circle of our collective selves


ghosts remind us

each individual is more than one, a communal hope chest

of ancient dreams actualized in the present


i believe in ghosts, i do

because i would be soulless matter otherwise

i would be some french rationalist trying to intellectually manufacture

& market the focus of life as the ego of thought, would be

some compassionless corporate ceo with spiritual arthritis

uninformed by the blessings of sharing, while pretending

that material possessions elevate morality as if you are what you own

rather than are what you do/be in relation to others and the world



do not like vaults and crypts, nor fences and forts

real ghosts prefer sensitive personalities and wild open spaces,

every time we inhale a leaf shakes,

a tree or a weed offers us breath

give thanks to the grass for our daily inhalations


i am not a mystic

but i know there are ghosts

in the fecund topsoil which progress

callously covers with concrete,

i understand the reality that dust and dirt are airborne bones

pulverized by time into tiny particles


a rose by any other name is still the collected essence

of our forebearers grown through the life cycle into a fragrant state

of petal soft beauty on a bud whose shape is nature’s re-creation

of the vaginal portal, whose redness is an honoring

of feminine life force and the blood value of matriarchy


if you do not believe in ghosts

where do you think your spirit will be

when the corporeal temple of your familiar

crumbles into seemingly insignificant pebbles of peat, or

when your temporal sanctuary dehydrates

once disconnected from the moisturizing of life’s cosmic juice,

when the way station of your flesh altar no longer receives offerings

& when you revert to what you were before your human being

was conceived and made flesh via the union of your parents,

won’t you be a ghost then?


there are literally millions of lives in your little finger


the karma of colonialism will not be undone

not unless and until the ghosts that reside

in the hosts of color worldwide can find a culture

which resonates daily contentment,


there will be no end to the wandering search for the promised land

unless and until ghosts can live

inside the wholeness of beating hearts synchronized

in embracement, respecting the healing touch

of every manifestation of life no matter how small, obscure,

or ostensibly insignificant,


no calming the tempest,

no mediation of the disruption of our heritage

not unless and until ghosts can emigrate

into a peace filled community of souls such as we

ought to be, vessels of awareness, responsible in our openness

to offer wholesome residences for the motion flow

of history seeking future,


there will always be a wailing issuing out our mouths

unless and until ghosts can live and

comfortably reside, live, and rest inside, rest

in peace, rest in us






























 —kalamu ya salaam





Kalamu ya Salaam – vocals


Stephan Richter – bass clarinet


Wolfi Schlick – tenor & reeds


Frank Bruckner – guitar


Roland HH Biswurm – drums




Recorded: May 31, 1998 – Munich, Germany











AUGUST 6, 2015

AUGUST 6, 2015




Who Was

Jim Crow?

Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act
targeted the laws and practices

of Jim Crow. Here’s where the name
came from.


Men carry the coffin of Jim Crow through the streets to protest racial discrimination in 1944. / PHOTOGRAPH BY CORBIS

Men carry the coffin of Jim Crow through the streets to protest racial discrimination in 1944. / PHOTOGRAPH BY CORBIS

In 1944, the Detroit chapter of the NAACP held a mock-funeral for him. In 1963, participants in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom symbolically buried him. Racial discrimination existed throughout the United States in the 20th century, but it had a special name in the South—Jim Crow.

Fifty years ago this Thursday, President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to bury Jim Crow by signing the the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. The Voting Rights Act and its predecessor, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, fought racial discrimination in the South by banning segregation in public accommodations and outlawing the poll taxes and tests that were used to stop African Americans from voting.

Today, we still use “Jim Crow” to describe that system of segregation and discrimination in the South. But the system’s namesake isn’t actually southern. Jim Crow came from the North.



Thomas Dartmouth Rice, a white man, was born in New York City in 1808. He devoted himself to the theater in his twenties, and in the early 1830s, he began performing the act that would make him famous: he painted his face black and did a song and dance he claimed were inspired by a slave he saw. The act was called “Jump, Jim Crow” (or “Jumping Jim Crow”).

“He would put on not only blackface makeup, but shabby dress that imitated in his mind—and white people’s minds of the time—the dress and aspect and demeanor of the southern enslaved black person,” says Eric Lott, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class and professor of English and American Studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Rice’s routine was a hit in New York City, one of many of places in the North where working-class whites could see blackface minstrelsy, which was quickly becoming a dominant form of theater and a leading source for popular music in America. Rice took his act on tour, even going as far as England; and as his popularity grew, his stage name seeped into the culture.

“‘Jumping Jim Crow’ and just ‘Jim Crow’ generally sort of became shorthand—or one shorthand, anyway—for describing African Americans in this country,” says Lott.

“So much so,” he says, “that by the time of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was twenty years later in 1852,” one character refers to another as Jim Crow. (In a strange full-circle, Rice later played Uncle Tom in blackface stage adaptations of the novel, which often reversed the book’s abolitionist message.)

Regardless of whether the term “Jim Crow” existed before Rice took it to the stage, his act helped popularize it as a derogatory term for African Americans. To call someone “Jim Crow” wasn’t just to point out his or her skin color: it was to reduce that person to the kind of caricature that Rice performed on stage.

An 1860 profile of T.D. Rice, published after his death, mentions the conflicting accounts of who may have inspired his Jim Crow act, and where he first performed it. / PHOTOGRAPH BY CORBIS

An 1860 profile of T.D. Rice, published after his death, mentions the conflicting accounts of who may have inspired his Jim Crow act, and where he first performed it. / PHOTOGRAPH BY CORBIS


After the Civil War, southern states passed laws that discriminated against newly freed African Americans; and as early as the 1890s, these laws had gained a nickname. In 1899, North Carolina’s Goldsboro Daily Argus published an article subtitled “How ‘Capt. Tilley’ of the A. & N.C. Road Enforces the Jim Crow Law.”

“Travelers on the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad during the present month have noted the drawing of the color line in the passenger coaches,” reported the paper. “Captain Tilley … is unceasing in his efforts to see that the color line, otherwise the Jim Crow law, is literally and fearfully enforced.”  

Experts don’t really know how a racist performance in the North came to represent racist laws and policies in the South. But they can speculate.

Since the phrase originated in blackface minstrelsy, Lott says that it’s almost “perversely accurate … that it should come to be the name for official segregation and state-sponsored racism.”

“I think probably in the popular white mind,” he says, “it was just used because that’s just how they referred to black people.”

“Sometimes in history a movie comes out or a book comes out and it just changes the language … and you can point at it,” says David Pilgrim, Director of the Jim Crow Museum and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Ferris State University.

“And in just this case,” he says, “I think it just evolved. And I think it was from many sources.”

However it happened, the new meaning stuck. Blackface minstrelsy’s popularity faded (but never died) and T.D. Rice is barely remembered. Most people today don’t know his name. But everybody knows Jim Crow.






21 May 2017

21 May 2017




The struggles of

war babies

fathered by

black GIs


Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

About 100,000 black GIs were stationed in the UK during the war. Inevitably there were love affairs, but US laws usually prevented black servicemen from marrying. So what happened to the children they fathered? Fiona Clampin met two such children in Dorset, now in their seventies, who have not given up hope of tracing their fathers.

A bottle of champagne has sat on a shelf in Carole Travers’s wardrobe for the past 20 years. Wedged between boxes and covered with clothes, it’ll be opened only when Carole finds her father. “There’s an outside chance he might still be alive,” she reflects. “I’ve got so many bits of information, but to know the real truth would mean the world to me – to know that I did belong to somebody.”

The possibility of Carole tracking down her father becomes more and more remote by the day. Born towards the end of World War Two, Carole, now 72, was the result of a relationship between her white mother and a married African-American or mixed-race soldier stationed in Poole, in Dorset.

Whereas some “brown babies” (as the children of black GIs were known in the press) were put up for adoption, Carole’s mother, Eleanor Reid, decided to keep her child. The only problem was, she was already married, with a daughter, to a Scot with pale skin and red hair.

“I had black hair and dark skin,” says Carole. “Something obviously wasn’t right.”

Image copyright CAROLE TRAVERS Image caption Carole Travers with a friend

Image copyright CAROLE TRAVERS
Image caption Carole Travers with a friend

The difference between Carole and her half-siblings only dawned on the young girl at the age of six, when she overheard her parents having an argument. “Does she know? Well, it’s about time she did,” said her stepfather, in Carole’s retelling of the story. She remembers how her mother sat her down at the kitchen table and told Carole the truth about her background.

“I was chuffed I was different,” she says. “I used to tell my friends, ‘My dad’s an America,’ without really knowing what that meant.”

In 1950s Dorset there were very few mixed-race or black children, and having one out of wedlock carried a huge stigma. Although Carole doesn’t remember any specific racist remarks, she recalls the stares. Parents would shush their children when she and her family got on the bus.

Carole says her “blackness” was considered cute when she was a child, but as she grew up she became more aware of her difference. “I remember once being in a club and there was a comedian who started making jokes about black people. I’m stood there and I’m thinking: ‘Everyone’s looking at me,'” she says.

“I always felt inferior. As a teenager, I would stand back, I thought that nobody would ever want to know me because of my colour.

“I was going out with one boy, and his mother found out about me. She put a stop to it because she remarked that if we had kids, they would be ‘coloured’.”

Image copyrightWEYMOUTH REFERENCE LIBRARY Image captionGIs at work in Weymouth harbour

Image captionGIs at work in Weymouth harbour

Seventy-two-year-old John Stockley, another child of an African-American GI stationed further down the Dorset coast in Weymouth, does remember the racial abuse in striking detail.

John was called names to such an extent that at the age of seven he decided he would try to turn his skin pale to be like his classmates.

“I worked out that if I drank milk of magnesia [a laxative] and ate chalk I would make myself go white,” he chuckles. “I think I drank over half the bottle! You can imagine the effect. It wasn’t good and it tasted disgusting.”

In one playground incident a boy insulted him with the N-word and called him “dirty”, but when John thrashed him he found himself summoned to the school office.

“It was a winter’s day in the early 1950s,” John explains.

“I was playing football and I collided with another guy. By this time I was quite fiery, I wouldn’t take it, and a blow was struck. I made his nose bleed. To this day I can see the blood on the snow.

“My mother lived less than 100 yards from the school, and she was summoned to the office with me. I remember her shaking next to me, holding my hand. The secretary told her what had happened and he said to my mother: ‘You have to remember, Mrs Stockley, these people cannot be educated.’ That puts my hackles up now.”

Shocking though the racism seems to us today, it was arguably family life which had a more pernicious effect on these mixed-race children. “Your mum made a mistake,” one of his aunts once told John Stockley.

“The ‘mistake’ is me,” he says.

John’s description of his childhood spent living with his grandparents in a village behind Chesil Beach sounds idyllic. But that’s to ignore the reason why he went there in the first place. Determined to punish his wife for her double transgression, John’s stepfather did not allow him to live in the family home except from Monday to Friday during school term.

Even then, John was not permitted to enter the house by the front door. At weekends he was packed off to his maternal grandparents, who provided him with the stable and loving family life he craved – and a refuge from his stepfather.

“Of course, coming back from the war and finding his wife with a black child must have been a great shock,” John acknowledges.

“And they never had any children together. But there was no love at all for him from me, because of what he did to my mother. She was effectively kept in a position of restraint, and I’d see her go through depression because she wanted to do things she couldn’t.”

John says his stepfather – a gambler and philanderer – exercised control over his mother despite the fact that she ran a successful guesthouse. He decided who John’s mother could or could not be friends with, John says.

“And he didn’t like us to be too close. If some music came on the radio when he wasn’t there, I would dance with her because she loved to jitterbug. But not when he was around. We were told to stop.”

blk gis 04

Carole Travers’s stepfather began divorce proceedings when he found out what his wife had done in his absence. However, when it appeared that he wouldn’t get custody of their daughter (Carole’s half-sister), he returned to the family home and Carole took his surname.

He appeared to accept Carole on the surface, but towards the end of his life he telephoned her and dropped a bombshell. He wouldn’t be leaving her anything in his will, he told her, “because you’re nothing to do with me”.

“The money didn’t matter,” says Carole. “But what he said really hurt me. I told him, ‘You’re my dad, you’ve always been my dad, and you’re the only dad I’ve ever known’.”

Married and with children of her own by this time, Carole started trying to trace her biological father, based on the scraps of information her mother had given her in the weeks before she died. “It just didn’t occur to me to ask questions when I was younger,” she says, the tone of regret in her voice clear.

“My stepfather would always bring me up in any argument with my mother, referring to me as ‘your bastard’, and I learned not to rock the boat. I just got on with my life.”

* * * * * 

Find out more

Image caption - Deborah Prior, front row, in the light dress, lived in Holnicote House in Somerset along with other mixed-race children - the photograph was used to attract potential adoptive parents

Image caption – Deborah Prior, front row, in the light dress, lived in Holnicote House in Somerset along with other mixed-race children – the photograph was used to attract potential adoptive parents

Not all GI babies were able to stay with their mothers. Dr Deborah Prior was born in 1945, to a widow in Somerset and a black American serviceman. Her mother was persuaded to give her up, and for five years Deborah lived in Holnicote House, a special home for mixed-race children. Deborah spoke to Woman’s Hour along with Prof Lucy Bland, who is researching this under-reported chapter of social history.


* * * * *

Like Carole, John Stockley wanted to protect his mother by keeping quiet. “I could see it was going to upset her if I asked too many questions, and upset her was the last thing I was going to do,” he says. He would take his chance occasionally, although his mother would always evade his enquiries. But John remembers with characteristic clarity the last time he brought up the subject of his real father.

“I remember her saying to me in the course of a minor argument between us: ‘You don’t know what I’ve been through because of you.’

“And I said to her: ‘You don’t know what I’ve been through because of you!’ She went pale, and realised what she’d said and how she’d put her foot in it. But we never went any further than that. She just looked at me in a sad sort of way, and I said, ‘Have I ever done anything to make you ashamed of me?’ And she said no. And that was the last we ever spoke about it.”

It was turning 70 that prompted John to start looking for information about his father, whereas Carole has spent almost half her life searching for a man she knows only as “Burt”. Neither of them has many facts to go on – Carole believes her stepfather destroyed the only photos and letters that could have helped her identify Burt. But while their searches may come to nothing, they both take solace from the fact that their mothers loved them against all the odds, and that they were born of loving relationships, not one-night stands.

“My mother told me my father was the only man she ever really loved,” says Carole. “And I’ve had Mum’s friends say to me since her death: ‘Don’t ever feel ashamed of your background, because you were born out of love and your mum wanted you.’ She knew he was going back to America and she wanted something of him, something to hold on to.”









Inside the Head

of Dylann Roof,

Jihadist for

White Hate

Never-before-reported documents
about Roof’s psychological exams
give us a look deep inside the ‘logic’
of this murderous white supremacist
—and terrorists everywhere.




He is the classic “lone wolf,” radicalized in front of
the glowing computer screen in the darkened room
of his own home, brooding over what he reads on
the internet, but going back there again and again
to feed his frustrations, his dreams of glory, his
anger, and his hatred until finally he feels compelled
to act.
He could be the shooter in Orlando’s Pulse
nightclub last June
, or the man who drove a truck
through the crowd on the seaside promenade in
, France, last July; those, too, were people with
no clear links to any terrorist organization (despite
ISIS claims), but long histories as losers who
couldn’t get their lives together.

But those murderers died at the scene of their crimes. This one didn’t have the courage to kill himself, and didn’t emerge from the carnage he inflicted to die in a hail of bullets as he’d expected.

This one was arrested, and confessed, and was interrogated, and given multiple psychological exams. And now the records of those many hours of interviews have been unsealed by a federal court, giving us some of the most detailed information we will ever have about the psychology of a murderous lone wolf—if only we recognize that’s what he is.

The catch is that this terrorist is Dylann Roof, who is not a Muslim. He is the young white supremacist who murdered nine black men and women in a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, one evening in June 2015. And because his atrocity does not fit into the category of “radical Islamic terror,” it’s often assumed his way of thinking must be very different from other lone wolves.

As terrorism authority Peter Bergen points out in his book, United States of Jihad, “By any reasonable standard, the attack on the church in Charleston was terrorism,” but it did not “fit into the political and media narrative that… Muslim militants are the major terrorist problem in the United States.”

As a result, the importance of what can be learned from Roof’s psychological profiles has largely been missed, starting with the fact that while he did not embrace the doctrines of Islam or jihad, he compared himself to those who did, and saw himself very much in the mold of a holy warrior for his own cause.

James C. Ballenger M.D., who conducted multiple interviews with Roof to judge his competency to stand trial and participate in the death penalty hearing that came after it, wrote in January in a just-unsealed evaluation that Roof “stated the best way he has found to explain his thinking is the analogy of being a Jihadist.”

Later in the same interview, Roof “stated clearly that his situation is like a Palestinian in an Israeli jail after killing nine people. He said the Palestinian would not be upset or have any regret, because he would have successfully done what he tried to do.”

Typically, people who engage in terrorist causes, particularly the lone wolves or “stray dogs,” as Rand’s veteran authority on terrorism Brian Jenkins calls them, share at least three basic characteristics.

First there’s testosterone. Almost all are young men, and often very frustrated young men on the edge of society with difficulty holding down jobs and problems as well in their sexual relationships, if they have such relationships at all.

Second, there’s a narrative. This is perhaps the most important and most misunderstood element in the shaping of a terrorist’s thinking. It’s often confused with ideology or with religion, but what’s important is identification with a story in which a people are oppressed and the terrorist sees himself as a hero who comes to the rescue, even if the price of his courage and commitment is martyrdom.

It is no accident that the seminal ideological tract for al Qaeda is Ayman Zawahiri’s Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, or that the so-called caliphate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State tries to cloak its atrocities in the language of ancient chivalry. But this identification with narratives of oppression is not unique to Islamist extremists. One could say the same of terrorists over the years carrying out attacks, for instance, in the name of oppressed Irish Catholics, or downtrodden Tamils, or the peasants of Peru.

And third, the terrorist wants his act to have theatrical impact, projecting his cause and his identification with it on the world stage, a task made much easier today by the prevalence of social media.

What the unsealed psychological evaluations of Dylann Roof show is that this formula of testosterone, narrative, and theater—TNT, if you will—fits his case perfectly.

That does not preclude what several of the evaluations commissioned by Roof’s defense attorneys hoped to prove: that he suffered from psychological problems, even pathologies, some of them on the autism spectrum. But it should be obvious that very few terrorists of any stripe have well-balanced psyches. And Roof is particularly interesting because the tests show he is quite intelligent, with an overall IQ of 125, in the 96th percentile, and even higher verbal comprehension.

So virtually from the moment of his arrest he was able to say what he believed and why he believed it, vile as those beliefs might be.

In his chilling first interview with the FBI, for instance, Roof made no effort to hide his crime, discussing in the most matter-of-fact way precisely how he murdered those nine innocent people at Mother Emanuel Church and making it clear he picked them just because they were black and were easy targets.

“Obviously I realized that these people, they’re at church, they’re not criminals or anything,” he told the FBI, “but the criminal black people kill innocent white people every day.”

That sort of reasoning for attacks on soft targets is common to almost all terrorists: once you have defined your enemy broadly, you can slaughter men, women, and children with what you consider to be moral impunity. Thus, al Qaeda issued its declaration of war in the 1990s against all “crusaders [Christians] and Jews” who supposedly were victimizing Muslims; ISIS added “heretical” Shia Muslims to that roster.

Much of what is revealed in Roof’s psychological evaluations and the hearings that touched on them came to light as a result of his efforts to thwart his own defense attorneys. They wanted to reduce the chance of his receiving the death penalty by presenting testimony about his psychological issues, particularly those related to the autism spectrum. But he wanted none of that.

The portrait that emerged from those defense evaluations is of a young man with very high anxiety, especially about his appearance, and no apparent sexual relationships. He dropped out of high school, preferring to earn a GED alone in his room with his computer. He worried that his head was misshapen (hence the bowl haircut to hide his forehead). He supposedly thought that his testosterone was pooling on one side of his body when he slept, causing further physical problems. He convinced himself that a mild thyroid condition, which was real, caused him to be losing all his hair, including eyelashes and pubic hairs, which he found and counted. He said he would kill himself if he went bald.

Reading through the evaluations, however, Roof starts to look more and more manipulative, at one point even writing to the prosecution suggesting that his defense team should be disbarred, and telling one of the psychologists that if he got out, he’d kill the lead defense lawyer.

Judge Richard Gergel, presiding over the case in federal court, at one point expressed concern about the pencils and pens on the desk near the defendant, lest he use one to stab his attorneys.

But Gergel eventually was persuaded that Roof knew perfectly well what he was doing when he murdered the parishioners at Mother Emanuel. Roof had even left a manifesto on his computer, where he had built a crude website, The Last Rhodesian, explaining his motives and how he had come to his conclusions. Written in his shadowed room at home, it laid out the narrative of white victimization he had learned about from hate-filled sites on the web, and was meant to be the platform—the theater—that would spread his name and his ideas around the world.

After his arrest, Roof’s aim at any cost was to preserve his reputation as a man fighting for his cause, and he knew that would be diminished by an autism defense or anything that called into question the image he believed he earned as a hero of white supremacy.

“If people think I have autism,” Roof told Judge Gergel in a closed hearing before the trial began, “it discredits the reason why I did the crime.”

Gergel said he’d read the manifesto and other writings by Roof, “And I take it you… don’t want others to think that you did these things because there was something wrong with you?”

Roof: “Exactly.”

Gergel: “And you are willing to have the case tried before a jury with essentially no defense so people won’t think that?”

Roof: “Yes.”

Gergel: “And you are prepared to face the death penalty to avoid anyone thinking that?”

Roof: “Yes.”

Dylann Roof was convicted in Charleston’s federal court on December 15 on nine counts of using a firearm to commit murder and 24 counts of violation of civil rights. On January 10, a jury recommended the death penalty. He is currently and for the foreseeable future on death row at a federal penitentiary in Indiana.

Roof may now cherish the belief, as his frustrated defense attorney told the court in order to illustrate his client’s bizarre thinking, that “there will be a white nationalist takeover of the United States within roughly six, seven, eight years, and when that happens, he will be pardoned. And he also believes it probable, although not certain, that he will be given a high position, such as the governorship of South Carolina.”

Like many another terrorist, this deluded—if not delusional—loser-turned- lone-wolf is sure that the future belongs to his cause.

Research for this story was contributed by Brandy Zadrozny












MAY 04, 2017

MAY 04, 2017




Marissa Alexander,

Jailed for 3 Years,

Speaks Out on

Intimate Partner

Violence &





Marissa 01

We turn now to the case of Marissa Alexander, the African-American mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she maintains was a warning shot at her abusive husband in 2010. She attempted to use Florida’s “stand your ground” law in her defense—the law that was made famous when white vigilante George Zimmerman successfully used it as his defense after he shot and killed unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. But in March 2012, the jury rejected Alexander’s use of “stand your ground” and convicted her after only 12 minutes of deliberation. She was sentenced to 20 years behind bars under a Florida law known as “10-20-Life” that carries a mandatory minimum for certain gun crimes regardless of the circumstance. Alexander won an appeal for a new trial and later accepted a plea deal that capped her sentence to three years of time served. Earlier this year, she was freed from house arrest after being jailed for three years and serving two years of court-ordered home confinement. We go to Jacksonville to speak to Marissa Alexander.

—Democracy Now











The Doom and Glory of

Knowing Who You Are:

James Baldwin on

the Empathic Rewards of

Reading and

What It Means

to Be an Artist

“An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian.
His role is to make you realize the doom and glory
of knowing who you are and what you are.”




“A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven,” James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) wrote in his classic 1962 essay “The Creative Process.” By then, he was already one of America’s most celebrated writers — an artist who shook up the baseboards of society by dismantling the structures of power and convention with unflinching fortitude, dignity, and integrity of conviction.

On May 17, 1963, Baldwin appeared on the cover of TIMEmagazine as part of a major story titled “Nation: The Root of the Negro Problem,” whose lead sentence read: “At the root of the Negro problem is the necessity of the white man to find a way of living with the Negro in order to live with himself.” Although Baldwin’s civil rights advocacy was the focus, the piece shone a sidewise gleam on Baldwin the artist and raised the broader question of the writer’s role in society.

The following week, the May 24 issue of LIFE magazine — which was owned by the same company — built on that cultural momentum with an extensive profile of him by journalist Jane Howard, where under the dated title “Telling Talk from a Negro Writer” Baldwin’s timeless wisdom on life and art unfolds.

James Baldwin (Photograph: Sedat Pakay)

James Baldwin (Photograph: Sedat Pakay)

The lengthy profile is divided into several sections covering different aspects of his life and views. Beneath the spectacular subhead “Doom and glory of knowing who you are,” Baldwin — who had read his way from Harlem to literary celebrity — considers the unparalleled empathic gift of reading:

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was Dostoevsky and Dickens who taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people.

A year after he formulated his abiding ideas on the artist’s role as a disruptor of society, and more than a century after Emerson insisted that “only as far as [people] are unsettled is there any hope for them,” Baldwin considers this vital commitment to generative unsettlement as the central animating force of the creative spirit:

An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are. He has to tell, because nobody else in the world can tell, what it is like to be alive. All I’ve ever wanted to do is tell that, I’m not trying to solve anybody’s problems, not even my own. I’m just trying to outline what the problems are.

I want to be stretched, shook up, to overreach myself, and to make you feel that way too.

Two decades before he shared his advice on being a writer in The Paris Review, Baldwin reflects on the inevitability of the calling:

The terrible thing about being a writer is that you don’t decide to become one, you discover that you are one.

James Baldwin writing

James Baldwin writing

Echoing what E.E. Cummings wryly termed “the agony of the Artist with capital A,” Baldwin adds:

In this country … if you’re an artist, you’re guilty of a crime: not that you’re aware, which is bad enough, but that you see things other people don’t admit are there.

Complement with Baldwin on the artist’s struggle for integrity, freedom and how we imprison ourselves, and the writer’s responsibility in a divided society, then revisit his increasingly timely forgotten conversations with Chinua Achebe about the political power of art, with Margaret Mead about identity, race, and the experience of otherness, and with Nikki Giovanni about what it means to be truly empowered.















Open Call // The AfroFuturist Affair:

Time Camp 001


The AfroFuturist Affair is a community formed to celebrate, strengthen, and promote Afrofuturistic and Black Sci-fi culture through creative events and creative writing. In collaboration with Icebox Project Space, they are launching ‘Time Camp 001’, a two-day program and interactive installation exploring time, alternative temporalities, time travel, and temporal shifts. Activities will include temporal sound design, time walks, temporal scavenger hunts, zine-making, special performances, and more.

Time Camp 001 will take place at the space-time point of September 30-Oct 1, 2017 at Icebox Project Space (Philadelphia, PA).

The AfroFuturist Affair is inviting submissions for workshops and lectures, as well as art-based submissions for inclusion in the installation.

Submissions may include small installations, film, audio/video, literature, photography, objects, and art pieces dealing with time travel, such as personal time machines and devices and time travel artefacts. Works can be individual or collaborative, and should be experimental.

Proposals should include a description of the project or piece, including dimensions, sizes, number, and other specifications. You are asked to identify any audio/visual and electrical needs. Also include artist information and website if available. Proposals and queries should be sent to

Application Info
Deadline: Jun. 20, 2017